The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Journalist held in Bhutan [2007-01-24]

Journalist held in Bhutan [2007-01-24]

Shantiram Acharya
Jaigaon, January 24, 2007 - The Royal Bhutan Army soldiers at the Tashilakha outpost has arrested Shatiram Acharya, a resident of Beldangi-II camp, Sector ‘D’ on January 16 accusing him of being a Maoists militant.

It is learnt that Acharya is now handed over to the police station in Gedu, Chukha.

Acharya is learnt to have worked as a reporter at different newspapers run in the Bhutanese refugee camps. A close friend of Acharya informed BNS that Shantiram was also working in ‘Purba Sandesh’, daily (A newspaper run in Nepal by local journalists).

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s online version of government’s mouthpiece, Kuensel claimed that during the investigation Acharya has revealed that in January 2006 he and six others were sent for training with the Nepal Maoist militants by the president of the Bhutan Communist Party (MLM), Chabilal Kharel.

However, ‘Aviskar’, who claimed himself an active party cadre of Communists Party of Bhutan (MLM), informed BNS in telephone that their party doesn’t have presidentship post. He claimed they don’t have any physical linkage with Maoists in Nepal. “We would have received information at the first hour had Shantiram Acharaya been a Maoists militant” he said, adding- “After the completion of investigation we will make the matter public whether Acharya is affiliated to our party”.

The online version stated Acharya as confessing that the December 2, 2006, bomb blast in Phuentsholing town, which injured four people, was carried out by members of the Communist Party of Bhutan.

In response ‘Aviskar’ denied showing their party’s hand on the bombing. “May be Bhutan itself is creating conspiracy. It is not sure whether Acharya is our Party Cadre” he added.

On a query of BNS, ‘Aviskar’ denied revealing his position in the party.

Meanwhile, Third World Media Network (TWMN) - Bhutan Chapter has shown deep concern. In a press statement issued on Wednesday, the TWMN- Bhutan Chapter has sought attention of International human rights bodies and International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) to investigate the facts following Acharya's arrest.

"If Acharya is proven to a journalist, he should get adequate support and international pressure over Druk regime for his early release" the statement reads. Bhutan News Service

Monday, January 22, 2007

Grant to Train Rural Bhutanese in Income-Earning Trades

Grant to Train Rural Bhutanese in Income-Earning Trades

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - A grant of almost US$2 million from ADB’s Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR), financed by the Government of Japan, will help reduce poverty among rural Bhutanese through a pilot project to develop their income-generating skills.

Poverty in the country is persistent in rural areas, where people rely mostly on subsistence agriculture and are financially vulnerable during the off-farm seasons.

The project will pilot a skills development program in 25 geogs (group of villages) in three rural districts. To be carried out during off-farm seasons, the programs will teach villagers basic modern trades such as carpentry, masonry, electrical wiring, plumbing, and construction planning.

The project will train 30 trainers and produce manuals and textbooks, and train at least 375 villagers throughout the program’s 4-year period. Graduates will then be registered on a web site that can serve as a database of workers who can be hired for specific projects. If successful, the Government will replicate the approach in the remaining 175 geogs in the country.

“The new skills developed under the project will not only provide the villagers means to earn income during off-farm seasons, it will also save them house repair costs,” says Hiroyuki Ikemoto, an ADB Economist and team leader for the project.

Villages will also benefit from the program as on-the-job training will include the construction of public toilets and hostels for schoolchildren. If requested, the project can also provide additional training in traditional arts and crafts, and maintenance of office equipment.

The project complements the Government’s Village Skills Development Program and the ADB-backed Basic Skills Development Project, which expanded vocational education and training for new graduates, unemployed youth, domestic laborers, women, and people in rural areas.

The Government and beneficiaries will contribute $340,000 equivalent toward the project's cost, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will provide technical support through short term JICA experts and JICA senior and junior volunteers.

The JFPR was set up in 2000 with an initial contribution of $90 million, followed by additional contributions totaling $155 million in 2002, and annual contributions up to 2006 bringing the total amount to $360 million.

Kuensel was started by Bhim Bahadur Rai and Suk Man Rai

State Of Media In Bhutan [ 2007-1-21 ]
By Thakur Prasad Mishra

Bhutan�s remarks that it is heading towards democratisation are nothing short of an attempt to fool the international community. There can be no democracy until it guarantees freedom of press and freedom of speech and expression. The work of holding the first momentous election scheduled for 2008 has been going on in full swing. However, there are already reports from the different media that some 1,700 voters from the southern division of the country have been barred from enlisting in the voters� list. And there are no human rights institutions to scrutinise and speak for these suppressed voices. The government-controlled media will not relay the people�s voice.

Press laws

Not only this, Bhutanese natives are unable to attain uncensored news. Actually, Bhutan neither has any laws or rules regarding the press nor does it encourage private publications. The government officials censor all news to be published, broadcast or telecast. Even other programmes on the radio, television and most of the write-ups in the newspapers are administered by government. The government not only dampens private publications but also imposes serious penalty on such auditions.

