The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nepal finally waves away refugees

By Alexander Casella

After dragging on for close to 18 years - often in almost farcical fashion - at an estimated cost of some US$350 million, resolution of the Bhutan refugee crisis is at hand. This month, the first batch of 25,000 refugees left camps in seven United Nations-supervised camps in eastern Nepal, and the vast majority of the 86,000 remaining have signed up for resettlement in the West; most of them are heading for the United States.

The origin of the crisis, which has exposed bureaucratic bungling and nationalist fervor at their worst, lies not so much in Bhutan as in Sikkim, which provided a foreshadow of what could have been the fate of Bhutan.

With porous borders and a weak state apparatus, the diminutive kingdom of Sikkim had become a destination of choice for a creeping ongoing uncontrolled immigration from nearby Nepal. As

the Nepalese slowly increased in number they also brought with them the political factionalism and dissent that plagued their country of origin. By 1975, the local Sikimese Bhutia had become a minority in their own country and the level of political unrest had become such that New Delhi had to step in and annex Sikkim.

The lesson was not lost on the Bhutanese, who were also exposed to similar immigration pressure from Nepal and where government circles had come to the conclusion - a view shared by many Western specialist of the region - that Bhutan was destined for extinction if decisive measures were not taken to bring to a stop what had become a process of creeping demographic encroachment.

Thus, by the early 1980s, the government of Bhutan started to tighten rules regarding immigration. Likewise, residency requirements regarding the acquisition of citizenship, though still relatively liberal in comparison to those of many Western countries, were made more stringent. Admittance to government service was also restricted to nationals and the use of the national language, Dzongkha, was made mandatory for official business.

These measures were increasingly badly received by the immigrant community and with unrest spreading in southern Bhutan, where most of the newcomers had congregated, the authorities decided to resort to a more radical solution - the wholesale expulsion of immigrants. Thus, between the end of 1990 and 1992, some 100,000 illegal immigrants were expelled from Bhutan.

While there was considerable debate as regards the precise composition of the group, the fact that some 70,000 moved to Nepal, which had no common border with Bhutan as it is separated by a strip of land that is part of India, made a compelling case for them being of Nepali origin. As for the remaining 30,000, they moved to India, where they joined the some four million strong Nepalese community.

While the expulsions were at times brutal, for the half million indigenous inhabitants of Bhutan what was at stake was the cultural survival of the last Tantric Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas.

Had events been permitted to run their course, the 70,000 who arrived in Nepal would have faded away and the impact of their arrival in a country of some 28.5 million inhabitants which, for all practical purposes was their own, would have passed unnoticed. That events took another turn was due to an odd set of circumstances, namely the failure of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN refugee agency, to properly address the Kurdish crisis in northern Iraq in 1991.

In the wake of the first Gulf War in 1991, the US government encouraged the Kurds in northern Iraq to revolt against Saddam Hussein. When, however, Saddam turned against the Kurds, Washington did not come to their help and the result was a massive population displacement which saw hundreds of thousands of Kurds seek refuge in areas in northern Iraq not under Saddam's control, while others sought refuge in Iran and Turkey.

The exodus caught the then-high commissioner for refugees, Madame Sadako Ogata, completely unprepared and exposed her to a wave of criticism both from Western governments and the non-governmental organization community.

To mitigate censure for her failure, Ogata created, within the UNHCR bureaucracy, a so-called Emergency Response Unit allegedly responsible for ensuring that the refugee agency be capable of responding at short notice to a sudden refugee crisis anywhere in the world.

However, with no further crises in sight but an unemployed emergency unit at hand, the UNHCR bureaucracy became a solution in search of a problem. That problem suddenly emerged in 1992, when the government of Nepal asked the UNHCR to take charge of the group expelled from Bhutan on the grounds that these were "refugees", that is, foreign nationals who had fled persecution in their country of origin.

Normally, the UNHCR, before intervening, would have undertaken a survey of the caseload to determine exactly their nationality and reasons for departure. Had this been undertaken, the inescapable conclusion would have been that the overwhelming majority were actually Nepalese and hence, by the fact that they were in their own country, did not qualifying for refugee status.

But Ogata did not run a tight shop and spurred by the urge to be perceived as active, the UNHCR opened seven camps without undertaking even a semblance of a survey of the arrivals. Over subsequent years, as the UNHCR kept on pouring money into the camps, Bhutan and Nepal embarked on a series of protracted and fruitless discussions as to how to deal with the group.

While Bhutan acknowledged that among the camp population there might be a few bona-fide Bhutanese citizens whom they could accept back, they where wary of exposing themselves to a massive return. Conversely, the Nepali authorities, already embroiled in a major internal crisis, were insisting on the wholesale return of the group. By then, the camps had become hotbeds of opposition to the Bhutanese government and were in part controlled by various Marxist groups, including some of Maoist extraction.

In 1996, a senior UNHCR official on a visit to Bhutan acknowledged that the UNHCR should never have opened the camps in the first place, with the extenuating explanation that the decision to do so derived from plain stupidity rather than evil intent. But Japanese Ogata was not one to acknowledge her mistakes, and though she visited Bhutan in November 2000, she remained impervious to any recommendations to close the camps.

By the time Ogata left the UNHCR in December 2000, the situation in the camps had undergone a thorough Palestinization and with Nepal dead-set against local integration schemes, no solution appeared in sight other than the prospect of an unending financing for the camps.

Within the UNHCR, it was not a situation with which the hardcore bureaucracy found fault. With the agency's existence justified by the existence of refugees, the incentive was in opening camps rather than closing them and the more refugees to care for so much the better. And when the beneficiaries were not exactly "refugees", the temptation to stretch the rules and thus increase the number of the organization's constituents proved irresistible.

It was only in 2004, with the nomination of a new director for Asia, that the UNHCR started to reconsider the issue. With neither repatriation nor local settlement in the cards, resettlement appeared as the only viable option. Thus, by 2006, following a Canadian initiative, the so-called "Core Group" of countries which had monitored the problem and that included Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and the US, decided that they would all offer resettlement slots to the camp population. With the US ready to accept up to 70 000 and a resettlement rhythm of some 20,000 a year, it was estimated that in four to five years the problem could be solved and the camps closed.

The announcement of the resettlement scheme provoked a major outcry throughout the camps. Fearful of losing their captive constituencies, the various political factions active in the camps, such as the Bhutan Communist Party, the Bhutan Peoples' Party and the Democratic Socialists, supported by exiled movements, launched a massive campaign against resettlement. Riots erupted and in May 2007 three camp inhabitants who had volunteered for resettlement were killed. As for the Nepal government, for whom the camps represented a source of income, it was only after severe pressure from the "Core Group" that it agreed to deliver exit permits to those who had been accepted for resettlement.

While the resettlement selection process proved laborious for most of the camp inhabitants, the opportunity to move to a developed country finally proved irresistible. Thus, this December, the UNHCR announced that 25,000 refugees had signed up for resettlement in the West. The Nepal office of the UNHCR said the US had so far accepted the largest number, 22,060, followed by Australia (1,006), Canada (892), Norway (316), Denmark (305), New Zealand (299) and the Netherlands (122).

With the trend towards resettlement now irreversible, it is only a matter of time before the Bhutan "refugee" issue is brought to its final conclusion.

Source: Asia Times

From blog Himalyan Watch

Denmark donates to feed Bhutanese in exile

Denmark donates to feed Bhutanese refugees
Monday, 14 December 2009 17:52

Denmark government has extended financial assistance of Rs 4.6 million (USD60,000) to United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on Monday to help feed more than 85,000 Bhutanese refugees who have been living in camps in Eastern Nepal over the last 18 years.

"As Chairperson for the core group of countries concerned about the refugees from Bhutan, I am happy that we can give WFP a helping hand," Danish Ambassador, Finn Thilsted is quoted in a statement issued by Danish embassy in Kathmandu.

"The number of refugees resettled to a third country has now reached 25,000. The process of solving the problem of the refugees is moving fast now. It is therefore important we do not meet obstacles including food shortages to the refugees," Thilsted added.

The contribution from Denmark will support both emergency and longer-term humanitarian projects in Nepal.

"We are very grateful for this contribution and the ongoing support from the Government of Denmark for the refugees from Bhutan," said WFP Deputy Country Representative, Dominique Hyde.

Under their current status, the Bhutanese refugees are restricted from engaging in economic activities outside the camps and from owning land. This makes humanitarian assistance, such as food assistance supported by the international donor community, essential to fulfilling their basic needs.

At the request of the Government of Nepal, WFP has been providing food assistance to the refugees since 1992, in close coordination with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

Bhutanese resetellemnt Video

From this BLOG

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bhutanese start new life in Sacramento

By Stephen Magagnini,

Published: Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009 - 12:00 am

A crowded apartment in east Sacramento became a colorful dream factory recently when Bhanu Adhikari married his childhood sweetheart, Kamala Chauhan.

[ Relatives bless wedding couple Bhanu Adhikari, 29, left, and Kamala Chauhan, 27, by putting "tika" – rice mixed with yogurt, sugar and red dye – on their foreheads during a Hindu wedding ceremony in east Sacramento. The newlyweds met in eighth grade, but years in Nepalese refugee camps kept them from sealing their union. ]

The couple – who sealed their long-anticipated union in an elaborate Hindu ceremony – fell in love 12 years ago behind barbed wire in a Nepalese refugee camp.
Clad in red, gold and green wedding clothing, they celebrated not just the culmination of their love and bonding of their families, but their new life of religious and political freedom in the United States.

