APFAnews Archive April 2007

Mock election or a scheme of establishing king’s party?
On the third week of April 2007, King Jigme Singe Wangchuk and his son’s government (KJSWand G) completed the well-calculated drama of so-called first Mock election in Bhutan. The second round of the drama is yet to be played on 28 May 2007 by conducting another mock election. These dramas are popularized on the pretext of educating people for the forthcoming General election of 2008 for the preparation of the so called parliamentary system where the king will be the supreme head above the upper house , lower house, supreme court, election commission and the constitution of Bhutan by acquiring all political power constitutionally.

Further, he will be the supreme commander of all the three armed forces: Royal Bhutan Police, Royal Bhutan Bodyguard and Royal Bhutan Army. In addition, there is no bar on him to monopolize the country’s exchequer as well as other natural resources of the country. The department of Anti-Corruption and Audit is a mere spectator and has no power in front of the kings and the royal secretariat.

The declared aims of conducting this first mock election was to teach the voters how to use the electronic voting machine, how to choose the right political party desired by the king. In addition to this, it establishes the king’s political party in the country for so-called unique democracy brought by Jigme Singe Wangchuk who is aiming to become the father of the democracy in Bhutan by showing the democratic organs with all kinds of covert issues of racialism and conspiracy.

In order to move ahead towards this goal, Druk Yellow Party (DYP) is established to influence the Bhutanese people and once again emphasize on racialist chauvinism through its new manifesto released on April 4, 2007. Ridiculously, according to the election commission (EC), no political parties are allowed to place their election manifesto or organize political campaigns. Further, the candidates who are willing to contest the election are not allowed to fill their nomination paper or his/her candidature in the office of the election commission. In this connection, DYP has been established for the continuity of racialism with the aims and objective borrowed from the concept of one nation, one people and Driglam Namja, the ethnic cleansing policy introduced by King Jigme Singay in 1985.

The DYP’s manifesto states, “Druk Yellow Party believes in ensuring the unity of our country through preservation of our tradition, culture and values. For all time to come, Bhutan will remain united, independent and with rich cultural heritage intact. Believing that our unique and vibrant culture ensures continued sovereignty, security and unity of our country while offering economic opportunities, we shall strive to preserve and promote our tradition, culture and values”.

The king’s party does not mention a single word regarding establishment of democracy and human rights, political, civil and economic liberalization and to end the ongoing ethnic cleansing. To fool the people of Bhutan, DYP has chosen Yellow color that is the color of the upper part of National flag and scarf (Kabne) of king, crown prince and Je Khempo (Head lama appointed by king). These elements have special privileges in Bhutan and are not permitted to disobey and dishonor according to the TsaWa Sum and the newly brought constitution.

Likewise, the color of the Red party ( which would be the established second party for opposition in the parliament ) is another instrument brought for supporting the king’s party. Its color is related to the scarf of the official, who are appointed by the king in the various ministries as his right hand to perform the dictated assignments. Thus, the remote control of the red party also remains in the hands of the royal palace.

To accomplish the above-mentioned phase wise dramas (played since 26th March 2003) stringent surveillance was provided in all 47 constituencies by deploying more than ten thousand armed military forces (police and army) and ten thousand bureaucrats (in the name of election conducting officials and security provisions ). These officials have special duty to guard and manipulate people using all means to serve the king and to bring these two imaginary parties in the political arena for so-called democratic reform.

Helplessly, about 125,000 encircled voters (though selected by EC) out of 400,000 participated in the drama; DYP secured only 55, 531 votes by virtue of several restrictions in the process of performance. For example, the EC refused to issue voter’s identity cards to those who were relatives of people involved with political parties formed in exile. For instance, supporters of Druk National congresses (Kuenlay led and Thinley led), Bhutan People Party, Bhutan National Democratic Party, Bhutan Gorkha Liberation Party and Bhutan Communist Party formed underground within Bhutan were not permitted to participate in the election. Actually, these parties could garner huge mass support when allowed to function and given the opportunity to campaign freely with their plan, program and manifestos. Therefore, the claim of honoring and respecting democracy by the racist king and his puppet government is only a gimmick and eye-washing tactic to donors and the citizens of Bhutan.

Otherwise KJSW and his son’s G would have allowed the political parties formed in exile to function. Also it would take steps to repatriate the Bhutanese refugees who are comparatively more aware on democracy and Human Rights.

(The writer is the former national assembly member of Bhutan)

This entry was posted in Opinion on April 30, 2007 by Editor.


Economic growth goes down
Thimphu, May 01: The economic growth of Bhutan came down drastically in 2005 compared to 2001 and 2004. Thus, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has been dropped to 6.5 percent in 2005 from 6.8 in the previous year.

The annual report of the Royal Monetary Authority states that this was because of decline in activities in construction sector.

The implication is observed in transport, storage and communications sectors as well. But tourism, power and financial sectors managed growth. The growth is power is due to commissioning of the Basochhu project.

Service sector like wholesale and retail trade, restaurants and hotels, transport, storage and communications, finance, insurance and real estate, community, social and personal services and private social, personal and recreational services have become the major components to the growth accounting 41.8 percent of the total GDP.

Manufacturing, electricity and construction contributed 34.4 percent and agriculture produce, livestock production, forestry and logging and mining and quarrying contributed 23.8 percent.

Service sector grew at 13 percent, primary and secondary sectors at 1.2 and 2.6 percent in 2005 compared with 1.6 and 4.5 in 2004.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 30, 2007 by Editor.

Third Country Resettlement : How Durable For The Refugees? (REPRODUCTION)
By T. P. Mishra
Finally, the America’s offer of third country resettlement has given rise to a lot of debate. Despite several attempts by the refugees to oppose it, the US and some western countries seem committed to expediting the process of resettlement latest by early 2008.

Besides the formation of a core group comprising 14 of the world’s biggest democratic countries, the Overseas Processing Entity (OPE), one of the latest concepts in backing up the process of third country resettlement, is planning to set up its office at Jhapa and in Kathmandu in July.

This very information was revealed by two senior US officials, Lawrence Barlett and Janice S. Belz – assistant directors of the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration of the U.S. government – during their interaction with the refugees at Goldhap camp on April 25.

Since the time when the third country resettlement package was brought up, it provoked factions among the refugees – individual opinions can be distinctly seen divided into different groups.
Literate youths among the Bhutanese refugees favour third country resettlement. The other elderly, illiterate groups want to get repatriated as they say they have worked hard and sweated a lot to bring Bhutan into its present state.

Not only this, a section of the people living inside the refugee camps have already obtained Nepalese citizenship certificates. They were able to obtain Nepali citizenship after the government of Nepal decided to issue citizenship certificates to four million people prior to the constituent assembly (CA) polls. This ironically leaves a clear message that a portion of the refugees are even willing to get locally assimilated.

Meanwhile, it is still a matter of doubt whether those refugees, who have already obtained Nepalese citizenship certificates, would qualify for third country resettlement. More interestingly, this verity would also be a tool for creating internal divergence among the refugees if those, who have already possessed Nepalese citizenship identity card, get a chance to opt for resettlement prior to those without citizenship cards.

Majority of the so-called frontline leaders in exile, most of the political and a few apolitical organisations have been frequently opposing the offer of third country resettlement, claiming it would not help furnish complete justice to the suppressed Bhutanese people. Since there is divided opinion among the individuals, the question of reaching a common consensus is difficult. People inside the camps are quite confused and do not know whether to apply in advance for this offer as they are little informed of its procedures.

When such fact-based points are fresh at hand, opening the ‘single option’ for refugees would be a bleak step. Not only third country resettlement, the concerned authorities should work towards unlocking all possible options, including repatriation to their original homeland, Bhutan. The long-standing issue will get a safe landing only when all possible options are opened.

Criteria and procedures
The obvious question at this hour is: why are those countries that are wishing to resettle the refugees not making transparent all the criteria and other necessary procedures before the resettlement process begins? At least a dozen refugee families have already been resettled in Canada in the recent months, but the authorities concerned haven’t yet made their status public.

On the other side, the UNHCR is reportedly learnt to have been selecting families in the camps in recent days to begin the process for third country resettlement. However, it has refused to reveal the criteria for their selection. Actually, why can’t such steps be carried out in an open and transparent way?

The refugees should not be deprived of their basic human right to access to adequate information on any options coined. And, this should be more precisely done in a transparent way.

Meanwhile, it is equally necessary to note that any options, what they be, shouldn’t be made a ‘compulsory option’ for the refugees by citing unfeasibility of other possible options.

Even Nepal has flashed a green light for allowing these refugees to get resettled. If Nepal by doing so wants to eliminate the Bhutanese refugee problem from the country, then it must be mentioned here that dignified repatriation should also be promoted at any cost. Otherwise, what would be the future of those refugees who want to get repatriated? Thus, it is a matter of essence that Nepal publicise its official stance at the earliest to bar ideological divergence among the refugees.

It is a fact that options besides third country resettlement – dignified repatriation and local integration – are, with the flow of time, getting less prominence. If the authorities concerned are truly committed to finding a durable solution to the Bhutanese refugee stalemate and embracing and supporting them, then promoting the refugee’s sentiment is a must.

(The writer is President of Third World Media Network – Bhutan Chapter and can be reached at: twmnbhutan@hotmail.com)

Source: The Rising Nepal, April 30, 2007

This entry was posted in Main News on April 30, 2007 by Editor.

Resettlement of Tibetan refugees in Nepal still at large (REPRODUCTION)
The visiting US officials Mr. Lawrence Bartlett, Deputy Director for Asia and Near East and Ms Janice Belz, Deputy Director for Admissions, in a press statement here, confirmed that the Government of Nepal has agreed to allow third-country resettlement of Bhutanese refugees but, they did not answer whether the same applied to the resettlement of Tibetan refugees too.

During the press conference this afternoon, the US delegation said that their current mission is primarily focused on Bhutanese resettlement programme only. The delegation also added that it did not mean to rule out consideration for Tibetan refugees in future either.

When asked if they have had any talk with Nepalese leaders about Tibetan resettlement; Mr. Bartlett said, “In terms of resettlement, this time our mission is to look at Bhutanese refugee resettlement programme and we have not entered into discussion on those (Tibetan resettlement) issues”.

Mr Bartlett, however, mentioned that he and Ms Belz were pleased to have visited the Tibetan Reception Centre to look at its functioning.

Responding to the question on the long pending fate of Tibetan refugees for a possible resettlement in US, Ms Belz said, “At this juncture, we have the support from the Government of Nepal and from UNHCR, and others to begin with the case of Bhutanese refugees”. She further adds, “…that does not preclude our consideration for the future of Tibetan refugees”. “For now the Bhutanese programme is our central focus” she said.

As of now, the planned decision to resettle about 5000 Tibetan refugees in Nepal to US still remains uncertain. These Tibetans are said to be living in Nepal without any proper legal paper.

Tibetans here find it difficult to understand why the Nepalese Government is willing to allow resettlement of Bhutanese refugees and not Tibetans.

According to a reliable source here, some important Tibetan officials in Kathmandu have earlier met with the visiting officials and briefed them about the problems of Tibetans in Nepal. Our source also mentioned that, in the long run, there is every hope that the Nepalese Government will possibly clear the door of resettlement for Tibetan refugees too.

There are approximately over 20,000 Tibetans living in Nepal, and many of them, especially the newly arrived ones, have no proper residential permits to stay in Nepal as refugees. By Tenzin Choephel

This entry was posted in Main News on April 30, 2007 by Editor.


