FOREIGN DISCUSSION-“ Experiences In A Refugee Camp In Bhutan”

(3)  (Based on a research done by Emanthi Marambe for Asia Media Forum Fellowship (2009-2010)on Bhutanese refugees reside in Hague, the Netherlands)

“The day was 4th of November 1990.I was in my Home Garden in the early hours of that fateful day when a group of more than 400 Army Officers surrounded my house. One Army Officer said that he had orders to arrest me on the ground that I had worked against the King and on that charge I was to be handed over to the Police .In the meantime a group of Army Officers entered my House to scrutinize the Files they had in their Possession Containing Documents to vouch that I had engaged in activities against the Country. The Army Officers who arrested me kept me in their Custody in their Camp which was once a School near which I carried out a Protest Campaign along with others. I saw all my neighbors in the Army Custody there ” A Bhutanese Refugee Bhupal Gurung said.

Bhupal served a prison term under the Bhutanese Government from  04th of November 1990 to 31st of March 1992.According to Bhupal the only reason why he was arrested by the Army Troops was his participation with his neighbors in a protest rally against the Government.

Bhupal had been manacled since his arrest as he and his colleagues had been kept in the army camp on that day without giving them a drop of Water to drink. On the same day he and five others were summoned kept in a lavatory in the school premises throughout the night bereft of food and water.

In the first half of the 90’s  thousands of Bhutanese like Bhupal , had been arrested and subjected to cruelty for the reason that they had carried out a protest campaign against the Government showing their antipathy towards the deprivation  of their rights and benefits. Out of these “Lhotshampas” people with a Nepalese Origin were the worst affected.

“Although we were confined to a School Lavatory on the  first day, the Army Officers took steps to remove us to a 10th grade Classroom on the following day. Approximately twenty of us in number were bundled into this Classroom without any Cloths to wear.
On the fourth day the Army Captain summoned me and read charges against me  for working against the King. Since I was innocent I refused the Charges leveled against me at which the Army Captain  threatened to shoot me. The Army Captain continued to question me for conspiring against the King in the course of which he held the Gun at me several times”

According to Bhupal he was not aware of the Charge of revolting against the King. Finally as a measure of getting some relief in the face of intimidation and threats leveled against him by the Army Captain ,Bhupal had accepted the Charge in the belief that he would be acquitted so that  he could go back and serve his people. Unfortunately he was not released as expected by Bhupal. Instead he had been forced to declare every day that he had revolted against the King. Added to this the Army Chief had engaged troops to threaten and subject him to various kinds of harmful activities.

“In the Nights the Army Captain used to attack me and this Inhuman Attack continued for approximately two months, as a consequence of which I lost my senses. Even now I cannot recollect my bad experiences I had to encounter whilst in Prison”.

After two months, the Bhutanese King had visited the  Prison where Bhupal and others had been confined. Although he had not directly made inquiries from the Prisoners, he had questioned the Army Captain in “Dzongkha” the language used in Bhutan. The King had asked the Army Captain a few questions like when and where did you arrest   these people and what was  the Crime  committed by  them?. After the King’s visit 100 prisoners including Bhupal had been transferred to a Centre in the City of “Serbung “ where Bhupal had to spend 13 Months in detention.

Bhupal says “I spent 15 Months in Prison and at the beginning of the 16 month detention ,the Superintendent in charge of the Prison summoned me and threatened me to accept all the charges framed against me. But I refused to accept them. Then he gave me a file of Papers to place my Signature. Since it was written in the “Dzongkha” language which I could not understand, the Superintendent  told me that if I accept the charges against me that I would be freed.

The Superintendent continued to harass me ,attack me and insisted that I would be kept in the prison for a further period.

Since I could not tolerate any further this harassment meted out to me,I agreed to Sign their letter. Thereafter they freed me and when I went Home I learn t that my Family Members had been ordered to Leave the Country.

Then I made a request to the Supervisor of the District where I lived earlier to give me an Opportunity to Continue to live in Bhutan, which was rejected by the Supervisor. The Officers said that if I were to continue in Bhutan I would be arrested and Imprisoned. Since it became clear that I would not get a chance of living in my own country (Bhutan),I finally decided to leave Bhutan”.

According to Bhupal the fate of all the Bhutanese who had been compelled to leave Bhutan  had been the same.