The Bhutanese people have never demanded press freedom nor have they tried to bring out any private publication in the past. In was only after 1990 that autonomy of the press and right to information were considered. During the peaceful demonstration in the early 1990s, the Bhutanese people had press freedom among their top agenda. This shows that the Lhotshampas want to establish press freedom in Bhutan some day. The other interesting fact is that media professionals now working in the different media houses in Bhutan have received short-term journalism training from the Netherlands, Singapore, Britain and India.

Bhutan, in the name of allowing independent publications, has recently launched Bhutan Times and Bhutan Observer, so-called private newspapers. The former was launched on April 30, 2006 and the latter on June 2, 2006. The owner of both these newspapers claim that these are the latest private papers that have the declared objective of carrying those voices which are ignored by the state-owned weekly, Kuensel.

Kuensel was begun in 1960 by Bhim Bahadur Rai and Suk Man Rai in Nepali as a monthly, which was hand-written, from Kalimpong by Moni Printing Press. Later, the government took control of it. This shows that it was the Nepali-speaking people who sowed the seeds of a private media in Bhutan. It was Kuensel which played a significant role in extending indirect support to the government in evicting the southerners. And all the other newspapers are still under much government control.

Actually two publications by the name Bhutan Times and Bhutan Observer were published from the Bhutanese refugee camps - the former by Sagar Rai of Sanischare camp and the latter by Peoples� Forum for Human Rights and Democracy (PFHR-D). The launching of the newspapers inside Bhutan with the same names as those published from the refugee camps leaves a very clear message that the Druk regime doesn�t want to see the Lhotshampas getting involved in the media sector.

Radio service (NYAB Radio) in Bhutan started in November 1973 at the initiative of the youths who formed the National Youth Association of Bhutan (NYAB) led by a Royal family member. In 1979, the Royal Government of Bhutan, recognising the importance of radio for development communication, embraced the station under the Ministry of Communications. Then it started a three-hour programme every Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday.

Bhutan introduced television only in 1999. Meanwhile, the government continues to impose restrictions on many TV channels that broadcast news. The banning of TV channels such as FTV, MTV, Zee News, Aaj Tak, Sun TV and Ten Sports in the middle of March 2005 puts a big question mark on Bhutan�s stance on press freedom.

During 1989-92, DANIDA and UNESCO invested a huge sum for improving the media in Bhutan. But it has all gone to waste. The Bhutanese people have never felt the presence of a private press. Currently, the radio broadcasts 12 hours a day with 1.5 hours of traditional music.

The recently released �SAARC Human Rights Report-2006� also reveals the state of media in Bhutan. The report places Bhutan second in the SAARC Human Rights Violators Index 2006. Not only this, it reveals the unseen atrocities taking place inside Bhutan. This report, at a time when Bhutan claim it has high �Gross National Happiness�, shows that the world community is simply a bystander to the gross violation of human rights in Bhutan.

Yet another special report regarding the state of Bhutanese media has been made public in the �South Asia Press Freedom Report, 2005-2006�. The report was released by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), one of the international umbrella organisations, that aims to push governments to promote social justice and rights for journalists across the globe.

Press freedom

The Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA) - Bhutan, an organisation established in the Bhutanese refugee camps, and other organisations such as Bhutan Press Union, Bhutan Media Society and Third World Media Network - Bhutan Chapter are struggling for complete freedom of the press and freedom of speech and expression in Bhutan.

It is clear that democracy and assurance of human rights in Bhutan can never foster until the Druk regime guarantees freedom of press. The media�s role in Nepal during Jan Andolan-II should serve as a good example for Bhutanese democrats.

(The writer is President of Third World Media Network - Bhutan Chapter)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Introducing APFA news portal is one of the largest news portals that provides comprehensive news and analysis on Bhutan.

For a more than a decade, Bhutan's political discourse remained disturbed due to repeated attempts of exiled Bhutanese to return, who were forcefully evicted by the government as early as 1990. With advice and support from Indian government, the delaying tactics of the Bhutanese authority protracted the verification and repatriation of its exiled citizens even after the verification started some six years ago.

On the other hand, the bilateral talks, that began in 1993, between the governments of Nepal and Bhutan have come to a stand still after political instability became vulnerable in Nepal. Nepalese authority saved to time to join the bilateral talks with Bhutan, which the Bhutanese authority wanted to be. Bhutan tried to avoid talks with Nepal while Nepal never attempted to call on the international community for support. Now when the political situation in Nepal has worsened and it government is divulged with internal problem, Bhutanese regime has accused that the repatriation has been delayed due to Nepal's intention not to sit for talks.

Back in Bhutan, the king announced on December 17, 2005 that Bhutan would be constitutional monarchy when he abdicates the throne in 2008 with adoption of constitution, which is under discussion, the first time in its history. The Indian legal experts have supported the constitutional development of Bhutan in later years, for which may critics claim was to save the regime. However, in previous years, the druk regime had not asked any support from its southern neighbor, except while instituting the National Assembly, in which the India experts have formulated the design in Delhi.

In 1999, the 4th king introduced his physical enlightenment philosophy called Gross National Happiness (GNH). It received widespread support from within the country and has been one of the subjects of interest to the foreign visitors and development agencies. Of course, it was political turmoil and increasing instances of insurgency in most part of the world that had attracted the development partners and peace campaigners towards this new philosophy it has been implemented after suppression of opposition forces. There are two important implication that GNH has brought in the Bhutanese people – one ignorance to the international politics and assumption of no opposition in national politics; two, motivate the people to involve in the national development wholeheartedly.

