Bhutan’s Refugee mess in changed context

For the last sixteen years of horrific lives in Bhutanese refugee camps, several attempts to draw the attention at regional, national and international level were made one after the other but to no avail. As a result, now the Bhutanese refugee problem is gradually getting complicated. With the long term stay inside the unimproved plastic canopy, the rise in the frustration and mental depression within individual refugees is at escalating rate.

More or less refugees have realized that the frequent change in the government in Nepal is also pushing back this protracted crisis. Nepal must place the Bhutanese issue on the priority agenda and help materialize peoples’ aspiration towards getting repatriated at the earliest.

Considering the past effort of Nepalese government towards resolving the protracted crisis, now it sounds wiser if Nepal government could form a ‘permanent task force’ involving members of civil society, without a delay– to cope-up with the crisis.

Bilateral talks
The solution of this problem would never be sorted out through only the bilateral talks between Nepal and Bhutan. From the very beginning refugees have been pointing out the necessity of involving India in the talks. Until India remains passive, the Bhutanese refugee impasse will laze where it is.

Since the initiation of the problem India has been getting sidelined citing that the solution could be found out by Nepal and Bhutan. From the 15 rounds of futile bilateral talks between the two Himalayan kingdoms it has been self proved that Bhutan never come up with a sincere attitude towards furnishing possible solution. Thus, there is no compulsion for Nepal to linger furthermore only in the bilateral talks.

Meanwhile, refugees have quite routinely demanded for the involvement of refugee representatives in the talks. Helping for the arrangement of direct talks between refugee representatives and the Bhutanese regime could also yield fruitful results.

Bhutan’s allegation and repression
On the recently launched 86th session of the National Assembly (NA) of Bhutan, the parliamentarians accused refugees of being ready-made-terrorists. Bhutanese Prime Minister Khandu Wangchuk has said that returning refugees to Bhutan would mean importing ready-made-terrorists.

Ironically, Bhutan’s unwillingness in returning refugees can be read between those lines from Mr. Khandu’s statements. Meanwhile, it has been felt that even the international communities are less concerned about Bhutan’s superfluous statements as such. Only handful of reactions was made public by few concerned authorities including Nepal government.

The repression on innocent Bhutanese refugees by the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA), who endeavor entering their original homeland, Bhutan continues unabated. The detention of Shantiram Acharya, a registered refugee of Beldangi-II, Sector ‘D’ Hut no- 85 along with three other unidentified Bhutanese refugee youths, on a fake charge of being Maoist militant, on January 16, 2007 is one of the latest subjugation of Druk oligarchy.

The online version of absolute Druk regime’s mouthpiece, Kuensel has initially made it public only on January 24. It is learnt that those youths were arrested at Tashilakha under Chhuka district (South West Bhutan) by RBA.

Entering of refugee youths into Bhutan is nothing than their willingness towards returning to their original home land, where their forefathers have sweated a lot to bring Bhutan into the present state. Meanwhile, it has been justified that those youths do not have any affiliation to Maoists militant and are innocent. 

Here it also appears that the RBA has hatched out fabricated allegations against them simply to save the face of royal regime, as it’s Prime Minister, Khandu Wangchuk had reported in the NA that "people in the camps in Nepal are ready-made-terrorists."    

According to the online version of Kuensel, Acharya including other youths would soon face Judiciary for additional exploration. We cannot predict that the Druk government-controlled Judiciary system would exercise all norms of ‘fair trial’ during the investigation process. Bhutan actually doesn’t have independent judiciary that delivers justice to suppressed and unheard voices. 

It should be well noted here that no any detainees, on whatsoever cases, in Bhutanese jails are left physically untouched even if she/he is kept for few hours. And it has almost become more then a week that the whereabouts of Acharya is not made public. 

The history clearly reveals that Bhutanese prominent human rights leader Tek Nath Rizal was arrested from his residence in Birtamode on December 16, 1989 by the then panchayat government. He was extradited to Bhutan government via Druk air on the very day. It was the same judiciary system that stated Rizal innocent on December 17, 1999 before releasing on the same date. 

This shows that Bhutan’s judiciary system hasn’t gained independency and question on those youth’s fair trial would just be a blunder. If they are really Maoist militia then Bhutan shall be able to bar international criticism only if the investigation on them be carried-out amidst international human rights bodies.  

Such detention is a direct violation of the provisions of international instruments like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. 

Therefore, international human rights organizations such as the Amnesty International, Global Human Rights Defense (GHRD), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and International Committee for Red Cross (ICRC) should take intervention on the situation and initiate urgent measures for their immediate release.

Constitution and election
It is learnt through different media that Bhutan government has drafted the final piece of so-called constitution framed by few hand-picked edicts of Druk regime. Unless refugees, currently languishing in eastern division of Nepal are repatriated and be given their right to suggest for the final draft of constitution, Bhutan cannot step onto democratization. There are no any areas to believe that the present draft of the constitution without peoples’ representation, while drafting it, would establish Bhutan a democratic one.

The government of Bhutan is busy at preparation phase for holding the first election in the country in 2008. Different analysts have provoked that tt cannot move-on in a conducive atmosphere as Bhutan doesn’t have human rights commission to probe during the election process. 

Freedom of press is out of imagination in Bhutan. And ignoring a huge number of its genuine citizens from their right to caste vote would itself justify that Bhutan is simply creating conspiracy to fool the international community.