Reminding history to Bhutanese champion
The Prime Minister (PM) of Bhutan, Jigmi Y Thinley, labeled all the Bhutanese refugees as illegal immigrants during an exclusive interview with 101 East at Aljazeera on July 8, could be either he was then having no knowledge about the history of all immigrated people of Bhutan or intentionally lied to Aljazeera. Thinley explained that people in the camps in Nepal are the victims of humanitarian situations caused by demographic explosion, ecological disaster and economic depreciation. He even mentioned that eviction of people has been misinterpreted in several ways.
Undebatable truth exists that Bhutan is a country of immigrants of different ethnic in different periods of time. No question of other, even the only historical figure of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal also immigrated to this area, today’s Bhutan from Ralung, of Central Tibet in 1616. During the reign of Zhabdrung and the second king of Bhutan, Jigme Wangchuk, many people of Nepalese ethnicity were officially taken to Bhutan to settle them permanently in the southern parts of Bhutan. By then India was under British rulers.
Later, the descendants of those officially settled southern Bhutanese were also included in the total population of Bhutan when Bhutan reflected its total population to be 1.2 million, in United Nations Organization in 1971. Many people falling in this group were evicted and now they are in the refugee camps in eastern Nepal. So labeling them as illegal immigrants is a serious crime.
Unfortunately, since early eighties the Government of Bhutan (GoN) adapted
discriminatory and suppressive policies mainly targeting to the Southern Bhutanese and started applying martial laws to evict this ethnic group on different pretexts. The citizens were intimidated, arbitrarily arrested, tortured in jails, many were killed in the process of torture in jails, numbers of women were raped and their houses wee ablazed by the government’s mercenaries prior to eviction. The ethnic cleansing attitude of the govt. of Bhutan is still as clear as mirror. But, in the interview, Thinley claimed that the Bhutanese refugee issue should never be interpreted in terms of ethnic cleansing program. Thinley presented himself so boldly to cheat billion of the television spectators that Bhutan should never be branded as perpetrator of human right’s violation. The idea of ethnic cleansing program in Bhutan was hatched up by only few rulers of Bhutan and not by the citizens of Bhutan. That is why numbers of Bhutanese from Drukpa community too, in support of their exile country fellow mates are in the Bhutanese refugees camps in eastern Nepal.
The Bhutanese refugees in the camps in eastern Nepal are the victims of political and human rights situation caused by the ethnic cleansing policy of the GoB. But still the Prime Minister Thinley is trying to confuse the international community with this present refugee issue by bringing up the issue of eviction of the laborers, those who entered Bhutan to work in the country’s first installed Chuka Hydroelectric Project’s plant, after political agreement with the Government of India in mid eighties.
Before labeling Bhutanese refugees as illegal immigrants, Thinley must not forget that Bhutan did accept the fact that there are Bhutanese citizens in the refugee camps in eastern Nepal and subsequently categorized them in 1994 and verified them in 2001 along with Nepali officials. He must acknowledge that the majority of the Bhutanese refugees were proven to be bona-fide Bhutanese during verification conducted on them by the Joint Verification Team of Bhutan and Nepal.
Such irrelevant statement of the Bhutanese PM was vividly aimed at demoralizing the exile Bhutanese, who have waited for repatriation to their homesteads for two decades and now are compelled to opt for third country resettlement at the cost of their nation and nationality. Luckily, due to the blessings of international community and big giants the perpetrators of human rights in Bhutan are still surviving as champions! And, the PM Thinley is one of them.
(The writer Dr. Rai chairs Bhutanese Refugee Representative Repatriation Committee and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)