Druk National Congress of Bhutan
Restricted for Private Circulation Only
May - August, 2012
Druk National Congress celebrated its 18th Foundation Day
The members of Druk National Congress celebrated its 18th Foundation day on 16th June, 2012 at Kathmandu. The Party was founded on 16th June, 1994. The customary sujadesi was served. Coinciding with the auspicious day, an anthology of poems written by late Rongthong Kunley Dorji, founding President of Party, reflecting the despair, hope and promise of Bhutanese democratic struggle in book form, was released on the day by the Chief Guest, Mr. Tek Nath Rizal, prominent Bhutanese leader.
Mr. Tek Nath Rizal wished DNC all the success in its struggle to established genuine democracy in Bhutan. He said he would extend all help and assistance required to DNC for working towards making Bhutan a peaceful, sovereign and prosperous nation, where all its citizens are free and happy.
Kesang Lhendup, President of the Party, reminded the members and friends present during the celebration programme, that members must work hard to establish inclusive democracy in Bhutan, and every one of us should consolidate on the democratic gains that had been made thus far.
He urged the democrats inside Bhutan to continue to work hard and
contribute towards strengthening the democratic institutions in Bhutan.
Bhutanese Movement Steering Committee dissolved
The Bhutanese Movement Steering Committee was dissolved on 13th June, 2012. The NFD-Bhutan and BRRRC constituent members announced this through press release.
Mr. Tek Nath Rizal, the Chairman felt that the dissolution has brought him relief of a heavy responsibility. He was shackled with the position and was unable to discharge his duties as envisioned during the inception. In spite of this, he said his commitment for the cause of human rights and democracy in Bhutan would not lessen. He vowed to continue to struggle to seek justice for the Bhutanese population in general.
BMSC was formed on 16th February, 2006. The Constituent member of
BMSC includes, NFD-Bhutan, (National Front for democracy in Bhutan)
, PFHRB (Peoples Forum for Human Rights Bhutan), Drukyul Forum for
Human Rights (DFHR), Bhutanese Refugee Representative Repatriation
Committee, (BRRRC) National Assembly members (NAM,Bhutan), Students
Union of Bhutan (SUB) and Women Organization of Bhutan (WOB).
India must play a proactive role in Bhutanese refugee issues
Majority of speakers stressed that India must play a proactive role in the resolution of the Bhutanese refugee issue. The symposium, titled “Bhutanese Refugees - the tragic story of forgotten people” was held on 14th July, 2012 at New Delhi and organized by the Human Rights Defenders International, to address the plight of over hundred thousand Bhutanese refugees stationed at eastern Nepal.
Prof. Anand Kumar, President of Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society explained the plight of Bhutanese Refugees and condemned the mockery of democracy being practiced by the King of Bhutan. He strongly demanded that the Government of India play a proactive role to solve this problem.
Dr. Bhampa Rai, Chairman of Bhutan Refugees Repatriation Committee, stated that Bhutanese refugees sheltered at eastern Nepal were genuine Bhutanese, contrary to what the regime in Thimphu states. He appealed to the Indian people and the Indian Government to take strong initiatives to help repatriation of Bhutan refugees back to their original homes in Bhutan, and to arrest the social and political instability in the region. Other speakers from the Bhutanese delegation reiterated the need to find a just and durable solution.
The religious persecution suffered by the Sharchops - inhabitants of eastern Bhutanese, who practice Nyingmapa tradition Buddhism, also participated in the symposium.
Among the speakers were Dr. Inder Mohan Kapahi, the Vice-President
of HRDI, Mr. K. N. Adhikari, Charge’ d’ Affaires, Embassy
of Nepal, New Delhi, Mr. Gopal Aggarwal, noted economist, Tarun Vijay,
Member of Parliament of India, Mr. Anil Arya, President Arya Samaj,
Mr. O. P. Gupta, Former Ambassador and Diaspora expert, Dr. M. Mahalingam,
Research Fellow, Centre for Policy Analysis and Mr. S. Sital, Chairman,
Global Human Rights Defense, Hague, Netherlands.
