Bhutan’s atrocities vs resettlement


Bhutan, so-called last Shangri-La cannot forget the bitter experiences of challenges that continue to haunt the people by those horrendous episodes of the 1990s and the 1997. It sometimes traumatizes people who were the eyewitnesses and victims of the oppressive regime that launched the merciless crackdown first on the Lhotshampas followed by Sharchops community.

Both the communities demanded a simple change in the political system so as to acclaim the rights ensured globally by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is also very clear that the demand of the people was nothing different or bizarre from rest of the world that enjoys the values of democracy. It is however a pathetic story for every Bhutanese to realize that not an inch has been moved from absolutism despite proclamation of so-called democracy in 2008.

The entire nation is deprived of their basic rights and fundamental freedoms in absence of true democracy as the ruling regime evolves with a crucial move of developing a network of elites firstly by marrying Prime Minister’s son to one of the princesses followed by another princess marrying the son of senior bureaucrat Kipchu.  Yet another surprise has been marrying third princess to the son of Kinley Wangchuk, who happens to be nephew of Kinley Wangdi, ex-husband of eldest queen Dorji Wangmo.

The world community remains lip-locked when it comes to expressing critiques to Bhutan’s system of democracy as the legacy of Wangchuk dynasty’s dynamics of charming the people has been prodigious.

The fourth monarch, who evolved into being the political woe initiator on the guidance of Rajiv Gandhi in the mid-eighties, sand-witched by his four queens, had to give up the power in favor of his eldest son crowning him the fifth King and proclaiming the so-called democracy under constitutional monarchy in 2008. Not realizing the reality of being geo-physically sand-witched between the two mighty Asian giants—China in the north and India in the south, signed yet another Indo-Bhutan Treaty 2007 annulling the spiritually comfortable provisions enshrined in the 1949 treaty.

The aftermath saw the new pseudo democracy reducing the area of Bhutan from 46,500 square kilometers to 38,000 square kilometers with no explanations given to the people. Should we call it the loss due to exclusion of India’s representation in the northern border talks? If not, is it a shift or change in the partnership after such a long period of dependence to the south? Bhutanese may not like to suddenly shift their religio-cultural and trade relationship to transfer to the north with which Bhutan has no link what so ever until this day. Particularly, with Tibet absorbed into the Chinese domain, Bhutanese people have never looked upwards for any kind of social, cultural or religious benefits.

Following eviction of the Lhotshampa en masse and mass asylum seekers from other parts of Bhutan, who escaped the brutal hands of the regime ensuing peaceful movements for democracy, the refugee community as well as the political groups explored every possible avenues in the Indian arena for support and mediation to justly resolve the entanglement. However, India remained a mere spectator despite being a key partner of Bhutan’s overall developments and largest democracy of the world.

Having failed to avail any support, the ever-weary refugee community decided embracing the proposal of third country resettlement offered as burden-sharing solution by a group of core countries led by the USA. Exiled people at least thought it wiser to opt for a long term planning by taking up the offer in the interest of gaining exposure and learning from the developed world community.

The resettlement program has given the community not only relief from the throbbing life under bamboo huts, but also gives an opportunity for their children to be educated in the western world and equip themselves for a better future both in terms of political and economic strength so that they could be well equipped to shoulder the greater responsibility of carrying out the mission of true democracy and development in Bhutan.

It is a matter of high appreciation to the core countries for accepting a progressive demography of the Lhotshampa community under resettlement program, which perhaps will be gradually followed by family members from other community from other parts of Bhutan. The urge for repatriation being miles away from people’s hope and the conducive atmosphere in Bhutan not visible owing to it’s reluctance to accept any refugees to return home at least in the immediate future, it would be perhaps a compelling moment for the Sharchops or even the Ngalong community members if any in exile to opt for third country resettlement option as a temporary measure while continue to maintain the identity of being a Bhutanese in whichever the country they decide of getting resettled.

In this context, opting resettlement by the communities other than Lhotshampa community would mean achieving multiple mileages of internationalization of our movement for democracy as a Bhutanese and help unfold the true face of the regime’s inhumane character of victimizing their own citizens. The regime’s position of stating ethnic cleansing would be proved wrong as the regimes own ethnicity too will be exposed to the outside world.