"Good climate, good soil, good people," declared a bubbly Adhikari, one of the first 400 Bhutanese refugees who have been resettled in Sacramento this year.

His bride's family resettled in Phoenix in March. The Hindu wedding ceremony at Adhikari's apartment welcomed Chauhan, 27, into his family and covered all her new responsibilities as a daughter-in-law.

Adhikari, 29, became a teacher in the refugee camp. Here he works as a cook. "It took me four months to find this job – it's easier to find a diamond," he said. "I want to be a pharmacist."

The Bhutanese represent the latest chapter in Sacramento's rich immigrant history, which embraces more than 100,000 refugees from across the globe.

Bhutan is a poor nation of 700,000 people perched in the Himalayas between India and Tibet. Most of the Bhutanese seeking refuge in the United States are Hindus who say they were persecuted by the government. As many as 600 more will be resettled in the Sacramento region.

Half the Bhutanese already in Sacramento who speak some English are working, said Rachel Lau, whose agency, International Rescue Committee, is helping resettle them.

"Bhutanese are very different in comparison with a lot of our other clients," Lau said. Most couldn't work in the camps in Nepal.

"So they basically were idle for two decades. They've used that experience as motivation," Lau said. "They pretty much get off the plane ready to work and they will do whatever."

Many, including several of the groom's relatives, work as $8 an hour hotel maids.

Others have gotten jobs at Fry's Electronics, grocery stores, gas stations, fast food franchises and a uniform cleaning company, Lau said. "The larger Indian Hindu community has taken them under their wing with some furniture donations and jobs."

Chauhan, the new bride, was a social worker in the camps. She plans to become a cashier, the job she had in Phoenix, and eventually hopes to become a nurse.

Outcasts in the camps

The couple said their families fled to Nepal to escape Bhutan's oppressive government, along with about 100,000 other Bhutanese Hindus of Nepali origin who settled in seven camps in Nepal.

The Bhutanese Hindus – called Lhotsampas, or people of southern Bhutan – claim they were driven off their lands and jailed for holding nonviolent protests.

About 20,000 have been resettled in the United States since March 2008, according to the U.S. State Department.
Bhutan denies human rights violations against the Lhotsampas and considers them illegal immigrants who threaten Bhutan's "distinct political and cultural" identity, according to Tshewang C. Dorji of the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Bhutan to the United Nations.

"The citizenship laws of Bhutan are not discriminatory. It will only be found discriminatory by illegal residents," Dorji wrote in an e-mail exchange with The Bee.

"Granting citizenship to such people would create a dangerous precedent for a small country like Bhutan."

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said most of the refugees are descendants of Nepalese who migrated to southern Bhutan in the late 19th century to farm and settled in malaria-infested lowlands.

The Lhotsampas who left the lowlands for the camps in Nepal spent nearly 20 years there before the United States and other countries agreed to resettle them.

"Many of them were stripped of citizenship rights and were effectively expelled from the country," said UNHCR spokesman Tim Irwin. "They … feel they had no option but to leave."

About 80 percent of the Bhutanese newcomers were farmers famous for their orange orchards, ginger and nuts.

The groom's grandfather, 83-year-old Badri Pokharel, misses his 17 acres, his home and his temple. In a corner of his Sacramento apartment, Pokharel recites mantras from the holy Gita and kneels in prayer before Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, depicted on an electric prayer wheel that spins and hums.

"There are 18 chapters, and every day he recites one chapter," explained his son Rup Pokharel, the groom's uncle. As Hindus, the Lhotsampas were the religious minority in a primarily Buddhist country.

Badri Pokharel said his Buddhist friends who did not support the government's mistreatment of the Lhotsampas were not "allowed to raise their voice."

He said he and other Lhotsampas staged a peaceful protest in 1990 demanding freedom of speech and religion.
Bride and groom Bhanu Adhikari, right, and Kamala Chauhan, center, arrive with suitcase from the bride's family home in Phoenix for the welcoming ceremony Dec. 2 in east Sacramento. Seven lamps welcome Hindu goddess Laxmi in a prayer for wealth and harmony with the entrance of the new bride.

"They were tortured in the jail, hundreds of women were raped in public, houses were burned and people were forced to leave the country at gunpoint," said Rup Pokharel, 35, a journalist and teacher in the camps.

Inside the camps, he said, people died from starvation, lack of medical care and poor sanitation.

Launching a new life

Between his shifts at a uniform store, Rup Pokharel takes fellow Bhutanese immigrants to see doctors.

"We've noticed an incredible amount of health issues in the community," said Lau, the refugee coordinator. "There are a lot of urgent hospital visits, trying to find specialists."

Some are malnourished, others suffer from epilepsy and bacterial infections but never had medication until they got to Sacramento, Lau said.

But on this joyous Wednesday night in December, several dozen Bhutanese made happy memories. The groom, Bhanu Adhikari, hugged his new bride and recalled how she won his heart in eighth grade.

"She was pretty, of good moral character, a good student from a good family," he said, making her smile.

"He was very talented, friendly, had a good personality and was very helpful in school," she said.

[ Sabitra Pokharel, left, grandmother of the groom, smiles as relatives watch the wedding video. The couple delayedmarriage while they were in the refugee camp. "We were always beggars," Adhikari said. "For 19 years it was a kind of hell, but it teaches a lot of lessons on how to progress in life, and go further." ]

They didn't get married in the camp because he couldn't provide for her, Adhikari said. "We were always beggars. For 19 years it was a kind of hell, but it teaches a lot of lessons on how to progress in life, and go further.

"I don't want to be a burden," he said, "but the U.S. has helped us to save our lives."

Call The Bee's Stephen Magagnini, (916) 321-1072. Bee researcher Pete Basofin contributed to this report.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stateless Refugee Children from Bhutan Living in Nepal

Testimony of Bill Frelick to a Joint Briefing for the Congressional Children's Caucus and the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on the Status of Stateless Children

FEBRUARY 14, 2007
On February 15, 2007 Bill Frelick testified before the Congressional Children's Caucus and the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on stateless Bhutanese refugee children living in Nepal.

Recognizing that we have a very full panel of witnesses today and bearing in mind that the legal human rights framework I presented in my previous testimony is for the most part unchanged, and available on the Human Rights Caucus web page, I will today confine my remarks to one particular group that illustrates this problem—stateless children from Bhutan living in refugee camps in Nepal. I had the opportunity to visit all seven refugee camps in November to assess conditions in which the children there are living. Out of a total camp population of about 105,000 refugees, 40 percent are children. I must note at the outset, however, that the adult members of this population are stateless as well and are also left vulnerable due to their lack of a recognized nationality.

Let me first provide some background on the origins of these children.

Restrictive Citizenship Laws in Bhutan—the Cause of Statelessness and the Refugee Problem

These refugees are ethnic Nepalese. Their ancestors first began migrating to Bhutan in the nineteenth century. Many became eligible for Bhutanese citizenship under a 1958 Nationality Law. However, by the late 1970s the ethnically, culturally, and politically dominant Drukpa establishment had come to see the Nepali speakers’ growing numbers and influence as a threat to Bhutan’s cultural identity and to their own privileged position. Increasingly, the government asserted that the majority of the Nepali speakers in Bhutan were not in fact citizens but illegal immigrants who threatened Bhutan’s political, religious, and cultural identity.

The government invoked these perceived threats as justification for a series of discriminatory measures aimed at the political, economic and cultural exclusion of Bhutan’s Nepali speakers, including two Citizenship Acts that tightened the requirements for citizenship. The 1977 Citizenship Act was followed by a nationwide census, and citizenship cards were issued only to those who met the strict qualifications of that Act.

A 1985 Citizenship Act tightened the requirements for Bhutanese citizenship still further. Under the 1985 Act, a child would qualify for citizenship by birth only if both parents were Bhutanese. The requirements for eligibility for citizenship by naturalization under the 1985 Act were: residence in Bhutan of 15 years for government employees and children with one Bhutanese parent, and 20 years for all others; the period of residence must be registered in the government records; proficiency in Dzongkha, the language of the ruling ethnic group, the Ngalongs; good knowledge of the culture, customs, traditions, and history of Bhutan; good moral character; no record of imprisonment for criminal offences; and no record of having spoken against the king, country and people of Bhutan. The 1985 Act granted the government of Bhutan the right to reject any application for naturalization without giving reasons. The 1985 Act also provided for citizenship by registration, which required that one must have been permanently domiciled in Bhutan on or before December 31, 1958 and one’s name must have been registered in the Ministry of Home Affairs census register.

The 1985 Citizenship Act was followed by a new census in 1988. This census amounted to a selective, arbitrary and retroactive implementation of the 1985 Act. First, it took place only in southern Bhutan, where the Nepali-speaking population resided. Second, Nepali speakers were denied the benefits of the provisions in the 1985 Act on citizenship by naturalization; instead, Bhutanese citizenship for Nepali speakers was restricted to those who could prove residence in Bhutan since before December 31, 1958. The citizenship identity cards issued after the previous census were disregarded: people who could not prove residence since before the 1958 cut-off date were classified as illegal immigrants, even if they were in possession of a citizenship card.

The 1988 census placed people into one of seven categories. Only those people who could prove they resided in Bhutan in 1958 were categorized as “genuine Bhutanese”; everyone else was placed in one of six other categories. The Bhutanese authorities applied exceedingly strict criteria in this regard. For example, people who had documents proving residence before and after 1958, but not 1958 itself, were categorized as “returned migrants”, that is, people who had left Bhutan and then returned again. Census officials frequently confiscated the citizenship cards of people who had no documents to prove residence in 1958.