The Bhutanese Prime Minister Mr. Jigmi Y. Thinley met his counterpart,
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, on 21st June 2012, at the sidelines of
United Nation Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil.
It is the first and historical meeting of the heads of the two governments
from these two neighbouring countries.
The establishment of diplomatic ties between Thimphu and Beijing received prominent coverage in the Indian media and raised the eyebrows among Bhutan watchers.
The 20th round of border talks between two countries held in August
didn’t conclude the border dispute and demarcation. Bhutan and
India are two countries that have not settled the border issue with
Journalists in Bhutan are accusing the Druk Phuentsum Tshogpa Government of targeting and victimizing newspapers that are critical of the government. The Government has stopped issuing advertisements to the papers as a result of which media houses are on brink of closure. The government advertisements make up more than 80% of newspaper’s revenues.
Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) on April 2 had issued a circular stamped "Confidential" in red, directing all MoIC departments not to provide any advertisements, announcements, notifications, circulars, etc to Bhutanese newspapers that had carried out several critical stories of the government.
The Government-owned Kuensel and Bhutan Broadcasting
service continues to receive financial support from Government, including
Militant kills Soldier
A Bhutanese soldier was killed and another injured on 24th June, 2010 by unknown militants at the Army outpost in Gawaithang in the south central border district of Sarpang.
The soldier retaliated against the militant and recovered a hand-made gun, khanduwa, a green camouflage bag, a small bag that contained gunpowder, torchlights, 18 empty AK-47 shells, and a raincoat.
A new outfit, Bhutan United Socialist Democratic Party (BUSDP), has owned responsibility.
The exile media reported BUSDP owned up responsibility and they said
they are compelled by the circumstances and the adamant stand of the
Government of Bhutan in not resolving the long standing southern Bhutanese
problem, thereby ignoring the repatriation of exiled Bhutanese.
This is the second coordinated attack targeting the Bhutanese security
establishment. The first was on 20 February, 2012 when the army checkpost
at Rinchending, Phuentsholing was bombed and two army personnel were
Historical Wangdiphodrang Dzong destroyed by fire
The Historical 300 years old Wangdi Phodrang Dzong was completely destroyed by fire on 24th June, 2012. The officials suspected the fire must have started from an electric short circuit.
Mr. Kesang Lhendup, president of DNC said, “We are sad to witness the complete destruction of the historic Wangdi Phodrang Dzong. Such an incident is a national tragedy and a huge cultural loss to the country”.
Mr. Tek Nath Rizal, Bhutanese leader said, “Destruction of the Dzong is a historical and cultural loss to Bhutanese people”.
Wangdi Phodrang Dzong is the third oldest Dzong in Bhutan, built
in 1638 by Zhabdrung Nagwang Namgyal, the father of the Nation.
Refugee Registration Process
The Government of Nepal, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, collected registration forms from refugees, who had applied for identity cards, in Jhapa and Morang districts from 14th June, 2012.
The Refugee Coordination Unit official said they are collecting
details of three kinds of refugees - those who are registered as refugees
but remained absent in previous registration processes, those who
only submitted photographs but were not registered, and those who
were not registered at all.
The first ever joint census was carried out in 2006-2007, and over
a hundred thousand received their identity cards.
Need for Reorganizing Ourselves
Already four years have gone by since third country resettlement
of Bhutanese refugees began. They are being resettled in USA, Canada,
Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and other European countries.
I had the opportunities to visit some of the resettled areas and learned
about their hope and concerns.
All these have made them deaf for the call of human rights and democracy in Bhutan. Two decades of squabbling, frustration and living in abject poverty has contributed towards that.
A silver lining in the resettlement option is that the younger generation is focusing in education. Many of our resettled doctors have passed the residency exams and now they are practicing doctors. They are already in the top 2% of the income group category.
The younger lots are taking loans for college education, sitting for qualifying tests for medical, nursing, engineering, and other technical professions. Many of them have already got admission at prestigious centers of higher learning, namely George Tech, Prude University, and George Washington University to name a few. This is a positive indication that the refugees are unlikely perish in foreign lands.
Our tasks at the hands are to keep the issue alive, preserve the history of the last 20 years and start slowly networking to reach to the Bhutanese diaspora. For this the role of Nepal government is important.
Nepal government will have to decide soon how they would treat the Bhutanese refugees who would not seek third country resettlement. Will Nepal government continue to provide space to run our organizations? Will Nepal government continue to issues us travel document without which it would be difficult to establish effective working?
The population that had lived in desperation has reached to lands of opportunities. Some 80,000 plus population is not a small base. With education, their earning power would raise l rise. With income their aspiration will grow. It is a matter of time for the Bhutanese Diaspora to emerge as a force to reckon with in Bhutan as well as in Nepal.
Though the issue of Bhutan and justice to the evicted people would
continue to be the focus of the Bhutanese Diaspora, it cannot also
forget the help that Nepalese people provided at the time of desperation.
So the issue to watch in the future is on how the Bhutanese Diaspora
organize themselves and how would they use their newly acquired affluences
and influences. Nepal’s role is going to be the critical to
channel that energy. The Bhutanese leadership and the government of
Nepal would do better by starting to think more seriously on it.
Zero tolerance against the corruption?
The ruling elite reaped economic benefits when the country adopted liberal approaches to the economy in the late 1990s. The leftover crumbs were given to the middle class. Every Bhutanese was aware of the rampant corruption indulged by the ruling elite and their ilk. The nepotism, favoritism and misuse of power were rampant in past, and there was no one to question the decision of the ruling elite. Whosoever raised their voices were labeled ’Ngolops’ and invited imprisonment, and thus their voices were suppressed. With the advent of exclusive democracy post 2008, the middle class are working vigorously to acquire their share of the pie. The regime has granted slight freedom to the press as a safety valve to release the democratic pressure. The revelations of corruption in land deals by the ruling elite in the media have earned the people’s disgust. Prime Minister, Jigme Thinley, who preaches traditional values of fairness, respect and justice, and many had presume him to be of impeccable reputation, is now seen as a biggest hypocrite, at the aftermath of the revelations of his family members or his own name figuring in scandals after scandal.
Bhutan is a small country and the Constitutional requirement to maintain 60% of Bhutan’s total land under forest cover for all time, meant the land for other economic activity is scarce. The economy is growing at a rate of 6.5% and land price is soaring due to scarcity. Dzongdas and senior officials privy to the development planning, buy lands earmarked for economic activity, or manipulatively transfer government lands in their name, so that they can make huge profits from the sales, once the projects kick off. Former Dzongda Yonton acquiring 10 acre land at Dench is a good example.
In the Gyalposhing land scandal, the then Dzongda, JigmeTshultrim, now Speaker, had arbitrarily allocated lands to Jigme Thinley, Yeshy Zinpa, members of extended Royal Family, and H.H. Je Khenpo, among the elite names. The Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating this scandal. Conviction is very unlikely. Aum Neten Zangmo, Chief of Anti-Corruption Commission, candidly told journalists that when the names of senior officials are involved, the higher up authorities direct her to take it easy. She however didn’t specify who the higher up authorities were, that directed her to take the case slowly. Subsequent to ACC taking up the Gyalposing land scandal, the Parliamentary discussion on the Land Act was postponed since the presiding officer, Speaker Jigme Tshultrum, and Prime Minister Jigme Thinley and several members of his cabinet figured in the scandal. Speaker Jigme Tshultrum had officially informed that he will not contest General election next year.
The Government has acquired 116 acres of rural land at Denchi for the development of a town at Pemagatshal, 6 km from the existing Dzong. The Cabinet under the Jigme Thinley had provided high compensation rates to landowners with the biggest beneficiary being the Prime Minister’ Aunt, Aum Dechen, and former Pemagatshel Dzongda Dasho Yonten. The Government land compensation rules and regulation had set the compensation rate at Nu 3,952.42 per decimal. However, the cabinet directive increased this to Nu 9,000. Aum Dechen has received Nu 21.60million instead of Nu 9.48million. Jigme Thinley defended his decision by saying that increase in the rate was provided as a ‘kidu’ for losing their land. Why is this ‘kidu’ selectively practiced?
In another instance of nepotism and abuse of power by Jigme Thinley,
the land affair of Trowa Theatre in Thimphu City whose owner happens
to be his son-in-law’s father, Mr, Kunley Wangchuck is in the
spot light. He also is the father-in-law to Princess Chime Yangzom
Wangchuck. Over six years, the owner of the theatre had been operating
the theater without paying a penny as rent to Government for 19,500
square feet of land. Instead, the Government was prepared to sell
the land to Mr. Kunley Wangchuk, despite having not paid the rent
to government for over six years, until the National Council intervened
and ordered an inquiry.
In yet another instance, the Bhutan Post Corporation Limited (BPCL) tender for the procurement of 15 city buses has been awarded to Global Traders and Gangjung, a company owned by Prime Minister JigmeThinley’s son-in-law, by violating the procurement rules and regulations.
From the above scandals, it is clear that Prime Minister Jigme Thinley is blatantly abusing his powers and is practicing nepotism. He has willfully violated the oath of secrecy, and the oath of affirmation of office under the Constitution. It is apparent that he has granted undue favour. In a genuine democratic set up, any leader would tender his resignation on moral grounds if they were engulfed in corruption. But in the case of Bhutan, that is unlikely to happen, as we continue to see the Lyonchen Jigme Thinley strong and defiant and continuing in office. One defense he puts up strongly is that he entered into politics to serve the people. There are many able and upright people in Bhutan to serve the country and the people, but they are denied the opportunity. Lyonchen Jigme Thinley is where he is, as he has long been a close confidant of the institution of monarchy.
Prime Minister Jigme Thinley isn’t an exception. Most of the
existing members of his cabinet are also tainted. The Fifth King’s
reign promised to have zero tolerance against corruption. Therefore,
the onus lies with Fifth King whether to let the tainted leaders continue
to occupy the highest decision making post of the State, or allow
them to be eligible to participate in the 2013 general election. After
all, the lever of power continues to lie with the monarchy.
General Election 2013 Outlook
The political landscape is appearing to be different from the General Elections of 2008. The people were raw in electoral politics way back then. Both Druk Phuentsum Tshogpa(DPT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presented the similar manifestos and lot had depended on the leadership than on the parties’ policies. Over four years of DPT governance, the people of Bhutan now know more of party functioning and their working. DPT will go into next year’s election with an anti-incumbency baggage. On the other hand, PDP has done little to impose with their party’s policies. Indulgence of ad hominem opposition to Government by PDP leadership does little to rally the people and present an alternative to the DPT.The Druk Me-Ser Tshogpa, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa, Bhutan Kuen-Ngyam Party and Druk Chirwang Tshogpa, are the new political parties formed to participate in the 2013 General Elections. So far, none of these new parties are registered. Each has not shown any confidence that they will lead the government. They just exhort their policies in bits and pieces, and willingness to become strong opposition party. The dearth of candidates in each party is stopping them from registering their parties with the Election Commission of Bhutan. In the end, four parties might get together to either form two parties or one party to challenge the existing two parties. Exiled political parties, if at all, participate in General election of 2013, will give wide range of scope and choice to the people. Reality is that the Regime in Thimphu is not confident in accommodating the exiled political parties. Druk National Congress however harbours a hope that it will get opportunity to participate the forth coming election.
In 2013 General Elections, DPT will emerge as a winner with reduced mandate than what they achieve in 2008. Mr. Jigme Thinley may lead the Government. Doubts have creeped into the once impeccable leadership reputation of Jigme Thinly, because of his name figuring in various shoddy land deals. If Jigme Thinley relinquish by allowing others to lead the party, in such scenario, Yeshi Zinpa is most likely to lead the party. He enjoys the trust and faith of the Fourth King. Khandu Wangchuck also enjoys the trust and faith of The Fourth king and both are members of the Fourth King’s inner committee, like Jigme Thinley. However, Khandu angchuck’s utter hatred towards exiles, might prove to be his undoing in his bid to claim the top leadership.
This election will also see new faces. Leadership transition is
going to take place. The Fourth King’s men would have reached
the twilight of their career or most of them would have retired because
of age. Naturally, the Fifth King’s men would fill in the vacuum
and take charge of state affairs. But, the Fourth King’s hold
isn’t going to come to abrupt end. He continues to exert influence.
Thus, it will be interesting as both monarchs are going to pitch in
their men. The very first test will be on the status of Mr. Jigme
Thinley and his political career. If he comes back to lead the government
then, it will be evidence that the Fourth King’s influence has
Exclusive Interview With Dr. Bhampa Rai
Dr. Bhampa Rai is the first fellow surgeon in Bhutan. He was born at Bara in Samchi district, and did his elementary education in Bhutan and professional M.B.B.S. course at Gauhati, India, and got his fellowship in surgery from I.P.G.M.R. Dhaka, Bangladesh. He now shares his time as a professional and refugee activist leader. He is the Chairman of the Bhutanese Refugee Representative Repatriation Committee (BRRRC), campaigning for the honorable repatriation of refugees. In view of the ongoing third country resettlement process, he shares his views:
BT: When did you join the service of Bhutan government? What
were your responsibilities in Bhutan and the work experience?
BT: You were one of the senior government servants who had
defied the compulsory wearing of Gho and Kira in Bhutan. What were
BT: You have been the first bureaucrat to leave the country
and join hands with the organizers of 1990’s protest movement.
Do you regret leaving the country then? Would it have made a difference
in the movement if you had remained back in the country and work with
other southern intellectuals to sort out the problems faced by the
BT: Please correct me if I am wrong: Once, you were the General
Secretary of Bhutan People’s Party, General Secretary of Human
Rights Organization of Bhutan, and now chairperson of Bhutanese Refugees
Representative Repatriation Committee (BRRRC). In addition, your connection
with Bhutan National Democratic Party is well known (BNDP). What are
your experiences with all these organizations?
BT: . As a medical doctor you would have made a fortune
in Nepal or elsewhere. What is the motivation to continue to work
in the movement despite almost all of your colleagues have given up
the struggle or passed away during the course of time?
BT: You are one of the critics of third country resettlement program. Why do you oppose it?
Dr. Rai: Still many people consider their motherland as heaven and that is why thousands of people turn martyrs in no time just to protect even an inch of their motherland. But due to intentionally created situation by the people in the power and position thousands ignorant Bhutanese refugees are made to give up their motherland just by opening only last option, third country resettlement at the cost of their nation and nationality. Finding such injustice to their fellow citizen the true nationalistic Bhutanese cannot remain without opposing.
BT: You lived sometime in India, and then entered into Nepal
in the early 1990s. What were your expectations from India and Nepal,
and are you satisfy with their response if you look back the time?
Similarly Our expectation from the government of Nepal, to repatriate us to Bhutan in safety and dignity was shattered when the government of Nepal started failing in every steps. By allowing the GOVT of Bhutan to categorise its citizens on Nepalese soil, by not involving the leaders from the victims, U N H C R, GOVT of India and international community in the talks, the Govt. of Nepal has done injustice to the destitute Bhutanese refugees. As a sovereign country, Nepal it could not even dared to internationalize the Bhutanese refugee issue. GOVT of Nepal did not bother to repatriate those Bhutanese refugee who were proven to be Bhutanese by the Joint Verification team in 2003, instead the GOVT of Nepal reluctantly started issuing permit (Travel Document) for third country resettlement to so called interested Bhutanese refugee, and started sending them to the third country without officially involving the guardian country of those refugees, Bhutan . So, how a nationalistic Bhutanese be satisfied when such decisions are passed by the people in power and position? Those decisions made are totally in favor of the known tyrants, Bhutanese rulers.
BT: You are a well respected medical doctor among the Bhutanese
refugee communities and the local Nepalese. Do you have difficulties
in being a professional in one hand and refugee activist leader on
BT: Nepal is undergoing a major political transformation.
Will that transformation impact the struggle of Bhutanese people for
human rights and democracy? What is the possibility of support from
regional ethnic groups, particularly the Kirat community?
BT: What is your word of advice to Bhutanese people who
have gone abroad and those who have continued to remain behind?
BT: Any additional message you want to convey to Bhutanese