Above all these, Bhutanese regime has been sharply criticized for eviction of its over 1/6 of its total population and denying to get them back even after it was recognized that over 75 percent of the people living in UNHCR camps, after verification in Khudunabari camp, were original Bhutanese citizens.

As such, this news portal shall provide comprehensive news and updates about all these. The news and analysis in the portal shall be balanced, impartial and not motivated by some section of people or government influences. Our aim would be for the development and promotion of democratic principle and values in the country, focusing specially on the issues of undemocratic activities, human rights abuses and implementation of the 'un-guaranteed' but stated press freedom in the draft constitution.

Finally, we shall also welcome critical write-ups about the political leaders and organizations in exile or the Bhutanese king and his government but with assurances that dignified and honorable is language is used in. This is meant for elevate environment for open debates on goods and bads of the rulers and the fighters, with strengthening the procurement of undemocratic policies and state atrocities towards its citizens. What we hope is that this would foster the democratic values and principles in Bhutan.

Working for your right to information

Bhutanese will have no right to return to Bhutan from US- Kazi Gautam

Repatriation vs. Resettlement Which Is More Plausible? [ 2007-1-14 ]
By Kazi Gautam

The Bhutanese refugee imbroglio has become a subject of hot debate in the recent years. With the peace process in Nepal and the growing concern of the international community about the crisis in Asia, this issue has been in the spotlight, putting the Druk oligarchy in trouble. The cause of this rising worry has been Khandu Wangchuk, the foreign minister of Bhutan, who has alleged that the refugees are terrorists. Another reason is the United States� resettlement package.

The US proposal publicised by Ellen Saubrey, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, has been a feel-good factor for some refugees, whereas some have been put at their wit�s end. Majority of the refugees, however, seem ambivalent about it. Some critics have said that the US package that has been proposed on humanitarian grounds would take the refugees out of their confinement in the camps and give them a better life. However, the political leaders in exile have viewed this move of the US as a tool to create a division among the refugees. As there is division among the refugees about choosing repatriation or the US proposal, the issue deserves special mention and needs to be analysed critically.

Provisions of the proposal

Crystal T. Kaplan, a refugee officer at the US Embassy while responding to the Bhutanese media, highlighted some of the criteria for resettlement in the US.

It is learnt that the resettled people would first get a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) which allows them to exercise all the rights of an American citizen. The LPR can be assisted to get settled by the sponsors. They would be given a language course and job training. After five years they can apply for American citizenship.

Let�s look at another facet of the proposal. The LPR has no right to vote. Unless citizenship is granted, the people can�t take part in a vote. Ironically, this signifies a denial to exercise one�s political rights. It also appears that the Bhutanese will have no right to return to Bhutan. The main objective of the Bhutanese movement was to establish real democracy in Bhutan. This objective would, thus, never be fulfilled. Hence, Bhutan shall continue with its malice without letting it be known to the world.

Numerous futile attempts have been made on and off by the refugees and the Nepalese government to solve the problem. Recently some 200 refugees were arrested at Phuntsholing, a southern gateway to Bhutan. So far 15 rounds of the joint ministerial level meeting have been held, but all of them have failed largely because of Bhutan�s insincerity. With the abdication of the throne in favour of his son, King Jigme Singye Wangchhuk has played another game to fool the international community. Indeed, this is another process of delaying repatriation.

It was an unfortunate faux pas that some people were accused of throwing stones at the Joint Verification Team of Bhutan at the Khudunabari refugee camp. In fact, the refugees were forced to do it as Sonam Tobgey, the head of the Bhutanese team, announced unnecessary conditions for the returning refugees. Citing this incident, Bhutan has been trying to stay away from its responsibility.

There was great hope when Pranab Mukherji, Indian Minister for External Affairs, made a recent visit to Nepal. But his cold remarks about the issue to be solved by Bhutan and Nepal only made everyone cheerless.

The policies formulated so far by Nepal have always been unsuccessful. It�s crystal clear that forming an ad hoc committee or high-level political committee is perfunctory unless India renders its helping hand. It�s time for Nepal to change its modus operandi. Till date no pragmatic approach has been sought honestly for Nepal was busy tackling its own interim political problems.

History shows that absolute monarchy can never respect the sentiments of the people. It was a long arm struggle, on one hand by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) and a peace movement led by the Seven Party Alliance, on the other, that could eventually curtail the powers of the king of Nepal. Neither is possible in the case of Bhutan.

India, which has dropped these refugees at Kakkarbhitta in trucks, never allows the refugees to enter Bhutan. Moreover, the Bhutanese in Bhutan are still not fully aware of what their kin in exile are fighting for. The point to be noted is that if the people are repatriated, will they be true citizens of the country as Bhutan�s new constitution denies their participation in government.

The refugees have already endured all kinds of hardships for nearly two decades waiting for a dignified repatriation. Having lived in confinement for such a long period has certainly affected their state of mind. The ongoing stalemate has brought great frustration to the youths, and its repercussion could be devastating.