Iran urged to halt repatriation
KABUL: Afghanistan’s government on Sunday called on neighbouring Iran to suspend the repatriation of Afghan refugees because the country lacks the resources to resettle them.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Sultan Ahmad Baheen said about 30,000 Afghan refugees, including women and children, had been sent home from Iran in the past week alone. He said war-torn Afghanistan lacks resources and the repatriation would cause problems for the government and the refugees. Iran, after neighbouring Pakistan, accounts for the largest number of Afghan refugees – about two million who had fled their country during three decades of conflict.

Iran says around one million Afghans living there have illegally entered and will be sent home.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 30, 2007 by Editor.


The silent suffering of Bhutanese women
By Deo Maya Giri
In actuality women are wonderful creatures of this world who help man from household works to nurturing a child. The existence of the world would have been impossible had there been no women. They are the goddess of tolerance, embodiment of love & passion and inevitable co-partner of man.

Despite these facts women are treated cruelly, inhumanly and immorally in most parts of the world. And, Bhutan too is not its exception. Bhutanese women have always come across ups and downs on their lives. The other remarkable thing is that the Royal Government of Bhutan has long-stood as an enemy before woman.

They are discriminated at every stage in terms of poverty and illiteracy both in eastern and southern belt of the country. Women, especially at eastern belt work at home without having known that they too can exercise different rights like that of a man. The other reason is that as they do not own paddy land they try to migrate to the urban areas for greener pastures to opt for better opportunities for their survival. Despite their innocence the ruling elite has always restrained and harassed them.

In practicality, Bhutan is male dominated country where in many ways women suffer from various kinds of discrimination. There are ample instances in highlands— a man gets married to three women officially and seven unofficially. Even the first king had two queens, followed by the second the third king with two queens. While the fourth king with four queens have proved mass suppression and domination over women in Bhutan.

In Bhutan, women comprise about 5% of the country’s social economic employment. As per the regional survey there has been distortional low percentage of women holding high authority in Bhutan: 0.30% of women are employed in the service, 0.27% in business and 0.18% in other areas of works. Women form 18% of the civil service.

In the process of implementation of 1958 citizenship act, the government of Bhutan went on arbitrarily depriving citizenship rights to tens and thousands of southern Bhutanese men, women and children.

Many Lhotshampa women, whose husbands fled the country, were kept as sex slaves in the army and police barracks. The security forces and other government officials have raped hundreds of Lhotshamps school girls in the barracks. Daughters who went to appeal for the release of their fathers from detention were raped by them. When such crimes were reported to the king the culprits were promoted and victims were expelled from the country branding them as anti-nationals. The whereabouts of some dozens of innocent women detained by security forces during1990 movement is still unknown.

There is an essence for international human rights organizations to probe into facts behind government suppression over women in Bhutan. International organizations working on behalf of suppressed women have greater role on this.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 30, 2007 by Editor.


Resettlement to begin by January, Denmark, Australia extend hands
Beldangi/Kathmandu, April 25: The resettlement of exiled Bhutanese in the United States would begin by early next year.

The two US officials, Deputy director at the US foreign ministry Lawrence Wartlet and registration assistant Janice S. Belz, visiting the camps in Jhapa and Morang districts in Nepal said on Wednesday that the resettlement process would begin from January 2008.

Addressing a function organized in Beldangi II camp, Belz said offices to being the resettlement process would be set up in Damak and Kathmandu within the next three months. Earlier, the US government said such office will start functioning from July this year.

The US officials also visited Goldhap camp to inform the exiled Bhutanese about the resettlement process.

According to her, the exiled Bhutanese will be given training in language and vocational skills once the offices are established.

The officials also informed that the process will end by 2011.

“Those willing to resettle in the US will be taken there in phases,” Belz said where they will be provided with jobs as per their qualifications and skills.

Those, who resettle in the US, will be able to apply for permanent residency after three years and will also be allowed to go to other countries if they so desire.

Bartlett said that the number of exiled Bhutanese willing for third country resettlement is higher than expected. The officials however disagreed that US would resettle exactly 60,000. The official said the number would be smaller or bigger as well.

The official also informed that after five years of resettlement in the US, the exiled Bhutanese can either receive US citizenship and live a life like Americans or return to their own country if amicable environment is created then.

However, many exiled Bhutanese on the occasion urged the US officials to help them get back to their country.

In the mean time, the Nepalese Foreign Minister Sahana Pradhan said Nepal government would work for resettlement and repatriation of the exiled Bhutanese simultaneously.

Talking to media person in Kathmandu on Wednesday, she said that the government has already permitted for third country settlement of the exiled Bhutanese. “We shall work for repatriation of those who could not resettle in the US and other countries,” she said.

Pradhan said Denmark and Australia have expressed willingness to resettle some exiled Bhutanese. Denmark has stated is willingness to take around 200 but the Australian government has not mentioned the number it was willing to resettle.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 28, 2007 by Editor.


Bomb planted in Phuentsholing, security tightens
Phuentsholing, April 25: Bhutan police has tightened the security after a bomb, later defused, allegedly planted by detractors of the monarchy was found near Phuentsholing district.

A Royal Bhutan Police official said the explosive was found on Monday near a bridge in Phuentsholing, about 180 km from the capital Thimphu.

“Security has been intensified and we are trying to zero in on the people responsible for planting the improvised explosive devise,” a senior police official said.

The Bhutan Tiger Force (BTF) and the Bhutan Revolutionary Youth (BRY) have claimed responsibility for planting the explosive.

There was a handwritten note kept near the bomb that mentioned the two organisations (BTF and BRY) claiming responsibility for setting up the device, the police official claimed. Bhutan News Service

This entry was posted in Main News on April 25, 2007 by Editor.


Financial hardship for Bhutan’s exiled media (REPRODUCTION)
News & Features – South Asia
By T P Mishra

An estimated one sixth of the total Bhutanese population was forcibly evicted during the early 1990s and more than 100,000 are still languishing as refugees in UNHCR-run camps in Nepal and in various Indian states.

In order to keep the refugees informed about events in the camps and back in Bhutan, several media operations have been set up over the years, but most have failed through lack of money.

The problem is that those producing newspapers in the refugee camps, whether they are weekly, fortnightly or monthly, are barred from selling them in the local market. Nepalese law prohibits foreigners from running media organisations in the country. As a result, the local authorities continually put pressure on the refugee journalists to close their media operations down. This means that any newspapers that are published must be distributed ‘for private circulation only’. Even if the refugee journalists could sell their newspapers, those living in the camps could not afford the two Nepalese rupees because they lack any source of income.

The majority Nepali-speaking refugee community has been central to the efforts to establish private media in the camps; traditionally, they have been the driving force behind the print media in Bhutan.

The newspaper, Mukti, was set up in the early 1990s by the Bhutan People’s Party under the editorship of Hari Adhikari. Manav Adhikarko Chirharan was published by the Human Rights Organisation of Bhutan in 1991 and The Bhutan Focus was published by the Students Union of Bhutan in 1990. However, these newspapers simply served as the mouthpieces of the organisations concerned.

The Sandesh, a weekly professional paper had a short life span. It was edited by B P Kasyap and began publishing in December 2000 but closed due to lack of funds in 2004.

The monthly, Shangrila Sandesh, was sponsored by The Rose Class with support from the London-based Photo Voice, and began its publication in 2001, however the print run ended when the sponsors quit without giving a reason in May 2003. Journalists on the paper have been unable to resume publication due to the lack of financial assistance.

Many of the sponsoring organisations, who vowed to promote independent media in the area, cite the refugee status of those producing the newspapers as the main reason for ending their support. However, some simply ended their funding without giving reasons.

The Bhutan Times, a weekly, edited by Sagar Rai, started its hardcopy publication from July 2000 but only survived for six months due to lack of funds. A paper with the same name was launched inside Bhutan on April 30, 2006.

A number of newspapers inside the Bhutanese refugee camps are waiting and eager to publish but they lack the funds to make publication a reality. These include The Bhutan Jagaran, Vidhyarthi Pratirodh and The Bhutan Reporter.

Another obstacle to the growth of media in the refugee camps is the lack of training for the volunteer journalists.

Kazi Gautam, Editor-In-Chief of The Bhutan Reporter says Bhutan’s exiled media situation is dying because of the lack of investment in resources and growth.

“International organisations who are committed to the promotion of the media should extend their support to Bhutan’s exiled media because the press situation inside Bhutan is strictly under the government control.”

Bhutan doesn’t allow any independent media organisations to operate inside the country. Organisations such as the Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA) – Bhutan, Bhutan Press Union (BPU) and Third World Media Network (TWMN) – Bhutan Chapter have been established in exile in order to campaign and work towards media freedom and freedom of expression in Bhutan.

Each of these organisations works to support and promotion the exiled media as part of a drive to achieve complete press freedom and freedom of expression in the country. None is able to meet the needs of journalists in exile, such as offering training and helping with financial support. This is mainly because these press freedom organisations, which operate in the refugee camps, are also unable to raise adequate funds.

APFA News, a news portal launched by APFA – Bhutan last year, has been trying to cover all issues related to Bhutan and refugees. However, the editor-in-chief of the portal, I P Adhikari, says continuing to operate online is a real challenge because of rising Internet costs.

Despite these challenges, young volunteer journalists in exile are committed to their task of helping the refugees achieve their basic human right of access to information. They also want to play their part in the establishment of complete media freedom in Bhutan and serve the Bhutanese community both inside and outside the country.

Until the international community supports this effort, the prospects look bleak. And it wouldn’t take much to make a big difference, boost morale and give the volunteer journalists in the refugee camps a sense of hope.

If international press bodies were to open their doors to Bhutan’s media groups and embraced and supported them in their aims, that would, at least, be a start.

(The writer, T P Mishra, is president of Third World Media Network – Bhutan Chapter and the editor of the Bhutan News Service (BNS) and chief coordinator for Helping Hand – Bhutan (a social organisation). He is also the winner of Bhutan’s journalist of the year award, 2006.)

Source: www.mediahelpingmedia.org

This entry was posted in Main News on April 25, 2007 by Editor.


Learning from neighbor (REPRODUCTION)
BY Tashi Wangmo

Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh: She is one among the scattered groups of people forming queues outside the classrooms of a public school. Dressed in an orange kurta, Kiranjeet Kaur (name changed on request), 55, is here to exercise her inviolable right as a citizen of the largest democracy in the world. She is here to cast her vote.

“I am going to vote for the Congress,” she says. “I have always voted for the Congress and have complete faith in the party.”

Kiranjeet and the other voters are comfortably oblivious of the oppressive 40 degree heat that is baking the Bhutanese media team that has come to observe the elections.

Drenched in perspiration, though, the mountain media group is excited by the prospect of witnessing a real voting process and observing the second phase of polling for the State Assembly.

The team is in Ghaziabad, a district of Uttar Pradesh about 35 kilometers south of New Delhi, with a population of approximately 1.2 million.

To the Bhutanese, the very mention of voting in India immediately conjures up images of huge crowds, chaos and potential conflict, and the group did feel some heat in the waiting as it set out to Ghaziabad.

The lurking violence was further heightened by the conspicuous presence of heavily armed paramilitary soldiers and local police at the polling booths.

A day earlier, the Deputy Election Commissioner, Mr. J.P. Prakash, had told the team during a briefing that security arrangements were made from the center to ensure that local security would not be biased.

India has altogether 27 parties, including independent candidates, with some party symbols looking rather absurd but the intent the team was told was for easy recognition by the illiterate lot.

A fan, an axe, a cupboard, a clock, a liquid petroleum gas cylinder, and a television are among the large array of symbols that contended with the bigger parties like the Congress, BJP (Bharatiya Janta Party), and BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party).

And in contrast to the team’s misconceptions, the polling process was smooth, professional and well organized.

At the top of the structure are the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police. They are linked to the officers at the booths by Zonal and Sector Magistrates. The booth is managed by the presiding officer and his four assistants. All these officials are drawn from different segments of the civil service.

