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April-May 2003


I BFS Celebrates 4th Foundation Day

 The Patrons, Senior Executive Members and well wishers of the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society had gathered at New Delhi on 17 December 2002 to mark the celebrations of its 4th Foundation Day which coincides with the National Day of Bhutan. The IBFS was formed on December 17, 1999 to further strengthen the friendly ties at the peoples level between the people of the two countries.

 Press Release

January 8, 2003

New Delhi

 Druk National Congress (DNC) welcomes the initiative by Bhutanese refugees presently languishing in the seven UNHCR supervised camps in Nepal and in particular by those residing in Khudnabari camp who have sat in an hunger strike from yesterday i.e. January 7, 2003 to pressurize for their repatriation back to Bhutan. The initiative must enjoy support from all quarters of the Bhutanese community and it must continue until the government of Bhutan is forced to come to the negotiating table and concede to the genuine demands of the people. The major international players such as the UN, US and the European Union cannot afford to keep quiet and let this human tragedy where more than 20% of the total population of a country has been made destitutes by a dictatorial regime with a unpluralistic mind set, go unheard. This would be a historical blunder where regimes with a similar ideology would be encouraged to follow suit.

 On realization that the bilateral process between Nepal and Bhutan had almost collapsed the US made a series of initiatives, provided with a formula for categorization and urged the Bhutanese regime to facilitate the process. Thus, the tenth round of talks that followed broke the ice and the two governments started verifying the refugees residing at the Khudnabari camp. Demands for third party involvement or for hastening the process of verification by forming more teams fell into deft ears.  The process, craftily designed by the RGOB was bound to consume too much time yet it was a welcome step!

Initially when the verification started, it was agreed that the two governments would, as soon as the verification would be over, harmonize their positions on each category and immediately start repatriating the refugee back to Bhutan. However, it did not take long to understand the game plan of the RGOB, which abandoned it soon after the tardy process that consumed almost a year to verify just about 12,600 refugees, never to return. The unwillingness on the part of the government of Bhutan to resume the verification and repatriation process is clear from many indicators.

 The King’s recent, National Day speech, addressed to the nation wherein he stressed the urgency of resettling more people from other parts of the country in the lands of the refugees least they would be occupied by the ngolops hinting at refugees. And his views expressed to diplomats and international visitors during the misleading royal audiences that he gives them are revelations enough to understand that he can neither be appeased nor would he repatriate the refugees willingly. United, continuous and concerted efforts by the refugees - launching programmes such as the present one supported by international community alone could bring the King to the negotiating table and might result in repatriation. Drafting constitution and holding elections to the post of village headman are simply dramas by the king in his two-pronged strategy. Firstly, require his sycophants project him as a magnanimous liberal minded king that would tone down international pressure for the misdeeds of his government. Secondly, under the guise of this much-hyped pro-people, magnanimous and democratic image delay the repatriation of the refugee for as long as possible.


(Rongthong Kunley Dorji)


 Pseudo Democracies – A Dangerous Trend

The first draft of the constitution will be ready very soon and it will include the role of the monarch. “It then has to go through consultations with the people and parliament.” said Prime Minister Kinzang Dorji, reads an article captioned BHUTAN’S KING INSISTS ON DEMOCRACY as carried by the Washington Post dated November 23,2002.

  This is a dangerous trend and is bound to rupture the citadel of even the most legitimately established and deeply rooted democracies in the world. What type of democracy will it be, where the monarch will have a role? This is a totally unknown concept and Bhutan as our history reveals, where we do not have even a single political thinker; social analyst or scientist is bound to invent one. Democracy and a vital role for a dictator in the same system – how can they go together? Such trend if not condemned in time would encourage dictatorial mindsets and demolish democracies rather than strengthening them. The best examples are the present Burmese and Pakistani military regimes who after usurping power from legally established democratic governments have given themselves democratic color. 

 Perceptibly, such a trend has encouraged the King of Bhutan who after letting a reign of terror and evicting over 1/5th of the total population is trying to project himself as a clean image by making his “chamchas” air his views in an all encompassing and articulate manner. History of Politics reveals that no dictator would give up his powers willingly and certainly, the King of Bhutan is no exception. He has been projecting himself as a democrat and a liberal minded king only to pervert the fact and hijack democracy, which we would witness very soon. He will never give up his powers and never establish democracy in its true perspective under one or the other pretext to the utter dismay of the present propounder of his genuineness.

 In his address to the Nation on occasion of the National Day of Bhutan, he has very cleverly said that the constitution is not a gift by him to the people as reported to the press by some of his sycophants. Most aptly said, how can it be a gift from the King to the people when over 20% of the total population has been reduced to refugees and a movement for Democratic changes is going on for several years now? To quote His Majesty’s speech relating to the draft constitution and resettlement of landless people:


“In November this year, the constitution drafting committee completed the first draft of our Constitution. I would like all of you to know that the Constitution is not a gift from the King to the people. It is, however, the sacred responsibility of the King, the government and the people of our 20 dzongkhags to bring forth a Constitution that will serve the best interests of our country. I would like to inform you that the drafting committee presented the first draft of the constitution to me about a week back. The Constitution will be finalized in close consultation with our people. I will be studying the draft carefully and we will do our best to ensure that a very good draft constitution is then distributed to the 20 dzongkhags. I will be personally visiting the dzongkhags with the members of the drafting committee to discuss with our people and ensure that your views are incorporated in the draft before it is forwarded to the National Assembly. It is important for the government and the people to work closely together in bringing forth a constitution that will fulfill the aspirations of the Bhutanese people, promote our national interest, safeguard Bhutan’s security and sovereignty, and provide a strong foundation for a political system that is most suitable and beneficial for both the present and future well being of our people and country.”

