(May - August) 2006
Vol. VIII No.2
DEAL FOR DASHO RIMP
Rongthong Kunley Dorji
passing away of Dasho Ugen Dorji (Rimp) on March 25, 2006 has saddened
me and arouses nostalgic feelings. His last rites were performed at
Sasam Chorten in Paro and graced by His Majesty, members of the royal
family and ministers. He was 73 years old.
in exile, I couldn't be personally present to pay my respects but
I did light few butter lamps and offered prayers for the eternal peace
of his departed soul.
Bhutan's context, his life can be described as truly significant.
His contribution was indeed beneficial both to the King and the Royal
Government of Bhutan.
am thus compelled to write this article to highlight a few of his
contributions to the nation and to
society, including the rather raw deal he received from the King in
latter part of his life.
association with him dates from 1969 to 1991. During these years I
have discussed diverse issues pertaining to Bhutan's national interest,
besides deliberating on business matters.
was born to Gongzim Sonam Tobgay Dorji and Ashi Chuni Wangmo in Bhutan
House, Kalimpong. He was the second of three brothers. Kazi Ugen Dorji,
his grandfather migrated from Bhutan to Kalimpong. A special bond
of friendship flourished between the first King, Gongsa Ugen Wangchuck
and Ugen Dorji. This friendship proved beneficial to the first King,
who appointed him as the Dungpa of Haa and Pasakha, and also handed
him the responsibility of settling Lhotsampas in Southern Bhutan from
1904 onwards. Gongsa Ugen Wangchuck appointed Ugen Dorji as Gongzim
of Bhutan after 1907. Collection of taxes and administrative responsibilities
in the southern region of Bhutan was entrusted to him.
Dorji family's charge of southern Bhutan came to end after the third
King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, annulled the practice of serfdom In 1953,
Bhutan's central government, in its first National Assembly session,
brought the whole of Bhutan under central administration, thus granting
equal legal recognition to all Bhutanese. The Lhotsampas, for the
first time were brought under the central government, and presented
an equal opportunity to participate in the nation building process.
Ugen Dorji's parents were popularly known to Lhotsampas and in neighbouring
regions of Tibet and India as Raja ST Dorji and Rani Chuni Wangmo.
They shared a close and sound relationship with Tibet and India. Dasho
Ugen Dorji himself was known as 'mahila kumar'. His sister, Ashi Kesang
Choden, became Queen to the third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The
third King appointed Dasho Ugen Dorji's eldest brother, Jigme Palden
Dorji, as Prime Minister of Bhutan in 1962. Two years later, the Prime
Minister was assassinated whereafter many senior associates too were
executed. Almost all senior officials of the earlier generation are
fully aware of the motive behind the assassination and the executions.
Lhendup Dorji, the youngest of the Dorji brothers, succeeded his eldest
brother when the King appointed him as Acting Prime Minister. But
during these intriguing times, when the King was in Switzerland, supposedly
for medical examination, the acting Prime Minister's activities back
home infuriated the monarch. The King consequently sent a message
from Switzerland that he will 'see' them all in Thimphu. Considering
"see" to be a threat to dispense a similar fate as was administered
to the late Prime Minister, Dasho Lhendup Dorji and his sister, Ashi
Tashi Dorji, with other associates, Brigadier U. B. Tangbi, Commissioner
Rinchen Dorji, Thrimda Penjore Wangdi, Ranger Nado Rinchen, Phuentsholing
SDO Lha Tshering fled to Nepal before the King returned to Bhutan.