The presiding officer and his assistants come to the venue, mostly schools and community centers, a night prior to the polling and have to sleep there. The Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) has replaced the ballot box and officials say the system is absolutely foolproof. The voting procedure is ditto to what people in Bhutan are being familiarized with at the moment.

The presiding officer of one of the booths, Mr. Suraj Bhan, is a manager from the State Bank of India. “I stay at the polling booth for two days and ensure that the polling goes smoothly. The work is tiresome but so far we have had no problems at all,” he said.

Each polling booth caters to about 1,000 to 1,200 voters and is set up within a radius of less than two kilometers of the voters.

Smooth as it was, there was one glitch, however, which seemed to surface in almost all the booths – a glitch from which the Bhutanese could perhaps learn a valuable lesson. There were always one or two people who were turned away because they were not registered.

“I have come here to vote which is my right and I am not being able to,” complained Sandeep Sairin, 32, an engineer by profession.

The sector magistrate explained to us that people either did not bother to register themselves despite repeated notifications or had changed their area of residence. The lesson: get registered, now.

Close to collapsing, the Bhutanese media team observed and absorbed so much in such a short time. And that is a rare opportunity because media is not allowed inside the polling booths.

The team was fortunate to have the Assistant Magistrate and the SP of Ghaziabad take time off from their busy schedule and talk to the team on polling process.

The election process in India had changed to the level of becoming foolproof because of the introduction of the EVM and additional security measures, according to them.

(The tour was arranged by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs through the Indian Embassy in Bhutan. bhutantimes.bt, April 22, 2007)

This entry was posted in Main News on April 24, 2007 by Editor.


‘Repatriation only solution for refugees’ (REPRODUCTION)
From Ambar Mainali

WASHINGTON D.C, April 24: Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugee and Migration at the US State Department, Ellen Sauerbrey said Monday although the US government has expressed its interest to resettle the Bhutanese refugees, repatriation could only provide a durable solution to the protracted crisis.

“The only durable solution will be for people to go home,” Sauerbrey told a press briefing at the Foreign Press Center.

Sauerbrey made the remark responding to a query from visiting Nepalese journalists whether the US proposal to resettle 60, 000 Bhutanese refugees was an appropriate one since it would only contribute to weaken the democratic movement in Bhutan.

The visiting journalists expressed doubts that after educated Bhutanese who have been leading the democratic movement from refugee camps in Nepal were resettled in the US under the present plan, the democratic movement in Bhutan could face a serious setback.

Assistant Secretary Sauerbrey said that the proposal to resettle the Bhutanese refugees was made after acknowledging that the problem had remained unsolved for many years.

“It is one of the worst protracted refugee problems in the world,” she said adding the US government in the past years mounted pressure on Bhutan to allow the refugees to return home.

The question is how long should you allow people to languish in camps? “We hence wish to contribute towards enabling people to start new lives,” Sauerbrey, a former high school teacher said.

She said that the government of Nepal too feels that resettlement of the refugees in the third countries is a good idea.

“After our interest to resettle the refugees, other nations, mainly the European nations have also shown their interest for a third country resettlement of the refugees.

Following the announcement by the US in September last year to resettle the refugees, the refugee leaders have been engaged in hot debates whether the proposal would augur well for the entire refugee community and the future of the democratic movement in Bhutan.

Many of them have expressed their stance that the government of Nepal ought to hold dialogue with Bhutan to resume the verification process for early repatriation.

Although ministerial level talks were scheduled to be held in February this year, the talks were postponed at short notice.

The Bhutanese leaders had expressed their interest to re-open dialogue with Nepal on the refugee stalemate during their interaction with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala in the sidelights of the 14th SAARC Summit held in early April this year. But both the sides have not expedited their interest to hold bilateral talks so far.


This entry was posted in Main News on April 24, 2007 by Editor.


King’s color wins in mock voting
Thimphu, April 23: About half of the total registered voters, precisely 125,338, participated in the mock elections held on April 21 in which imaginary four parties contested.

Ironically, the yellow and red parties won the election for contesting in the second round to be held on May 28. The two colors form the colors of the national flag and the official shawls being wore by the king and the je Khempo, the religious chief of Buddhist clergy.

According to the results announced by the Election Commission on April 22, yellow party received 55,531 votes and the red party received less than half of it: 25,542 votes. The third one blue party received 25,508 and the last green party received 18,757 votes.

The mock elections went smoothly.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 23, 2007 by Editor.


Bhutan heads towards democracy
By Peter Foster in Paro
After 100 years of rule by absolute monarchy, the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is taking its first steps towards democracy.

The young Bhutanese woman emerged from the polling booth with a broad grin spread across her face. A few seconds earlier, with the touch of a button on an electronic voting machine, she had performed her part in a little piece of history.

Tshering Pelden, an 18-year-old student, was just one of more than 300,000 Bhutanese citizens to vote in a nationwide “dummy” election at the weekend, a practice run for a real general election this time next year when the king is succeeded by his son.

Even the loud beep emitted by the machines seemed to startle some voters, so alien is the concept of democracy to a people who for the last century have been happy to place their fate in the hands of a benevolent monarch.

So isolated was Bhutan – a pocket-sized Buddhist kingdom bordering Nepal – that when the first car arrived in the early 1960s, local reports said villagers tried to give it water to drink when they saw it parked on the side of the road.

However in the last 40 years, under the rule of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Bhutan has developed apace, building roads, schools and hospitals and raising life expectancy from 40 to 66 years.

Now democracy is to be added to that list of achievements, to the concern of many of Bhutan’s people.

“It was very exciting,” said Tshering Pelden of casting her first ever vote. “We want Bhutan to become developed like other countries, but we love our king and we are nervous about what democracy might bring.”

The king, who last December abdicated in favour of his Oxford-educated son Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, 26, has had to work very hard to persuade his people of the wisdom ceding power to the people.

When the Bhutanese look across at their neighbours and see a rag-tag collection of failed monarchies, military dictatorships and highly corrupt bureaucracies, many – a majority according to a poll in a local newspaper – are less than convinced of the virtues of the democracy.

“I don’t think life will be better under a democracy,” says Tandin Tshering, the owner of a construction business in Paro after casting his vote, “until now His Majesty has looked after the interests of the people, but democracy will bring disagreement, corruption and strife.”

Such reluctance is audible throughout the villages and towns of Bhutan. With the deadline for registering political parties set for July, only two parties have so far declared an interest in running, leading to Bhutan’s chief election commissioner issuing a public appeal for the people to get more political.

One of those who has committed to politics, Tshering Tobgay, a former senior civil servant who resigned his job to help build the ‘People’s Democratic Party’, said the problem was that the people were simply too content.

“This country has made enormous strides over the last 40 years and the people are happy with that progress. Now they are being given democracy without having to fight for it. In any other country it would be the other way round.”

Outside the polling stations it was clear just how much work needs to be done to get Bhutan’s softly-spoken and law-abiding citizenry to enter into the cut-and-thrust of democratic debate.

For the mock election four “dummy” parties, complete with manifestos were created – the Red [Druk] Dragon, Blue Dragon, Yellow Dragon and Green Dragon – with each one representing a different approach to shaping Bhutan’s future.

Tshering Pelden, who voted alongside three generations of her family, said she had voted for the Blue Party which, according to the manifesto posted on the walls of the polling station, was for a “free and fair society”.

Was this the idealism of youth? A socialist tendency, perhaps? “No,” she replied, tugging at the sleeve of her kira, a traditional sarong-like dress. “Blue is my best colour. I didn’t read the manifestos, I knew I liked blue.”

As the voting progressed, everyone seemed to have a reason for picking a colour, but none had anything to do with politics. One farmer said he had voted for the Red (Industrial Development) party because it was the colour of his village god, Charuchen.

Another, a hotelier, preferred Green (Ecological Sustainability) on the advice of his astrologer while the Yellow Party (Traditional Values) seemed to be doing well on the basis that it shared its colour with a scarf often worn by the abbot of a local monastery.

But whatever the level of debate, the out-going king has decreed that his country will become a democracy and many senior Bhutanese figures are hoping the people will rise to the challenge when it comes next year.

“When the king introduced local elected village bodies in the 1980s and then a partially elected council of ministers in 1998, the people complained bitterly,” said Mingbo Drukpa, the chief of Bhutan’s Broadcasting Service.

“We are his like children and now he is asking us to grow up. We must trust the wisdom of his judgment. Some people may be worried today but when democracy begins to happen for real they will look back and realise the King was right.”

Bhutan fact box

A land-locked nation of 18,146 sq miles Bhutan (pop. 650,000) takes its name, “Druk Yul” or the Land of the Thunder Dragon, from the Himalayas’ violent electrical storms.

In 2008 Bhutan will adopt a bicameral democracy, consisting of a 47-member lower house and a 20-member revising chamber. The king will be a constitutional monarch, impeachable by a two-thirds majority vote.

In 1971 when Bhutan joined the United Nations, the then King articulated the idea of “Gross National Happiness”, stressing sustainability, self-reliance and prosperity was a better measure of progress than simple “Gross National Product”.

The Wangchuck Dynasty has ruled Bhutan since 1907. However the centenary year celebrations will not take place until 2008 because 2007 is considered to be a highly inauspicious year.

The national animal of Bhutan is strange-looking ungulate called a “Takin”. According to local legend it was created by a Bhuddist saint who stuck the head of a goat onto the body of a cow and ordered it to get up and walk

Hydro-electric power generated from Bhutan’s fast-flowing rivers accounts for almost 50 per cent of GDP, a figure projected to rise to 90 per cent by 2020 as new projects come on stream.

Visitors to Bhutan are requested not to throw stones into the country’s many lakes out of respect for the various deities and demons widely believed to live beneath the waters.

Telegrapgh, UK, April 23, 2007

This entry was posted in Main News on April 22, 2007 by Editor.


His Majesty attends mock election in Lhuentse
Thimphu, April 22: His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk personally attended the mock elections held in Dungkhar in Lhuentse district on Saturday to encourage the people participate in the voting process.

There are 568 eligible voters from the 24 villages. King talks to them in person. He reached the polling station early morning. The people were hesitant to vote and the king called on them to participate in the process.

A local primary school near the Dungkhar dzong was selected to be used as polling station. This is the ancestral home of the king.

This is the first visit of the king after being named the monarch. He visited the area in 2005.

After attending the convocation ceremony in Kanglung, king Khesar traveled through Samdrup Jongkhar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Mongar and finally now in Lhuentse.

Their Royal Highnesses Ashi Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck and Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck are accompanying the king in his tour of eastern districts.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 22, 2007 by Editor.


US officials arrive to begin resettlement process
Kathmandu, April 22: Two officials from the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) arrived in Kathmandu for a six-day visit to Nepal on Sunday.

They are Lawrence Bartlett, Deputy Director for Asia and the Near East, and Janice Belz, Deputy Director for Admissions.

The officials are here to review protection, assistance, and durable solutions for exiled Bhutanese and Tibetan refugees in Nepal.

They will hold meetings with the representatives of the government of Nepal, the UN, and the diplomatic community to discuss technical and operational issues related to the proposed US resettlement program for exiled Bhutanese.

The officials will visit the exiled Bhutanese camps in Jhapa district to meet with members of the community.

US said it would resettle some 60,000 exiled Bhutanese in US in the next five years. The process would begin from July.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 22, 2007 by Editor.


Exiled Bhutanese oppose mock poll
Birtamode, April 21: National Front for Democracy (NFD) – Bhutan has strongly opposed Bhutan’s 2008 mock election.