The census caused considerable anxiety among the Nepali speaking population in southern Bhutan. This state of fear and resentment was exacerbated by a series of “Bhutanization” measures aimed at enforcing a distinct national identity, in line with Bhutan’s “one nation, one people” policy. For example, on January 16, 1989, the king issued a decree requiring all citizens to observe the traditional Drukpa code of values and dress. This was followed in February 1989 by a decision to remove Nepali from the curriculum in all schools in southern Bhutan.

These policies were perceived as a direct attack on the cultural identity of the ethnic Nepalese, and led to growing unrest in southern Bhutan, culminating in mass demonstrations in September and October 1990. The government response was swift. All participants in the demonstrations were classed as ngolops (“anti-nationals”), and thousands of people accused of taking part in the demonstrations were arrested and detained. Many were subjected to ill-treatment and torture; a number of people were reported to have died in detention. The security forces staged frequent raids on the homes of ethnic Nepalese, and there were numerous accounts of women and girls being raped in the course of these raids.

By the end of 1990, the first Nepali speakers fled Bhutan. Some had been released from prison on condition that they would leave the country, while others fled to avoid falling victim to arbitrary arrest and detention. People who were categorized as non-nationals under the 1988 census were told to leave the country or face imprisonment. The security forces harassed many Nepali speakers, in some case destroying their homes, and forced others into exile by intimating them into signing so-called “voluntary migration forms.”

Protracted Statelessness: No Resolution after 15 years in Refugee Camps

The Bhutanese have been living in the camps in Nepal for more than 15 years. Despite 15 rounds of bilateral talks between Bhutanese and Nepalese government authorities, there has been no progress toward resolving their situation. Exhaustive negotiations, so far, have resulted only in a “verification exercise” carried out over a two-year period by a Joint Verification Team of Nepalese and Bhutanese officials. The verification exercise was intended to resolve the nationality status of the refugees and pave the way for the repatriation of those found to be Bhutanese nationals who were forced out of the country by placing them in one of four categories. The results, released in 2003, were disappointing to say the least. First, the verification exercise never expanded beyond one camp, Khundunabari, so, at best, was able to verify the status of only 10 percent of the total refugee population. Even so, only 2.5 percent of the refugees were found to be Bhutanese citizens who had been forcibly expelled and who would be allowed to repatriate with full citizenship rights.

To date, none of this small “category 1” group has actually been allowed to return. The bulk of the refugees, 70 percent, were categorized as “Bhutanese who voluntarily migrated”—category 2, which supposedly provides for the right to return (though none have yet been allowed back), but without compensation or restoration of lost property and with an arduous process for reclaiming the Bhutanese citizenship. Another 24.5 percent were categorized as non-Bhutanese—utterly stateless. Finally, 3 percent were categorized as “criminals”—usually as a result of the nonviolent expression of their political beliefs, who presumably would be subject to arrest upon return.

Bhutan’s attempts to limit the unconditional right of return to people in category 1 violate its obligations under international law. Regarding the people in category 2, Bhutanese who are deemed to have left Bhutan voluntarily, Bhutan argues that these people have renounced their Bhutanese citizenship. However, the circumstances surrounding people’s departure from Bhutan in the early 1990s make clear that, far from leaving voluntarily, Nepali-speakers were either forced to leave, or felt compelled to leave the country to avoid harassment, physical abuse and imprisonment. There is, thus, no basis for distinguishing between people in categories one and two: they should all be allowed to exercise their right to return to Bhutan should they so wish and have their status as citizens of Bhutan restored to them with immediate effect.

The verification exercise put children in a particular quandary. Under the 1985 Citizenship Act, only children whose parents are both citizens of Bhutan are citizens by birth. Since only 2.5 percent of the refugees in one camp have been recognized as citizens, few children will have two Bhutanese citizen parents. Those belonging to Category 2, the largest category that theoretically will be allowed to return will find it nearly impossible to obtain Bhutanese citizenship upon return. They will be required to qualify under the 1985 Citizenship Act. Among other strict provisions, the Act requires proficiency in the Dzongkha language, which in almost all cases the children have not heard spoken their entire lifetimes outside primary school language classes in the camps. The Act also requires 20 years of residency in Bhutan (or 15 years for children with one Bhutanese parent)—which no child could fulfill. After returning, they would have to wait 15-20 years before being able to apply for citizenship. This means that it is likely that most Bhutanese children currently living in the Nepalese refugee camps if they ever are allowed to repatriate will most likely remain stateless. As stateless persons they would face significant restrictions to their basic rights. Under the current Bhutanese ID system, they would not be able eligible for higher education or to obtain government jobs, trading or business licenses without a “No Objection Certificate”. Such certificates would not be issued to the children of stateless people. They would be reduced to being subsistence farmers, but would not have land, so no means to sustain themselves.

While voluntary repatriation is recognized, in principle as the optimal refugee solution, it presumes fundamental changes in the conditions that caused the refugees to flee in the first place. Available evidence suggests that conditions in Bhutan have not significantly improved for ethnic Nepalis. Human Rights Watch interviewed Bhutanese Nepali speakers who managed to avoid expulsion and still live in Bhutan, and found their status in Bhutan to be very insecure. Some have been denied citizenship cards following the latest census in 2005 and so they are now effectively stateless in their own country. Without documents, their situation in Bhutan is so difficult that some said that even if they are not going to be forced out of the country, they might have to leave at some point in the future simply because they won’t be able to survive in Bhutan.

Schools have reopened in southern Bhutan, but Nepali speakers have difficulty getting admission. This is true even for the ones with documents. There are very few health care facilities in the south, so in effect Nepali speakers are denied access to health care much of the time. This is true even for people with documents.

Another acceptable durable solution for refugees is local integration. The statelessness of some of the refugees—and particularly the one-quarter of the population categorized as non-Bhutanese—could be resolved through naturalization and integration into the fabric of life in Nepal. However, the policy of the government of Nepal has been firmly aimed at precluding the Bhutanese refugees from integrating in Nepal, both in legal and in economic terms. While Nepal allows the Bhutanese refugees to remain on its territory, it accords them few rights. First, regardless of the fact that many Bhutanese refugees have now resided in Nepal for more than 15 years, and that a significant proportion of the Bhutanese refugee population consists of children who were born in Nepal, no provision is made for Bhutanese refugees to acquire Nepalese citizenship.

The most recent development is an offer the U.S. government made publicly late last year to resettle up to 60,000 Bhutanese refugees from the camps in eastern Nepal. While many welcome this initiative, resettlement as a durable solution is not well understood among the refugees and has been the cause of some tension and conflict in the camps.

The Children: Misery, Frustration, Hope

We spoke with many young people during our visit to the camps. On one hand we were struck at how bright and capable they appeared to be. Despite living all or most of their lives in the restrictive setting of a refugee camp, they have benefited from parents who for the most part value education. The children were generally vocal in expressing their desires and in articulating their human rights. On the other hand, they are extremely frustrated and see their lives as wasting away. For the most part, they are not set on a particular solution, but do not want to remain in limbo any longer.

Time and again, the refugees expressed their gratitude for the support they have received from the international community. They consistently said that their true desire was to be restored to the status of full citizens with full respect for their political, civil, economic, social, and cultural rights. A young man expressed his frustration, saying, “I cannot live in the camp any more. I will go to any country where they will give me citizenship, even if it is Afghanistan.” Another young man told me:

I don’t want the mask of a refugee any longer. We don’t know about things in Bhutan. I was only 5 or 6 years old when I left. I don’t remember much about my country. I wasn’t even in school yet. Now when young people talk about Bhutan, they have no sense of what it is. We want to brighten our future. And we want a speedy solution—by any means.

A student said:

Young people in the camp are frustrated. We have many talents, but as refugees we don’t get a chance to express ourselves. Sometimes I feel I want to end my life.

Another said:

I was only 6 or 7 when I left Bhutan. I have little memory of the country. The refugee life is miserable. We are suffering. We lack financial support. Our brothers and sisters have no jobs. The only job is to be a teacher [in the camp]. We can’t go outside the camp to work. We are not allowed to go outside the camp. We are hearing about third country resettlement. We want to know about life in America. My aim is to return to Bhutan, but the autocratic government of Bhutan would make if very hard to change the system of government of Bhutan. There is no UNHCR officer there, no human rights office in Bhutan. It would have to change. That is so very difficult. Lhotshampas [a name some give the Nepalese who lived in southern Bhutan] are living in miserable conditions. We hear news from people in Bhutan, but we have no direct communication with them. We have lived here for 15 years. I am not married, but one day I will have children. I want to know what it will be like. Our first aim is repatriation, but if that is not possible, we need to think of something else. We need Nepalese nationality as our second aim.

A young woman said:

Sometimes when we walk at night it is dangerous. There are difficulties inside and outside the camp. It is not safe to walk alone at night. I have to walk with friends. There is no guarantee for safety. We [women] do not get full opportunities compared to men. Women don’t get applications to work. I don’t get a full opportunity in any field. I want to work to improve women’s rights in our society. I am deprived. We are not able to do work other than teaching. We are stateless. We are compelled to do teaching….We want to go to our country. My motherland where I was born is precious to me. My family feels the same way. I want to go back to a Bhutan that is better than this. Until now, Bhutanese have been deprived of their rights. Men and women should be equal and free. If we go back to our motherland, I have the same hope for human rights.