Now Bhupal who is a Refugee reside in Netherlands is Paralytic and suffers from loss of Appetite and weakness due to Harassment's and blows he received whilst an Inmate of the Prison in Bhutan. The 47 year old Bhupal who still receives  medicine for various complications caused as  a consequence of blows and various other harassment's he received in his Homeland ,is unable to do any heavy work .

Like Bhupal more than  122 other Bhutanese Refugees who have been re settled in several cities of Netherlands Under the Re Settlement Programme of Bhutanese Refugee implemented by the United Nations High Commission For Refugees(UNHCR).

(Special Thanks to UNHCR)

(2)  (This Article is based on a research done by Emanthi Marambe on Bhutanese Refugees for the Asia Media Forum Fellowship -2009-2010)

The Eight Year old  Bhutanese Sita Budhathoki spent the past several  years in a Refugee Camp in the Eastern Nepal region. Like her the 91,000 Bhutanese Living in exile as a consequence of the ethnic conflict prevailing in  Bhutan for the past 20 years have been able to breathe a sigh of relief as they see that the doors are open for their freedom.

In view of the fact that these Refugees who have been exiled  from their motherland have not been afforded an opportunity to return to Bhutan as they have agreed to settle down in other Countries.As a Consequence the United Nations High Commission For Refugees(UNHCR) has implemented a Programme  for  Re Settling these Refugees in Seven Other Countries.

Under this Re Settlement Programme Eight Year old Sita is the 20,000th  Bhutanese Refugee  to be Re Settled in a Foreign Country. Accordingly ,Sita,her parents and the other members of her Family are scheduled to be Re Settled in the United States Of America. Sita is full of hopes of Re Settling in a New Country .Although she is Very Happy of moving to United States, She is unhappy of leaving behind her School Friends with whom she had associated for quite some time.

“I feel extremely sorry  to leave behind all my School Friends. I am the only child from my school who got an Opportunity to go for Residence in a Foreign Country. I like if some of my Class Mates or all  my Class Mates are coming to my new country.”She stressed. But Sita’s Father Krishna is Optimistic about the Opportunity afforded to  Re Start a new life in a Foreign Country. He has decided to Re Settle in a New Country taking into consideration  the future of their three children.”I don’t want to see my children spend their lives in a Refugee Camp. What I want is to give them a good education and see that they lead happy lives in the future” says Krishna.

Sita and her family members are being assigned the Des Moinus City to live which is in the State of Iowa in United States Of America. They have been brought to Kathmandu which is the Capital of Nepal from Camp-2 of Beldangi in Eastern Nepal where they lived, by the International Organization of Migration(IOM). They are scheduled to face a Medical Test and a Short  Educational  Programme in Kathmandu prior to leaving  for America.

Already Sita’s Grand Parents and the Paternal Aunt are living in the Iowa State. They left Nepal for Re Settlement in February this year. Sita’s Father Krishna says that he is in constant touch with his family mentors who have already settled down in America.

Like Sita other Bhutanese Refugees numbering 78,000 who have spent half of their lives in Refugee Camps in Nepal have agreed for Re Settlement in other Countries. They have reached that decision in view of the fact that Bhutanese Authorities have not taken any steps to take them back to Bhutan.
Although a Majority of the People are aware of the  existence of Bhutan, they are not aware of the existence of Bhutanese Refugees who have spent nearly 20 years in Nepal and now leaving Nepal for Re Settlement in Other Countries. However The Second largest Refugee Re Settlement Programme undertaken by the United Nations High Commission For Refugees(UNHCR) is the Re Settlement of Bhutanese Refugees.

 How did the Bhutanese Refugees became Refugees in their own Country Bhutan?The Majority of Bhutanese Refugees in Nepal are known as “Lhotshampas”or Southern Bhutanese. These “Lhotshampas” are Nepali Origin and speak the Nepali Language. Out of the three Ethnic Groups in Bhutan ,the only group that speaks  the Nepali Language  is the “Lhotshampas”.

By the year 1930,this group which was living in Southern Bhutan consisted of Approximately 60,000 People. Under the first Citizenship Act approved by the Bhutanese Government in the year 1958,the “Lhotshampas”People who were not entitled to any Privileges  got their Full Citizenship Status. The highly developed Agriculture which contributed to the Development of Bhutan  was in the Southern Bhutan  where the “Lhotshampas” were living.With the Social,Economic and Educational Development in Bhutan as witnessed in the decade 1960-1970,”Lhotshampas”commenced to occupy higher positions in the Government.

