Nepal, Bhutan & Tibet

Bhutanese Refugees Appeal for International attention by D.P.Kafley.


(Bhutanese Refugees Appeals for International attention)

Tens of thousands of Bhutanese living in southern Bhutan were ethnically cleansed during early 1990s resulting in the establishment of Bhutanese refugee camps in eastern Nepal by UNHCR in 1992. The Bhutanese citizens, living as refugees in UNHCR aided camps in Nepal , are in a hapless state. So far, more than 60,000 refugees have accepted the resettlement program and they are resettled in 8 different countries. Around 60,000 are now living in the refugee camps in Nepal .

We believe that you are aware of the fact that the kingdom of Bhutan continues to be mired in multidimensional problems despite of declaration of democracy in 2008. Most citizens inside the country continue to live in the state of fear and be reprieved of their basic rights and freedoms. And those living in exile are denied their right to return to their country with dignity and honor.


1                    Right to Citizenship:  Article 6 of constitution of Bhutan continues to uphold and enforce the 1985 citizenship act- the mainspring for disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of southern Bhutanese. This Act still being in force, over 80,000 southern Bhutanese inside Bhutan and the over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees intending to return to Bhutan continue to be deprived of their right to citizenship. In regard to this Act, Amnesty International in its report, BHUTAN : forcible Exile, 1994 has stated that “The 1985 Citizenship Act of Bhutan contains a number of vague provisions, and appears to have been applied in an arbitrary manner. It also contains provisions which could be used to exclude from citizenship many people who are not the members of the dominant ethnic group, as well as those who oppose government policy by peaceful means”.  Similarly the European Parliament in its Resolution adopted on 14 March 1996 has stated that “Most of the refugees would appear to qualify under international law as being genuine citizens of Bhutan and considers that Bhutan ’s Citizenship Act of 1985 may need to be modified as a result”. There is urgent need for this Act to be rectified to bring it in conformity to 1958 Nationality Law and 1977 Citizenship Act and restore citizenship to those who continue to be deprived.

1. Right to equal protection of culture, costume and tradition: Article 4 and 7 of Constitution of Bhutan do not acknowledge the existence of cultural diversity in Bhutan . The constitution does not guarantee the protection and enjoyment of cultural rights by politically non-dominant communities, as enjoined by the Article 27 of UDHR; Article 27 of ICCPR and Article 15 of ICESCR.

3. Right to equal protection of language and script: The Languages and scripts of all other linguistic groups in Bhutan should be provided with equal amount of attention, protection, promotion and preservation, the way dzongkha language is enjoying.

4. Right to equal protection of religion:  Article 3 of the constitution states that “It shall be the responsibility of religious institutions and personalities to promote the spiritual heritage of the country while also ensuring that religion remains separate from politics in Bhutan . Religious institution and personalities shall remain above politics”. The Drukpa Kajugpa sect belonging to the king’s tribe continues to get preferential treatment from the government. Other religion such as Nyingmapa, Hinduism, Christianity and other denominations too should be provided with equal protection, promotion, preservation and equal weightage of representation in the national constitutional bodies instead of persecuting people for following Christianity and other non recognized religion.


There is a pressing need for the establishment of national Human rights Commission in Bhutan to safeguard and guarantee the protection, promotion, preservation and enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights on equal footing, by Bhutanese citizens of diverse origin. On the basis of Paris Principle, adopted by General Assembly resolution 48/134 of 20 December 1993, Bhutan must be pressurized to institute NHRC, vested with competence to promote and protect human rights. We appeal to pressurize Bhutan to allow and encourage the establishment of human rights organizations in the country.


We appeal all the International communities to pressurize Bhutan to ratify the ICCPR and ICESCR and the optional protocols to further consolidate and deepen democracy and human rights in Bhutan


We appeal the International communities to pressurize Bhutan to make democracy and governance truly inclusive by ensuring the tangible participation and representation of southern and eastern Bhutanese and other minorities in the national body polity. The present parliament in Bhutan does not respect the principle of democratic inclusion because the first ever political election was conducted in a predetermined design to deny the participation of over 80,000 southern Bhutan inside the country and over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees living in UNHCR camps in Nepal and elsewhere.


More than two hundred political prisoners are still languishing in various Bhutanese prisons since the political turmoil started in Bhutan . We appeal international community to pressurize Bhutan government to release all political prisoners without condition. It should make sure that until their release they should have access to all basic amenities without discrimination and torture.


We call upon the International communities to ask Bhutan to initiate a political dialogue with Bhutanese leaders in exile in order to establish human rights, democracy and permanent peace in the country. Bhutanese refugees willing to return home should be allowed to do so under international supervision and protection. Political parties and human rights groups formed in exile should be recognized and be allowed to function as legal entity in Bhutan .


International communities should ask Bhutan to allow an independent monitoring team to monitor the implementation of 73 out of 99 recommendations that was accepted by Bhutan during 6th session of Universal Periodic on 18th March 2010.


Bhutan government in the recent times has been busy changing the names of villages and towns in southern Bhutan with those terms imported from Tibetan terminology. Original names were in the mother tongue of southern Bhutanese and those carry numerous symbols and significance to the local inhabitants. Such exercise of Bhutan has deleted the whole history of southern Bhutanese, who carries their own culture and tradition.


The students and scholars from minority communities were denied their right to education.  Southern Bhutan students who were related to refugees were denied admission in government owned educational institutions even if they topped the board examinations.

International concerned bodies present here could use their valuable influence with Bhutan to realize our goal in Bhutan . The goal of establishing inclusive and vibrant human rights and democracy that is free from all sorts of discriminations based on races, region, language, relation and religion in Bhutan .



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