A middle-aged man speaking to me with his daughter sitting in his lap told me:

Repatriation would be the best solution, but there is no way that will happen. The government of Bhutan, we have learned that it would not like to address us. The Royal Government of Bhutan does not want to call us Bhutanese. In such conditions people like me, having been tortured by pointing a weapon at my chest, I cannot go back to Bhutan. My life is at stake and I am at risk. Nothing they say would convince me to go back. I also would not like to appeal to the Nepalese to allow us to stay here. The Nepalese themselves are landless. They are homeless, so how can we stay here? My wife and I have heard the rumors all over camp. We have talked about it with our children. Our children said that we want resettlement. We want to live in an atmosphere where we can eat our own bread earned from our own sweat. We don’t want to be dependent on others. We no longer want the tag of “refugee.” Half our lives have been spent as refugees. We don’t want that tag on our children’s forehead. We want them to be proud citizens.

Durable Solutions?

The refugees do not have a uniform opinion about their future. When asked, most initially say that their first choice is to return, and many stick to that as the only acceptable solution. But they differ on the terms and conditions of return. And they differ on how much longer they can wait for repatriation.

So far, Nepalese citizenship has not been an option. Nepal sees this population as Bhutan’s responsibility. There are some refugees, particularly those married to local Nepalese, who would opt for local integration in Nepal if that were an option. Nepal has recently passed a new citizenship law, which looks promising. Until now children born to a Nepalese mother and a Bhutanese father were not entitled to Nepalese citizenship. Now, although they are not accorded the automatic citizenship that applies to children of Nepalese fathers and Bhutanese mothers, they can be eligible for Nepalese citizenship if they have permanent residence in Nepal, and have not acquired citizenship of a foreign country on the basis of the father’s citizenship.

Many of the refugees—particularly among the youth—are thrilled with the prospect of resettlement to the United States. But what they lack is clear information about the resettlement process, and this creates anxiety and fear. In particular, they are anxious to know more about the conditions for acquiring US citizenship. Given their history of expulsion from Bhutan, they have understandable fears that without citizenship, their status would remain insecure and that they could even be expelled again.

This is an understandable reaction under the circumstances of their lives. The refugees need clear information about all three durable solutions—repatriation, local integration, or resettlement, and the terms and conditions of all three, including the feasibility of it happening at all. In any case, a “solution” without citizenship in the view of the overwhelming majority of the refugees would be no solution at all.

Recommendations to the U.S. Government:

Because this is testimony for a congressional briefing, our recommendations are confined to the U.S. government.

Despite the lack of diplomatic relations with Bhutan, the U.S. Government should use whatever diplomatic tools it is able to marshal to convince or pressure the Bhutanese government to allow all refugees to return if they so wish and restore their Bhutanese citizenship to them immediately; to respect the human rights of the remaining Nepali-speakers in Bhutan and to stop discriminating against them; and ensure that Bhutan doesn’t expel any more Nepali-speakers. Bhutan should allow Category 1 refugees from the Khundunabari camp to repatriate immediately and to permit the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other international observers to monitor the repatriation.
The U.S. government should work with UNHCR to provide information to refugees in the Nepalese camps about the three durable solutions and, in particular, to provide information about the offer or refugee resettlement to the United States, particularly emphasizing that it is entirely voluntary, that it is intended to lead to U.S. citizenship, and that it does not preclude the possibility of returning at some future date to Bhutan.
The U.S. government should proceed expeditiously with plans to begin processing those refugees who express an interest in U.S. resettlement and who meet U.S. eligibility criteria. The longer the delay between the time the offer was announced and resettlement actually starts, the greater the chance for misunderstanding and for obstruction by elements opposing resettlement.
The U.S. government should encourage the Nepalese government to allow Bhutanese refugees to naturalize.

Taxpayers bear the burden as refugee resettlement soars

Posted by acorcoran on December 9, 2009

That is the title of an opinion piece that appeared today in the Tennessean. Freelance writer Don Barnett raises many of the same issues we have been raising here for the last 2 and a half years. Unfortunately, reform of the program won’t happen until the media begin to investigate what is hidden behind a ‘presumption of good intentions.’

I’ll have more comments later on this excellent op-ed, but wanted to get it to you right away.

This fiscal year, the U.S. resettled almost three times as many refugees as all the rest of the countries in the industrialized world combined.

Despite the recession, growing poverty, unemployment and homelessness, the U.S. resettled 75,000 refugees, the highest number of admissions since 9/11.

This is possible only because what was once the calling of true sacrificial charity and private sponsors is now the responsibility of the American taxpayer. Traditional sponsor duties have been replaced by access to welfare upon arrival for refugees and an opaque stream of grant money from seemingly every government agency except NASA.

In recent years up to 95 percent of the refugees coming to the U.S. were referred by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or were the relatives of U.N.-picked refugees. Until the late 1990s, the U.S. picked the large majority of refugees for resettlement in the U.S.

Considering that the refugee influx causes increases in all legal and illegal immigration as family and social networks are established in the U.S., the U.N. is effectively dictating much of U.S. immigration policy.

A nonprofit nation of hundreds of taxpayer-funded organizations has grown up around refugee resettlement in the U.S. A government-funded study finds “U.S. resettlement communities are awash with ECBOs that exist in name only but provide little meaningful assistance.” ECBO stands for Ethnic Community Based Organization, a government-defined category of grant recipients.

The expansion of the fraud-prone refugee program and the transformation of refugee resettlement into a federal contracting business have given birth to a global refugee industry well-adapted to the federal grant and contract environment.

Catholic Charities with its parent the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB ) is the largest refugee agency both nationally and in Nashville. It is neither a charity nor Catholic, but more an extension of a state welfare agency.

Sixty-five percent of Catholic Charities USA’s $3.6 billion annual budget comes from government sources. Refugee resettlement, a relatively small portion of its services, is covered by the government at closer to 100 percent. For nonprofits, it is profitable to be in refugee resettlement, and the executive directors of some of the 10 major resettlement agencies make almost as much as the president of the United States.

Nashville Catholic Charities devotes about 26 percent of its budget to “immigrants and refugees,” an amazingly high percentage considering most of that aid is going to recent refugee arrivals — a fraction of 1 percent of Nashville’s population. Interestingly, Tennessee recently put Nashville Catholic Charities in charge of distributing and monitoring federal “refugee” grant money to other NGOs in the state.

The possibility of a generous reception in the U.S. has created a “magnet effect” for refugees deciding between resettlement in the U.S. and integration in the region where they reside.

The once-independent faith-based and civic organizations have suffered their own “magnet effect,” causing a shift of efforts away from traditional works toward the more profitable refugee program. USCCB even lobbies for more business — that is, for higher refugee admission quotas.

Incentives built into refugee resettlement are behind much of its growth, especially as refugees themselves enter the federal contracting and lobbying business.

It is long past the time to lift the curtain of myth that protects this program from scrutiny.

From This Blog Refugee Resettlement Watch

Bhutan reports 17 border intrusions by China in 2009

Phayul[Wednesday, December 09, 2009 23:11]
By Kalsang Rinchen

Dharamsala, December 9 – It's not just India that is at loggerheads with China on border issues. Bhutanese Secretary for International Boundaries, Dasho Pema Wangchuk, told the Bhutanese parliament that Chinese soldiers had intruded into Bhutanese territory as many as seventeen times in 2009 alone, reported Kuenselonline, web edition of Bhutan's national newspaper.

Dasho Pema Wangchuk was presenting an updated status report on the Bhutan-China boundary negotiations on December 4 in the Bhutanese National Assembly. Chinese soldiers have entered as far as the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) outpost at Lharigang in the Charithang valley, according to Wangchuk.

According to Wangchuk, China started road construction work from Langmarpo stream towards Zuri ridge in 2004 but later stopped work after protests from the Bhutanese government. However, in August this year the Chinese started extension of the road construction work between Zuri to Phuteogang ridge, which overlooks the Charithang valley, Wanghuk said, adding that his government protested five times and asked China to stop construction on the basis of 1998 agreement on the maintenance of peace and tranquility in Bhutan-China border areas which states that “the two sides agree to maintain peace and tranquility in their border areas pending a final settlement on the boundary question, and to maintain status quo on the boundary as before March 1959” and that “they will also refrain from taking any unilateral action to change the status quo of the boundary”.

Dasho Pema Wangchuk said that the main reason why Bhutan has not been able to successfully demarcate the northern border with China even after many years is because of the differences of views and positions of the boundary between Bhutan and China. “At present we have four areas which are disputed in the western sector- Doklam, Charithang, Sinchulumpa and Dramana pasture land, ” Wangchuk was quoted by Kuensel online as saying.

The two countries have met 18 times since 1984 for border talks with the latest being in August 2006 in Beijing. China had proposed the 19th round of the border talks to be held in December this year but Bhutan has proposed the border talks to be held in Thimphu in January next year. Wangduephodrang MP, Gyem Dorji, said thousands of people from Tibet enter Bhutan every year to "illegally" collect Cordyceps (yartsa gunbu) along the northern border of Sephu Gewog.

Analysts say that China has not been able to woo Bhutan the way it had wooed Nepal. Bhutan has been a loyal neighbor for many years to India which has been providing various assistance to the Himalayan Kingdom.

Many Tibetans settled in Bhutan after fleeing Tibet through its southern border at Dromo after Chinese invasion. However, the Tibetan population in Bhutan dwindled after the royal government of Bhutan expelled many Tibetans and Nepalese refugees in early eighties.

From : Phayul

Democracy and freedom, yes, but scarves and mittens too


by Evelyn Lennon
December 9, 2009

As Minnesotans, we have a long tradition of opening our arms to refugees and asylum seekers. This year, a new wave of refugees from Asia and east Africa arrived in Minnesota: Bhutanese, Karen from Burma, and small populations of Oromo from Ethiopia and Somalis.

