Home Op-Ed Opinion Atrocities and 2008 elections in Bhutan

Atrocities and 2008 elections in Bhutan

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At a time when the election date is drawing nearer in Bhutan, the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB) has once again begun inflicting atrocities on innocent citizens of ethnic Nepali origin.

The state-directed court recently announced jail terms ranging from 5-9 years to 30 innocent civilian from the southern district of the country for their alleged involvement in the Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist). The RGOB claims the accused had carried out subversive activities against Bhutan.

How could the RGOB claim such a thing when it does not have an ‘independent judiciary’ in the country? A fair trial in the name of delivering justice to the detainees has always been a farce in the context of Bhutan. This is yet another instance of Bhutan’s tactics to derail the repatriation of Bhutanese refugees, now living in camps in Nepal, to their homeland.

Bhutan’s official media, Kuensel, further stated that seditious meetings were held in Katarey and Ugyentse in Samtse, during which the participants planned to recruit the local people and set up camps in the forests to house the terrorists belonging to the CPB-MLM.

Such fabricated statements are made by the Bhutanese government when its army arrests people especially of ethnic Nepali origin. The RGOB has charged them of being active during briefing sessions in Nepal on “Political and Ideological Trainings? conducted by the cadres of the Communist Party of Bhutan and Communist Party of Nepal, Bhutan People’s Party, Druk National Congress and Bhutan Gorkha National Liberation Front.

Ironically, the message Bhutan is sending to the international community is that the UNHCR is providing shelter to radical groups inside the refugee camps in Nepal.

The court is said to have sentenced them to jail under the provisions in the National Security Act of Bhutan, 1992, and the Penal Code of Bhutan, 2004. The people were accused of holding political meetings, especially related to Maoist ideology, in the country. Even if they were involved in such activities, what crime had they committed to be given jail terms of such long periods, especially at a time when the elections are fast approaching near? Is this, in any way, to hold a ‘democratic exercise’?

The RGOB, on the other hand, should have been encouraging the people in the country to get involved in the political exercise. Besides, the condition of hundreds of such detainees arrested in the early 1990s during demonstrations in the country is still unknown to the international community.

Their whereabouts have not yet been made public. There is no one to publicise the conditions prevailing in the country.

It is a matter of shame that the RGOB should transform civilians into jailbirds for such a long period despite their innocence. The atrocities of the RGOB have crossed the limits, leaving enough space to raise questions about the effectiveness of the advocacy of international rights bodies and so-called big democracies of the world.

Isn’t Bhutan playing with the rights of the people, and would anyone believe that it is embarking on the path of democratisation? The surprising thing is – for how long will the international community stand mute spectators to all the atrocities that go around in Bhutan?

A fair trail to the detainees is not possible in Bhutan. Even if these people belong to the Maoist militia, then Bhutan should have carried out an investigation in co-ordination with international human rights bodies.

In the meantime, on November 28, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) stated that the leaders of the Bhutan People’s United Party (BPUP) have no vision, goals and aspirations for a democratic Bhutan. Besides, in a notice, the ECB said it cannot register the BPUP as a political party in the country.

The ECB’s decision indicates that the party lacks persons with direct links with the royal family like Sangey Ngedup of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Jigme Thinley of the Druk Phuensum Tshokpa (DPT).

While Bhutan is holding the first-ever elections in its history, the RGOB is trying to impose different restrictions on innocent civilians. Thus, there is little room to believe that the elections will be free and fair.

There is a need for the world community, including international human rights bodies, to initiate noteworthy and stronger measures to provide justice to Bhutan’s innocent civilians. The RGOB shouldn’t be given a free hand in committing atrocities against its people.

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<p style="clear: both;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">A father, husband, public speaker, and a freelancer, Mr. Mishra returns to this news portal as the Executive Editor after he had served in the same capacity for nearly three years in the recent past. Born in Dagana, Bhutan and raised in the refugee camp in Nepal, Mishra’s entry into journalism began as early as 2002, and he has been volunteering in the area since then.</span><!--more--></p> <p style="clear: both;">Mr. Mishra worked as a special correspondent for The Bhutan Reporter (TBR) Monthly for a few years in the early-mid 2000s. Later, he became Editor at the same newspaper, and also served as the Chief Editor of TBR for two years. He is one of the founder members of Bhutan News Service (BNS), where he started serving as Editor (2006-2009), and later Chief Editor (2009-2011).</p> <p style="clear: both;">Mr. Mishra also served as one of the main hosts of the radio program, Saranarthi Sarokar (translates to ‘Refugee Concern’ in English) in one of the local FM stations in Kathmandu, Nepal from 2007 through 2009. As a host of the program, he interviewed dozens of high-profile Nepalese and Bhutanese politicians, academicians, social and community leaders, including foreign diplomats then based in Kathmandu and Jhapa, Nepal.</p> <p style="clear: both;">Aside from his reporting work while in Kathmandu, Mr. Mishra also got involved in other philanthropic work, and helped needy refugees. Mr. Mishra led two donation campaigns through the lobby in Kathmandu among fellow Bhutanese refugees and supported fire victims in the refugee camp in the eastern part of the country. Mr. Mishra also directly assisted dozens of sick patients with various illnesses from the refugee camps in Jhapa to get their appropriate treatment in Kathmandu-based hospitals at a discounted rate and/or free of cost.</p> <p style="clear: both;">Mr. Mishra has appeared in various national, regional and international publications including the Wall Street Journal, Aljazeera America, Explore Parts Unknown, Global Post, Himal Southasian, among dozens of other media outlets with articles aimed at advocating the Bhutanese refugee issue. The New York Times, BBC, Guardian Weekly, among many others have featured Mishra’s work. Mr. Mishra has also written articles extensively reflecting the state of ‘freedom of speech & expression in Bhutan.’</p> <p style="clear: both;">Mr. Mishra is also the author of a handbook called Becoming a Journalist in Exile.</p> <p style="clear: both;">Mr. Mishra is the recipient of two awards—one by the Bhutan Press Union (2006), and the other by the Organization of Bhutanese Communities in America (2011) for his contributions in the related field. Founder President of the Bhutan Chapter of the Third World Media Network (2006-2012), Mishra has also represented Bhutan in various regional and national-level trainings and seminars on media freedom while during his stay in Nepal.</p> <p style="clear: both;">Mr. Mishra holds his first Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Purbanchal University in Nepal, and the second Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.</p>