The Bhutanese Authorities who considered this as a threat to the existing Political Situation in the Country ,Re-Introduced a Citizenship Act in 1985 and ordered that all the Sothern Bhutanese should produce acceptable Documents under the said Act to certify their legal residence. Furthermore it decreed that all the Bhutanese should wear the Apparel Dressed by the Northern Bhutanese and took steps to delete the Nepali Language from the School Curriculum .This became a Great Blow to the “Lhotshampas” who are Nepali Origin. Especially the decree made that those who violate those Regulations do not belong to the Country make things worse.

This Resulted in the Organization of a series of protest campaigns by “Lhotshampas” against those decisions. The participants of the protest campaigns were treated as “Non Nationals”. Thousands of “Lhotshampas” were Imprisoned and more than Two Thousand were attacked. Due to the Pressure of the Amnesty International and International Human Rights Commission those Imprisoned had been released. But by the time they returned to their Villages, they noticed that their dwellings had been destroyed and their relations had fled the Country.

In the first instance “Lhotshampas”fled to India but since the Indian Authorities refused to open up Camps for the Refugees ,they commenced migrating to the South East Nepal. Thus  the Nepali Authorities accepted these people of Nepali Origin to their Country  and By the year 1990 the Bhutanese Refugees who fled  to Nepal stood at Approximately  107,000.The United Nations High Commission For Refugees erected Seven Camps for them.

From then on the Bhutanese Refugees who were in residence in the Camps lived with the hope of going back to their Homeland one day. But even up to now the Bhutanese Government and the King have not made a clear declaration of accepting them to their Country. Despite the fact that the Nepalese Government had discussed this matter with the Bhutanese Government, no signs are visible that these Refugees would be invited back to their Homeland.The Lands belonging to these Refugees in the Southern Bhutan have now fallen in to the hands of Northern Bhutanese.

In this situation, The Bhutanese Refugees in Nepal have expressed their willingness to Migrate to Foreign Country In View of their unwillingness to depend continuously On the Nepali Government and Foreign Organization and in view of the necessity to providing a better future to their Offspring born in the Nepali  Refugee Camps.

The Re Settlement Programme  of Bhutanese Refugees commenced in November-2007.
As at now, USA  has  Re Settled the  largest  number of Bhutanese Refugees in their Country. That is  60,000 Refugees in all. By September 2009 ,USA has completed Re Settling of 17,000 Refugees. By September 2009 action has been taken to Re Settle 846(Australia),674(Canada),299(Norway),294(New Zeeland),172(Denmark) and 122(Netherlands).

Teaching of the English Language to the Bhutanese Refugees who have consented  to Migrate to Foreign Countries is done in the Refugee Camps in Nepal under the auspicious of the United Nations High Commission For Refugees. To day some of the Refugees Re Settled in Foreign Countries have found Employment and have admitted their Children to Schools as well.

A further Batch of  5000 Refugees are  Re Settled in Foreign Countries towards the end of 2009. The intention of the Bhutanese Refugees forcibly driven from their Motherland is to rise from the Depths they are in without the help of anybody.

(1)                                        "The Destiny Of Living As a Refugee In His Own Country Of  Birth"-Experiences Of Bhutanese D.P Mainali-

                                                  (By Emanthi Marambe )

(Based on a research done regarding Bhutanese Refugees In  Den Haag (The Hague),The Netherlands By Emanthi Marambe For Asia Media Forum Fellowships)

"I am quite confident that the most unfortunate incident in the life of an individual is to become a refugee in his own country of birth. One hundred and seven thousand Bhutanese including me had to face that unfortunate experience. That was in the beginning of the year 1990. Then I was 12 years of age. Due to a political problem, a large number of our family members including my maternal uncle and grand-father had been imprisoned by the Bhutan government. Due to threats received my uncle left the country and the state imprisoned my grand-father".

The state of Bhutan summoned my father to the District Office in the Chirang district of Bhutan and having got his signature to certain documents, ordered him to leave the country within 24 hours. My father had to obey the orders issued as he was aware of the grave consequences that would have been ensued had the orders been not complied with. Hence we left Bhutan on the following night at 12 o'clock leaving behind our house, our properties and the animals we had. After 03 long days we reached the Maidhar city in  Jhapa Nepal. Thereafter we learn t that our house had been burnt and all our valuable things burgled.  My parents, I, My two maternal aunties and the uncle came into possession of only the clothes that we were wearing at the time we left Bhutan.