Like the refugees who came before them, these men and women set foot in a state notorious for brutally cold winters. This group also had the misfortune of arriving in communities experiencing tremendous economic strain.

This season, with state and nonprofit budgets squeezed even tighter, we should be sure that the most vulnerable don't feel the pinch. We must ask our political leaders to stop deep cuts to non-profits.

During this period of staggering joblessness, social services help sustain families with no other options. When contemplating cuts to nonprofits, our political leaders should reflect on the men and women who are so desperate for a safe haven that they sleep on other people's living room floors.

For most, an inflatable mattress is an unaffordable luxury. What will deeper cuts mean for them and their families?

We must also ask ourselves what we can give. The answer may be as simple as a scarf or a pair of boots. Several years ago, a new client asked to have his appointments scheduled on specific days of the week. He shared a winter coat with a friend who was off work and home those days.

Every year, we refer clients to community resources for coats, sweaters, mittens and other warm clothing. If you have an extra coat in good condition in your closet, donate it to an organization.

For many new arrivals, that first coat is a lifeline. These men and women often rely on public transportation to get to the grocery store, the doctor or their children's school. In a season when temperatures dip well below freezing, it's unthinkable that anyone should have to wait at a bus stop without a coat.

For one of my clients from East Africa, receiving her first warm scarf and hat -- a small, practical gift -- is something she has not forgotten. Now she knits scarves, with donated yarn, for other clients.

There are other, less tangible, things we can do to help. We can help give asylum seekers dignity. Like us, they want jobs. They want to support themselves and their families. Between arriving in Minnesota and finding jobs, however, many need outside support. Deep cuts to nonprofits will result in fewer resources for clothing, food and shelter that help bridge gaps.

Our communities are better places when every family flourishes. As we weather bitterly cold days and nights, let's remember our new neighbors.

Sometimes the gesture is as important as the actual delivered resource. However, in Minnesota, cold weather clothing is essential.


Evelyn Lennon is a social worker at the Center for Victims of Torture. She suggests people who would like to donate clothing contact Joseph's Coat (651-291-2472) in St. Paul, and the Refugee Services effort of the Minnesota Council of Churches (612-230-3227) in Minneapolis.

Don’t drag India in Nepal-Bhutan bilateral Imbroglio: Indian envoy

Rakesh Sood, the Indian Ambassador to Nepal has provided a new dimension in the historical relations between the two neighboring countries.
Look what he says, “Our relations are not just neighborly but are Familial and Cultural as well.”
Sood is hundred per cent right when he says so, but, it is advised that one step ahead of what he says could invite trouble for Mr. Sood.
Sood who prefers to remain out from Kathmandu’s messy Politics, haphazard traffic conditions and his occupation in political advisory business, has been of late visiting Nepal’s hilly areas rather than the Tarai plains.
Similar to the Chinese envoy who prefers to head to the plains whenever he is free from his newly acquired role of making inroads in Nepali politics, Ambassador Sood has the knowledge that it is more important to consolidate relations with the Hilly people of Nepal who have of late acquired somewhat bitter feelings towards India.
Nevertheless, Sood who was in Lakhanpur, Damak of Jhapa District, December 9, 2009 speaking at a program to lay the foundation stones of a School said “There are people who live in Nepal and have their family members in India and the otherwise...this clearly states that we have familial relations.”
“We will continue to support Nepal”, Sood further assured.
However, analysts claim “Even after thousands of years of association between the two countries, familial and cultural as says Sood, what is it that a diplomat of the likes of Sood need to assure and reassure the Nepali mass that India and Nepal were not just neighbors but much more than that.”
“There exist conjugal relations between the citizens of the countries”, Sood also told the attending School Children who had offered him bouquet of flowers upon his arrival.
Thanks the Indian Ambassador did not press the innocent school students to sing a Hindi song as he forced the Mustang students a few months back.
However, after so much of sweet talks, Sood as is expected of him disappointed many when he said “India has no role to play to sort-out the overly stretched issue of Bhutanese Refugee crisis”.
Sood knows perhaps that sans the Indian support the refugee issue will never arrive at a solution that will, analysts claim, provide India with the opportunity to continue twisting the Nepali arms.
This is perhaps the reason why the Nepali citizens need to be assured and reassured by India that it mean no harm to Nepal.
Analysts wish to pose a question to Ambassador Sood.
“Did the Bhutanese refugees fly over to Nepal from Bhutan without flying over the Indian Sky”? Or did they-the Bhutanese nationals-made a record high jump?
2009-12-10 09:14:03

Source: TWG

Don’t drag India in Nepal-Bhutan bilateral Imbroglio: Indian envoy

Rakesh Sood, the Indian Ambassador to Nepal has provided a new dimension in the historical relations between the two neighboring countries.
Look what he says, “Our relations are not just neighborly but are Familial and Cultural as well.”
Sood is hundred per cent right when he says so, but, it is advised that one step ahead of what he says could invite trouble for Mr. Sood.
Sood who prefers to remain out from Kathmandu’s messy Politics, haphazard traffic conditions and his occupation in political advisory business, has been of late visiting Nepal’s hilly areas rather than the Tarai plains.
Similar to the Chinese envoy who prefers to head to the plains whenever he is free from his newly acquired role of making inroads in Nepali politics, Ambassador Sood has the knowledge that it is more important to consolidate relations with the Hilly people of Nepal who have of late acquired somewhat bitter feelings towards India.
Nevertheless, Sood who was in Lakhanpur, Damak of Jhapa District, December 9, 2009 speaking at a program to lay the foundation stones of a School said “There are people who live in Nepal and have their family members in India and the otherwise...this clearly states that we have familial relations.”
“We will continue to support Nepal”, Sood further assured.
However, analysts claim “Even after thousands of years of association between the two countries, familial and cultural as says Sood, what is it that a diplomat of the likes of Sood need to assure and reassure the Nepali mass that India and Nepal were not just neighbors but much more than that.”
“There exist conjugal relations between the citizens of the countries”, Sood also told the attending School Children who had offered him bouquet of flowers upon his arrival.
Thanks the Indian Ambassador did not press the innocent school students to sing a Hindi song as he forced the Mustang students a few months back.
However, after so much of sweet talks, Sood as is expected of him disappointed many when he said “India has no role to play to sort-out the overly stretched issue of Bhutanese Refugee crisis”.
Sood knows perhaps that sans the Indian support the refugee issue will never arrive at a solution that will, analysts claim, provide India with the opportunity to continue twisting the Nepali arms.
This is perhaps the reason why the Nepali citizens need to be assured and reassured by India that it mean no harm to Nepal.
Analysts wish to pose a question to Ambassador Sood.
“Did the Bhutanese refugees fly over to Nepal from Bhutan without flying over the Indian Sky”? Or did they-the Bhutanese nationals-made a record high jump?
2009-12-10 09:14:03

Source: TWG

At least 25,000 Bhutan refugees resettled in West - U

Wed Dec 9, 2009 7:25pm IST Email | Print | Share | Single Page [-] Text [+]
KATHMANDU (Reuters) - At least 25,000 refugees from Bhutan have been resettled in the West, including the United States, after languishing for nearly 20 years in camps in east Nepal, the U.N. refugee agency said on Wednesday.

More than 110,000 refugees of ethnic Nepali origin left Bhutan since the 1990s claiming ethnic discrimination in the predominantly Buddhist nation.

Several rounds of ministerial meetings between Nepal and Bhutan failed to repatriate the refugees, an issue that has strained ties between the two South Asian nations.

Several Western countries including the United States began taking the refugees two years ago under a controversial scheme opposed by some exiles who say they want to return home.

The Nepal office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the United States had so far accepted the largest number of 22,060 refugees followed by Australia (1006), Canada (892), Norway (316), Denmark (305), New Zealand (299) and the Netherlands (122).

The resettlement process has never been easy, said Diane Goodman, UNHCR Acting Representative in Nepal.

"We have been receiving regular feedback from those resettled," Goodman said. "They have written to us about their lives; they are learning new languages, their children are in school and they are happy with their new homes."

UNHCR said 86,739 refugees from Bhutan were still living in seven U.N. supervised camps in eastern Nepal - of them more than 80,728 had signed up for resettlement in the West.

Washington says it is prepared to take more than 60,000 refugees from Nepal.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma)

(For the latest Reuters news on Nepal see:, for blogs see

Sources: Reuters

The Attempted Coup in Bhutan

Western Shugden Society
December 8, 2009

Filed under: buddhism — goldenmala

Thimpu, Bhutan

This is one of Open Secrets Concerning the Fourteenth Dalai Lama presented in the book A Great Deception by the Western Shugden Society. I found more details about the Attempted Coup in Bhutan in the book The Making of Modern Tibet By A. Tom Grunfeld. Below are a few excerpts from page 206.
In April 1973, just months before the official coronation of the current monarch, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the government of Bhutan announced the arrest of more than thirty individuals, almost all of them Tibetan refugees. The arrests were said to be in response to a plot that had begun a year earlier with the fatal heart attack of the previous monarch. During the latter years of this king’s reign, one of the most influential people was his alleged mistress. This woman, Ashi Yanki, was accused of being the ringleader of a group that had plotted to kill the young heir to the throne, set fire to the capital of Thimpu, and, in the resulting confusion, carry out a coup that would have effectively put Bhutan under the control of Tibetan refugees. The purpose of this coup, it was claimed, was to turn Bhutan into a military camp and a staging area for raids into neighboring China. It was further alleged that Ashi Yanki’s major source of support and encouragement was none other than Gyalo Thondup [the Dalai Lama's brother]. …

The Dalai Lama must maintain the absolute and undivided loyalty of the refugees in order to preserve his secular power. He is opposed to assimilation, and is especially opposed to the acquisition of citizenship in the settelment countries. In 1979, it was rumored that representatives of the Dalai Lama were warning Tibetans not to choose Bhutanese citizenship, lest they be barred from any future “independent” Tibet. …

In response, the Bhutanese, wanting all Tibetans to assume citizenship and profess their political loyaties solely to their king, have promised the refugees that they are free to renounce Bhutanese citizenship any time in the future – as are all Bhutanese.