Coinciding with Bhutan’s ‘mock poll’ on Saturday, thousands of exiled Bhutanese under the banner of the NFD has demonstrated at the Mechi bridge demanding their early repatriation.

Thousands of Sasastra Suraksha Bal (SSB) is reported to have been deployed at the Mechi bridge to bar exiled Bhutanese from entering Bhutan.

Addressing the mass meet, Chairman of the NFD, Thinley Penjore demanded for the involvement of government of India for resolvement of the crisis. Another speaker, Narad Adhikari also stressed on India’s support.

Meanwhile, in a separate press meet at Birtamode, Tek Nath Rizal has urged international support and solidarity for early repatriation. “The 2008 election in Bhutan is a means to fool the international community’, he added.

For the mock poll ,the two most successful parties will compete in a run-off in May, in which high-school students will act as candidates.

Some 10,000 officials are involved in the logistics, with special observers from neighbouring India, which has helped train them.

By Bhola Puranaghare

This entry was posted in Main News on April 21, 2007 by Editor.

Bhutan stages mock vote, refugees see sham democracy (REPRODUCTION)
By Simon Denyer

TIMAI REFUGEE CAMP, Nepal (Reuters) – As the isolated Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan prepares for historic elections, many of the 100,000 refugees languishing outside the country are appealing for the chance to return and take part.

On Saturday, Bhutan takes a big step towards ending a century of absolute royal rule by staging a mock election, a dress rehearsal with dummy parties, for the real thing in 2008.

But Bhutan’s version of democracy will be a tightly controlled affair, critics say.

Ironically the very people who led demonstrations in favour of human rights and democracy in 1990 have been exiled en masse. More than 105,000 live in desperate poverty in seven refugee camps in nearby Nepal.

“Democracy in Bhutan is like a crocodile shedding tears,” said Parsu Nepal in the crowded Timai refugee camp.

“Bhutan is playing an untrue game. It will be a democracy under an autocracy, all in the interests of the regime.”

Almost all exiles are known as Lhotshampas, the mainly Hindu ethnic Nepalis who started arriving in southern Bhutan in the late 19th century, only to be evicted after protesting against attacks on their culture and religion in 1990.

“What type of democracy is it, when we 100,000 people are here in exile?,” asked 78-year-old Dorba Lal Acharia, outside his bamboo home in the camp, who says four generations of his family were born in Bhutan.

He fled when soldiers accused him of supporting the protest movement, his wife followed a year later after being beaten and raped by soldiers, the family said. Yet, like many refugees, they dream of returning to their 26 acres of land.

Bhutan is a country of just 635,000 people, still with only a foot in the modern world.

Television only arrived in 1999, national dress must be worn at work and at public events, and the king draws on Buddhist values to promote Gross National Happiness instead of rampant materialism.

But back in the 1980s, the Buddhist elite saw the growing population of ethnic Nepalis as a threat to the country’s cultural identity and to their own control.

Ethnic Nepalis had helped overthrow the Buddhist rulers of neighbouring Sikkim, annexed by India in 1975.

Memories of China’s invasion of Tibet were still fresh and Bhutan’s rulers were determined to protect the world’s last Himalayan kingdom, at any cost.

Nepali books were burnt, the language banned from schools and many of the people reclassified as illegal immigrants or second class citizens.

After demonstrations in 1990, tens of thousands of people were forced to leave, many on the basis of ethnicity alone.

The government has outlawed political parties they formed as anti-national terrorists, and says many of the refugees are not genuine Bhutanese.

“We are holding elections for the Bhutanese in Bhutan,” said Chief Election Commissioner Kunzang Wangdi, who says exiled parties will not qualify. “As far as the Bhutanese government is concerned, I don’t think they exist.”

Those ethnic Nepalis who remained behind face widespread discrimination, human rights groups say. Some have been classified as non-nationals and denied the right to vote, others struggle to send their children to school or get government jobs.

“Bhutan may be claiming it wants to embrace democracy, but it is violating the most basic principles,” said Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch.

There are other refugees too, mountain people from central and eastern Bhutan who say their culture and Nyingmapa strand of Buddhism was repressed by people from the west. They, too, welcome the idea of democracy in Bhutan but not the practice.

“The process of democratisation is a total sham and a farce,” said Thinley Penjore, leader of the exiled Druk National Congress who fled in 1997.

“The regime must come out with an inclusive rather than an exclusive democracy, where all the people are included.”

This entry was posted in Main News on April 19, 2007 by Editor.


The Children of God (Exclusive)
By: Prem Raj

This world has become an inferno. The situation around is worsening day-by-day. In context of South Asia, India crops up as the key player to be responsible for exacerbation of the circumstances.

The aggravated situation in Assam— the Manipur becoming victim of Indian Army’s excesses, Tripura facing belligerence , Dalits in India being pounded in to fragments, Bengalis feeling insecure , the trio of Nepalese political alliance , the Maoists movement & the Monarchy , is existing on dissimilar angles which is always at the brim of striking with each other. Bhutan’s right of speech & taking decisions independently have been curbed & Kashmir facing the brutal atrocities at the hands of Indian Army since six decades where the number of dead is more than the number of living. So are the few examples to be quoted in context of the expansionist designs of India.

The style of India or the modus operandi has always been to blow the nation or a segment of society into a portal of pipe just to cut them into a size of its choice and receive them on the other end and then play like the puppets having strings in its hands under the garb of sympathy, consolation & friendship.

If we go through the chapters of history, Indian Army went crushing through the fields, buildings, rivers and cities of East Pakistan, taking un-due advantage of the situation, thus, turning the land of pure into Bangladesh while bluffing the world all over that the sovereignty of a country was crossed to liberate the oppressed.

India not only wants to have control over the resources but is also exerting all out efforts to become a ‘waterman’ of South Asia. India has nurtured the feelings of caste and creed. It has not only restricted to its own bounds but also carried it beyond that wherever it could pull the strings. This gave rise to class distinction and society turned faceless.

The editor of Hindu daily newspaper said in one of the seminars held to commemorate the services of Dr. Ambedkar, “You can change the world but you cannot change the mind of a Hindu”. Indo-Bhutan Treaty of 1949, referred as the treaty of friendship between the two countries, reads that matters of Defense and Foreign Affairs of Bhutan would be looked after by India. This shows that Bhutan became a subject of India always ready to be driven by his master though the treaty is recently reviewed.

After having seated in the driving seat of Bhutan for such a long period, India sowed the seeds of linguistic problem while advising monarchy to throw away the people who speak Bhutani language loathed in Nepali dialect & are neighbored to Nepal.

It was during early 1990s, when the storm erupted, as on the fateful day people woke up from their sleep due to the heavy unusual noise and then found the dozers at their steps. The announcement wrangled in their ears, almost ordering them to leave their abode immediately otherwise they would get crushed in the debris. So most precious thing one could carry was a child at the back and then run for secured life in the direction of eastern part of Nepal.

In actuality, they were deprived of their permanent homes, had lost the sacred temples, the place where bodies of their ancestors were cremated and ashes were secured.

It is almost two decades that Nepal considers them Bhutanese whereas Bhutan calls them Nepalese. They are leading a miserable life in the hutments made of bamboo woods. Most of the children born in the refugee camps are unaware of the realities. Though America has offered 60,000 refugees to be settled in different states but in a programmed installments spread over on the period of six long years. They also look towards India as their Godfather, which would never come to help them.

In the process of their demand where they want to live and die in Bhutan, have lost their identity as no one owns them. So they do ask “are we not the human beings & our God is different than the others? Why alone we are to be condemned and left unheard in this world which acclaims morality, values, enlightenment along with peace?”

The writer, Prem Dhoj, is responsible for all opinion expressed in this piece.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 19, 2007 by Editor.

US envoy to India asks for repatriation of exiled Bhutanese
Thimphu, April 18: The US ambassador to India Dr. David C Mulford completed his three-day goodwill visit to Bhutan on Thursday in the efforts to build relations between the two countries asking Bhutan to repatriate its citizens.

During his meeting with the government ministers and officials, he stressed the need to build diplomatic relations between the two countries, as both would get advantage from this relation.

He met king father Jigme Singye Wangchuk on April 17 and appreciated his efforts towards ‘carefully thought out process’ of democratization.

The diplomat also stressed on the role of independent and active media environment to disseminate diverse and correct information regarding the democratization process.

The diplomat also expressed hope that Bhutan would take back its citizens at the earliest possible so that the prolonged problems would get solution.

He said, as large number of the exiled Bhutanese would be taken to the US for resettlement, Bhutan should repatriate its remaining citizens.

During his stay here Mulford met the Prime Minister Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk, who also holds the portfolio as Foreign Minister, Home Minister Lyonpo Jigme Y Thinley, Trade and Industry Minister Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba and other senior government officials. Bhutan News Service

This entry was posted in Main News on April 18, 2007 by Editor.

Election for Thrompons as well
Thimphu, April 18: Along with the general elections, Bhutan hopes to hold the elections of the local government in 2008 after which the power in the local government would be transferred to elected ones from the nominated rulers.

Major towns (throms) will have Thrompons or the mayors. The portfolio of Thrompons is in place since the rule of King Jigme Singye with administrative and judicial authorities.

While article 19 of the draft constitution states the provision of Thromde in all towns, the government is debating the provision of Thromde only in those towns whose population is over 10,000. The current Trompons will be transferred to as administrative officers as executive secretary.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 18, 2007 by Editor.


EC asks stakeholders to find solution early
Kathmandu, April 18: Head of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO) for Asia, Central and South America Esko Kentrschynskyj asked all concerned to take initiative for finding a comprehensive solution of the prolonged issue of the exiled Bhutanese.

Talking to reporters in Nepalese capital Kathmandu on Wednesday after returning form his visit to two camps in Jhapa and Morang districts, Kentrschynskyj stressed the urgent need to find comprehensive and lasting solution of the crisis since the donors have gradually become fatigue of providing assistance. He, however, denied that EC would stop assistance to exiled Bhutanese before the solution of the problem in found out.

Charge d’Affairs of the commission in Kathmandu Eduardo Lechuga-Jimenez said they have raised the issue during their recent meeting with Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and drawn attention of the Nepal government to give priority in finding solution of the problem.

Kentrschynskyj on Monday and Tuesday had visited Sanischare camp in Morang district and Khudunabari camp in Jhapa district respectively to access the latest situation in the camps.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 18, 2007 by Editor.

Vision as a challenge (REPRODUCTION)
Addressing the students of Sherubtse, the message reaching out to the entire nation, His Majesty the King outlined some of his royal vision last week, a vision for Bhutan and for the future. It is a foresight that lights up the future in a vivid perspective of past perceptions and current realities.

Bhutan has been moving from a romantic era of being a mystical hidden land to being a small player in a global village, having to stake its claims in the real world. Personifying the aspirations of the young generation His Majesty views this challenge with optimism.

Geo politics has always been a sensitive issue that Bhutanese leaders have understood and respected. Like everything else, geopolitics is changing and His Majesty points out that not only are the dynamics between India and China changing, both are now global economic giants. As a buffer Bhutan has much to gain.

While preserving Bhutan’s strengths like the strong legacies of a pristine environment, rich culture, and the noble goal of gross national happiness, His Majesty emphasises the importance of understanding our weaknesses. The need to build a strong economy has been a consistent advice from the Throne since the royal address to the nation on December 17. His Majesty sees this as a foundation for Bhutan’s growth.

The words that should continue to ring among the youth is the need to understand their responsibilities, another important message for all Bhutanese. As the kingdom seeks good governance through a unique democracy the commitment is that “failure is not an option”.

His Majesty continues to celebrate past achievements. At the same time the nation’s academic elite, the students of this high institution of learning, are reminded that Bhutan is enjoying the fruits of labour of our parents and ancestors. Theirs is the challenge to ensure that the kingdom of Bhutan continues to take a lead role in human development.