But Dasho Rimp didn't desert his sister, the Queen who was then undergoing
severe personal stress and estranged relations with the King. With
grit and determination, the Queen held her family firmly together
and established a strong foothold on power through the then Crown
Prince, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Dasho Rimp became a close confidant
and the right hand of Queen. His business in Phuentsholing too flourished,
which he used as a suitable means to serve the needs of the Queen
and the Crown Prince.
third King and Queen Kesang Choden reconciled in the early 1970s after
a brief, strained relation. When the third King announced the investiture
of Crown Prince, Jigme Singye Wangchuck as Trongsa Penlop - heir apparent
to King, in 1972, Dasho Rimp hosted a grand luncheon in Thimphu to
celebrate and remind loyal supporters of the Dorji family that rich
rewards was forthcoming. I too happened to witness this gathering
and partook in the revelry. Right after the demise of King and the
ascending of Jigme Singye Wangchuk to the throne at a tender age of
17 years, as the fourth King, the promise was kept. Dorji family members
Dasho Lhendup Dorji, Tashi Dorji and their associates returned to
Bhutan in 1972 from exile in Nepal.
young King, mostly engaged in youthful pleasures, virtually neglected
his duties and the responsibility of the throne. The Queen Mother
and Dasho Rimp placed themselves at the helm of State affairs. There
might have been consultations on policies with the young King occasionally.
However, they exerted overwhelming control of the stock of matters
on governance. Their favor was showered more on the Lhotsampas and
the western region. Government opportunities and development of infrastructures
was largely confined to the western and southern regions. Development
plans drawn up for the eastern region were never implemented. They
cared for nothing except the perpetuating their reign over Bhutan
and their own vested interests. Any sort of threat to their rule was
effectively neutralized. The Lhotsampas, even now, regard the Dorji
family as their only patron.
1974, Yangki's (a concubine of the third King) pursuit of her ambitions
by using Tibetan refugees and Bhutanese loyal to her gave rise to
a crisis. The offshoot of this not only affected large numbers of
Tibetan refugees but also resulted in the execution and incarceration
of many Bhutanese civil and military personnel. Large numbers of people
went missing and are until now still unaccounted for. With high stalked
involved in domestic and external relations during that time, the
actual truth of the conspiracy is disputed even though whole of Bhutan
are aware of it.
Rimp continued to enjoy a special rapport with the King till the early
1980s and was privy to all national matters. The King awarded him
with the honorary red scarf and 'Nig Kyalma' rank. By then, the King
too had gained political maturity on governance and statecraft. The
gradual gulf between their relations slowly appeared. Relatives and
supporters of the present four Queens became closer to King and thus
began the gradual alienation of the Dorji family and their associates.
early 1991, there was a plan for a massive agitation in Samdrup Jongkhar
by Lhotsampas with people pouring in from Daifam, Samrang supported
by Indians of Nepali origin from Parkhajuli and Daranga. The police
Chief, Tandin Dorji, the Dzongda, the Thrimpon, the Superintendent
of Police, Army Welfare Project Manager and Major Pem Tshering held
a meeting and requested me to help to maintain peace and calm in Samdrup
Jongkhar. At the time, there were only 27 police personnel in the
area. For the sake of peace, I deputed Mr. Cheku Drukpa with a note
to the Lhotsampas that they should refrain from creating any problems
in Samdrup Jongkhar. I personally met local Indian friends and cautioned
them about the possible economic fallout of the disturbance in the
region. The people coming from Daifam and Samrang were prevented from
coming further towards Samdrup Jongkhar, and a possible violent agitation
though, in the aftermath, I was victimized with purported false reports
submitted by one Sonam Drukpa in which I was alleged to be involved
in the conspiracy with the Lhotsampas. In the Royal Body Guard barracks
at Dechencholing, Thimphu, I was interrogation by Sonam Drukpa, the
main perpetrator and was mercilessly tortured. Initially, Mr. Cheku
Drukpa was purportedly bribed by Sonam Drukpa to support his allegation
against me. In spite of repeated denials, I was subjected to repeated
was alleged to have received 200,000 rupees from Dasho Rimp as monthly
payment in order to lobby within the Sharchop community to make him
Prime Minister. Sonam Drukpa alleged that the conspiracy involved
Mr. Nar Bahadur Bandari, the then Chief Minister of Sikkim, and Mr.
Haider Ali, the then Indian Ambassador to Bhutan. (Incidentally, Mr.
Haider Ali was India's Foreign Secretary in 1997, when I was forcefully
kidnapped/arrested and tried for extradition in India). Attempts were
made to get me to confess that Chenkap Dorji (the present Secretary
General of SAARC) and Leki Dorji (the present Information and Broadcasting
Minister) were party to conspiracy. Dasho Rimp already enjoyed a comfortable
life and was completely loyal to his sister, the Queen Mother and
the King. But even those persons whom he had helped when he was in
the helm of power, turned their back on him. Dasho Rimp had even helped
Sonam Drukpa in business when they were in good terms. After their
relationship fell out, Sonam Drukpa took revenge by coordinating with
his enemies and cunningly poisoning the King with false reports.
seems the plot finally culminated in me being used as a pawn to checkmate
Dasho Rimp. Owing to my healthy credentials as a well-known Sharchop
in Bhutan and being one of his close associates, I fitted the bill
perfectly. In fact, the Queen Mother was fully aware of her brother's
activities and such allegations should have been immediately trashed.
But it was not so. The allegation that I received 200,000 rupees from
him is totally false. So far I have not received a paisa from him,
including from the King or any member of the Royal family till date,
even though I have rendered many services to them. Even after knowing
the truth, the King continued to support the demented Sonam Drukpa.
The King's indifferent attitude towards the developments forces me
to conclude that there is not a tinge of gratitude towards Dasho Rimp.
In the later years many of Dasho Rimp's business were targeted. At
one point he was also humiliated with possible arrest.
the King's position was weak, we all supported him in consolidating
his position. But after becoming powerful and achieving his goals,
he cast off us without any gratitude. A piranha and debased person
like Sonam Drukpa continued to terrorize the people of Eastern Bhutan
and the King simply danced to his tunes and became blind. My torture
aside, many Lhotsampas were also tortured and murdered. Many Lhotsampas
women were raped and murdered. Such a psychotic person is "loved"
and trusted by the King and the Royal Government of Bhutan. Sonam
Drukpa operates the coal mines seized from me, in which he gives the
least consideration to environmental protocol. Further, he declares
less to the Government than what he extracts and sells. All the people
of Eastern Bhutan, including his workers and drivers are aware of
his activities. In the pursuit of settling a personal score, Sonam
Drukpa actions in Eastern Bhutan has plunged the country into whirlpool
of crises that continues to hound Bhutan dearly.
Dasho Rimp's subjection to such brutal maltreatment and humiliation,
I cannot but feel sad for him. A man who nurtured the King and protected
his interests at any cost, was made to suffer humiliation and alienation,
his honour tarnished, when he was alive. Paying of a dramatized final
"respect and honour" to the dead man doesn't restore his
recent debate in the National Assembly over the Bhutan-India and Bhutan-China
boundary has thrown light on the darker side of the Royal Government's
works. The Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, Zhamling Dorji said, "The
past records show that Bhutan had an area more than 46,000 square
kilometers but the present figure has been decreased to a little more
than 38,000 square kilometers,". 8000 square kilometers less!
From which map did Mr. Zhamling Dorji quote this data as reference
and who has drawn this map?
come Dasho Pema Wangchuck, the Secretary for International Boundaries
proclaimed that the present maximum possible area is 38,394 square
kilometers, even though he himself claimed that northern boundary
demarcation with China is not yet finalized? How could Mr. Pema Wangchuck
bring out map on own and that too with such a massively reduced land
figure! Normally, boundaries between neighbours are drawn up in the
presence of both. Furthermore, it is reported that the 18 rounds of
boundary talks was inconclusive and is still continuing.
then Prime Minister Jigme Palden Dorji, constituted a survey team
in 1960 under Mr. Babu Duba, a Bhutanese surveyor. He was reportedly
an alcoholic, and it was this alcoholism that was instrumental in
the demarcation of the present boundary in the south. He was flogged
a hundred times and imprisoned for three years in Paro for his wrongdoing.
It is always on the conscious of the Bhutanese public that India,
being a friend and mentor will settled boundary issues without any
hassle. Now it appears that the southern boundary with India seems
to have been completed.
the Royal Government of Bhutan has always stressed on allegiance to
the 'Tsa wa- Sum' (King, Country and People). It has failed miserably
to look after the most important Tsa wa - the Country. The issue of
Bhutan's national boundaries is a very sensitive and an emotional
matter to every Bhutanese.
entire authority in Bhutan is in the hands of King. It is thus a responsibility
of the King and his cohorts to keep a vigil on Bhutanese territorial
integrity. However, the King and his cohorts willingly hide the most
vital of information from the Bhutanese public. Having failed to perform
its sacred duty, the Royal Government of Bhutan has betrayed the Bhutanese
public. It is of utmost importance to the Bhutanese public to know
how its territories have been massively reduced to such a large extent.
Even Ex-Lyonpo Dawa Tshering (Foreign Minister from 1969-1995) must
come under scrutiny and must be answerable as he was party in the
Royal Government's dealings. The King must explain this massively
Druk National Congress was optimist that the summer session of the
National Assembly would seriously deliberate on important policy matters
in view of the transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional
monarchy in 2008. But the proceeding in the Assembly was utterly disappointing.
The old system is still intact. The Executive prepares the laws simply
needs to put stamp on it whether one likes it or not. The important
Media Act was passed in this style.
other concern is that many Sharchops Chimis were found to be hardly
participating in the deliberation of the House. It was reported that
they lacked the confidence to articulate in Dzongkha, the permitted
language in the National Assembly. During the 1980s, Lhotsampas Chimis
relayed their concerns through an interpreter. Even now an interpreter
could have solved this handicap, if at all any. It is true that a
person would be able to articulate their opinions in their mother
tongue. Therefore, Sharchop Chimis' right to express in their mother
tongue should be allowed in the House for a healthy transaction. Having
said that, all Chimis must at least learn to speak the National Language!
Nevertheless, if the Royal Government continues to stick with its
old style of House proceedings, then it only corroborates the allegation
that the present regime only wants mere attendance and silence to
endorse any matter in the House, without censure - a profound House
with spineless members and hollow core.
summer session of the National Assembly entertained the rather queer
manner of functioning of the Bhutanese Ministers. The now infamous
"Prado Case" has once again demonstrated the Ministers'
attitude, and projects Bhutan's unique way of discharging of public
duty. The Royal Government has permitted the use of pool vehicles
(Toyota Prados) for the personal use of Ministers' wives, including
the right to sell the vehicle after five years and to keep the sales
proceeds with themselves. When Assembly Members questioned this misuse
of Government property, Hon'ble Home Minister Jigme Thinley, unabashedly
replied that it was practiced by the Lhengye Zhungtshok under a Kasho
(decree) of Late King in 1971. It would be best if the learned Minister
gave an example of a wife of a member of Lhengye Zhungtshok getting
benefits like his present wife. Otherwise, it points directly to His
Majesty failure to control fellow minister from follow his suit.
instance, Foreign Minister Khandu Wangchuck's wife, Yangki T. Wangchuck,
is also the Secretary of the Finance Ministry. By virtue of being
Finance Secretary she is entitled to a Government pool vehicle, and
in the capacity of wife to the Foreign Minister, she also enjoys the
entitlement of another pool vehicle at her disposal like others. If
she happens to be Minister, then by the same token, Mr. Khandu Wangchuck
will have one more pool vehicle. This demonstrates the present scenario
where limited Government resources could be misused for private purpose.
issue of 'perks" to Ministers should have discussed at least
as a secondary issue in the Assembly sessions. The mishandling of
the situation by the Royal Government has indeed brought a shameful
image of Bhutan. It has displayed the sleazy practices of the Ministers,
which by any standard can be equated to corruption. Aum Neten Zangmo,
Chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Commission is engaged in educating
the Bhutanese mass on corruption. If she is sincere to her official
commitment to uproot the menace of corruption and create an incorruptible
society, then what better head start to work on if she could book
all the Ministers indulging in such practices! Corruption isn't confined
to money matters, even the misuse of power, office, policy and nepotism
should be looked into. The corruption in a feudalistic setup usually
starts from the top and spreads down. In order to uproot it, the top
must be cleansed.
are we asking for too big a task to be undertaken? The former Managing
Director of the Army Welfare Project, Major (retired) Pem Tshering,
was found guilty by the High Court, the Country's highest judiciary
body, of embezzling Nu. 130 million, and convicted him to nine years
in prison and a fine of Nu. 85 million. He is whoever moving around
scot-free. After prostrating to the King thrice and asking for pardon,
he is free to move in Bhutan without slightest worry. The King's prerogative
to shield his coterie was exercised by putting the matter to the Royal
Advisory Council, which indeed only gives its final verdict after
consulting the King. Post operation all clear against ULFA/BODO, hundreds
of people from the southern and eastern region of Bhutan were arrested
and imprisoned with sentences ranging from 3 year to 20 years for
alleged crime of 'doing business worth few thousand with ultras'.
Many are harshly incarcerated as of now, whereas the person having
proximity to the Royal families have always the last laugh.
AND CASSETTES ON DEMOCRACY RELEASED
7th June, 2006, in New Delhi, Shri Satya Prakash Malaviya, President
of the Indo-Bhutan Friendship society released CDs and Cassettes on
Democracy and Human Rights Education Programme, prepared by the Druk
National Congress. He said that it is good that Bhutanese people could
now have an opinion of their own after listening to the contents.
President of the Druk National Congress is optimist that the Bhutanese
people will be able to have some sort of an understanding of democracy
and its way of functioning. He reported that thousands of CDs and
cassettes have been distributed all over Bhutan. Furthermore, thousands
of C.D and Cassettes on Democracy and human rights content in Sharchopa
language was distributed all over the Bhutan.
FORD STYLE DEMOCRACY
present regime's continued fling with partisan politics in civil and
religion matters has brought the country to such a pass that it is
difficult to breathe the air of democracy. The creation of inequality
in wealth and disproportionate development activities in Bhutan, with
the development being concentrated only in particular regions has
contributed in the fight for democracy and has increased the people's
democratic aspirations. For example, the UN report, Bhutan Common
Country Assesment-2006, states that the gap between the rich and the
poor exceeded that of neighboring India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and
Sri Lanka. On an average, a rich Bhutanese has eight times more 'purchasing
power' than those belonging to the lowest rung.
to suppress the tide of the democratic aspirations of the Bhutanese
people, the King cleverly announced in 2005, that democracy will be
instituted in 2008. This did superficially tilt popularity in his
favour. But the present regime's eagerness in enacting legislations
to serve as guidelines for a democratic institution is erroneous,
since the Acts bear the signature of a monarchical and bureaucratic
mindset, and inherently implants the seed for future instability.
actions appear pleasing to many people. However, the present regime's
unilateral decision, without the involvement of political and the
general people is bound to have weaknesses. The building of a democratic
institution should be in accordance with democratic aspirations of
the people, rather than by way of monarch direction. The rigidity
and stubbornness of the monarchy is clearly visible in draft Constitution.
For example, candidates are barred from bringing out frailties of
an opponent in the name of "regionalism, ethnicity or religion".
This outrightly snuffs the democratic spirit and the essence of a
healthy debate and consensus in decision making.
15 (4) (c) of the draft Constitution, which states that political
parties are prohibited from receiving money or any assistance from
foreign sources, be it governmental, non-governmental, private organization
or from private parties or individuals is welcome. However, that of
domestic donation to political parties from Bhutanese citizens like
businessmen etc is encouraged. The Druk National Congress (DNC) is
pleased that a public election fund to finance political parties and
candidates for elections is to be setup. But, it however, objects
to the collection of domestic donations, for it clearly envisages
the evil design behind this, and how this provision can be misused
if it is not prohibited.
DNC is delighted that the Election Commission will conduct two mock
elections in 2007 before the final elections in 2008. Making the people
familiar with the electronic voting machine and election practices
is good. But by making it non-mandatory to vote from one's village
will demean the very purpose of Election Commission's engagement in
educating voters. It is a first ever general election in Bhutan and
all the people should be well educated to be able to elect the right
candidate to benefit the people of the constituency the candidate
represents, and country at large as well. The people should be forewarned
about the possible incentive of money-in-exchange-for-votes, which
wealthy candidates will inevitably resort to.
far, members of the National Assembly have been endorsing the decisions
of single person since 1953. Deliberations on important matters were
never entertained in National Assembly. It seems even at the doorstep
of this shift from the political paradigm, the Royal Government of
Bhutan is trying to usher a 'democracy' that suits the regime, in
accordance with King's wishes. In a nutshell, the King is trying to
establish a Henry Ford style democracy in Bhutan. Henry Ford once
said that customers could have a car with any colour they liked so
long as it was black. Therefore the King is set to establish a "democracy"
that will dance to his tune. The present regime is secretly engaged
in creating royalist "politicians and political parties' inside
Political parties and politicians believe that democracy and human
right education in Bhutan is nonexistent and if at all, seriously
directed and limited, and more such education is needed. The Government
should allow the political parties to train and educate people on
the basics of democracy and human rights, as their fate will be drawn
from it. Presently, the exiled political parties are taking a soft
stand in order to bring the present regime on board to allow for a
smooth transition of political changes. However, if the regime continues
to snub the political parties at large, then the fallout thereof is
imminent and the loss is bound to inflict most damage on present regime.
POPULATION DISTRIBUTION IN BHUTAN - Implications for Democracy
still reeling under a feudalistic monarchy, has been promised to be
witness to the dawn of democracy in 2008, according to a public proclamation
by the King. In any democratic set-up, the basic underlying principle
of governance is people's opinion and "one person one vote".
Hence precise population figures, both regional and national, assume
greater significance. In this backdrop, let us look at the recent
population figures of Bhutan.
the occasion of the 97th National Day celebrations on December 17,
2004, in Mongar, the King said, "As a citizen of a small landlocked
country with a population of just over 500,000, it is vital for the
Bhutanese people to be fully conscious of how important it is for
them to be always ready to shoulder the sacred responsibility to safeguard
the security and sovereignty of our nation". All along, a population
figure of 534,000 was frequently quoted by Kuensel (the only, and
state-owned newspaper of Bhutan), as well as by the international
media, on the basis of the data published by the Central Statistical
Organization of Bhutan.
Bhutan is divided into three regions: i.e. Eastern, Western and Southern
(ethnically, Sharchops, Ngalongs and Lhotsampas). If we momentarily
forget the hundred thousand refugees sheltered outside the country,
for the sake of simple calculations, the population percentage in
three regions is as follows(in Dec 2004):
according to census report released in Thimphu on April 27, 2006,
the population of Bhutan has been shown to be 634,982 on May 31, 2005.
Thus, there is a stunning variance of a hundred thousand people between
the figures given by His Majesty and the official figures released
by the Census Commissioner, in the space of mere 5 months! By simple
arithmetics, the population distribution now stands as shown below:
Region Percentage Population
Even after considering the urban migration of 91,778, the display
of figures raises many questions which assumes grave implications
as Bhutan is preparing for a two-party system of governance based
on elections and delimitation of electoral constituencies. According
to the provisions enshrined in the draft Constitution on delimitation
of constituencies for electing members to the National Assembly, the
present trend of the population as shown in official documents, would
give almost half of National Assembly Members to the western region,
thereby making it a dominant segment in the upcoming democracy.