Lack of International Pressure on Situation of Bhutanese Refugees

How keen is the global community to find a "just and lasting" solution to this long held up Bhutanese Refugee Crisis? Perhaps there is no denying that the International community is equally interested in finding a solution to this prolonged impasse. However, the degree of attention and interest displayed by the global community does evidently waver time and again. They suddenly demonstrate periodical keenness, after a while such enthusiasm tends to recede. And this "once in a blue moon" pressure tactic has failed to maintain the momentum for too long.

Every time the global community has displayed strong eagerness, a comparatively positive impact has emerged on the overall issue of finding a lasting solution to this protracted crisis. The agreement on the Modalities of verification; the verification of refugees in the Khudunabari camp; and the promulgation of verification results, however flawed they might be, are some of the progressive steps the International pressure has successfully yielded.

Under the pressure from the International community and Human Rights organizations, Bhutan agreed in May 1993 that "the Royal government of Bhutan will accept full responsibility for [any] bona fide Bhutanese Nationals who has been forcibly evicted.”

Unfortunately such pressure is not sustained, thereby giving the entities directly responsible for creating such a demographic mess enough time and room to keep wrangling and sinisterly avoiding any serious discussions.

I sometimes feel that the Bhutanese refugee impasse has become more an issue to talk and show-off their charitable nature for the International community. They send their sympathy notes scribbled in pittance (read Dollars and Euros), and send plethora of delegation in various names -- quietly mocking the gullibility of this bunch of helpless and hopeless camp inhabitants, again and again.

The fate of Bhutanese Refugees languishing in seven camps in eastern Nepal has been tried and tested umpteen times, but nothing seems to work in their favor , except over a dozen of missions that come here every year from Europe and America for a "sightseeing" tour of the refugee camps. The assurances they bring are quite heavy to bear for a person with heart-ailment, well at the end --- as usual. Nothing moves. Nothing happens.

Many still accuse the global community of not doing anything to help avoid the orchestrated "ethnic cleansing." The United States and the European Nations knew what was going in Bhutan. Had they acted in time, they could have helped stop it from happening altogether.

The US State department has the full knowledge of the entire situation developing inside Bhutan. They could have helped to avoid the massive exodus as the situation deteriorated later in the absence of any international intervention.
An undated State Department country report on Human Rights in Bhutan speaks volume about the American Knowledge in this regard. It also underlines the absurd and impossible requirements Lhotshampas were asked to meet: “In recent years, assimilation has given way to Bhutanization…. The citizenship law [of 1985] retroactively stripped citizenship from Nepalese immigrants who could not document their presence in Bhutan prior to 1968, a nearly impossible requirement in a country with widespread illiteracy which only recently adopted administrative procedures."

Another similar report published by the State Dept. after the situation got out of hand endorses what Refugees have been telling all along. "Tens of thousands [of ethnic Nepalese] were forcefully evicted from the country voluntarily in the face of official sanctioned pressure , including arbitrary arrests , beatings, rape, robberies and other forms of intimidation by police and Army."

One finds enough reason to wonder as to why the International community especially the United States failed to take an initiative in Bhutan or Rwanda; and why it assumed moral high grounds and intervened in Kosovo.

One fails to understand if the basic doctrine of the Human Rights; the yardstick to judge the Rights violations is different in the east that from west. Although the United States displayed unequivocal support for the refugees in the year 2000 but by then much water had flown under the bridge. Karl Inderfurth and Julia Taft played a crucial role in getting the verification started. In his unprecedented move, President Clinton sided with the government of Nepal and the refugees, and urged Bhutan to reach an agreement with Nepal. Should Bhutan fail to agree in the tenth round, Clinton said he would urge multilateral donors to divert the international aid from Bhutan to refugee camps through UNHCR -- as a result Bhutan had no choice but to constitute JVT.

Though President Clinton set a time-frame for the Bhutan to agree, however he set no deadline for the completion of verification. Since his departure, the new administration has almost ignored this whole issue. Lately, the emergence of new Maoists across the sub-continent including Bhutan is worrying the US. Perhaps this new threat may hopefully bring a solution in disguise for the refugees.

India, being a part of the international community has a role to play. The unpleasantly conspicuous indifference of government of India has encouraged the Druk regime to delay and avoid serious discussions on the issue. India has long maintained that this is a bilateral issue and that it has no role to play. Most surprisingly, under the article 2 of Indo-Bhutan Friendship treaty of 1949, India can offer advice to Bhutan in regard to its external relations. But for some invisible reason India has made no move to exercise her prerogative for a noble cause.

After thirteen years of hectic activity, we suddenly find that the Bhutanese refugee impasse has reached nowhere. Instead it has become more complicated both in the matter of 'policy nightmare' of successive Nepalese govt. and in size. The head counts of these camp inhabitants has crossed the 100,000 mark and for obvious reason it won't take a downward turn or maintain status quo under the prevailing fertility rates.

As more refugees are arbitrarily being displaced into India, she will have to get involved eventually. But without a sustained International pressure neither Bhutan nor its patrons in South Block are likely budge substantially.

Resilent Craft

From This Blog

Teaching Bhutanese in America

Mission update November 23, 2009
Will you please forward to anyone that you think might be interested.


Elder Heaton

November 23, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

Time moves on as we approach the conclusion of six months in the mission field. We can no longer call ourselves “GREENIES”. After six months in the mission field, if we were young missionaries we would have been through about three transfer periods and are getting the routine of missionary work down. They all have taught some type of lesson to prospective members, less active members or encouraged members to fulfill their calling as member missionaries. They have been met with disappointment as people break appointments and commitments and deny themselves the blessings of the gospel in the process. But most have rejoiced in seeing progressing investigators and some the miracle of conversion, baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and the joy that it brings to those that receive it. Then they, the missionary, experience that great joy as it is found in the scriptures:
D&C 18: 13, 15-16

13 And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!
• • •

15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

The blessing of success encourages them to move on to an even greater joy…

16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!
More than one fourth of the missionaries that were here when we arrived in the mission field have gone home. To those that thrust in their sickle and labored with all of their strength, they were the ones that realized the great blessing of serving in their Father’s Kingdom and did not want to leave. They are the ones that understand what sacrifice and consecration really means and this great joy that comes from living it. They were the ones that the angels went before them to prepare the way

31 And the office of their (the angels) ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him.

32 And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men.

How wondrous it is, as a missionary, to find these chosen vessels of the Lord and to help our Father In Heaven fulfill His covenant with the children of men.

I have spoken in the past about a group of refugees from Bhutan that were in the camp in Nepal for seventeen years and somehow found themselves here in America. We have been actively teaching about 40 of these good people. Last night we baptized the first two. Moni and Raj Magar. What sweet spirits they and their two young children are and to have survived in such miserable circumstances is truly a miracle in itself. Just before they were baptized Sister Heaton and I went over to their humble apartment to break bread and enjoy the food of Bhutanese cuisine. While there, Raj told us that he had a plan to bring many of these people into the church. He wanted all too now have what he has and to know what he knows. That is the way with the truly converted; they can’t help but share the true gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone that they come in contact with, as the Lord directs. They are truly chosen vessels of the Lord.

I reflect on William Heaton receiving the gospel over in England; he being the very first convert and missionary on my Heaton side, and how much Raj is like him. I reflect on the joy William must be having as those he brought into the gospel of Jesus Christ have met him on the other side of the veil. How he must rejoice in his posterity and the missionary work that they have been involved with and how those that passed on before him have had their work done for them in the Holy Temples of the Lord, and how literally countless numbers have been affected by his choice to hear the word of the Lord and serve as a missionary for the Lord. He was a chosen vessel of the Lord that I will be ever grateful for. Now Raj has that same opportunity to bless his family and countless numbers that he will come in contact with both the living and the dead and how his posterity will call him blessed.

“ And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!”

I cannot express enough the gratitude that Sister Heaton and I have for each and every one of you that have touched our lives. You have given us great perspective and joy in our service here on our mission and you are a great part of anything that we do here. We feel your love every day and we hope that you feel ours for you as well. We have a constant prayer for you all that the Lord will bless and protect you. We also pray that the Lord’s great work; even a marvelous work and a wonder will roll forth until we kneel at Jesus feet and say, “Lord, here am I.” And that He who is all merciful will say, “Well done my true and faithful servant. I have prepared a place for you, enter in”

With all our love,

Elder and Sister Heaton

From His Blog
Germany provides 50,000 euros in emergency relief to Bhutan

6 December, 2009 - The German government, through the federal foreign office’s humanitarian emergency aid programme, is providing 50,000 euros to UNICEF for earthquake relief operations in Bhutan. The funds will be used for procurement and distribution of relief material for people affected by the earthquake that hit eastern Bhutan on 21 September 2009.

