Druk National Congress - Political Organization of Bhutan

Religion & Culture


Human Rights


Bhutan History

Bhutan Today

Press Release





(May - August) 2006

Vol. VIII                                                                                                                                                            No.2

Rongthong Kunley Dorji

The 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.

Being 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.

In 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.

I 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.

My 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.

He 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.

The 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.

Dasho 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.

Dasho 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.

The 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.

The 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.

In 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.

Dasho 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.

In 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 was averted.

Strangely 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 torture.

I 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.

It 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.

When 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.

With 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 fallen honour.



The 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?

How 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.

The 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.

While 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.

The 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 reduced figure.



The 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.

The 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.



The 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.

For 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.

This 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.

But 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.



On 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.

R.K.Dorji, 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.



The 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.

Unable 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.

Preliminary 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.

Article 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.

The 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.

So 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 Bhutan.

Exile 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.



Bhutan, 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.

On 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.

Demographically, 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):


However, 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.

During 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.

The 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 activities.

Thus, 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.

A 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.


The 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.



It 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.

The 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.

During 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 of responsibility.

With 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.



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.

However, 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.

But, 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 Nepal.

The 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 peaceful means.

The 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.

DNC 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.



Mr 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.