We were expelled from Bhutan merely due to the fact that we were of Nepalese origin and the state gave us nothing but sorrow. So says D.P Mainali who was reduced to a state of a refugee in his own country. As a consequence D. P. had spent a major part of his childhood and youth in a refugee camp in Nepal.

With the intervention of the Netherland government approximately 122 Bhutan refugees   have now been re-settled in various areas in the Netherlands. Out of those resettled, Tulsa(DP's wife) residing in the city of Hague with D.P.

According to D. P. , at the time they reached Nepal, there had been only a few refugees there.

At the beginning of the year 1991, the state of the refugee camps in Nepal were not hygienically satisfactory. Due to malnutrition, lack of proper medical care, high temperature a large number of Bhutanese children had died in the early part of the year 1991. The refugees were not provided with good food, proper education and toilet facilities.  Those conditions resulted in the deaths of many refugees. Subsequent to several months, with the intervention of the United Nations Refugee commission,  CARITAS Nepal and the  LWS  to provide relief to the Bhutanese refugees, the conditions in the refugee camps commenced showing an improvement. In the first instance these organizations established a very small camp close to the banks of the river Kankai Mai and D. P. said that he spent five months in this camp.

After five months, Bhutan refugees including D. P. had been transferred to the camp in  Beldangi II  . The facilities provided to the refugees in this camp showed an improvement and a school too had been opened up for the children in a foot ball ground in that region. D. P. had been one such student in this school and although a few teachers had been deployed, education became  a difficult task for the children without the necessary books.  Steps had been taken by the authorities to put a few schools for the children in the Bhutan refugee camp, from the year 1992.

" I received my primary and secondary education with the support provided by the CARITAS Nepal says D. P. Since the environment was not conducive, the refugees lived in fear and disgust.

In the face of these obstacles and difficulties, D. P. says that he managed to complete his secondary education with distinctions. In view of the fact that a scholarship had been awarded to D. P. by  CARITAS Nepal he had been able to complete his higher education in  Damak Model Higher Secondary School.

D. P. says that considering the poor status of his family, the CARITAS Nepal  provided assistance to him for his higher education.

In the midst of severe financial difficulties, D. P. had served as a teacher in a high school whilst receiving education in the Amrit Science Campus, Kathmandu .Although it was a challenge to do a job whilst undergoing University education, D. P. says that he faced that challenge successfully. D. P. had completed his science degree in the University in the year 2004 and since there were no job opportunities for him in Nepal, by some unknown luck he had arrived in Netherlands in 7th July 2005.

In Netherlands he faced a severe challenge in the face of the new environment and the language. D. P. says that he studied the Dutch language with the greatest difficulty and now he is a  Chemical Engineering student at The Hague University.

According to D. P. the refusal by the state of Bhutan to take back it's people expelled from the southern Bhutan is a violation of their human rights.

D. P. is puzzled over the failure on the part of the western countries to exert impacts on the state of Bhutan after knowing that the Bhutanese had been expelled from Southern Bhutan without any valid reason.

Although Jigme Sigme  Wangchuck the king of Bhutan who was reigning at the time the Southern Bhutanese including D. P. were expelled from the country is no longer the king, the reigning king, his son too does not appear to take any initiative in re-calling the refugees to Bhutan.

By January last year (2010) 122 Bhutanese expelled from the state of Bhutan lead luxurious lives in Netherlands. But they are extremely sorry for their kinsmen imprisoned in Bhutan and their siblings and parents still leading miserable lives in the refugee camps in Nepal.

D. P. says that when relocating in the western countries the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal, it would be better if the authorities at least take the initiative of re-settled the members of the same family in one country instead of re-locating the family members in different countries. Although D. P. and his wife are living in Netherlands, their parents are re-located in the United States of America.

One of D. P.’s brothers is living in Netherlands with his family . But another brother is still living in a refugee camp in Germany (with out any legal status since last 3 years) . Looking at the Bhutanese like D. P. it would be confirmed that  they are no longer refugees but although expelled from their own country they could be considered as a valuable set of people who are willing to serve the country in which they have been re-located.

“To us who were expelled from our own country merely because of being of Nepalese origin, the state of Bhutan did not give us anything other than sorrow and despair. "So says D. P. Minali who had been expelled from Bhutan as a refugee. D. P. who now lives in Netherlands had spent most of his childhood and youth in a camp in Nepal allocated for  Bhutanese refugees.


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