During the 86th National Assembly, which was expected to discuss the Bhutanese refugee problem positively, Bhutan instead chose to call the people in exile to be �highly politicised and terrorists� carrying out activities against the Himalayan Kingdom. Precisely, this is another tactic of Bhutan to discard its people. The developing nature of the activities within the country related to the issue, the refugee benefactors� statements about the lack of funds and the bereavement of the refugees call on Nepal to seek an urgent solution to the impasse. It must discuss the matter sternly with the UNHCR, the Bhutanese leaders in exile and the international community to come up with a tangible alternative.

(Gautam is editor-in-chief of The Bhutan Reporter)

Bhutan communist party in the RIM

The link is from The Nepal communist part Maoists' mouthpiece

find your link here

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A photo - afpa news

Exiled Bhutanese under HUROB and BGNLF demonstrating at Phuentsholing on January 2 demanding their repatriation, end of discrimnatory laws and guarantee of human rights. The Bhutanese police forcibly arrested them and handed over to Indian police who in turn always drops them back to Kakarvitta in Indo-Nepal border.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Need of “brothers in distress” revival

Bhutanese Refugees: Trapped and Tantalized

By Hari Bansha Dulal

It’s been more than one-and-half decades since the first group of refugees reached eastern Nepal from Bhutan. However, their collective sufferings resulting from the tragedy of forced exile continue unabated; they have no way of knowing what their situation will be from one day to the next. With respect to land, they lost the possessions that gave meaning and dignity to life and their personal history.

The forceful mass expulsion of Nepali speaking Lhotshampa of southern Bhutan by the Drukpa regime is a living example of state sponsored apartheidism. The Lhotshampas became sacrificial lamb because economically well-off, better educated, and freedom loving Lhotshampa were an eminent threat to Drukpa regime’s autocratic aspirations. However, in a desperate move to annul the threat to his autocratic regime, former King Jigme exhibited a worst form of guardianship by chasing the very people he was supposed to protect as a monarch.

Even after languishing in refugee camps in eastern Nepal for more than a decade and half now, Bhutanese refugees cannot stop thinking about returning home. Although their decade long battle for the right to return home has not borne any fruit, they have not given it up altogether. The hope of being home someday has kept them going.

India, the regional power house and closest ally of Bhutan, has so far shirked its responsibility in solving the Bhutanese refugee problem by calling it a bilateral issue between Nepal and Bhutan. However, everyone, including Bhutanese refugees themselves, knows the key to voluntary repatriation of Bhutanese refugee problem rests in New Delhi.

The Indian government is indirectly obstructing the rightful repatriation of Bhutanese refugee by shirking its responsibility in solving Bhutanese refugee issues. As Bhutan is India’s closest ally in South Asia and has always blindly toed Indian line at the United Nations and other forums, India does not want to upset Bhutan King’s aspirations for autocratic regime by pushing for rightful repatriation of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal.

Bhutanese refugees have witnessed 15 tumultuous years pass by and 15 rounds of talks held between the Nepalese and Bhutanese government fail. Nepal has failed, miserably, to force Bhutan to accept its people. The time is ripe for some hard talks. Nepal should put Bhutan on the spot and ask if it is going to take back its citizen or not. If yes, when? Nepal should push for definite time line. The refugees cannot and should not continue to stay in the camps for long. Bhutanese refugees deserve much more than the mere enjoyment of Convention rights in exile.

In addition, the Nepalese government has two options: it can do what the Ivory Coast did or express the inability to pressure Bhutan and thereby ask Bhutanese refugees to explore the option of resettlement in third-world countries. During the influx of Liberian refugees in 1989, President Félix Houphouët-Boigny set such an example by declaring the refugees from Liberia as “brothers in distress” and refused to warehouse them in camps. He asked his people to accept them as a part of the Ivorian society. Let those willing to accept local integration be part of a Nepalese society. If we do not have that big of a heart and courage to do what Félix Houphouët-Boigny did in Ivory Coast, lets stop showing Bhutanese refugees false dreams. The 15-year of diplomatic efforts have already shown that with India on Bhutan’s side, Nepal will not be able to score decisive victory and pressure Bhutan into repatriation of refugees.

The warehousing of Bhutanese in refugee camps in eastern Nepal has not contributed to anything. Instead, it has increased idleness and dependency of Bhutanese refugees, which in itself, is a violation of human rights. Warehousing these men and women that have an ability to change the face of any nation is a denial of rights and a waste of humanity.

Nepal should put up a bold face and acknowledge once and for ever that we are not able to help our brothers in distress. Given the limited prospects for return to Bhutan in the foreseeable future, Bhutanese refugees should be asked to explore other viable options. In a scenario whereby local integration may not be desired by most of the Bhutanese refugees and voluntary repatriation does not seem to be happening in the foreseeable future, what options are left? For Bhutanese refugees languishing in refugee camps in eastern Nepal resettlement in third countries may be, in fact, the best—or perhaps, the only—alternative. Bhutanese refugee leaders should be extremely cautious and should not allow this problem to go unsolved any longer for their personal political gains. The settlement in third-world countries is not the best option, as no place is dearer than one’s birth place, but is far better than a foreign land whereby one is forced to spend dependent and idle life at the mercy of relief agencies. Furthermore, if the problem remains unsolved much longer, it will fall off the radar screen of the international community into an Orwellian memory hole. Bhutanese leaders should not ignore what is happening with Palestinian refugees languishing in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. Neglected by the international community, more than 750,000 Palestinian refugees who fled Israel in 1948 and who, along with their children numbering in the millions, are now forced to live uprooted lifes indefinitely.

Bhutan's foreign minister Khandu Wangchuk recent remark, “bringing back the "highly-politicized camp people" into Bhutan would mean importing ready-made-terrorists” clearly shows that Bhutan does not want to take back these refugees anytime soon. Refugee leaders should acknowledge the truth once and for all. With India on its side, Bhutan may, theoretically, continue its delay tactics forever. In turn, Bhutanese refugees warehoused in refugee camps may never again be able to see their land. As Israel will likely never accept Palestinian refugees who fled Israel in 1948, as acceptance would change Israel from a Jewish state into an Arab state, Drukpa regime may never accept forcefully evicted Lhotshampa. Accepting these forcefully evicted Lhotshampa will turn Bhutan in to a democratic state which is dead against the aspirations of the King and his cronies in Bhutan.

The Bhutanese refugee leaders should shun their future political ambition if necessary for the greater good of Bhutanese refugees. The western nations have pretty well studied the complexity surrounding the issue or else they would not be exhibiting their willingness to take Bhutanese refugees in their land. Western nations will not do anything that will displease emerging economic power house, India, which is on Bhutan’s side when it comes to the Bhutanese refugee issue. In addition, India’s overindulgence in Nepal’s internal political affairs has subtly threatened the careers of political leaders who dare to dissent on the Bhutanese refugee issue. Therefore, many politicians in Nepal are hesitant to openly criticize India’s reluctance in solving Bhutanese refugee crisis.

Bhutanese refugees should acknowledge the complications surrounding the issue and be ready to make painful decisions of settling in third-world countries. As far as democracy in Bhutan is concerned, the remaining Lhotshampa and democracy-loving Drukpas, if any, will sooner or later rise and defeat autocratic Drukpa regime. It’s just a matter of time. Ten, twenty, or thirty years is not long in the history of a nation. The leaders should think about the futures of the brave men and women and their families that dared to stand against Drukpa regime, which as a result, are now forced to live an idle and dependent life in refugee camps and be ready to make hard and painful decisions.

Bhutanese refugees in Nepal have suffered too much and for too long. They deserve a better life for themselves and generations to come. Political ambitions of few refugee leaders should not be allowed to dwarf the future of fellow citizens. In addition, it is a duty of refugee leaders to provide younger generation refugees languishing in refugee camps with an opportunity to enjoy the rights to the freedom of movement, education, access to employment even if it is on foreign land. It is far better to be a citizen of sovereign nation than live a life of refugee forever. Warehousing these productive brave men and women in refugee camps is a waste of humanity.

The author is a doctoral candidate of Environmental Science and Public Policy at George Mason University, Virginia and can be reached at hbdulal @


Indo Bhutan treaty on anvil

New language of Bhutan ties

New Delhi, Jan. 9: The monarchy in Bhutan has voluntarily given way to a new order. Now, in sync with that step, India is set to stop guiding Thimphu on its relations with other countries and defence purchases.

A new friendship treaty between the neighbours will be signed when Jigme Khesar Wangchuk, Bhutan’s new king, comes to Delhi, possibly in the first week of February.

The existing 57-year-old treaty has been the source of some unhappiness between India and Bhutan, with Thimphu very delicately asserting its ability to choose its own friends in a new world.

South Block sources said the treaty of friendship with Nepal might also be overhauled soon, but cautioned about comparing the Bhutan and Nepal agreements.

The sources said Articles 2 and 9 of the Indo-Bhutanese treaty would bear the brunt of the change.

Article 2, which states that Bhutan will be “guided by the advice of the Government of India in regard to its external relations’’, will be revamped to reflect the language of friendly cooperation.

Similarly, Article 9, which determines what arms and equipment Bhutan can buy after Indian approval, is likely to be relaxed.

Both articles will give Thimphu much more leeway but will continue to reflect the very strong bond it has with Delhi.

Bhutan’s fifth and newest king, 26-year-old Jigme Khesar Wangchuk, is said to reflect this all-weather friendship with India perfectly, just as his father had done for decades before him, official sources said.

The young king was in Delhi for a quiet visit only a few weeks ago, prior to which external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and foreign secretary Shiv Shanker Menon had visited Thimphu.

The updated treaty has emerged from all these conversations. It “reflects the contemporary nature of our relationship”, an official spokesman said, adding that it aimed to consolidate the bilateral relationship in a manner that is “responsive to and serves each other’s national interests through close cooperation”.

Comrade Ram Karki will see refugee issues.

Maoists decentralize their responsibility
Rewati Sapkota

INSN News Service
Kathmandu 6 January

The CPN (Maoist) has decentralized leadership responsibility among their senior leaders, INSN news sources reported. Their responsibilites are reported to be as follows.

Chairman Prachanda is charged with students and medical personnel and issues.

Mohan Baidya is charged with the cultural front.

Dr Baburam Bhattarai is charged with workers and intellectual front.

Spokesperson Krishna Bahadur Mahara is charged with teachers and government employees.

Dinanath Sharma is charged with farmers and Dalits, and he will look after the election commission and human rights.

Dev Gurung is charged with industry, women and NGOs.

Barsaman Pun Ananta is charged with sports.

Ram Karki is charged with Bhutanese refugees.

The Maoist Central Committee meeting was held in Bhaktapur last month and this formation of their party committee is a result of that meeting.

Posted under NEWS on Sunday 7 January 2007 at 4:31 pm
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NEW King with old shoes

On Bhutan :Hopes are cautious

By I. P. Adhikari,Bhutan

Finally, the ruler entitled by the fifth Druk Gyalpo realized that the issue of Bhutanese refugees needs to be addressed to find a solution of the southern Bhutan standoff. The first session of the National Assembly, the group of handpicks of the fourth king, are going to talk on Bhutanese refugees and this is addition to the history of Bhutan where the king made already made a history by abdicating the throne.

There are no such good reasons of rejoicing on knowing that Bhutanese rulers are talking of this for the first time. Not formally, the issue had been the subject of hot debates in government circle for decades, through which the absolute monarch King Jigme Singye failed to give out a solution.

In 1990, the fourth Druk autocrat had stated he would abdicate the throne if he fails to find a solution of the crisis in the south. Faithfully, he did so. He acted illegally for decades to surpass national interest over his personal interests but ethically, he complied with his words. He reserves not of thanks for it.

At this time, the history in Bhutan is just revising of what it had happened during last years of the third king reign. The early reigns of third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, had been mismanaged. Courtiers had overrun his executives to misuses. With constitutional reforms and handing over few of the many powers to people, the king had immensely gathered felicitations from people, whom the national declared as 'father of nation'.

Once the new king came, he focused his policies to gain support from Nepali speakers from the south. But the attempts did not last long. As the years passed, most of the constitutional powers handed over to the government and the national assembly were seized back which led the monarch to reach the climax of autocracy.

Like his father, King Jigme Singye, who would have planned since long, did attempts to win the confidence of the people as the true patriot for national development. No matter, he led the national into economic development, his policies that sow the sees of discord among the citizens led the country's national integrity into fragmentation.

The interest of the fifth Druk Gyalpo to address the issue of 'people in the camps in Nepal', as the government mouthpiece put the phrase to address Bhutanese refugees, in another attempt to get confidence of the ethnic Bhutanese inside Bhutan. But before knowing what exactly the assembly discusses and resolves, we can neither criticize not support the intention of the young monarch.

The Bhutan's changing policies are not absolutely out of the south Asia geopolitics. After the US government made a proposal to take around 60 percent of the Bhutanese refugees for settlement, the south Asia politics on this grave matter took a turn. Kuldip Nayar, an Indian journalist told media persons in Kahtmandu recently after his meeting with the US ambassador to Nepal, that US interest is associated with the augmentation of the rebellion activities by the community groups in north east India. Perfectly, as we suspected earlier, the US offer is not a humble humanitarian assistance but part of the strategies to subdue to growing communism in south Asia.

Bhutanese refugees have nothing to be dread with the US offer but are concerned that this would encourage the autocrat for further eviction. Political situation in Bhutan has not changed and signs of liberty and democracy are yet to emerge, respect to human rights and equality and freedom of the press are the objects in far distance. The Americas and India, who regard itself as the largest democratic nation of the world, must make passage for establishment of peace, democracy, human rights and press freedom in Bhutan. King Jigme Singye's abdication has paved the way forward for democracy and liberal society in Bhutan.

The republican wave in Nepal has good impact on the fourth Druk regime for renunciation of the throne in favour of his unmarried son. The movement in Nepal has injected a good education for king Jigme that his throne would be in danger if he continues to remain stick to it. The only way for him is to handover it to his successor whereby failure of monarchy to remain associated with the political changes might not go on his credibility box.

Further, Jigme has passed on the sins to his ignorant son. A fresh graduate is taking over the charge of nation, hoping to tackle the grave problems created by his father. Upon failure of the new king to make a hey, the bygone regime should shoulder all the allegations.

Overall, inclusion of the Bhutanese refugees issue at the top of the list for this session of the National Assembly has infused little hopes and excitements among the Bhutanese citizens who spent some two decades in an unknown land. The initiative must be watched carefully to make sure that the political leaders in exile, general refugees and the international community are not again thronged into a trap. Here, hopes are cautious.

Adhikari is the president of Association of Press Freedom Activists – Bhutan

E Mail :

Only Kazi Tamang Exculed from census.

Headcount in Beldangi-II completes, excludes one [2007-01-09]

Beldangi-II, January 09: The joint census team of the UNHCR and Nepal government has completed the official headcount of exiled Bhutanese in Beldangi-II.

Meanwhile, the authentic name list including other necessary information, reportedly said to have prepared at Chandragadhi, has excluded the name of Kazi Tamang residing in Sector ‘I’.

Talking to BNS, Tamang said his name isn’t included in the lists. He has urged the concerned authorities to take the matter seriously. The reason to exclude his name in the list is not yet known.

It is learnt that the census team also interviewed non-registered in Beldangi-II. However, it is reported that they would be deprived of receiving other facilities provided by the UNHCR. Bhutan News Service/Vidhyapati Mishra

Monday, January 8, 2007

Urban refugees in Nepal

Refugees to stage sit in at UNHCR


KATHMANDU, Jan 8 - Hundreds of refugees, sheltering under the urban program of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), have decided to stage a sit-in on Monday to protest against the UNHCR's recent decision to decrease the amount of financial assistance being provided.
Talking to A concerned refugee preferring anonymity said about four hundred refugees from about a dozen countries will stage a sit-in in front of the UNHCR Office in Kathmandu protesting against its latest decision.

Recently issuing a notice, the UNHCR had informed all refugees that it would provide Rs 2,200 for principal applicant, Rs 1,200 for 1st dependent and Rs 600 for additional dependents, as financial assistance in the form of monthly subsistence allowance effective from February 1.

According to concerned refugees, principal applicant, 1st dependent and additional dependents have been receiving Rs 4,500, Rs 2,500 and Rs 1,500 respectively, as financial assistance till date.

Refugees said that the recent decision of the UNHCR was against the welfare of refugees in Nepal. "Following this decision over 345 refugees will be directly affected because this amount is not enough to manage our daily needs," another refugee said.

However, the UNHCR said, "The increased number of urban refugees together with budgetary constraints have obliged UNHCR to review the terms of assistance." The UNHCR has also said that it was a general policy worldwide to discontinue financial assistance after a maximum period of six months. The decision to decrease the allowances has also been taken, to be able to exceptionally continue the assistance to refugees in Nepal beyond six moths, the UNHCR added. In addition, a discretional assistance will be provided to particularly vulnerable individuals with specific needs and the existing medical assistance policy will continue as before.

At present nearly 700 refugees and asylum seekers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia and Liberia are taking shelter in Nepal.

Non-nationals, must not be repatriated to Bhutan- Druk national congress

Refugee organisation opposes Bhutanese CEC remarks

A refugee organisation has opposed the recent remarks of the newly appointed chief election commissioner of Bhutan at the National Assembly session regarding the Election Bill.

In a statement on Monday, Druk National Congress led by Rongthong Kuenley quoted the chief election commissioner Dasho Kuenzang Wangdi as saying that the Elections Bill was distributed to the assembly members for information and awareness in preparation for the elections in 2008, and not for discussion. Wangdi also said the draft constitution has already been endorsed by the people.

"The discussion on the draft Election Bill in the National Assembly presented a clear picture of the Bhutanese Election Commissioner's mindset and the acute need to cultivate a democratic culture and to embrace democratic ways of functioning," the party said.

According to online version of the government mouthpiece Kuensel, the education criteria for parliament membership had sparked hot debates in the assembly session with some members strongly objecting the provisions.

"The Druk National Congress demands an explanation from the Election Commissioner as to how he concluded that the people of Bhutan have already endorsed the draft Constitution? So far, the people of Bhutan and observers of the changing political scenario in Bhutan have only seen "meetings" on the draft Constitution being held in 20 districts by the fourth King, and the fifth King when he was Crown Prince," Kuenley said.

The party has also condemned the provision of minimum graduate certificate to be eligible to contest for parliament membership in the first election scheduled for 2008. The bill drafted by the commission states that person not acquiring graduate degree would not be allowed to contest in the election. According to government statistics, the total graduates by 2008 would cross 16,000.

"Democratic governance is only possible with the participation of the entire spectrum of society – citizens from all walks of life – from every race, culture and background, who are represented in the Parliament by candidates of their own free choice, the party said adding, "And every Bhutanese citizen of voting age should be eligible to contest the elections. Even members of the Royal Family, civil servants, army personnel, Trulkus and members of the clergy should be eligible to offer their candidacy provided they resigned from their current post."

The party has also called on the Bhutanese government to initiate process for solving the refugees issue saying the offer of the EU, the US and other international organisations marked change in atmosphere and both the governments of Bhutan and Nepal must grasped this opportunity to come to a mutually acceptable agreement.

"The Druk National Congress agrees that non-nationals, if any, must not be mistakenly repatriated to Bhutan, at the cost of genuine Bhutanese refugees. The Bhutanese Government must know that it has a moral duty and a responsibility to accept its citizens back to Bhutan. The refugee issue needs to be resolved at some point of time for it cannot wash its hands off it easily, because the people in the camps are internationally acknowledged as Bhutanese refugees," the statement by the party said further. ia Jan 08 07

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Bhutanese Refugees Need A Break

Bhutanese Refugees Need A Break

The painfully delayed and highly discussed issue of the Bhutanese refugees in the Khudunabari camps of Nepal hit a new problem recently, after the Bhutanese foreign minister, Khandu Wangchuk, claimed that the refugees were "infiltrated by the ready made political parties and terrorists."

The Minister also claimed that the refugees were "infiltrated by the Maoists" of Nepal, as his other colleagues who addressed the parliament remarked similarly, terming the refugees as "a threat to Bhutan's security."

For fifteen years, about 106,000 Bhutanese refugees have been living in the makeshift camps in the southeastern part of Nepal, most of which are sponsored by the UNHCR.

The refugees are the large chunk of southern Bhutanese citizens of Nepali ethnicity (also known as the Lhotsampas), who were forcefully evicted by the Bhutanese authority as per the controversial policy of "ethnic cleansing" perpetuated by the Bhutanese King.

As a number of negotiation attempts between the Bhutanese and the Nepalese authority failed in the past, no concrete attempts to resume the bilateral talks have yet been initiated, and both countries are still not showing utmost interest in solving this lengthy crisis that is condemning about 1/6th of the Bhutanese population to live in the Nepali territory in a dilapidated condition.

With utterly low basic resources, economic prospects, and facilities, the refugees are living in a vulnerable condition, which has also sabotaged their plans of sustaining their lives in the future.

While the refugees are themselves suffering in the absence of any adequate physical and commercial benefits, their presence has also aroused dissatisfaction among the other local Nepalis living in the region, who have been claiming that the refugees are spoiling the environment, contributing to social instability around the camps, and impairing the local wages.

Besides other troubles, the Bhutanese refugees are now obliged to suffer the currently prevailing cold weather in Nepal, as reports suggest that, more than others, the children and elderly are severely affected due to the shortage of warm coverings. According to reports this is because the U.N. didn't provided the refugees with the warm clothes, as it has stopped to do so for the past few years.

The perceived "infiltration" as claimed by some of the prominent head of Bhutan's authority has provoked disgust among the refugee leaders, the Human rights activists, and other well-wishers who have been wanting the refugees to be able to return to their homeland with adequate privilege. The Bhutanese rights activist Tek Nath Rizal, who was jailed for 10 years and tortured by the Bhutanese authority in the past, claimed that the accusation was "wild" and a "ploy" of Bhutan to avert the highly demanded repatriation process.

Not only Rizal, but many analysts view the recent stance from the Bhutanese heads as a ploy to wreck the highly proposed repatriation process, as there is no concrete evidence yet that there is such an "infiltration." It's true that the refugees are those people who refuted Bhutan's dictatorial policy and they are those who stood for their rights. Since their eviction from Bhutan, they have been demanding for the democratic rights to prevail among the citizens rather than the king, and urged for a peaceful and fair repatriation. But, no heed is whatsoever shown by the Bhutanese authority to their desire.

It has been suggested by some recent reports that some of the Bhutanese refugees had threatened to instigate an armed struggle against the dictatorship of the DRUK regime. The possibility of such a rebellion cannot be fully deserted, concerning the elevating tension and surfacing intolerance among the refugees due to their bad living conditions and their unfulfilled and desperate ambition to live with full advantage after being recognized as the bona fide citizens of their country. However, right now, claiming that these right seekers are the "terrorists" can't be justified on logical grounds.

Calling the refugees "terrorists" seems only to reflect an ideological fallacy and it has further emphasized the unwillingness of Bhutan's authority to solve the refugee problem with its full heart, rather than putting the burden of solving this crisis solely on Nepal, and it seems like an attempt to hoodwink the international onlookers, ultimately to avoid any enforcement of fair undertaking from the international fronts to solve this crisis. The stance of the Bhutanese king has also helped to serve Bhutan's prevailing indifference towards the refugee crisis and it has also ignored the cumulating voice raised for the repatriation of the refugees.

Besides Nepal, it's also highly perceived that India could be the other significant actor to push-forward an effective solution to this refugee crisis, as India is the first country of sanctuary for these refugees, because Nepal and Bhutan do not share common borders. As India, so far, has been reluctant to play an active role to solve the Bhutanese refugee crisis by persuading the DRUK regime to give up its resoluteness, critics say that this could be the consequence of the Indian vision of its strategic interest with Bhutan.

Third country repatriation, one such example being the offer from the U.S. to accept 60,000 of the refugees to live there, could be a sort of relief, but for only a limited number of refugees. Repatriation in the U.S. would definitely salvage the lives of some of the refugees, but it's equally important that this offer don't absolve the Bhutanese obdurate stance of not complying with the repatriation of the refugees to their homeland, Bhutan.

The third country repatriation could be preserved as a last resort, in the worst case that if every diplomacy fails, or only to those who ultimately fail to be recognized by Bhutan as its citizens, though after any elaborate investigation. After all, we can't even ignore the visible and fundamental attitude of a number of refugees who, patriotically, would never be happy to resettle in a third country, and would rather live in their own.

Bhutan has absolutely remained inflexible and Nepal has been lackadaisical. It's already clear that there is unlikely to be a negotiated way-out if only these two countries are involved. To protect the Bhutanese refugees from this plight and to normalize their lives to some extent, a fair and long-lasting solution is needed. For this, a fair international intervention is indispensable. As Bhutan has claimed most of the refugees as its "non-nationals," only an extensively fair evaluation from trusted international entities would ensure the democratic rights of the refugees of true Bhutanese identity, to gain their Bhutanese citizenship, which would ultimately persuade the DRUK regime to comply with the repatriation process.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Over 20 injured in clash between Nepali police, Bhutanese refugees

Over 20 injured in clash between Nepali police, Bhutanese refugees

More than 20 persons have been injured in a clash between Nepali police and Bhutanese refugees in eastern Nepal, local newspaper The Himalayan Times reported on Wednesday.

The clash occurred Tuesday in Goldhaop of Jhapa district, some 400 kilometers east of Kathmandu.

It started after two police constables of Mechi Zonal Police Office were captured by refugees living in the camp on charge of misbehaving with refugee women on Monday night.

According to Camp Secretary Ram Chandra Banstola, the policemen have been taken back to the Zonal Police Office.

Source: Xinhua