his inaugural address, the Prime Minister by rotation, Lyonpo Sangay
Nyedup, said that the data provided by the report would be 'very beneficial
in preparing future developmental plans'. In the past, many development
activities, slated for the eastern region were shifted to the western
region by Sangay Nyedup. His speech gives a direct indication that
more and more developmental activities will continue to be confined
to the western region in future too, on the grounds of the increased
population figures. For many years, developments activities have been
prioritized in western region and it has serves as a magnet for upcoming
business activities and unhealthy migration.
ulterior motive behind this fudging of population distribution figures
can be understood from the fact that the monarchy, though originally
hailing from the eastern region, shifted to the western region in
1952, and since then this region has been given a special thrust for
development. The justification used was that the eastern region was
less populated and hence less development work was required there.
In the recent past, towns like Thimphu, Chhuka and Samtse have become
magnets for migrating population, owing to a plethora of developmental
there is every reason to believe that by concocting data on population
in the different regions of Bhutan, the King is preparing the ground
to perpetuate the existing discriminatory status quo regarding "development"
work, at the cost of under-development in the other regions. This
is corroborated by the fact that in the past when eastern region had
more population, official records always underplayed the figures,
in order to justify the concentration of developmental activities
in western region. Now, at the dawn of democracy, the same trick is
being played by fudging census data. This also points to an ominous
scenario - the non-existing increase in the number of persons in the
western region will most certainly be used in the electoral process
for fake voting.
large chunk of people in the towns don't have any quality of life
- no access to good food, clothing, health, education, sanitation,
water etc. Many live at the edge of towns with little or no sanitation
facilities and most don't are not included in the census in the districts
they inhabited. Are voters eligible to vote in the district they stay,
rather than in the district where their names are listed in the census
records? Democracy means that people exercise their voting franchise
and it should be congruent with democratic traditions and practices.
Therefore, the 'politics' in population figures by the Royal Government
of Bhutan (RGOB) is unacceptable. The RGOB must come out clean on
this issue and be transparent to the public on the actual region-wise
population figures. Purported inflated population figures are being
actually done with the motive of manufacturing of bogus voters in
Bhutan. The Royal Government of Bhutan should give an answer sooner
than later on this issue of great significance.
real count : On 13 May 2006 - the head of the National Statistical
Bureau, Kuenga Tshering, clarified that the actual population of Bhutan
on May 31, 2005, was 552,996.
FIRST PRIVATE NEWSPAPERS HIT STANDS
seems that the Royal Government of Bhutan finally shed its inhibition
by allowing two privately owned newspapers to go into operation this
year. The first private weekly paper, The Bhutan Times, released its
32-page maiden edition on 28th April, 2006, with Crown Prince, Jigme
Gyesar Namgyal Wangchuck's views on national issues and on the future
of the kingdom as a multi-party democracy, as its main feature story.
other paper The Bhutan Observer, was released on June 2, 2006, coinciding
with His Majesty's 31st Coronation day. This attempt is seen as the
clear sign of Bhutan transforming itself from a tight-lipped monarchial
state into a liberal democracy. However, only time will give a complete
and clear picture of the King's true intentions.
the launching ceremony of the Bhutan Times in Thimphu, Prime Minister
by rotation, Lyonpo Sangay Nyedup, was quoted as saying in the Kuensel,
the Government-owned newspaper, "With freedom of the press comes
great responsibility". Mr. Sangay Nyedup's double speak shows
his subconscious intention to gag the upcoming paper under the veil
the first ever legalization of private newspapers and freedom of press,
everyone is excited, but it might be too early to expect huge results
considering the infant stage of papers. So far there has been no substantive
inquisition in Government business and policy. Moreover, the many
civil servants are the main contributors of the newspaper articles.
