Status of human rights in Bhutan

The Bhutan Watch has launched its fourth edition of the Status of Human Rights in Bhutan. The annual report chronicles the incidences of human rights violations in the country between 1 January and 31 December 2021.  

The human rights situation in Bhutan is back to its pre-1990 silenced normalcy. The Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) after the successful eviction of its political opponents assisted by the Indian and other international governments, is back to its usual business of concealing the truth and realities of excessive abuses and passing the government’s version of serene peace and silence to the world outside. Political prisoners demanding political change continue to be treated as ‘anti-national’ even after so-called pollical reforms.

The family members separated for decades are tiredly waiting for a reunion. The RGoB has been dumping appeals and requests for a reunion as unnecessary.

The government has sealed the border with India indefinitely and the border guards decide who can cross the border and for how long. The costs of buying imported goods have soared and the selling price of local produces has plunged to a minimum. The RGoB has let loose Desuung- the orange army formed to round up civilians in the guise of defense personnel continuing their vigilante duties. 

Many government officers are dragged to court on personal grudges, charged with violation of the unbailable National Security Act- 1992, and put behind bars. The king has formed a military cum vocational training organisation and has made it mandatory for the unemployed and out-of-college youth.

There are periodic elections, but the higher authorities depute those candidates. They sideline volunteer candidates by declining their security clearances or by labeling them with allegations. Only people who have received royal favours can form and lead political parties- an effective method through which they control the political parties. 

The members of royal families lead all social and rights organisations in the country that are supposed to campaign for rights and justice. Their existence has little benefit to the common citizens.

All media are under the Royal Media Foundation which determines their freedom of expression, content, subsidies and share over advertisements. The freedom of speech and expression exists only in the golden words in the Constitution of Bhutan 2008.

Our latest report covers the incidents of human rights violations between 1 January and 31 December of 2021.

A high-profile case involving the supreme court justice dominated the news outlets of the country for the majority of the year. The personal collusion between a lady and army chief was tagged as mutiny and criminal conspiracy. Where females are treated as incompetent compared to their male counterparts, sentencing a lady on charge of mutiny is contentious.

On political front, the governing party DNT has gradually cornered the opposition DPT with likely intention to kill it by next election, scheduled for 2023. Since anti-king sentiments outpoured at the party’s gathering after 2013 election, palace has taken calculated steps to finish DPT at any costs. Other parties have become the instruments. 

Political participation of women and other minority communities remain very low due to lack of government initiatives for positive outcomes.

Women and girl children continue to face the wrath of masculinity – sexual abuses and rapes. Safety of girls is at risk. There are no government interventions despite the seriousness of the issue. Safety of women and girls is not the priority of any successive governments. The solution is focused on jail term for perpetrators where possible – rather than seeking long term solution through women empowerment and social awareness through education. 

The government-imposed restriction in the disguise of controlling COVID 19 challenged the general life and treating citizens like criminals for minor violation of orders has questioned the very tenets of humanity in Bhutan.

Unemployment has increased. Failure of the government to create employment opportunities provided good grounds for palace to take advantage and present itself as the rescuer of unemployed new generation. The initiative from palace ‘Gyalsung’ has overtaken the constitutional mandate of an elected government. It may create some jobs, but it will undermine the authenticity of the elected government, question the ceremonial role of monarchy and ultimately people’s faith on democracy.

In this dark age of human rights violation, when the RGoB tightly seals realities and shares the government’s versions of clean records internationally, The Bhutan Watch has come forward, picked up the issue, and drilled peepholes to view at the alarming human rights violations inside the country. 

The Bhutan Watch has called for:

•          The immediate release of all the political prisoners from jails in Bhutan and their rehabilitation in their original homes (six out of 55 were released recently).

•          The restoration of government-revoked citizenship identity cards to the people living in the country.

•          The end of gender-based violence and pave a way to end all forms of discrimination

•          Early repatriation of the Bhutanese refugees and their children from the refugee camps based in Nepal and from exile, and recognition of the political parties functioning in exile for contesting elections there. 

•          The reunion of the separated family members and the creation of an environment for harmonious coexistence among and between the people within Bhutan and the world.

Leave a Reply

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