Rizal calls SAARC leaders to include refugee issue in agenda

Tek Nath Rizal. Photo: bhutandnc.com
Tek Nath Rizal. Photo: bhutandnc.com

Prominent Bhutanese human rights leader Tek Nath Rizal has urged the government and state heads of the South Asia to include the issue of Bhutanese refugees into the SAARC Summit agenda.

His call comes on the eve of the summit of the SAARC scheduled for this month in Kathmandu, Nepal.

“We have experienced reforms in many sectors after the establishment of SAARC but we have been troubled due to the lack of uniformity among SAARC nations concerning the protection of human rights and democracy,” he said in a letter sent to the SAARC leaders and observer nations of attending the summit.

Rizal said, the minority community in Bhutan has been victimised on account of religion, culture and language and that the world is witness to this gross violation of the basic human right of citizenship.

“More than 100,000 people were driven out from Bhutan, their land confiscated by a regime that had adopted a racist policy towards its minority. While some of my inmates are still languishing in jails under false allegations, many others have now taken refuge in the US and Europe after being resettled from refugee camps in Nepal,” the letter reads.

“It is a matter of concern and great shame to the people of this region that the Bhutanese refugee problem of the last 24 years has not been resolved and we haven’t got closer. The relevance of SAARC would be justified had the commitment been made that the structure of our ruling system would respect human rights and democracy.”

“This SAARC Summit is the third to be held in Nepal where the Bhutanese refugees have been living in camps, waiting for justice. It has been our misfortune that our problems neither got space for discussion at SAARC in the past, nor were any resolutions passed to this effect.”

“In the absence of bilateral negotiations between Nepal and Bhutan, on the other hand, the Bhutan regime has not only enslaved its own citizens but also incarcerated and detained them for the past 30 years, and has excluded them from the electoral rolls.”

“Bhutan’s Lhotsampa and Sarchokpa Communities have faced injustice, exploitation, and the sabotage of civil rights. I would also like to seek your assistance in ensuring democracy, independent judiciary and protection of human rights in Bhutan.”

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