The inspiring message that comes through is that it will be done. Small does not mean helpless, remote does not mean cut off, and every challenge is an opportunity.

Only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find his right road

(Kuensel Editorial 17 April, 2007)

This entry was posted in Main News on April 17, 2007 by Editor.

Indian school drafts Bhutan urban planning
New Delhi, April 17: A Gujrat based Indian school Centre for Environment Planning and Technology (CEPT) have proposed draft plans for urban development in Bhutan.

One proposal for town planning of eastern district Samdrup Jongkhar has already been submitted while the centre expect to submit two more projects for Kanglung and Gelephu towns.

The proposal of Samdrup Jongkhar town planning has been submitted to Ministry of Works and Human Settlement recently while the proposal for two more towns will be finalised within the next six months.

“The government of Bhutan is very pro-active and is likely to float tenders for the infrastructure development work for the city from next month. We will take up a similar project of preparing a draft on the master plan, town plan, infrastructure plan and implementation mechanism for two more cities,” reports quoted an official as saying.

The total cost of the project has been estimated to be around Nu 500 million to each city. Samdrup Jonkhar has around 15,000 people while the other cities have around 5,000 residents.

CEPT was offered the job of preparing a draft after proposals on public transport system, solid waste management, water supply and multi-level parking were designed by its students when they got a scholarship to study Bhutan as part of their practical exposure to South-East Asian countries.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 17, 2007 by Editor.

Radio Valley goes on air
Thimphu, April 1: New FM radio entitled Radio Valley starts operation on April 12, Thursday, Kuensel reported.

Radio Valley FM at 99.9 MHz covers the capital Thimphu valley and surrounding areas.

According to Kuensel, the FM is located above the pension colony with five permanent staff. The FM has an investment of Nu.3.5 million, the proprietor, Kinley Wangchuk is quoted by the Kuensel. “Radio valley will be different, the only similarity with the other stations will be that we all play music,” he said.

Apart from airing all genres of English and Bhutanese songs from 8 a.m. to 9.30 p.m., the station promises a host of interactive programmes. People can post articles, poems, messages or their concerns on their official website (radiovalley.bt), which would also be aired, said Kinley Wangchuk.

Listeners would also be given an opportunity to sing or host shows on Saturdays and Sundays. A guest jockey show will be featured on Sundays.

Other programmes it has on its list are suja show, energy shocks, pop valley, voice of your choice and what’s your story, to name a few.

A music enthusiast since his school days, Kinley Wangchuk said his passion for music inspired him to establish the radio station for all people who love music. “Even as a business it would do well,” he said.

Radio Valley has about eight volunteers working with them after 5 p.m. “They have been practicing radio jockeying for past three months,” said Kinley Wangchuk.

The radio station has a recording studio, which according to Kinley Wangchuk, would provide a platform for the local artists or inspiring musicians.

Radio Valley has plans to reach out to all the dzongkhags.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 16, 2007 by Editor.

Olympic Gold Medalists Toss Volleyballs in camps
Beldangi, April 16: Three members of Japan’s gold medal-winning volleyball team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics have visited a camp in eastern Nepal to share their skills and knowledge of the game with exiled Bhutanese in an initiative backed by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.

“It is great to see how sports can bring exiled Bhutanese and local communities together and also encourage girls to actively participate,” said Kaoru Nemoto, head of the UNHCR field office in Damak.

“It feels great to be here,” said Olympian Takako Takagi, who with her team-mates routed the Soviet Union’s squad 3-0 to capture the gold medal in Montreal. “More than technical training, we want the refugees to have fun and learn how to work as a team.”

Takagi and her two of her former team-mates, Hiromi Ikeda and Katsuko Tanaka, also donated volleyballs, special shoes and other equipment during their two-day visit to Beldangi II camp.

Many of the children and teenagers in the camp – who had previously been using cheap balls to play – could barely contain their excitement when presented with professional volleyballs, and scores participated in morning training sessions with the Olympians.

“We are happy to get the opportunity to learn and play with the Olympians,” said a camp resident.

The three Japanese volleyball players recently established an aid agency called Montreal Kai to promote sport among youth.

“These kinds of recreational activities are needed in the camps to keep the youth positively engaged,” said Binod Khatiwoda, who works with young people in the camp.

The visit concluded with a volleyball tournament in which teams from all seven camps.

“It’s definitely not a one-shot deal and we will surely find an opportunity to come again,” said Takagi, a Volleyball Hall of Fame inductee and a silver medalist at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. “I have made the girls promise that they will practice regularly, so I can check how much they have improved by the time I return.”

Given the success of the inter-camp tournament in which girls and handicapped children participated, plans are underway for another large competition on the occasion of World Refugee Day on June 20.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 16, 2007 by Editor.

Resettlement to complete in five years, nine more families to fly soon
Kathmandu, April 14: The US ambassador to Nepal James F. Moriarty in his recent face-to-face with Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has made it clear that his government has begun the process of resettling the exiled Bhutanese.

On Friday morning, besides discussing the two countries bilateral relations and Nepal’s peace process, the US diplomat informed that his government has reached the final stage to begin resettling the exiled Bhutanese in US.

After his discussion with Koirala, Moriarty while inaugurating a photo-exhibitions told media persons that the process of resettling the 60,000 exiled Bhutanese, which the US has already made a proposal, would be resettled in the US in the next five years.

In the mean time, exiled Bhutanese who wish for third country settlement have begun the race. The newly formed Bhutanese Refugee Resettlement Coordination Committee, they said, would cooperate with Nepal government, UN agencies, Bhutanese organisations in exile and the countries showing interest for resettlement to expedite the process.

The US-Nepal initiation has come forth after Bhutanese government failed to comply with the proposal of the Nepalese prime minister to finalise the issue at the earliest. During the recent SAARC summit, Nepalese PM Koirala had asked Prime Minister Khandu Wangchuk to start repatriating exiled Bhutanese. Bhutanese counterpart escaped from the scene with just word to resume bilateral process for settling the issue.

Politicians and leaders in exile have been demanding immediate withdrawal from the bilateral or trilateral process so as to pave way for involvement of international community in finding solution of this stranded issue.

In another news, at least nine families from camps are making final preparations for flying to west as part of the resettlement programme. 16 families have already resettled in the US with the initiation of the UNHCR despite the denial of the Nepal government to give them permission.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 14, 2007 by Editor.

Tala hydel to operate at full
Thimphu, April 14: The 1020 MW mega Tala hydro plant is now ready to operate all its six units when the last unit was commissioned on March 30.

The generation of the power from the last turbine will also start once volume of water in the Wangchu river rise this summer.

Currently, the plant produces 170 MW.

Once full operational, the project will add Nu. 4 billion along Chukha’s Nu. 2 billion contribution to the national revenue. Though the gross revenue turns to Nu. 8 billion, government expects to spend half the revenues as operational expenses and servicing.

While electricity from Chukha is exported to six eastern Indian states, Tala would supply electricity to the north Indian states up to Delhi.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 14, 2007 by Editor.


Time is yet to ripen
Dr. D. N. S. Dhakal has been the prominent personality in the democratic struggle of Bhutan soon he took up the responsibility as the general secretary of the Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP). Since his involvement, Dhakal has been leading most demonstrations and peaceful protests that have been organized by political parties and apolitical groups in exile to put pressure on Bhutan government for repatriation of its citizens and drawing attention of the international community to look into the matter so as to find its solution at the earliest. With democratic changes initiated in Bhutan, Dhakal as one of the first political activists, talked with Bhutan News Service about contemporary Bhutanese politics and credibility that democratic changes in Bhutan would own.

Who won in the democratic struggle of Bhutan?
The results have not come and the time has not matured for that. There have been no changes seen that we demanded. Bhutan is yet to enter the era of democracy where every ethnic group and every citizen get their rights guaranteed. All the citizens should be treated equally. Unless, these are met, the pretence of the regime of establishing democratic system would become a ploy. Establishment of true democracy is not possible in short struggle; it takes decades and continued efforts from community leaders. When democracy is finally established in Bhutan, this will be the victory for both sides: those ruling now and the people struggling for equality.

The issue of third country settlement is at the climax of debate. Do you think this is beneficial for the democratic struggle in Bhutan?
Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP) welcomes the move. The major obstruction in our democratic movement was the financial crisis. Resettlement would help us raise our financial status. This in turn will help the movement. At the same time, it is the right of every Bhutanese in exile to choose their future. I am not one to determine their future and neither Bhutan or Nepal, India or America. The initiators of the country settlement must respect the right of the individual exiled Bhutanese. BNDP believes, let individual decide what they want to do.

Will that not derail the movement?
Never, never. You can see the examples from nearby country. People of Indian origin but citizens of Nepal and living abroad never mixed up with NRI and people of Nepali origin but citizens of India and living abroad never intended to call themselves as NRN. The same would be the case with Bhutanese. Feeling for nationality becomes stronger when people become economically strong. If people are resettled in the west, they might take a decade or so to settle. The real movement would start after that.

If it would be the case as you said, people would have forgotten Bhutan after 17 years of life in exile. However, the sense of nationality has become stronger. They sough to accept the proposal of third country settlement to avoid any uncertainty that may arise because the donors have been reducing their support. The life in the camp is become harder, day by day. People wish, they end such a life.

The king has already initiated democratic changes in Bhutan and signs have started coming out. What would you do then?
Democracy comes through struggle. I don’t hope people living inside Bhutan, especially in the north, have become ready for democratization. Democracy means delivering justice to people at the bottom level and it cannot be achieved in a short period. People from all groups and communities must feel their voices are heard.
Of course, the king announced for democratic changes by 2008. It is not doubt the result of our struggle for the last 17 years. If we had not begun the movement, the changes would have been impossible. People in Bhutan would be living in dark for next few decades. Now, the democratization process has begun, as the king claims. But I don’t hope, the international community would accept the result of ‘mockery’ elections by excluding parties like BNDP, BPP who first raised the issue of democracy and human rights in Bhutan. The election in Bhutan would not be recognized as legitimate.

Will you be able to participate in the election?
Time is yet to mature for a legitimate democratic force to participate in such election conducted under strict surveillance of the government security force. We would not.

Why don’t you tell your cadres inside the country to register the party?
That is not a good reason, but not impossible. We think, we may pursue registration of the party for democratic election if environment becomes conducive. First let us see that there is guarantee of establishment of lasting democracy.

What do you think is the cause of adjournment of the repatriation of the exiled Bhutanese? What would be the solution?
The major cause is the stand that Nepal has been taking till now. Nepal agreed for verification and categorization which would never be completed. Bhutan never wishes let the process completes. There should be the involvement of India and the international community which will exert more pressure on Bhutan to take rapid decisions. Nepal should withdraw from the bilateral process and let the international community settle the issue.

What do you think the role of India and cause of armed rebellion in Bhutanese context?
There should be drastic changes in the thought of the people and government of India to help our struggle. No Indian would support the struggle until we are few. India would be compelled to support the struggle after the whole Bhutanese society becomes ready for changes. And the whole Bhutanese would support the initiative taken by southern Bhutan because changes are not only for southern Bhutanese.

Armed struggle is not feasible at this situation. It our brothers and sisters who would help us get shelter during the struggle. This would increase the possibility that Bhutan would expel these people as well creating another group of refugees. India may provide support to do that.

When I met some communist friends, I told them to try motivating the northerners. Lhotsampa community is ready to help us but they have not been able to do that due to fear. The prime target is to make the non-Lhotsampas involved the democratic movement.

This entry was posted in Interview on April 12, 2007 by Editor.


