Magazine article New Internationalist

Crisis, What Crisis? Bhutan's King Turns a Blind Eye on the Human Disaster of His Making

Magazine article New Internationalist

Crisis, What Crisis? Bhutan's King Turns a Blind Eye on the Human Disaster of His Making

Article excerpt

Crisis... what crisis?

Bhutan's king turns a blind eye on the human disaster of his making

I CAN'T just sit in a camp doing nothing,' says 25 - year - old Chet Nath Timsina, one of 88,000 Bhutanese refugees living in exile in Nepal. 'I think I shall have to participate in the next march.'

He is referring to the latest strategy by refugees to draw attention to their plight by walking from exile in Nepal, through India, and back to their homeland - the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Their ultimate goal is a face - to - face meeting with the country's despot and absolute monarch, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

What the Bhutanese want is simple: to be allowed to return home and to be assured that they will have full human rights once there. Since 1988 a sixth of the population has been expelled from their country under the 1985 Bhutan Citizenship Act which revoked the citizenship of tens of thousands of Bhutanese. Most come from the fertile south and are Hindus of Nepali ethnic origin. The king is a Buddhist and of Tibetan ethnic origin. Over 50 per cent of Bhutanese are of Nepali ethnic origin and so if the expulsion continues - and there is no sign of it abating - that will mean an awful lot more refugees pouring over the borders.

Timsina's story is fairly typical. His family - farmers in the South - were expelled in 1992 after his father was forced to sign a 'migration' document. Human - rights abuses were rife in the region when they left. 'People in our village were very much afraid. Girls and women were being raped by Government soldiers who had occupied schools and other buildings. Homes were destroyed.'

Timsina's family had been in trouble with the authorities since his parents took part in an anti - Government protest a few years earlier. As a result his brother, though a trained agronomist, was blocked in his attempts to get a job. …

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