Our best hope is that both the papers don't turn out to be Government
mouth pieces to spread its propaganda. Instead, we hope and expect
that both papers will contribute to the democratization of Bhutan
with vital education on people's rights and their civic duties. The
recent article in the Bhutan Times doesn't give a positive sign. The
article states that housing for Members of Parliament is unnecessary
and waste of state funds as they hold only two sessions a year. Such
a ridiculous remark is a sign of lack of political education and awareness
of the functioning of parliamentary democracy. It is expected that
such ignorance will be overcome in due course of time.
RAY OF HOPE FOR REFUGEES
have a ray of hope once again after the dramatic developments in Nepal's
political landscape. Many refugees, including international organizations
monitoring Bhutanese refugee issues are optimist and ecstatic in finding
a lasting solution. On 19th May, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign
Minister K.P. Sharma Oli reiterated the stand. He has discussed refugee
issues with his Bhutanese counterpart, Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuck twice
in the sidelines of an international conference. Tangible outcome
is yet to be seen.
the expectations and enthusiasm amongst the refugee are high that
a new stable democratic government in Nepal would resume the bilateral
process with Bhutan and end their longstanding miseries amicably.
the political atmosphere in the refugee camps has taken different
shades. It is reported that youths in the camps are restless, and
of the view of achieving their objectives through radical means and
arms struggle. For this purposes, the youths are on fund collection
drives taking more by way of extortions in the neighborhood of the
camp areas. This reaction is understandable, if one were to take into
consideration the cause that led to their desperation and their desire
to adopt desperate measures. But in the larger interest, the face
of peace loving refugees should not be tarnished and jeopardized,
especially in the light of present conducive situation unfolding in
Government of Nepal providing shelter to the refugees on the humanitarian
grounds though she is not an immediate neighbor to Bhutan has been
reiterated by many senior Nepali officials. Post 9/11, no country
would like to let their soil be used as a launching pad for the purpose
of aggression and causing disturbance in another country in fear of
diplomatic and international backlash. Even those leaders who are
secretly hoping to achieve their goal by falling in the same bandwagon
must think twice, as the consequences would shake the foundation of
their present standing. Still, there is time to take a peaceful route.
The developments in Nepal have provided a conducive environment. The
success of the struggle of the Nepali people should inspire and encourage
our own struggle, and enable us to assert our legitimate right through
Nepal-Bhutan Refugee Joint Verification Team finished the verification
of Khudunabari camp by the end of 2001 and voluntary repatriation
of refugees was stalled in December 2003 due to the episode of the
manhandling of the Bhutanese verification team by a refugee mob. The
recent announcement by US senator that US Government is willing to
resettle large chunk of refugee in US has drawn criticism especially
from group who feared that their support base and activists will erode.
however, welcomes US proposal and stressed that Bhutanese nationals
should merit first priority from non-nationals for any settlement.
The Druk National Congress also urges governments of Bhutan and Nepal
to immediately resume the verification process in a time bound manner.
It further welcomes the recent decision by the UNHCR to resettle 16
vulnerable Bhutanese refugees in a third country. In fact it is of
the view that refugees have discretionary power to choose if it unshackles
their present ordeal. However, it requests both governments to solve
this imbroglio once and for all, with an amicable solution acceptable
to the refugees.
Ramesh Sharma, Secretary of the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society and
the All India Coordinator of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, conducted
Satyagraha training at Birtamod and Damak in Nepal from August 7 to
10, 2006. He was invited by the Satyagraha Coordination Unit and its
Coordinator, Dr. DNS Dhakal, to impart basic Satyagraha principles
and Gandhism. He visited seven refugee camps and held meetings and
encouraged them to embrace a non-violence struggle congruent to social
values and the dignity and respect for human beings.
On 11, August, 2006, he expressed his solidarity by participating
in the Satyagraha programme at Mechi Bridge at the Indo-Nepal
border. A Satyagraha movement in Mechi Bridge is held every
Friday to pressurize the Government of India and the Royal
Government of Bhutan to find a just resolution to the Bhutanese
refugee crisis. It is said that they will organize mass
Satyagraha programmes inside Bhutan and India in future.