Camp census (UNHCR press release)
The Government of Nepal and UNHCR wish to announce that the Census for the out-camp refugees from Bhutan will be held on Friday, 20 April 2007 at Khudunabari camp in Jhapa district.

In addition, two extra days of grace period have been scheduled for each camp for refugees who due to some reasons could not appear for re-registration during the period Census was held in their camp. The new schedule and venue are as below:

Monday, 23 April to Tuesday, 24 April 2007 – Goldhap camp refugees can register themselves at
Khudunabari camp

Wednesday, 25 April to Thursday, 26 April 2007 – Timai camp refugees can register themselves at Khudunabari camp

Friday, 27 April and Monday, 30 April 2007 – Khudunabari camp refugees can register themselves at Khudunabari camp

Wednesday, 02 May to Thursday, 03 May 2007 – Beldangi I camp refugees can register themselves at Beldangi II camp

Friday, 04 May and Monday, 07 May 2007 – Beldangi II camp refugees can register themselves at Beldangi II camp

Tuesday, 08 May 2007 to Wednesday, 09 May 2007 – Beldangi II Ext. camp refugees can register themselves at Beldangi II camp

Thursday, 10 May to Friday, 11 May 2007 – Sanischare camp refugees can register themselves at Beldangi II camp

After 11 May 2007, the Government of Nepal and UNHCR will consider the census activities in the camps as having been completed. Thus, we strongly encourage the refugees to get themselves registered on the dates mentioned above. Census procedures are free of Charge and Voluntary.

For more information or queries kindly approach any UNHCR or RCU staff in the camps.

Government of Nepal UNHCR, Kathmandu
12 April 2007

This entry was posted in Main News on April 12, 2007 by Editor.

King urges youths to take over responsibility
Kanglung, April 10: In his second public speech after ascending to the throne, His majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk asked the youths to act responsibly to solder the responsibility to shaping the future of the country to good.

Addressing the 11th convocation ceremony at Sherubtse College in Kanglung on April 10, he said, “As a small society Bhutanese citizens, more than those of larger countries, bear a greater responsibility and role in the success of the nation.”

He credited the achievements made so far to parents and asked the students to carry out the works that lies ahead.

“Individual success depends on success as a nation – no one succeeds when the nation has failed. There can be no Bhutanese without Bhutan,” he added.

He also highlighted that the immediate duty of all the Bhutanese is make the transition taking place in Bhutan a successful. “A good democracy will ensure that the aspirations of the people will always be fulfilled. It is a task that must be achieved. Failure can never be an option,” he stressed.

King also stressed for a strong dynamic economy suited to Bhutan’s needs.

“We no longer live in a small hidden kingdom. We are very much a part of this new globalized world. At the end of the day, what it will always come down to is how can Bhutan stand on her own feet? How can we make a good living? What can Bhutan sell that the world wants to buy? How can Bhutan compete with other nations as equals? We are not competing with each other, we must compete with the rest of the world. It is no longer enough to say ‘I am the best in Bhutan’ you have to be the best wherever you go in the world,” he further said.

“As our closest neighbour and friend, Bhutan’s rapid socio- economic growth was assisted by India’s steadfast support. As the world’s largest democracy, our young democratic system will always benefit from India’s experience. As an economic power of the future, our economy will only benefit from cooperation with India. I know that India is deeply committed to Bhutan’s growth as a democracy and as a neighboring economy, so India’s growth and success will be Bhutan’s success as well,” he added.

To encourage the youths, he said their aspirations will be his goals and expressed commitments to fulfill them.

About 487 graduates of 2004 and 2005 attended the convocation ceremony.

Their Royal Highnesses Ashi Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck and Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuck, education minister Lyonpo Thinley Gyamtsho and representatives from Delhi University, the Indian Embassy and international organisations were also present in the function.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 12, 2007 by Editor.


World bank approves $10 million for Bhutan roads
Washington, D.C., April 11: The World Bank on April 10 approved a US$10 million grant to improve rural access roads in Bhutan. The Second Rural Access Project aims to improve transport infrastructure and services for selected rural districts. The project will finance the construction of new feeder roads and bridges as well as the upgrading of existing rural roads.

The project builds on the recently completed First Rural Access Project which fully achieved its development objective of improving the access of participating rural communities to markets, schools, health centers, and other economic and social infrastructure and has therefore increased the quality of life and the productivity of beneficiaries. Despite these accomplishments, however, significant unmet needs in rural infrastructure remain.

“Rural communities suffer from inadequate accessibility and are poorly connected to basic social and economic services, which are mostly concentrated in urban centers,” a statement here quoted Isabel Chatterton, Senior Financial Specialist and co-Task Leader for the project to have said. “Despite the government’s recent efforts, the improvement in accessibility in Bhutan continues to be constrained by rough and fragile terrain and scarce financial resources,” he added.

The absence of roads is a major contributing factor to poverty in this landlocked Himalayan country, with about 21 percent of Bhutan’s population living within one to four hour’s walk from a road, and another 21 percent live more than four hours away. This results in people’s having to pay 50 to 70 times more to transport their products to markets than people living in connected areas using motorized transport.

The project has two components: The first one ‘Road Access component’ will construct 65 km of new feeder roads and upgrade and maintain 24 km of existing roads to all-season, feeder road standards. The second ‘Capacity Development and Implementation Support component’ will comprise of human resource development and training; technical assistance to pilot performance-based maintenance mechanisms; project implementation support; a socioeconomic impact monitoring study; and HIV/AIDS awareness training for construction workers.

The Second Rural Access Project supports the goals of the government’s Ninth Five-Year Plan. The Plan represents the country’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, which has central goals the achievement of improving the quality of life and income, especially for poor people; ensuring good governance; promoting private sector growth and employment generation; preserving and promoting cultural heritage and environmental conservation; and achieving rapid economic growth and transformation. These objectives are all based on Bhutan’s home-grown concept of Gross National Happiness which stresses the maximization of human happiness as its overarching goal.

“Rural accessibility has a significant impact on extreme poverty in Bhutan,” said Binyam Reja, Senior Transport Economist and co-Task Leader for the project, “The project is designed to reduce travel time, transportation costs, and commodity prices for beneficiaries and to increase their satisfaction with the improved road network.”

The US$10 million grant is from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 11, 2007 by Editor.


Denounce inhuman rule in Bhutan
Bhutan, long plagued by the absolute regimes of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, and his son now, has reached the point of critical crisis. The kings have decided to hold a general election, in 2008, to choose a ‘democratic’ government in Bhutan. Interestingly, the regime has formed two political parties recently with similar names as those of the banned political parties of the exiled Bhutanese people in India and Nepal.

It may be recalled that the regime did the same thing to two of the exiled newspapers, run by Bhutanese citizens. It appears that “systematic disinformation” is the new name of the game. Even a humble illiterate can understand what the regime is doing to counter the popularity of exiled groups and wipe them out of the international community’s minds’.

The original Druk National Congress of Rongthong Kinley had challenged this tactic as they wished to contest in the elections. The Royal government, in the past, arrested and imprisoned several leaders from Bhutan Peoples’ Party thus making it impossible for them to contest elections. Thousands of people, who have languished in camps in Nepal for over one-and-half decade (comprising no less than 20 percent of the population), were forced to flee from their homes in southern Bhutan. It should be noted the process of ethnic cleansing involved widespread rape as a weapon. Hundreds of Sharchops from eastern Bhutan are still imprisoned for having participated in peaceful demonstration in 1997 against the Bhutanese government’s atrocities. Unrest continues unabated as have violent crackdown and gross breach of human rights.

The kings, both father and son – stubborn and unrepentant as ever – have vowed to not accept Lhotshampas taking refuge in Nepal. They have also dismissed international criticism against the Royal regime as unfortunate and misleading and accused their critics as being Ngolops (anti-nationals). They maintain such criticism fails to acknowledge the great strides that Bhutan is making towards Gross National Happiness (GNH). Although anti-government feelings are prompted by the regime’s lack of respect for human and political rights for Lhotshampas, its leaders’ inability to be united is also to be blamed for the plight of the Lhotshampas.

The crisis in Bhutan raises familiar questions about the lack of due responsibility by the international community. Particularly that of India, which seeks UN Security Council seat and champions freedom and democracy. Some would argue that the United States, Canada and the European Union should have jointly and severally pressurized India to make Bhutan repatriate all its citizens from Nepal and India, instead of offering resettlement in their countries. Others say that Bhutan would come to negotiating table only if Maoist like-force comes into existence in Bhutan. Some are beginning to compare the Lhotshampa’s case as being similar to that of Madhises in Nepal while it is a fact that they were exiled whereas Madheses are not yet in the situation. With the exception of Rongthong Kinley and Thinley Penjore, and few others, who are already in exile, there are hardly any other non-Lhotsampas inside Bhutan who dare to speak against the Wangchuck’s rule so far. They don’t speak not because they don’t want but because they fear for their lives.

Some argue that the world has no business interfering with or even commenting on the internal affairs of a sovereign state. This principle is exceptionally convenient for dictators and/or people who don’t wish to be bothered about the well being of others. It is a dangerous principle that actually, in its adherence, paved the way for the likes of Hilter, Stalin and Idi Amin. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck was busy evicting Lhotshampas from southern Bhutan.

It is not suggested that the world should intervene to impose political change in Bhutan. It is suggested that global and regional organizations and individual governments should make known their support for human rights and democratic practices, in Bhutan as elsewhere, in a transparent manner; without diplomatic double talk. The exiled Bhutanese have suffered enough. They should get a chance to be repatriated with dignity and honor back to Bhutan. The election in Bhutan, without the participation of all Bhutanese citizens, will remain incomplete and its legitimacy suspect— and challenged thus leading to prolonged conflict and political instability.

The political parties in exile should be asked to participate in the election to parliament in 2008, if the Bhutanese regime is for true democracy with participation by all. Should electoral democracy be denied to no less than 20 percent of the citizens of Bhutan, the process deserves the world’s widest condemnation.

Given King Father Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s consistent unwillingness to respect the legitimate complaints of his people, and the sufferings of exiled Bhutanese for over 17 years, this is not the time for ‘quiet diplomacy’ for Nepal. This is the time for all nations to speak out for the larger interest of regional and sub-regional peace and security. Most notably, India cannot remain tight lipped any longer. The exiled Bhutanese want to go to the land of their birth. This is their priority. Resettlement is the last option for them.

A just and lasting solution to economic, political and social quagmires, including the exiled Bhutanese issue, is to open dialogue with Bhutanese leaders who have been struggling for human and political rights for the last one decade and half. One could break the ice and start dialogue beginning with the petition submitted by the Royal Advisory Counselors from south Bhutan in 1989, which later became the human rights charter for the exiled Bhutanese. This has been the common ground on which all leaders rallied to lead the historic socio-political movement in Bhutan that actually caused the Royal regime to relent and move away from a party-less absolute monarchy to a new regime of constitutional monarchy and multi-party parliamentary democracy.

As it did in the case of the Maoist and seven political parties in Nepal, India could very easily facilitate talks between the relevant Bhutanese political parties in exile and the rulers in Thimphu, which could lead to an understanding based on support for democracy, respect for the legitimate rights of all and a strong, independent Bhutan. Simultaneously, the Bhutanese regime should cease its abusive practices, repeal draconian laws and bring the electoral code into line with regional and international standards.

Parliamentary elections should be transparent, free and fair and should be duly monitored by international observers. Should the Royal family members run for Prime Ministership, they should make sure that there is no intimidation and fear amidst the electorate (running against them), to demonstrate equality for all, before the law of the land. Members of the opposition, including exiled Bhutanese and banned political parties, should unite and speak with a single, strong voice. In this way they can demonstrate to the citizens of Bhutan, and to the world, that there is a viable and patriotic alternative to the repressive and misguided leadership under which the county has suffered for so long. Leaders need to sacrifice their egos and reconcile their personal differences for the common good of a united Bhutanese kingdom that is free from the threats of civil war and terrorism.