Many of the affected families, in particular children, still show signs of fear and trauma. A sizeable portion of those affected continues to live in temporary shelters. The onset of cold winter conditions makes the vulnerable population susceptible to diseases and other health hazards. Several schools and health centres damaged due to the earthquake are still operating from makeshift shelters.
With the 50,000 euro funding from the German government, UNICEF will procure and distribute emergency family kits to prepare cooked food and boiled water, tarpaulins for use as temporary shelters and classrooms, blankets and a tent for the Jomtshang community primary school in Trashigang.

Though the relations between Germany and Bhutan are not formalised, regular bilateral contacts are maintained through the German embassy in New Delhi. In June 2008 and again in October 2009, a delegation from the said embassy visited Bhutan and held talks with parliamentarians, among others, on the new political order.

Over the last few years, Germany has also supported several cultural preservation projects in Bhutan, the most recent being the reconstruction of a cantilever bridge at the historic dzong in Punakha, which was officially opened by Bhutan’s Prime Minister on 10 May 2008. The newly established Trongsa Penlop Library, a public library in the Thimphu valley, received a donation of books from the German embassy in 2008.

In 2009, the German embassy provided 8,000 euros for procuring and distributing rice and maize grinding machines in eight remote mountain villages. The royal Bhutan police cooperate very successfully with German police on an ongoing basis.

Support is provided for postgraduate courses with relevance to developing countries, during which young executives from Bhutan’s administrative sector and non-governmental organisations receive practice-oriented training in Germany. Each year, three or four Bhutanese applicants are awarded scholarships, enabling them to study for two years and obtain a Master’s degree. Also, every year Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle invites journalists from Bhutan to Germany for conferences and workshops.

Beyond bilateral cooperation, Germany also makes a financial contribution to measures by international organisations active in Bhutan, such as the World bank, the Asian development bank, the European Union and the international centre for integrated mountain development (ICIMOD).

Worldwide, the German government funds appropriate relief projects run by UN humanitarian organisations, German NGOs and organisations of the Red Cross/Crescent movement. The federal foreign office is the lead ministry for this task. Germany’s key principle here is that humanitarian aid must be geared to the requirements of the emergency and nothing else. The German government is committed here to the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.

The federal foreign office funds humanitarian emergency aid, especially help for refugees and internally displaced persons. It also promotes disaster reduction measures, which can help minimise the impact of natural disasters, alleviate human suffering and reduce material damage. In 2009 the federal foreign office has spent 123 million euro around the world to deal with humanitarian crises.

Open Your Heart and Home to a Refugee Child

( photo copyright Diana Johnson used w/permission)

Would you like to rekindle the hope of a refugee child who has fled civil conflict or persecution? If you live in King or Snohomish county you could become a long-term, short-term, or respite foster care provider with LCS' Refugee & Immigrant Children's Program. Many countries resettle refugee families and adult refugees. But only the U.S. welcomes the most vulnerable refugees: refugee youth without an adult caregiver. Recently, the need has been greatest for homes for teenagers and sibling groups from Burma, Bhutan, Congo, Somalia, and Sudan. Would you like to learn more about this rare opportunity? Please contact Erika Berg or (206) 694-5780 to sign up for our next Information Night on Monday, December 14, 6 - 8 pm. For more information:

From New Blog

Journalists Reveal Human Rights Violations in Bhutan As State Presents Report

By Alan Gray, NewsBlaze

Bhutan is to present its first human rights report to the Universal Periodic Report Review Committee of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today at 1400 hours local time.

Bhutan has made a modest effort to present itself as clean in rights abuses, activists say, but gross human rights violations continue today.

Abuses include the eviction of over 100,000 citizens and other 80,000 restricted from exercising their voting rights during the first general elections,

To draw the attention of the international community to the previous and ongoing human rights violations in Bhutan, and to denounce the fabricated human rights report presented by Bhutan to the HRC, rights activists have published a new report. The report documents rights violations since 1990 and particularly since the so called democratic changes.

Written by I. P. Adhikari, president of the Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA) Bhutan, and Raju Thapa, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, Nepal, the book provides vivid glimpse of the gross human rights violations in a country where "gross national happiness" is supposedly the guiding principle.

The book, entitled 'Human Rights and Justice in Bhutan', covers incidents beginning with the 1990s suppression, followed by the political changes and actions thereafter.

The book counters the claims made by the Royal Government of Bhutan in its report prepared for the Human Rights Commission. Substantive details of human rights violations are included, plus state failure to adhere by its legal obligation to protect the rights of its citizens.

Some noted instances of human rights violations include delay in repatriation Bhutanese refugees, restricting voting rights to it's 80,000-strong Nepali-speaking population still living in the country as well as to thousands of monks. The government has also failed to set up human rights mechanisms, there is an absence of any human rights organizations in the field, denial of the right to education to thousands of children because parents failed to present a no objection certificate.

There is discrimination in providing security clearances that are vital to obtain a business license and other government facilities. The state failed to register the birth of children born after 1990, even though Bhutan ratified the CRC in 1991.

Although Bhutan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1981, discrimination against women continues today.

The journalists' Shadow Report shows that Bhutan's first human rights report is a sham.

BNC but whose?

December 4, 2009Platform Bhutanese Oversea citizenLeave a commentGo to comments
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Building Dutch Bhutanese identity
The exiled Bhutanese resettled in The Netherlands that forms the smallest ethnic group is now organized to maintain their identity. They have established a union named Bhutanese Community Netherlands (BCN) under the corporate law in Amsterdam. There are more than a hundred Bhutanese individuals most of them resettled in The Netherlands under the UNHCR program after the Bhutanese regime refused to take them back from the camps in Nepal. Their number will grow with the fourth batch of refugees scheduled to be invited from the camps early next year.
Maintaining ethnic and cultural identity along with the integration in the multicultural Dutch society is for Bhutanese a remedy to cultural shock and a solace to begin with new life for the second time. Their eighteen years of stay in the refugee camps in Nepal after being forced out of Bhutan indeed changed their concept of the world and bewildered to the extent that prudential approach and orientation became inevitable to begin life in this new country. This is essential particularly when they have to adjust their collectivistic societal norms and values to individualistic society of The Netherlands. The new organization should dedicate to identify the missing link and supports their successful integration.
Reorganizing among the resettled Bhutanese in their new circumstances and help each other appeared quite difficult, being confronted each time by their past experiences or personal point of references. Discussions leading to founding this community began early this year in the bars and private gatherings led by a few who were influential in the camps in Nepal. This was consolidated in April through a meeting called by those who came to Holland on their own and formed an adhoc committee of six members to expedite the legalizing procedures. Their work was disturbed when a Nepali expatriate Sashi Paudel intervened by holding a meeting on 20th June with the selected Bhutanese individuals. Suspicion among the Bhutanese population began whether BCN will practically be apolitical or a tool for a few interest groups to use in the manner many have experienced in the camps in Nepal. The adhoc committee accelerated their pace and the general meeting was held on 19 September that elected LP Dhakal as the president and also other office bearers. An statute was also ratified. Controversial clause that is not to allow political portfolio holders of any political parties to become central committee member of BCN was approved by the majority but the same gathering that constituted about 20 individuals ignored mechanism to prevent political portfolio holders getting elected. Thus violation of the rules and regulations began from the same day when BCN was formed. This continued to be aggravated when the president took the advisory committee’s advice supported by proof that the general secretary of BCN Ram Bdr Karki is already a central committee member of Bhutan People Party , as ‘disturbing issue’ and continued in clandestine the legalization procedures. It is yet not known who and how many of his subordinates represented BCN in the Notarial authority as founding members.

The way BCN began to operate appears non different from dozens of human rights, social and political organizations formed in the camps in Nepal that divided people and pained. This is evident from the first meeting minutes of the legalized BCN held in 29 November that absurdly suspended its women representative CK Dal with outrage because of the only fact that she asked the president to make clear from the beginning itself what the controversial issues could be and what spirit BCN will foster. According to the set rules in the statute member can be suspended for a month on the grounds of repeated damage done to the organization and the suspension must be followed by repeated warning. But, in the contrary, the president and the general secretary suspended her on their will and anger and it is ridiculous since that decision was taken in absence of the victim.

Therefore BCN is running out of its corporate values and responsibilities and thus became a tool to take revenge against the weaker section of the community instead of protecting them. It is contaminated with political manouvre and therefore already began to show no respect to whoever opposes their idea and operaton. The bigger dilemma for Bhutanese in Netherlands is the question whether their identity will be preserved collectively or exposed and what values will be passed down to the future generation ?. Gautam

From Nanda Gautam's Blog

On food security, art and snowboarding...

On food security, art and snowboarding...


Richard F. Ragan is the World Food Programme (WFP) Country Representative for Nepal. The charming 45-year old “almost professional” snowboarder is an adventurist at heart and claims his love for this country. Be it his attempt to come to Nepal as a Peace Corp volunteer in the late 80s (and sent to Philipines instead) or his recent snowboard escapade in Annapurna area when he nearly got “fried” by the avalanche, you can see the spark in his eyes when he talks about his stories of Nepal. The father of three kids is also possibly the only American to be a UN diplomat based in North Korea.

The Week editor Subel Bhandari and correspondent Ujjwala Maharjan talked to Ragan about Nepal, the food situation in the country, to his art and music interests. Excerpts:

What actually happened regarding the Jajarkot incident? A human-right NGO accused the WFP of providing bad food that caused the cholera outbreak earlier this year in which more than 200 people died.

I think it is important for any human-right organization to be concerned with the food security. That’s a good thing. Not enough people have paid attention to the problems that people in the remote parts of the country face. As I have said publicly earlier, it is medically and scientifically impossible for food to have caused any diarrhea epidemic. Maybe it is a misunderstanding between the organization and us.

