BAASA honors Manfred Ringhofer

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Bhutanese Australian Association of South Australia Inc (BAASA) honored Dr. Manfred Ringhofer in recognition of his support and contribution to the Bhutanese Community, amidst a special function organised in Salisbury North, South Australia, Saturday.

BASA President Suren Ghale honors Dr Manfred (Picture courtesy: BASA)
BAASA President Suren Ghale honors Dr Manfred (Picture courtesy: BAASA)

During the two hour long of honor ceremony, Avishek Gazmere provided the introduction of Dr. Manfred and his contribution towards the Bhutanese community, while Jeevan Koirala, BAASA’s treasurer gave a thank you speech. Suren Ghaley, BAASA’s chairperson, presented the honorary letter to Dr. Manfred while Parsu Bhudathoki, one of the beneficiaries of AHURA Bhutan scholarship program, who travelled from Melbourne to meet him, spoke about the contribution of the scholarship that helped him to build his career.

The ceremony was followed by interaction where Dr. Manfred gave the insight of his presentation he did in Auckland, New Zealand last week on “Relations between Bhutanese Refugees and Gross National Happiness (GNH)”, and also thanked the organisers for conducting such event.

Participants also sought advice from Dr. Manfred about the role they needed play for Bhutan’s better future from exile and diaspora. Dr. Manfred encouraged the participants to study and take the opportunity in Australia and also advised them to tell stories to more people in Australia and in around the world.

During the six days visit to Adelaide, he was not only keen to catch up with Bhutanese friends and families he supported while in the camps but also conducted some interviews with individuals and groups within the Bhutanese community, service providers and government agencies for the ongoing research he is doing on how the settlement of former Bhutanese refugees is taking place.

Who is Dr Manfred?
Dr. Manfred Ringhofer is a professor of Osaka Sangyo University and Nara University in Japan. He has been residing in Japan for more than 37 years. He is originally from Austria and remains an Austrian in Japan.

Dr. Manfred is a long -time friend and a very good supporter of Bhutan and the Bhutanese community. He played a key role in freeing Amnesty International’s prisoners of Conscience, TN Rizal, Ratan Gazmere and Jogen Gazmere, from Bhutan’s prisons in 1990s.

Dr Manfred with Bhutanese in Adelaide (Picture courtesy: BASA)
Dr Manfred with Bhutanese in Adelaide (Picture courtesy: BAASA)

Involvement of Dr. Manfred with the Bhutanese community began in January 1990 when Amnesty International London asked the Amnesty Group in Nara, Japan to protest against the imprisonment of people in Bhutan and for their immediate release. The overwhelming international pressure dramatically changed conditions in the prisons and also compelled the Royal Government of Bhutan to release some of many prisoners of conscience from the Bhutanese prisons by the end of 1991 and in early 1992.

When this mandate of Amnesty Nara Group was over, then Dr. Manfred travelled to the refugee camps in Nepal in 1993. He was very much shocked when he witnessed the living conditions of the people in the refugee camps and felt that he had to support us further. He also met some human rights activist like Ratan Gazmere and his friends, some organisations in Nepal, then working for the welfare of the refugees which helped him to gain more information about the refugees.

After going back to Japan, he along with Ms. Genie Donald, a British-American, who formerly taught English in Dagapela, Bhutan and another Japanese lady established AHURA Japan, support group of AHURA Bhutan and began generating more resources to support the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal.

Starting in the 1990s Dr. Manfred and his friends gave many lectures in Japan to raise awareness in support of the Bhutanese refugees. Working closely with AHURA Bhutan, Dr. Manfred and his friends were able to provide scholarship to 79 Bhutanese students to undertake Year 11-12 studies in India and also provided funds to 120 individuals to undertake the National Open School Courses and many other students in the form of expenses to cover fees, books and stationeries. Between 1994-2010, AHURA Japan also provided other types of supports like educational materials for CPC (Children Play Centre) and also helped transport the torture victims to the Centre for Victims of Torture (CVICT) in Kathmandu for treatment through AHURA Bhutan.

In 1990 and 1999, Dr. Ringhofer twice gathered a team of 12 Japanese people comprising of university students, professor and some working in companies on Bhutanese and Tibetan study tour.

In 1990s, he read more about the Bhutanese refugee issues from Bhutanese, Indian and Nepalese writers and finally in 2000 he wrote his first article about the Bhutanese refugee issue in a journal of Kyoto University. Until now, he has written 6 articles in Japanese language on the situation of Bhutanese refugees in camps, about repatriation, education and on comparative studies about textbooks used in Bhutan and the refugee camps.