Bhutan’s atrocities vs resettlement

Published on Jun 30 2011 // Opinion
By Karma Chhoejay

Bhutan, so-called last Shangri-La cannot forget the bitter experiences of challenges that continue to haunt the people by those horrendous episodes of the 1990s and the 1997. It sometimes traumatizes people who were the eyewitnesses and victims of the oppressive regime that launched the merciless crackdown first on the Lhotshampas followed by Sharchops community.

Both the communities demanded a simple change in the political system so as to acclaim the rights ensured globally by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is also very clear that the demand of the people was nothing different or bizarre from rest of the world that enjoys the values of democracy. It is however a pathetic story for every Bhutanese to realize that not an inch has been moved from absolutism despite proclamation of so-called democracy in 2008.

The entire nation is deprived of their basic rights and fundamental freedoms in absence of true democracy as the ruling regime evolves with a crucial move of developing a network of elites firstly by marrying Prime Minister’s son to one of the princesses followed by another princess marrying the son of senior bureaucrat Kipchu.  Yet another surprise has been marrying third princess to the son of Kinley Wangchuk, who happens to be nephew of Kinley Wangdi, ex-husband of eldest queen Dorji Wangmo.

The world community remains lip-locked when it comes to expressing critiques to Bhutan’s system of democracy as the legacy of Wangchuk dynasty’s dynamics of charming the people has been prodigious.

The fourth monarch, who evolved into being the political woe initiator on the guidance of Rajiv Gandhi in the mid-eighties, sand-witched by his four queens, had to give up the power in favor of his eldest son crowning him the fifth King and proclaiming the so-called democracy under constitutional monarchy in 2008. Not realizing the reality of being geo-physically sand-witched between the two mighty Asian giants—China in the north and India in the south, signed yet another Indo-Bhutan Treaty 2007 annulling the spiritually comfortable provisions enshrined in the 1949 treaty.

The aftermath saw the new pseudo democracy reducing the area of Bhutan from 46,500 square kilometers to 38,000 square kilometers with no explanations given to the people. Should we call it the loss due to exclusion of India’s representation in the northern border talks? If not, is it a shift or change in the partnership after such a long period of dependence to the south? Bhutanese may not like to suddenly shift their religio-cultural and trade relationship to transfer to the north with which Bhutan has no link what so ever until this day. Particularly, with Tibet absorbed into the Chinese domain, Bhutanese people have never looked upwards for any kind of social, cultural or religious benefits.

Following eviction of the Lhotshampa en masse and mass asylum seekers from other parts of Bhutan, who escaped the brutal hands of the regime ensuing peaceful movements for democracy, the refugee community as well as the political groups explored every possible avenues in the Indian arena for support and mediation to justly resolve the entanglement. However, India remained a mere spectator despite being a key partner of Bhutan’s overall developments and largest democracy of the world.

Having failed to avail any support, the ever-weary refugee community decided embracing the proposal of third country resettlement offered as burden-sharing solution by a group of core countries led by the USA. Exiled people at least thought it wiser to opt for a long term planning by taking up the offer in the interest of gaining exposure and learning from the developed world community.

The resettlement program has given the community not only relief from the throbbing life under bamboo huts, but also gives an opportunity for their children to be educated in the western world and equip themselves for a better future both in terms of political and economic strength so that they could be well equipped to shoulder the greater responsibility of carrying out the mission of true democracy and development in Bhutan.

It is a matter of high appreciation to the core countries for accepting a progressive demography of the Lhotshampa community under resettlement program, which perhaps will be gradually followed by family members from other community from other parts of Bhutan. The urge for repatriation being miles away from people’s hope and the conducive atmosphere in Bhutan not visible owing to it’s reluctance to accept any refugees to return home at least in the immediate future, it would be perhaps a compelling moment for the Sharchops or even the Ngalong community members if any in exile to opt for third country resettlement option as a temporary measure while continue to maintain the identity of being a Bhutanese in whichever the country they decide of getting resettled.

In this context, opting resettlement by the communities other than Lhotshampa community would mean achieving multiple mileages of internationalization of our movement for democracy as a Bhutanese and help unfold the true face of the regime’s inhumane character of victimizing their own citizens. The regime’s position of stating ethnic cleansing would be proved wrong as the regimes own ethnicity too will be exposed to the outside world.

In fact, how much it is true of the victimization of diverse ethnicity and the presence of feudalistic rules will be exposed with utmost clarity.  If Sharchops, struggling for democracy and human rights get opportunity to be resettled and educated from western world, it will certainly help to bring the entire movement into a central alliance, which becomes more rational to intensify the movement vigorously. On the other hand, the Sharchops community, currently languishing in the camps given the disadvantages being unable to have free access to the Buddhist society outside the camps, accepting local assimilation will not be a relief and thus would be more beneficial should they get resettled in a third country given the advantage of mass Buddhist establishments of Tibetan refugees communities.

It is believed that the US government as the oldest democracy will help convince Bhutan to create a conducive situation for all the aspiring refugees to return home in safe atmosphere as has happened to several other countries, where too refugees had once sought for the third country resettlement as a temporary measures to give humanitarian support until a favorable situation was developed in their original homeland.

Meanwhile, it is high time that we forget the past and emerge with a new vision to centralize the movement under a strong leadership who could be able to campaign world community against the regime’s policy that left more than one hundred thousand of us displaced and suffering for the last over two decades.

(Chhoejay is President of the Druk National Congress (Democratic)-affiliated Druk National Youth Congress. He can be reached at: soundofbhutan@yahoo.com)