The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Saturday, March 31, 2012

GNH, Gross National Happiness: Continuation of Lies and atrocities.

Amid Bhutan Happy Talk, Its PM Calls Refugees "Hordes" That "Threaten Stability"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 29 -- When Bhutan's Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley appeared at the UN Thursday promoting his country's Gross National Happiness concept and a conference set for April 2, Inner City Press asked him a less happy question: what about the refugees chased out of Bhutan?

Some have called this ouster of Lhotshampa people akin to ethnic cleansing; people have languished in refugee camps in Nepal for well over a decade. Inner City Press asked, what about their happiness?

Thinley essentially argued that the Lhotshampa were or are not Bhutanese, that they came as "hordes" of economic refugees but Bhutan could not afford them. He told Inner City Press, "Bhutan became an attractive destination to people driven from their homes by ecological issues, economic and political instability, mostly coming from one particular country, Nepal."

Sounding like a number of other countries, Thinley said the Bhutanese "government had to take steps to assure its own security. Tt was the later hordes of people, numbers that threatened stability [and] led to certain administrative measures -- legal, constitutional -- led to situation you mention."

In a final burst of happy talk, Thinley said that it's "showing signs of a durable solution, Nepal and Bhutan are engaged in dialogue on how the should share the responsibility over those people located in refugee camps in the event these people have no options."

The option, which opened only after a decade of unhappiness or worse, has been resettlement out of the region. Perhaps after much suffering some refugees are made happy. But it seems incongruous. Watch this site. Click here


Those fulfilling set criteria will be accepted back home : PM Thinley

Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley on Thursday told media persons in Thimphu that his government was positive about solving the long running problems of “people in camps in Nepal” that has persisted over two decades.

PM Thinley
He told that the government serious to find a solution to the problem of people in the camps in Nepal that has often been blamed for taking Bhutan-Nepal relations into ransom, reports from inside said.
The Prime Minister expressed the government’s concerns over the people in the camps being one of the biggest problems, which continue to threaten the peace and stability of the country.
“Presently the position of the government is, we will take back anybody who fulfills the criteria agreed upon between Nepal and Bhutan in the bilateral discussion,” online edition of the Business Bhutan quoted the PM as saying.
He also reinstated that the bilateral talks on the repatriation between the governments of Nepal and Bhutan were stalled after a Bhutanese delegation was assaulted by the mob in the camps.
However, during the press meet, the PM also claimed that Bhutan is interested to initiate bilateral talks with the Nepal government soon.
“We need to resolve the issue quickly but a solution has not been easy to find as the two countries have struggled to find a solution for many years,” he said adding,” Almost a decade after the two governments broke talks on repatriation of people in the camps.”
According to Thinley’s claim, it was he who asked his Nepalese counterpart Dr Baburam Bhattarai to resume discussions on exiled citizens
“Now it appears that the majority of people in the camps have already registered for resettlement in the third world countries,” added the PM.
Interesting he maintained that whatever the status, background or the rights or the lack of rights of the people might be, the fact is because Bhutan is directly associated with the huge population in the camp, it has very strong security and political implications for Bhutan.
Shameless Bhutanese rulers and the refugees
Like the tyrant of Libya, who labeled his oppositions as cockroaches and drunkards, the Bhutanese ruler too labeled us as economic migrants, without knowing that our forefathers were migrated to Bhutan much before even the present Wangchuk dynasty arrived in Bhutan to seize power.

Dr Bhampa Rai

Dr Bhampa RaiIn his recent visit to Nepal, Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley did not speak like a responsible executive of any democratic country thereby raising a question whether Bhutan is a democratic nation. Taking advantage of the present position of the Government of Nepal and ignorant Bhutanese refugees, he casually defied all the decisions and steps taken by the two governments after constituting a Joint Verification Team (JVT) that verified one of the seven UN-administered camps in eastern Nepal and proved at least 74 percent refugees as genuine Bhutanese. The remaining 26 percent were not recognized as Bhutanese by the JVT as they could not produce their documents which were confiscated by the Bhutanese authority during military crackdown on them before eviction. Shamelessly, Thinley is back to the square questioning the identity and background of the Bhutanese refugees that he also knows as Bhutanese. Thus, a question arises as who decides such matter of the kingdom of Bhutan? It is not the Prime Minister for sure.