(The author is a former Bhutanese diplomat and human rights activist. He can be reached at: nnnk03@yahoo.com)

This entry was posted in Opinion on April 8, 2007 by Editor.


Mystery surrounds arrested Bhutan journalist (REPRODUCTION)
News & Features – South Asia
By T P Mishra
Saturday, 07 April 2007

The whereabouts of Shantiram Acharya, who, it’s claimed, has been working as a reporter for a number of newspapers operating in the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal, is still unknown.

Acharya was arrested on January 16, 2007, on the charge of being a Maoist militant. His case was initially reported eight days later on January 24 by Kuensel, the state-owned website.

The Bhutan Chapter of Third World Media Network (TWMN) investigated and filed a report on Media Helping Media expressing deep concern about Acharya’s arrest and disappearance.

Devi Acharya, a brother of the missing journalist, says the only hope is for international human rights organisations to probe his brother’s detention.

Speaking by telephone with a TWMN-Bhutan representative, Devi Acharya said the family feared for Shantiram Acharya’s safety.
“The state terrorizing situation inside Bhutan is extremely risky. I do not know whether my brother is inside a cruel Bhutanese jail or even whether he is still alive.”

The Communists Party of Bhutan (CPB-MLM) has already stated that Shantiram Acharya was not affiliated to their party.

TWMN-Bhutan called on international media freedom and human rights groups to investigate further.

Source: www.mediahelpingmedia.org

This entry was posted in Main News on April 7, 2007 by Editor.


Nu 30,000 for MPs, Nu 85,000 for seniors
Thimphu, April 07: Bhutan has finalised the draft of the Parliamentary Entitlements Act and made it public on Friday for commentary.

According to the newly drafted act, the people’s representatives in the to be formed National Assembly and National Council will draw the monthly remuneration of Nu 30,000 along with 30 percent of their house rent for the period they serve as MPs.

National Committee on parliamentary entitlements will include chairpersons of the Pay Commission, Royal Civil Service Commission, and one member each from the National Assembly and National Council, Opposition Party and the Ministry of Finance.

Speaker of the National Assembly, the chairperson of the National Council and the Leader of the Opposition Party will get the monthly salary of Nu 85,000, which or equivalent to the salary currently serving ministers are drawing.

Other facilities include a telephone at home, medical expenses and free stationery and postal services.

The MPs will also get Nu 1,000 as travel allowance during their travel and Nu 800 as allowance per diem during the house session.

The MPs will get blue babney without frills. Interestingly, the MPs will not be allowed to carry patang, which traditionally is carried by all northern Bhutanese. However, five members of the National Council appointed by the King will continue to wear the kabney they received before being appointed to the post of MP.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 7, 2007 by Editor.


Indian support vital but doubtful on refugee issue
Seventeen years after having failed to persuade Bhutan, unilaterally, to repatriate Bhutanese refugees, Nepal has sought support from the Indian government.

On the backdrop of the 14th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, for the first time, sought support from Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to find a lasting solution of the problem.

For years, the refugees had demanded that Nepal should also take initiative for tri-party meeting among Bhutan, Nepal and India to find a permanent solution of the protracted problem. The Nepali experts had also stressed this need. Nepal government officials, however, had said they had raised the issue with India during the informal discussions but failed to receive any support.

The new Nepali approach comes during the important juncture to decide whether the refugees should be repatriated or allowed to resettle in any other country of their wish. United States, Australia and few European countries have expressed their interests in resettling these refugees to which the government of Nepal has given green signal. Interestingly, the USand the EU, who have shown interest in resettling the refugees, are also participating the SAARC summit this time as observers.

Reports quoted Koirala as saying that Nepal keeps open all possible alternatives for solution of the crisis such as repatriation or third country resettlement.

However, Indian foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon hinted at ‘no possibility’ of India’s involvement in the process of repatriating the refugees. He stressed that the problem should be solved through bilateral process.

At the same time, government of India is also facing pressure from within the country. Leaders of the ruling parties, including Congress (I), and opposition parties have demanded that India take the leading role in finding solution of the problem. Indian social activists have lent their hands in the campaign of the Bhutan Solidarity for dignified repatriation of the refugees to their native land at the earliest.

Bhutanese leaders in exile, while aware of the fact that India’s involvement in Bhutan’s politics is important, are of divided opinions.

Coordinator of the Association of Human Rights Activists (AHURA) – Bhutan, Ratan Gazmere said Nepal’s approach for Indian assistance would be fruitless. “We have repeatedly said Nepal should announce its withdrawal from all bilateral or trilateral talks to find solution of the problem,” he said.

Gazmere claims the trilateral talks might linger the issue for years. The process should end, Nepal should stop all such talks, India’ s involvement would never give solution, he added.

But President of Bhutan People’s Party (BPP) Bala Ram Poudel has a different view. He expressed hopes that Indian involvement would give solution to the crisis. “Since India has greater influence on Bhutanese politics, Indian support would pave a way forward to find a solution,” he said.

In the midst of this, UNHCR country representative in Nepal, Abraham Abraham expressed hope that something important would come out of Nepali approach. He, however, doubted that the problem will find a logical solution unless Nepal announces the issue to be multilateral.

He pointed out the fact that no international conference has ever been held in support of the Bhutanese refugees whereas there have been several conferences in support of other refugees around the world. He informed that an international conference would be held to discuss the solution for Iraqi refugees this year. He cites the major reason for not being able to hold such conference to be Nepal’s unwillingness to withdraw from bilateral process.

Refugee human rights leader Tek Nath Rizal refused talking to media regarding the recent developments.

Journalist Yuba Raj Ghimire points out the need that India should take steps to give a solution of this crisis before it faces criticism from the international community for remaining aloof from such a humanitarian issue.

Ghimire also doubts the credibility of the election proposed in Bhutan next year while one-sixth of its citizens remain out of country.

At the sidelines of the SAARC summit, Koirala also met with the US assistant secretary of state Richard Boucher, who during his visit to Nepal last year, had formally announced the interest of the US government to take some 60,000 Bhutanese refugees for resettlement.

Despite the Nepali approach for support, India’s involvement in the issue is doubtful. India has so far supported the Bhutanese monarchy on its democratisation process while handing over the issue of Bhutanese refugees to Nepal only. Indian legal experts helped draft the first constitution on Bhutan and have given words for holding the election of the first democratic election in 2008.

The recent statement by EU MP Neena Gill also reflects the doubt of India’s involvement in the process. Gill, who visited Bhutan before coming to Nepal, had said Bhutanese government was ready to resume bilateral talks with Nepal.

To conclude, India’s involvement would have impact on Bhutanese politics but it is doubtful that India would be positive towards repatriating Bhutanese refugees to their homeland – which it thinks might make its relation with Bhutanese regime cold.
(Nepalnews.com April 04, 2007)

This entry was posted in Opinion on April 5, 2007 by Editor.


New government to take over by July
Thimphu, March 4: Bhutan plans to dissolve the current government by July this year to overtake by the new caretaker government until next year to make preparations for the elections.

The election commission has set July as the deadlines for registration of the parties. Government hopes that by July all serving ministers would resing to register their parties with the election commission. But those ministers who do not resign will continue to serve, however, not allowed to join the political parties.

The current National Assembly will be dissolved after the coming 87th session in June. The house is never dissolved or reformatted since its inception in 1953.

The new government will continue to function ad hoc until the formation of interim government to be led by chief justice three months before holding the general elections.

In another turnover, the members of the National Assembly will no more be called Chimis once it is dissolved.

The members of the new National Assembly or the lower house, to be constituted after 2008 election, will be called Thuemis or representatives from the constituencies. There will be 47 Thuemis.
By Sangay Oendrey

This entry was posted in Main News on April 5, 2007 by Editor.


PM calls for wider economic cooperation
New Delhi, April 03: Prime Minister Lynpo Khandu Wangchuk made a strong case for implementation of SAFTA to boost intra-SAARC trade and advocated a “well coordinated” approach to tackle terrorism, drug trafficking and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the 14th SAARC summit here on Tuesday, Prime Minister Wangchuk drew attention of the member countries towards resource scarcity in implementing the SAARC Development Goals.

Stating that achieving SAARC Development Goals was challenging, Wangchuk stated a major problem faced by the countries was the availability of funds and way favored operationalization of a SAARC Development Fund for regional projects.

He highlighted the importance of enhancing regional trade in the region and that signing of SAFTA would be a boost to intra-SAARC trade.

“Economic cooperation lies at the heart of successful regional cooperation,” he said. He further said implementation of SATFA and liberalization of trade should be taken up at the earnest.

Wangchuk underscored the need for a “well- coordinated approach” and strengthening of efforts to tackle evils like terrorism, drug trafficking and the spread of HIV/AIDS and for generation of energy to boost social and economic growth in the region.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 4, 2007 by Editor.


PM discusses issue of exiled Bhutanese with Nepalese PM
New Delhi, April 04: Prime Minister Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk held discussion with his Nepalese counterpart Girija Prasad Koirala at the sideline of the ongoing 14th summit of the SAARC in Indian capital of New Delhi on Wednesday morning.

Their discussion mainly focused on the issue of exiled Bhutanese along with some other agendas of bilateral relations.

PM Wangchuk expressed willingness to resume the talks with Nepal and verification of the exiled Bhuatense. Nepali Prime Minister Koirala urged to resolve the issue at the earliest.

Wangchuk said that the Bhutanese government is positive towards resolving the problem. He also assured of resumption of the ministerial level talks between both the countries to resolve the impasse.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 4, 2007 by Editor.

Indian Solidarity (RESOLUTION)
1. The meeting expressed deep concern on the deteriorating situation of the Bhutanese refugees in the camps and the difficulties that are appearing for their return to their place in Bhutan. The most disappointing fact is that whenever the refugees tried to return to Bhutan, Indian security personnel stopped them in the Indian territory, put them in buses and lorries and jailed them. The meeting appeals different political parties, human rights and social organizations and intellectuals that all work for repatriation of refugees to Bhutan with dignity and honor.

2. The Bhutanese people who have been thrown out from the country have tried time and again to return to Bhutan with the slogan for the establishment of human rights and democracy in Bhutan. These people were arrested, put them in lorries and dumped at the Indo-Nepal border Pani Tanki. The Government of India continues to maintain that this is the problem between Bhutan and Nepal. But the popular opinion in Nepal, India and Bhutan is that unless India takes an active interest in the resolution of this problem, the refugee problem will remain unsolved. The meeting unanimously concurs that it is not a bilateral issue but it is a trilateral one: India’s involvement is indispensable in the resolution of the problem.

3. For the last 16 years, Bhutanese refugees had been undertaking peaceful programs for their return to Bhutan. But day-by-day, the situation in the camp is deteriorating. The unemployed youths in the camps are getting attracted slowly towards violent struggle. Unless government of India takes appropriate step to solve this problem, it would be difficult to stop this region being submerged in militancy.

4.This meeting disagrees with the proposal floated by America to resettle these refugees in third countries because this will weaken the voice of Bhutanese people to establish human rights and democracy in Bhutan. This meeting appeals to the international community, instead of resettling the Bhutanese people elsewhere, there should be a coordinated effort to send these refugees back to Bhutan with honor and dignity. This meeting appeals to the different countries of the SAARC region to help resolve this problem of Bhutanese refugees through peaceful means.

