BNS should work for networking

Published on Aug 25 2008 // Interview
How do you evaluate the current resettlement process?

It appears now that the bulk majority of the refugees are looking forward to resettlement. This was not expected earlier. It is perhaps due to the feedbacks sent by those who are already resettled.

Does not it lead to identity crisis?

Unless the community leaders among the resettled refugees work hard to keep the folks engaged in cultural activities, the refugees could easily get overwhelmed by the western consumerism. That would be most stressful for the refugees who are old, adults or even those who past the teenage in the camps. Identity crisis is my real worry. We are being resettled there as Lhotsampa refugees. We should not lose this identity, including our goal to establish a democratic, multi-cultural, prosperous and more sovereign Bhutan.  

What will be the legal status of resettled refugees in different countries of Europe, America and Australia?

As I understand the refugees have the option to keep their Lhotsampa identity intact while enjoying almost all the rights of a citizen in the resettled country. We should encourage the refugees to be honest, hardworking and productive people, ever grateful to the country, which has offered them the refuge. The refugees must work hard to establish first economically while focusing at education of their children. We should take the example of the Jewish community who, as refugees, has done very well in the resettling countries but in the meantime, jealously protected their Jewish identity and have not shred off their moral responsibility towards Israel. 

What is your idea of building a network of political intellectuals/activists who can further strengthen the on-going struggle?

We should start thinking in two fronts. One is establishment of Non-resident Bhutanese networking and the other is consolidation of the activists groups in exile. We should aim at bringing a resolution in the Bhutanese Parliament some day giving non-resident Bhutanese status to all the refugees settled abroad. That will come through only with the establishment of genuine, inclusive democracy in Bhutan. That will immensely benefit the country in the long-run as well as get the resettled refugees connected with their motherland, Bhutan.

The Bhutanese people living in camps for so long maintained a bond of socio-cultural values and lived with a feeling of togetherness. After the resettlement, how is it possible to preserve that integrity?

Our collective interest while we were in the camps was to return to Bhutan with honor and dignity and to establish a democratic Bhutan. That interest together with cluster settlement in the UNHCR-organized camps in Nepal and the role-played by the community leaders in cultural and religious activities added strength to the feeling of togetherness. Now the refugees are being dispersed in four continents. The good part is that the refugees are moving to developed countries where education and internet connectivities are basic needs. We should be able to create social discussion forum, arrange to vote electronically for democratic consensus building on issues of our mutual interests, and share happiness at times of success and express solidarity at times of misfortune and difficulties. We are a nation in itself. We should be able to build that kind of a network since we have many talents around. It is just a question of putting our acts together and thinking ahead of time.

How can this concept be materialized?

Bhutan News Service is doing a great job! Some young talents who are in Asia, North America, Europe, and Australasia should come forward and start non-resident Bhutanese networking. This networking should have a core-working group with a membership base. Those who become its member will have to pay some annual membership fee. We should create a sustainable organization on our own strength. The organization should be able to organize annual events, for example, such as rewarding achievers from our community, organize national convention of the non-resident Bhutanese, and it should always make effort to tie-up with people inside the country. 

Today, we are thrown out from Bhutan because they felt that we are a burden to them. Tomorrow, if our children become educationists, medical specialists, business entrepreneurs, this perception will change. Bhutan will invite us back some day as Uganda has been doing today to many evicted Indians. The key is we should work hard to be successful and remain connected. Here is the role of Non-Resident Bhutanese Networking.

How can the leadership in exile coordinate between resettling Diasporas and the people in Bhutan to establish people’s democracy in the country?

The Bhutanese leadership in exile could not do much earlier because of the circumstances. The refugee situation was the main constraint. The leadership was always divided between the humanitarian aspects of the problem and the political agenda in Bhutan. The royal government has tried to deceive the Bhutanese people by giving pseudo political change. Now the leadership in exile should work hard to establish inter-connectivity with the refugees who are being settled and in the meantime try to consolidate the movement in exile. It should not be done in a hurry. We should do with meticulous planning and consultation. The leadership in exile should try to be a bridge between the dispersed Diaspora and the people living inside Bhutan. The leadership has a greater role than ever before. The opportunities are as many as the challenges!

From your experience on the American life style, can you share with us how hard would it be for resettling Bhutanese?

I have been a regular visitor to the US even after the completion of my postgraduate education. My experience is limited to academic environment, where life is relatively easy. Our people are going there to enter into entry-level job markets. They are bound to face difficulties and frustration when they have to do odd jobs. The brighter side is that work efficiency is recognized, and hard working people are rewarded.

I firmly believe that our people will gain financially in the US and take advantage of the quality education system for their children. It would have been great if these people were repatriated to Bhutan. In absence of that opportunity, we have to make best use of the opportunity available at hand and work collectively for our long-term goal.