 As you know, some of our landless people in the north have been resettled on land available in the south. Today, when our country is going through a difficult and challenging period, this should not be a cause for doubts or alarm for anyone so long as the people resettled are genuine citizens of our country. If the land that is available in the south is left fallow and unoccupied, there is a serious danger of them being taken over by the ngolops[i] and the militants from across the border. Looking after and retaining possession of our land and territory, whether in the south or in the north, is of utmost importance for ensuring the security and sovereignty of our country which is the responsibility of every Bhutanese citizen.

The intention of the King as to what type of constitution he would bring out and whether he genuinely intends to repatriate the refugees back to their land in Bhutan is abundantly clear from his speech as quoted above. The constitution is fraught with deficiencies ab initio.. Taking the constitution to the people who are largely illiterate and make them appeal the king that he should not devolve all his powers but remain even above the constitution would be a retrograde step because it is a well known fact that no villager will ever dare to tell the king to abdicate in front of him. All said and done if the king still remains above the constitution after all this exercise, as is apparent, then we are back to square one.

 Allotting the land of the refugees (who the King refers to as ngolops meaning anti-nationals or terrorists) is wholly malafide and designed to pre-empt repatriation of the refugees. There is ample cultivable land elsewhere if the king is genuinely interested in giving to the landless people. When he says the vacant land would be occupied by the ngolops therefore he is distributing it,  he makes his intention clear that he does not intend to resolve the refugee problem and repatriate them back to their original homes.

 It is our concern that if the king is allowed to go scoot free with so much of mischief there are many others who would follow suit which would ultimately lead to the crumbling of the mighty democratic empire that we have toiled so hard to build. Loopholes notwithstanding, so far it has been the most viable form of government that even the king accepts but does not respect. Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji claims to be the Prime Minister of Bhutan but does not know what his exact role is, from where he draws his power and how secure his position is?

 Mr. Karma Ura of the Center for Historical Development another sycophant who it appears has not understood what democracy means is quoted as saying “Bhutan is a substantive democracy. It may not be multiparty democracy, but the substance of democracy is fulfilled.” He talks of Democracy where people would not be allowed to form groups or associations to express their views and represent them in matters bearing their wishes. He talks of a democracy without opposition that sounds ridiculous. The essence of democracy is an active role of the opposition in the parliament, which acts as a safeguard of the peoples interests without which the government would be dictatorial. A role for the monarch as propounded by the “Prime Minister” and indication by Mr. Ura that Bhutan may not be a multi-party democracy makes the intention clear and the future uncertain for another decade or so, as the people have to continue their struggle till a genuine democracy is established.  

Democracy is by the people, for the people and of the people; it is not something that is to be handed down by one person to another. The people will establish democracy by giving themselves the right to choose their government and live as they wish.

 Another dimension of the Bhutanese problem is restriction of the right to information. People do not have access to vital information of national significance. At the first place, the government does not publish them and even if it does the information is not statically correct. For instance, the population of Bhutan – no one knows what the exact population of Bhutan is. The latest figure apparently circulated by the RGOB is 6,99,000  which might be inclusive of those in exile. If this is not so then the Govt. Should come up with accurate figure as it is important for all citizen to know the population of their country. Varying figures have been circulated even by the highest executive of the country, which ranges from 6,00,000 to 14,00,000 and the latest as carried by the Washington Post is 6,99,000. Then are we to contend that the citizens of a country do not have a right to know how many of them live together as brothers and sisters in their motherland? What holds back the government from revealing such vital information?

 The article is by Mr. Rongthong Kunley Dorji, President of the Druk National Congress .

State of Excellent Relations

 Reproduced below is an article as carried by the Kuensel online . com, posted on Sunday, February 09 @ 16:11:49 EST BST . 

 “Bhutan Today” seminar in New Delhi

   There are more things in common than differences between Bhutan and India according to one-day “Bhutan Today” seminar held in New Delhi on February 4, which reviewed the history and the foundations on which the Indo-Bhutan relations rests today.

“The only thing that divides the two countries is the international border,” the Bhutanese ambassador to India, Lyonpo Dago Tshering, was quoted as saying during the seminar, a press release from the Bhutanese embassy in the Indian capital stated.

The seminar, which was inaugurated by former Indian prime minister, Mr. I.K. Gujral, and supported by the South Asian Studies Foundation and the India International Center, recognized that the relationship cannot be taken for granted in view of changing times and rapid global developments, the press release stated.

The seminar identified areas for further “deepening and consolidating” the relationship and recommended, among others, “greater cooperation in economic areas” to promote mutual interdependence.

The seminar was attended by foreign service professionals from the two countries, scholars and others interested in the Indo-Bhutan including three former foreign secretaries of India, six former ambassadors of India to Bhutan and officials from the Indian ministry of external affairs.                  

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