5. The king of Bhutan has declared establishment of constitutional monarchy and it is in the process of conducting ‘democratic’ election. The king has declared illegal Bhutan Peoples Party, Bhutan National Democratic Party and Druk National Congress, which had been fighting for a long period of time for a political change in Bhutan. In addition, the king hasn’t mentioned anything about in the resolution of refugee problem. This meeting concurs that the democratic election process in Bhutan is only an eye-wash to the international community, and any election excluding almost one-seventh of the country’s population cannot be called democratic by any means.

6. Respecting the aspirations of the representatives of Bhutanese community, the representatives of different political parties of India, human rights organizations, intellectuals and the members of civil society appeal that the Bhutanese refugees community be allowed to open up a office in Delhi so that all those people who are in favor of providing support and solidarity for the establishment of human rights and democracy in Bhutan could provide helping hand freely, without fear and intimidation, as observed in the case of Nepalese community residing in India.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 4, 2007 by Editor.

Nepalese leaders seek Indian support
New Delhi, April 02: In his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Dr Man Mohan Singh on Monday morning, Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala sought assistance from Indian government to find solution of the exiled Bhutanese.

Among other things, Koirala urged Indian government to help find solution of the crisis since holds important position in this issue.

His request comes after Bhutan failed to comply with the agreements reached with Nepal in several round of bilateral talks. Bhutan denied sitting for bilateral talks with Nepal for several years intending to extend the problem further.

On Sunday evening, newly appointed foreign minister of Nepal Sahana Pradhan also held discussion with Prime Minister Khandu Wangchuk, who also holds the portfolio of foreign minister and urged to begin the repatriation process of the exiled Bhutanese living in Nepal for the last 17 years.

Koirala is also scheduled to meet Wangchuk at the sidelines of the summit and discuss bilateral issues including measures to be taken for finding solution of the exiled Bhutanese issue.

In recent days, Bhutan has been facing greater pressure from the Indian leaders including those of the ruling Congress (I).

This entry was posted in Main News on April 2, 2007 by Editor.

PM leaves for the SAARC Summit
Thimphu, April 02: Prime Minister Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk flew to New Delhi on Sunday morning leading the Bhutan delegation to the 14th SAARC Summit.

The summit is due to begin on Tuesday.

Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering, the Minister of Labour and Human Resources and senior government officials, accompany Wangchuk.

Army officials, Paro Dzongkhag officials, other senior government officials, Bangladeshi Ambassador and Indian officials from the Indian embassy were present at the Paro International Airport to see off the delegates.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 2, 2007 by Editor.

Druk Air makes emergency landing Kolkata
Siliguri, April 01: A flight of Druk Air on way to Paro from Bangkok with about 90 people on board made a emergency landing in Kolkata on Sunday after a fire alarm that later turned out to be false.

Airport officials said the pilot contacted the Air Traffic Control at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkakta for permission to land and arrangements were made for an emergency landing. The plance made a normal landing.

After examination of the aircraft by engineers at the airport, the fire alarm was found to be false and the plane took off for Paro at 1:15 p.m.

This entry was posted in Main News on April 1, 2007 by Editor.

Don’t worry, be happy … or not (REPRODUCTION)
By Lynda Hurst

“I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Believe me, rich is better.”
– Mae West, Gertrude Stein and sundry others
Yes, well, no argument there. It’s better.

But it’s not nirvana.

The age-old assumption that when it comes to money, more equals better, is proving to be just that: an assumption.

Turns out that once people have their basic needs covered, more money can buy more things – luxuries that have morphed into essentials – but not more satisfaction.

An explosion in happiness research has consistently shown for some time now that the link between rising income and rising well-being has broken down. In a host of large-scale, global studies that ask hundreds of thousands of people to assess their lives, happiness rankings haven’t budged in three decades.

Psychologists and social scientists have studied the subject for years, of course, but only in the past decade or so have some economists, only some, begun to sit up and take notice. Was there something useful in this for them?

Leading British economist Richard Layard is among a fast-proliferating group that thinks there is. How else to understand the “paradox at the heart of our lives?” he asks. We have more money, more food, nicer clothes, faster cars, bigger houses, more gadgets, more holidays and, above all, better health, but “as Western societies have got richer, their people have become no happier.”

Conventional economists – practitioners of the so-called “dismal science” – regard economic growth as the ultimate objective of human society. They’re interested in what people do, or do without, not what they say. Squishy concepts like happiness don’t come into it.

The happiness challengers counter that progress takes place only when material and quality-of-life gains occur side by side. Standard economic indexes routinely mask signs of national ill health, they argue. A high divorce rate, for instance, is good for the GDP because it generates legal bills and second households, but it has massive negative consequences on individuals and society.

What people have to say about their lives is vital for the whole picture to emerge.

Given a chance, the melding of happiness research into economic theory could help governments shape policies and programs that truly benefit their citizens. Well, at least, cheer people up a bit. Or so the thinking goes.

Layard, a policy adviser to U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, is already calling happiness economics a “new science.” Others say it’s neither new nor a science.

Economist John Crispo groans at the mere mention of it.

“Economics is vague enough as it is,” says the former dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business. “How on earth do you measure happiness? What happens if you do? I’m unhappy about taxes – what are you going to do about it?”

Crispo thinks the traditional indicator of rising incomes is still the best way of assessing well-being: “Don’t tell me people at the bottom wouldn’t feel better if they had a little more income.”

Nobody is. But researchers say the feeling doesn’t last.

Our wants are relative, not to some absolute measure but to what other people have. “Status anxiety,” envy and one-upmanship all run deep in the human psyche, and the bounty of the free market caters to them all. Coveting and acquiring things once seen as frills but now necessities keeps us on an endless treadmill.

But if Western governments ever decide to attempt to maximize citizens’ happiness, they’ll first have to figure out what, exactly, it is. Good luck, says U of T philosopher Mark Kingwell.

“No economic measures can fully grasp the fullness of what happiness means, because happiness is a contestable concept,” he says. “And that contest is philosophical, not economic.”

But as Kingwell wryly noted in his 1998 book Better Living, “engaging in arguments about happiness is one of the key forms of human happiness.”

Just as well, because there are arguments aplenty. Researchers can’t even (yet) explain some of their findings. To wit, the “chicken-and-egg” question: happy people tend to earn higher incomes, but is it because they’re better workers or do they work better because they’re happy?

“It’s unresolved because we’d need to collect data from the same people over a period of time to answer it, and that’s expensive,” says Carol Graham, co-director of the Centre on Social and Economic Dynamics at Washington’s Brookings Institution.

Graham’s publisher wanted her to ditch the word “happiness” from the title of her 2002 book, Happiness and Hardship, because it sounded too lightweight. Today, Graham points out with a laugh, books on the topic, and titled as such, are pouring onto the market.

A sampling of what we think we know about happiness, and the pursuit thereof:

It’s now accepted that our genes account for roughly 50 per cent of our predisposition to be happy or unhappy. Also, that we all have an emotional “set point” to which we return after life’s various highs and lows.

It’s called “hedonic adaptation,” and is seen as the explanation for a surprising 1970s study of lottery winners and people who had become paraplegics. Researchers reported that a year after their life-changing event, they had returned to their emotional set point. (The finding has since been deemed exaggerated.)

In an echo of Oscar Wilde’s famous maxim, “It is not enough that I succeed. Others must fail,” research has found that personal gain is far sweeter if it’s denied to others. You get a pay raise, good; your peers do not, better.

It’s called the economics of position. One study of Harvard students and staff found that, given a choice between earning $50,000 a year while other people make $25,000, or earning $100,000 a year while other people get $250,000, the majority select the first option.

In other words, many people would welcome $6 if someone else got $5. But they’d be even happier with $5 if the other guy got $1.

Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert says human beings are the only animals that think about the future, and much of our happiness depends on projecting what will make us happy.

“We treat our future selves as though they were our children,” Gilbert writes in Stumbling On Happiness, “spending most of the hours of most of our days constructing tomorrows that we hope will make them happy.”

But the kids inevitably turn out to be ingrates, complaining of the course taken, and downward we plunge.

Much of what induces well-being is unsurprising: a good marriage, good health, some sort of religious or spiritual faith, involvement in the community and fulfilling, secure work all have impact. Yes, income does bring satisfaction, but only up to a point. There is diminishing return the higher the salary, especially if sacrifices – time with family, time commuting – must be made.

A curious 1985 survey of respondents from the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans and the Masai people of East Africa found almost equal satisfaction reported by both groups, despite the Masai having no electricity or running water and living in dung huts.

“It follows,” wrote the researchers, “that economic development and personal income must not account for the happiness they are so often linked to.”

It follows, said critics, that some studies are apples-and-oranges ludicrous. Skeptics also sniped at an infamous study that found an increase in the frequency of sex brings as much happiness to people as an extra $50,000 in income.

What is perceived to be poverty in one context may not be in another. People high up on the income ladder can see themselves as poor, while those on ground level do not. Why? Different expectations.

In fact, to put your mind at rest, the secret to happiness, according to researchers, is low expectations. Don’t ask for the moon, voyager, when you’ve got the stars.

Last year, Denmark came first, Canada 10th, and Burundi last in a happiness survey of 178 countries over 10 years. The headlines in Denmark noted: “We’re the happiest … lige nu.” That translates as “just now, for the time being, but probably not for long.”

A British Medical Journal report theorized that this attitude explains Denmark’s contentment: “… Danes have consistently low (and indubitably realistic) expectations for the year to come. Year after year, they are pleasantly surprised to find that not everything is getting more rotten in the state of Denmark.”

The newly independent 13 colonies of America originally declared that “life, liberty and property” were inalienable rights. Thomas Jefferson substituted “the pursuit of happiness” for property. The pursuit.

Since 1972, the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has been trying to replace the GDP with the GNH, Gross National Happiness. Material well-being is only one component of well-being, it explained. “That doesn’t ensure that you’re at peace with your environment and in harmony with each other.”

Sounds good. But as public policy, has it created peace and harmony?

In 1990, Bhutan expelled 100,000 people because they weren’t ethnically indigenous, a move that would have cut deeply into the traditional GDP. But Bhutan insists the happiness levels of its people haven’t been affected. The remaining people, that is.

Should other governments be emulating Bhutan (minus the mass expulsions)?

In Britain, surveys show the proportion of “very happy” people has fallen to 36 per cent in 2006 from 52 per cent in 1957. As a consequence, the Blair government has taken a series of internal runs at the morale issue at the urging of Richard Layard, concluding in an early report that there is “a case for state intervention to boost life satisfaction.”

The latest report’s lead author, economist Paul Dolan, has warned, however, that extrapolating practical policy from available research could be a dicey proposition. As he said in a recent interview: “It’s shown that married people are happier, so what does that mean for politics? Does it follow that we should be encouraging people to marry?”

Dolan’s next assignment is to draw up a reliable “happiness unit” to measure SWB, subjective well-being. But he may be having doubts about the implications of it all: “Is this the realm of politics … or something that should be left to individual choice?”

The Economist was ready with its answer: “Capitalism can make a society rich and keep it free. Don’t ask it to make you happy as well.”

Will Wilkinson, a policy analyst with the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, comes squarely down in the leave-people-alone camp. He is concerned about the political uses of happiness research, and thinks it smacks of big-government intrusion on private lives.

He also believes that much of the research is “ideologically driven” by those who are “unfriendly to markets … The data is distorted and has been wildly overplayed. Some even say that economic growth makes people worse off. It’s insane to say that.”

But don’t get him wrong. It’s good that number-crunching economists are paying more heed to what people say, not just what they do.

“The problem is that the whole field is in a stage of transition. These economists are interpreting the research in a simplistic way. They don’t understand psychology.”

But they may be starting to understand how happiness works – by the numbers.

(Toronto Star, April 1, 2007)

This entry was posted in Main News on April 1, 2007 by Editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *