The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Friday, May 18, 2007

Bhutan's New Plot

Bhutan's New Plot [ 2007-5-17 ]
By T. P. Mishra
AT a time when the so-called first and historical general election in Bhutan is drawing closer, the Druk regime is hatching conspiracies to evict an estimated 80,000 people from the country, especially from the southern belt. This was made public by various international media houses including the BBC.

During the recently concluded 14th SAARC summit, Bhutanese Prime Minister Khandu Wangchuk had flashed a verbal green signal towards resolving the refugee impasse. Thus, Bhutan's whimsical technique to present itself well in the eyes of the international community shows that the Land of Thunder Dragon isn't sincere about doing away with the atrocities in the country. Not only this, the international media have already revealed that an estimated 17,000 people from the southern division of the country have been barred from registering for the upcoming general election.

A recent news report stating Bhutan's plot to evict a large section of innocent Nepali-speaking people from the country should, at the earliest, draw the attention of the international community and be condemned in the strongest terms. Otherwise, the Druk regime will continue with its cleansing process as in the early 1990s. Actually, Bhutan has been always kept under the armpit of the world's giant democracy, India. For years, India has been seen as one of the passive states in the context of extending its helping hands for resolving the refugee quandary.

Meanwhile, the recent plot to evict more people, at a time when there has been an offer for third country resettlement, is a challenge to the international community. It remains to be seen if this can be a durable solution as Bhutan persists on carrying out ethnic cleansing. Yet those countries that are planning to resettle the Bhutanese refugees are claiming Bhutan would not evict more people.

The US delegation, which visited Thimphu prior to the announcement of establishing the office of the Overseas Processing Entity (OPE) in July to back up the resettlement process, has said Bhutan would face severe pressure if it hatches any conspiracy to evict more people from the country. As it is difficult to predict what will actually happen in the future, international pressure should be put on Bhutan. Nothing can be guaranteed especially in the context of Bhutan's hoodwinking tactics to step into a so-called 'democratic country'.

The country's ruling elite has a long-standing history of restraining the Nepali speaking people. And, it seems that this trend continues despite the latter's incessant struggle for democratisation.
It has to be well thought out here that Bhutan's hoodwinking approaches to holding fair elections in the country in 2008 would be bleak if the Druk oligarchy still maintains its old system of imposing tyrannical acts such as forcibly evicting bona fide citizens from the country. The above population is also learnt to have been barred from casting their vote during the recently concluded mock election.

The memories of Bhutan's cruel ethnic cleansing policy during the early 1990s, which claimed hundreds of innocent lives, are still fresh in the evictees' psyche. The whereabouts of a similar number of Lhotshampas inside Bhutanese jails are still unknown. There has been no compensation for property confiscated. Surprisingly, the world community remains a mute spectator of the gross violation of the fundamental human rights of Bhutanese citizens.

Bhutan, which is one of the active members of SAARC, is trying to abscond from expediting the repatriation process of its citizens, currently camped in the eastern districts of Nepal. Despite several attempts by the refugees themselves and the world community, Bhutan is rather preparing to evict more people instead of trying to help the refugees return home in a dignified way.
Nepali-speaking Bhutanese, especially residents of the southern belt, are comparatively conscious of the political situation in the country. They do clearly know that the upcoming election in 2008 is a tool to hoodwink the international community. The ruling elite, on the other hand, doesn't like to see this ethnic group come to power. Thus, it can be well predicted that the Bhutanese regime is likely to step up further eviction prior to the 2008 general election. Therefore, there should be continuous vigilance over what goes on in Bhutan by international rights bodies.

(Mishra is president of Third World Media Network � Bhutan Chapter.)

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