All I can do is read quotes and see what was said in media and I don’t want to play blame games. The fact remains dry food rations cannot cause diarrhea related illnesses that would result in death. I don’t think it is useful to debate on whether food had a role to play in the incident in far west. The focus should have been on what needs to happen so that this does not occur next year because reality is every year in Nepal there are hundreds of diarrhea related deaths which are fundamentally a result of people drinking contaminated water and practicing poor hygiene. We have to figure out how to approach that and not look around and blame people.

At the moment, what are your operations?

We’re feeding over two million people all over the country and it’s quite a big operation that has grown from a US$25 million program to US$115 million a year. We are the largest airlift operation of WFP in the world. The challenges behind growing that fast and being that big are certainly there. We have been able to reach the remotest parts of the country.

We are using food as entry point to tackle questions around short and medium term food security and also use food like money to pay community to do development projects.

WFP has the Bhutanese refugee program where we feed over 90,000 refugees as many have been resettled already. We also feed over a quarter million kids, and have programs where we give away food as an incentive to parents for sending their children to school. We also do a mother and child health care programs primarily with government partners.

The quality of food that WFP provides has been questioned time and again by Nepali media. Do you think the media is being prejudiced?

We’re feeding over two million people in the country and it is never perfect. We have one of the most rigid systems to look at the quality of our food. When you are feeding this many people, you run into issues that you’ve got to deal with. The question is if we have an effective mechanism in place to monitor the food in all different stages as it moves. We check it when it is bought and it is checked when it is brought into the country by the government in the customs. We check it again as we get it and also our partners check it once they receive it. If there is any problem, we replace it. There is always going to be questions around food quality and we take it seriously. We spend close to a million dollars per year just to check food quality.

Do you also get food from local market?

Of our program, 85 per cent comes from the region, that is Nepal and India. Of that, 12 to 15 per cent, depending on the year and its harvest, is from Nepal suppliers. Rest is coming from suppliers who are buying either in India or directly from Indian suppliers. The government has now asked us not to buy food in Nepal because there is a deficit of production this year. They don’t want us to go into the market and take away food from the consumers. So we are primarily buying in India.

In the United Nations, WFP is the only agency that has to raise its funds by itself. How do you do that?

We do it through our projects where we present a concept to our board in Rome, Italy. The board approves it and we work with government on the concept and we go out and raise money for it. Governments generally give us money based on what they perceive to be the need in the country and the merits of our projects.

In a talk program few months ago, you portrayed a bleak image of food security in Nepal. Is it that bad?

Nepal has some of the worst chronic malnutrition rate. There are two types of malnutrition: acute malnutrition is weight to height and chronic malnutrition, the most pervasive, attacks children in the developmental stages from age zero to five. If you don’t get the right nutrition during that period, your mental and physical facilities is underdeveloped. In mid and far western region, you have chronic malnutrition rate as high as 68 to 70 percent. There is a combination of factors for it, one there is not enough food and the other is that there is no right kind of food to these children.

How about the food production that has gone down?

You have a growing population and the food production is not meeting up your population growth demand. You also had successive years of winter and summer droughts. I do not have the scientific data to say that change in weather patterns are result of climate change but anecdotally we can see that there is a lot less snow in higher mountains which means a lot less snow melt that is the source of water for irrigation for farmers during their winter crop. I am a mountain climber and I can see changing patterns in snowline. I came here in 1989 I climbed Mt Imja Tse and Khumbu and there was no lake at the bottom of Imja glacier and in 20 years, you got a new lake at the bottom of the biggest glacier coming out of Lhotse. Three very critical places on earth to look at climate change are the two poles and here in the Himalayas. Nepal has always been a disaster prone area, with floods and landslides every year. Now they seem to be growing in regularity and scale.

You said WFP program funds raised from US$ 25 million to US$ 155 million. Is it because Nepal is going down the dire road so fast?

There was always an emergency here but for whatever reasons people chose to ignore it. Maybe because it was too difficult or too expensive and these people were in unreachable places. We now have over 30 people who live out in the districts who have satellite phones and devices, who are food security surveillance monitors. They look at problems everyday, walk from village to village and we get real time information from them on what is actually happening and the dynamics of how VDCs in remote areas are dealing with things. Before, we had no idea what was happening and it was easy to say there was conflict and ignore it, but that is not sustainable. New Nepal cannot afford to ignore these populations. I don’t think it is sustainable to do large scale airlift aid operation into these places forever because it would cost too much. But we have to use the opportunities to gain with food, an entry point, which invest in activities that invest in food security. We also grew because Nepal is today in a unique position where the attention of the world is focused on it with the peace process, donors want the country to emerge from the process successfully and return to the state of peace, normalcy and self-sustainability. So they are investing in the country and as a result of that we are able to raise money.

One of our biggest donors last year was the Government of Nepal. They were confident in our programs and they wanted us to implement programs because we had the ability to move quickly and execute them when they needed to address some immediate food security issues.

What do you see as the main challenge of working towards the food crisis?

There is no main challenge. But there are three main areas we should focus on. We need a short term, medium and a long term response. Short term is trying to stabilize immediate food security targeting the households which are food insecure right now and provide the stock gap till they make it to the next agricultural cycle. The medium term is the mixture of providing food but also giving them developmental activities that promote food security like food for work program where we are building irrigation systems, access roads and farmer’s cooperatives to increase production, sustainability and increase community’s resilience to deal with fluctuation and future shocks. The third is the longer term agricultural production that has to happen in the country that requires proper structural investments, like the Jumla road and Karnali highway. Most of the rural parts have rain fed agricultural systems. Investment in irrigation is necessary. You have to develop a domestic seed stock production capability which gives farmers access to high yielding seed stocks on an annual basis. It is incredibly important for the government to have policy making mechanism because food security is a multi-Ministry issue. Like Yubaraj Khatiwada , the National Planning Commission Vice Chairman says -- Nepal needs to be a “food sovereign” state which means it needs to produce enough food on its own and be independent of external market. The conventional wisdom was you had to have strong economy so you could buy food in the global market.

What do you think of Nepal being a Wai Wai nation? It has become a national lunch, even in the furthest corner of our country.

I just read a very important book called the “Omnivore’s Dilemma” which looks at culture of eating in America. And I say Nepal is also moving in that direction but when we move too far away from how we produce our food, we loose a sort of food sovereignty. I think you have to balance these sorts of readymade products to the traditional way we as humans eat. It is good for people to have modern convenience of food but it is a problem when people rely too much on it and forget about origins of food.

Remote areas are not much concerned with variety of food and modern convenience. But we really should focus on potential of marketing incredible rare food found here like the morel mushrooms and Himalayan truffles to the higher European market.

You were in North Korea for some time. Tell us a little about that country because it is quite fascinating.

Before coming here I worked in North Korea and I was one of the first White House officials to travel there during the Clinton Administration. As an American, it is not an easy place to work. As individual people, they were nice. But as a country, they are very anti-American. It’s one of the last communist state.

Do you think Nepal could ever be like that if Nepal becomes a communist state?

Nepali people aren’t like that even if you become a communist state. Communism here tends to be more socialist. Democracy is not easy; it is not painless. If you’re waiting in line for petrol, and you’ve got power outages and no water, you do get frustrated but in terms of peace process, these things are slow and people have to be comfortable how they develop and there is progress.

Tell us about your snowboarding. Is it a viable tourism idea?

I have snowboarded in the Annapurna area in the base camp. It is a very specialized area, the only way to do it is you’ve got to be a mountaineer and climb up or you need a helicopter to fly you up. The snowline starts really high here so you begin in an altitude of 4,300 metres. In a helicopter, you need to be around 6,000 meters high. You need to go with people who have a lot of experience. Nepal is not a place that has people with skiing or snowboarding experiences. There are great mountaineers but they know climbing. Also, you don’t have a lot of helicopters in the country that can operate at those altitudes. And pilots don’t know how hill skiing works.

How dangerous is it?

It’s risky. The terrain is one of the most risky terrains in the world. Once, I got caught in the avalanche in the Annapurna in the south. I set it off when I was moving across the slope late in the afternoon. I was shooting a movie with three people for Nike. When you snowboard you push more snow than while skiing and I was third in the line that day. We knew the slope was unstable and when I went, the whole thing fractured. Annapurna is like the most avalanche prone mountain in the Himalayas. I stayed up and I couldn’t really ride it out, but it spit me out.

You have a solid art collection as well, some of which we got a glimpse of at the international art exhibition, Separating Myth from Reality: Status of Women, last month.

I’m a very bad painter. Three things I’d really wanted to be are rock star, world famous chef and a painter artist. But then I’ve got no real talent for any of it so those are just dreams.
I started collecting art even when I was in college. Then I really started buying art when I was in Washington DC and in China. When I was in China, my wife worked at an Asian fusion restaurant. Below the restaurant was one of the biggest art galleries in Beijing. I got to be friends with lot of these pre-Tiananmen artists who did gaudy art very much like pop art. After Tiananmen happened and everyone went underground, there were these post-Tiananmen periods when painters became subtly political and provocative.

In the States, I have some Salvador Dali. I have a Helen Frankenthaler and an Andy Warhol too.

What book are you reading?

I’m reading Michael Chabon’s Fatherhood for Amateurs. My favorite book of all time is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Chabon. I am reading his Fatherhood for Amateurs because I am a dad and a total amateur at it. I am also listening to a book Philip Roth’s The Humbling.

Music that you are into these days…

I’m listening to Sparklehorse and Vampire Weekend. I’m also listening to Black Joe Louis and the Honey Bears and The Silver Sun Pickups; they are an LA based band, very fuzzy and very nice.