As the tyrant ruler of Libya, who labeled his oppositions as cockroaches and drunkards, multi-faced Bhutanese ruler too labeled us as economic migrants, without knowing that our forefathers were migrated to Bhutan much before even the present Wangchuk dynasty arrived in Bhutan to seize power. Shameless Thinley or his king can label us as disgruntled Bhutanese, terrorists and anti-nationals, but these are all allegations for refugees in camps of Jhapa and Morang as none other than bona fide Bhutanese citizens. In this regard, we are ready to prove ourselves to be bona fide Bhutanese if the Bhutanese ruler really dares to sit across the table in the presence of the international community. Is Thinley who currently heads the Government of Bhutan ready for that?

After Thinley assumed the position of Prime Minister of Bhutan, he started labeling us as "illegal immigrants". He might have thought that this nomenclature will be suitable for convincing international community that so far has been blessing on Bhutan. But, interestingly, he changed his tone during visit to Nepal by saying that “most of the refugees came from India". If what he said is true, why India doesn't show responsibility to solve the problem? Is he also thanking the international community for taking Indian refugees or fooling the international community? Thus, it would be easier for him to advocate in such a manner if he becomes bold enough to term Bhutanese as non-Bhutanese with evidences after sitting across the table with refugees and the international community.

By now the world knows that Bhutan is still ruled by the fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuk in the name of “unique democracy". That is why it is called “unique democracy” that does no resemble with democracy of other countries. In such situation, the present Prime Minister certainly cannot take decision on the Bhutanese refugee issue, but talked with multiple tongues without proper perspective as he just tried just to do what he was instructed for. If he takes decision to take back the Bhutanese refugees, the bonafide Bhutanese as he knows, he may lose his position within no time and may even be evicted from Bhutan, and labeled as "illegal immigrant".

Media persons, who attended Thinley's media briefing on April 16 in Kathmandu, got an opportunity to know that he arrived in Nepal as chairman of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in a confused state of mind. The scene appeared so interesting that he was instead questioning to journalists asking if they have any proof that the refugees in camps are Bhutanese. He tried a lot to sensitize the matter by repeatedly changing his tone. He was quoted as saying that people in camps are environmental refugees, refugees of political instability and so on. He uttered those words in hurry without accepting the fact that such allegations would instead prove refugees as Bhutanese. There was political instability in Bhutan and the Bhutanese regime promoted green belt policy in the southern belt by expelling the citizens by mobilizing a lot of donations from the United Nations and donor countries. Thus, Bhutanese refugees are both political and environmental refugees. Above all, they are the victims of legal ethnic cleansing practiced by Thinley and his king.

Finally, it can be easily concluded that the most capable and authorized ruler for repatriating the exiled Bhutanese back home is none other than Jigme Singye Wangchuk. It was Wanchuk who evicted more than 100,000 of bona fide Bhutanese during early 90s as they demanded for democracy and human rights. Also, it is the fourth king but not Thinley who dramatically decided to step down from the throne in 2008 for giving so-called democracy to the Bhutanese. Therefore, until such melodrama keep on prevailing from shameless ruler like Thinley the Bhutanese refugees cannot be repatriated.

(Based at Damak of Jhapa, Dr Rai is chairman of the Bhutanese Refugee Representative Repatriation Committee.)



Hon’ble Prime Minister arrives in New York

His Excellency Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley arrived at the JFK international airport in New York City on 28 March, 2012 to attend the “high level meeting on well being and happiness: defining a new economic paradigm”, a first ever conference of this magnitude to be hosted by the Royal Government of Bhutan at the United Nations Head Quarters in New York City.
The conference will begin on 2 April and end on 4 April. Apart from the conference, Lyonchhen will also attend a Workshop on Happiness and Sustainable Development at the Low Library, Columbia University on 1 April 2012.y Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley arrived at the JFK international airport in New York City on 28 march 2012 to attend the “high level meeting on well being and happiness: defining a new economic paradigm”, a first ever conference of this magnitude to be hosted by the Royal Government of Bhutan at the United Nations Head Quarters in New York City.
More than 30 years ago, His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck declared that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product”. Thus began a unique development path and a higher goal for human development than the existing global interpretation of development purely as economic development.Under the intellectual guidance of the present Prime Minister, Jigmi Yoezer Thinley, the Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS) then began the academic construction of this profound philosophy that the royal government is now translating into policies and focussed activities. And Bhutan is no longer alone in its search for a more integrated approach that joins social, economic, and environmental objectives.
As the world faces multiple ecological and socio-economic crises, Bhutan’s holistic development approach is drawing growing international attention, acceptance, and support. President Sarkozy of France noted that the global financial and European debt crisis “doesn’t only make us free to imagine other models, another future, and another world. It obliges us to do so.” And the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has brought wellbeing into the UK’s core measures of progress, declaring: “Improving our society’s sense of well-being is…the central political challenge of our times.”
This emerging international consensus was manifested in July last year when 68 countries joined Bhutan to co-sponsor a UN resolution on “Happiness: Towards a holistic approach to development,” which was adopted by consensus by the 193-member United Nations. The resolution stated that “happiness is a fundamental human goal and universal aspiration; that GDP by its nature does not reflect that goal; that unsustainable patterns of production and consumption impede sustainable development; and that a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach is needed to promote sustainability, eradicate poverty, and enhance wellbeing”.
On 2nd April, 2012, Bhutan will host a major high-level meeting at the United Nations in New York to discuss and draw up a new global wellbeing and sustainability-based economic paradigm to replace a system that is in rapid melt-down world-wide. The meeting will be attended by the United Nations Secretary-General, Nobel Laureates like economist Joseph Stiglitz and the President of Costa Rica which was last year ranked the “greenest country in the world”, and 450 eminent participants from governments, international organisations, civil society and media, top economists and scholars, and spiritual and faith leaders. This unique meeting of minds and spirit will not be a talking shop but a vigorous discourse in an earnest effort to design and launch a new economy.
The conference will produce practical policy recommendations that governments can adopt to move towards a new economic paradigm, a communications plan, an expert task force to flesh out the details, structures, principles, and regulatory mechanisms of the new economic model, and strategies to build a global movement and bring the new paradigm into the Rio + 20 summit deliberations.
Bhutan believes that the global community can find a sound basis for this new thinking in the enlightened philosophy of Gross National Happiness. As a small country with big ideals Bhutan hopes that this guide to development and change will inspire the changes that the world desperately needs today.
To watch Hon’ble PM at a press conference in New York, go to



Bhutan's road to happiness

Two very defined commitments in Bhutan — one to democracy, the other to cultural preservation — seem about to collide.

Bhutan gross national happiness 2011 09 21
A Bhutanese schoolchild stands on a make-shift bridge in Thimphu on Aug. 18, 2011. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK — Bhutan has a thing for happiness.
As if it weren’t enough that the mountainous country falls amid some of the most pristine and profitable rivers in the world, the right to happiness is actually prescribed by royal decree and the national constitution.
Rather than your run-of-the-mill gross-domestic product, Bhutan — a country of less than 800,000 residents sandwiched between China and India — instead favors its homegrown GNH: Gross National Happiness.
But there appears to be a growing confusion over what this happiness means.
Bhutan, emerging from centuries of isolation tucked away deep in the Himalayas, teems with paradoxes and dichotomies.
“We’re not a democracy yet. We’re an emerging democracy.”
~Bhutan’s first-democratically elected prime minister, Jigme Thinley
While clinging to centuries-old traditions, it races for development. Sometimes, cultural preservation trumps profit. Other times, it doesn’t. Officials say democracy, which only came to Bhutan in March of 2008, is paramount. But people don't always understand why.
More from GlobalPost: Why Bhutan's "Gross National Happiness" is a joke
“Democracy came not by the will of the people, but by the will of the king,” said Bhutan’s first democratically elected prime minister, Jigme Thinley, in New York on Monday for a United Nations summit.
“The [international community] all says, ‘Bhutan’s democracy has been successful.’ And my response is: ‘We’re not a democracy yet. We’re an emerging democracy.’ The biggest challenge that we are faced with is the promotion of, or the development of, the democratic culture,” he said.
Indeed, the country only held its first local elections last June. Yet, Bhutan’s central government, led by the Penn State-educated Thinley, appears to be a solid one, pursuing a classic model of state formation in communities unfamiliar with what a state is.
Before democracy can thrive, Thinley continued, the benefits of a strong centralized state must assume salience. He reasons that if the government can provide actual benefits to the people, then a communal commitment to democracy — not just happiness — will follow.
Bhutan’s recent budgets routinely throw more than 20 percent of its allocations at education and health care.
Health centers have sprouted in even the most inhospitable areas and the infant-mortality rate has plummeted from more than 10 percent in 2005 to less than 5 percent today, according to CIA records.
Photos: Bhutan's forgotten exodus
A nascent grid of roads and electricity has stitched together the hinterlands, driving a steady stream of young people to the cities and towns for education. Modernization has become a buzz word.
But for exactly these reasons, there are murmurs of concern across Bhutan. Many ask, what’s more important — culture, or development?
“It’s a difficult balance, and it will continue to be a difficult balance,” said Druk Zom, 40, who came to the United States 10 years ago from rural eastern Bhutan. “Especially for teenagers and anyone in the next generation, because for them, they feel so cool when they can dress up like foreigners.”
Such trepidations contrast Bhutan and its people with other developing Asian nations that have come under criticism for allowing teeny-bop development to outpace substantive education. Cambodia, for instance, pursues skyscrapers in Phnom Penh while rural schools atrophy.
“In the pursuit of happiness, it’s important to balance your material needs with your mental needs,” Thinley said. “As some countries become richer materially, they become poorer spiritually, so [development] often comes at the cost of spiritual impoverishment.”
But happiness, it turns out, can make for fastidious decision-making. Especially for a country like Bhutan.
There are endlessly complex laws regulating foreign investment. The Bhutanese government prohibits foreign timbering, tobacco products, hotels below three stars, or anything else that may damage the environment or taint Bhutanese culture.
In the Heritage Foundation’s freedom of foreign investment index, Bhutan received a score of 20 out of 100, 30 points below the international average. Last year, Bhutan got a score of 15.
More from GlobalPost: Penis worship in Bhutan
Only a few 100-percent direct foreign investments have wriggled into the isolated kingdom — the first such experiment being hazelnuts. That’s right, within six years, Bhutan will be mass-exporting a key ingredient of chocolate, Nutella spread, and Ferrero Rochers.
“Our team feels a profound sense of responsibility to make this venture a success,” wrote Daniel Spitzer, chief executive officer of Mountain Hazelnut Venture, in an email. “Bhutan is at an inflection point transitioning from a traditional society into a ‘market-based economy, with Bhutanese-characteristics.’”
Outside of hazelnuts, though, “a lot of foreign investors aren’t coming forward,” said Bruce Bunting, president of the Bhutan Foundation in Washington D.C.
“Bhutan is a niche market and very unique,” he said, adding that he doesn’t blame the country’s hyper-selective financial policies. “Foreign investors just don’t see it. They don’t get the point in Bhutan.”
Two very defined commitments in Bhutan — one to democracy, the other to cultural preservation — seem about to collide.
If Thinley is to be believed, and the country’s democracy does hinge on spreading societal benefits, the government will need more money in the coming years.
But it may not have its rivers as a reliable source, which currently contribute more than half of the country’s $650 million in revenues through hydropower sales to India. As the grip of climate change tightens around South Asia, Bhutan’s waterways will likely continue their already steep declines.
“It’s a big concern,” Thinley said. “A major concern. Our rivers are withdrawing very fast. Bhutan could lose the very way nature creates the flow of water.”
As such, the country could either potentially throw itself open to rampant tourism — think Thailand — or team up with foreign investments that aren’t culturally palatable. Or Bhutan could forego dealings with foreigners, lose out on some money, and jeopardize its “emerging democracy.”
Neither option seems particularly happy.



Erie refugees get mini-makeovers, empowered

By ERICA ERWIN, Erie Times-News

Tila Adhikari sat in the stylist's chair, waiting for a good chunk of her long black hair to disappear.

Nine-plus inches and more than a half-hour later, she looked in the mirror.

And she smiled.

"I feel very good," Adhikari, a 42-year-old native of Bhutan and a refugee from Nepal, said later through an interpreter. "I like it because it feels lighter. It was too heavy before. I feel like I'm pretty."

Adhikari was one of four women refugees, all Bhutanese, who received mini-makeovers earlier this week courtesy of Simplee Hair, 1008 E. 38th St.

St. Benedict Education Center, a nonprofit agency that offers language classes, workforce preparation, job placement and other services to the refugees, arranged the trip to the salon.

The center also took the same group of women to Dress for Success Erie, a nonprofit on Eat 38th Street that works to outfit women for the workplace.

The idea behind the new clothes and new hair? Empower women.

See Sunday's Erie Times-News and for more coverage.


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