In fact, how much it is true of the victimization of diverse ethnicity and the presence of feudalistic rules will be exposed with utmost clarity.  If Sharchops, struggling for democracy and human rights get opportunity to be resettled and educated from western world, it will certainly help to bring the entire movement into a central alliance, which becomes more rational to intensify the movement vigorously. On the other hand, the Sharchops community, currently languishing in the camps given the disadvantages being unable to have free access to the Buddhist society outside the camps, accepting local assimilation will not be a relief and thus would be more beneficial should they get resettled in a third country given the advantage of mass Buddhist establishments of Tibetan refugees communities.

It is believed that the US government as the oldest democracy will help convince Bhutan to create a conducive situation for all the aspiring refugees to return home in safe atmosphere as has happened to several other countries, where too refugees had once sought for the third country resettlement as a temporary measures to give humanitarian support until a favorable situation was developed in their original homeland.

Meanwhile, it is high time that we forget the past and emerge with a new vision to centralize the movement under a strong leadership who could be able to campaign world community against the regime’s policy that left more than one hundred thousand of us displaced and suffering for the last over two decades.

(Chhoejay is President of the Druk National Congress (Democratic)-affiliated Druk National Youth Congress. He can be reached at: [email protected])


  1. Dear Mr. Chhoejay,
    “It is a sin to fell down a tree in Bhutan” … PM Jigme Thinley in 60 minutes CNN
    “It is wrong to say that the people in the camps are Bhutanese” …… PM Jigme Thinley Aljajeera News interview with Fauzia Ibrahim.
    ” Even the stray Dogs seem to be smiling in Bhutan” on Gross National Happiness ………..PM Jigme Thinley, Aljajeera news, interview with Fauzia Ibrahim

    Against such a highly orchestrated propaganda campaign of the Bhutan government, your article is a drop in the bucket but it is a very important and revealing one that drop by drop we all can contribute to fill the bucket. Great!
    As a friendly caution, I feel it does not reflect good to go after the marriage links of the Royal family and the government bureaucrats at the level you are talking. Those things need to be discussed at different time, place and occassions. I believe It is their freedom to marry whom they want and as a democratic activist we should respect that. It is also good to take a modest central role for your party to be pragmatic enough and acknowledge some of the visible and positive forces taking place inside Bhutan due to pressure from the people in exile like you, while you expose the other face of the Bhutanese government, the other side of Bhutan and the untold stories of the people rendered victims of injustice that you represent.
    Thank you for standing up, adding your voice to the voiceless and raising the hope of the hopeless……yes resettlement is a viable option; and is a new beginning not the end of the movement for true democracy.

    Dick Chhetri

  2. Namaste Karma,

    well written article and I must say that I can only totally agree with your point of view.
    One small and not so important note: the US is most certainly not the oldest democracy in the world. For that you have to look at Europe, not the US. The US wrongly proclaims itself as the oldest democracy and the guardian of democracy. Well, they are not. In fact, the US is the nation that has started the most wars in the last hundred years and sometimes with clearly false pretenses.
    But anyway, it is good to see people writing down their analysis of the Bhutanese reality. It is important that these efforts are expanded in future time as history tells that mounting international pressure on feudal and undemocratic, if not even criminal, regimes in the end will have it’s effects. It is high time change comes to Bhutan.

    Alice Verheij
    independent writer, film maker, journalist

  3. I don’t think that we should have a special occasion to talk about the marriages of the royal family or its coterie. The marriages in Bhutan especially of the royals and elites play a very significant role in the several disparities prevalent in the country ranging from hounding the domicile Bhutanese out of the country to crimes committed. Many times such marriages have been scandalous, corrupt, covetous and you name it. Many a times such marriages are done out of greed and the links have been used for amassing wealth of the country. Therefore, it is illogical and senseless not to talk about these events which have often given nightmares to the Bhutanese people.
    Congratulations Chhoejay for coming up with your article.


  4. I don’t understand why it is a curse to be born at Lhotshampa family and bear all these catastrophes. By virtue of nature, every matter that forms the human body, be it air, water, soil, fire or other matters; everything is Bhutanese within us. Other Bhutanese who call themselves as more Bhutanese also possesses the same composition as us.
    About the deeds or actions, even the one who was considered as the mastermind of the uprising has been freed by the prevailing judiciary considering his innocence. Others are pretty unaccountable. Even then the things are not resolved. This clearly shows that government has the kind of complexity without rationale in order to make this mass ‘stateless’.
    Indian role as a big brother is really unsatisfactory. For their struggle to independence from colonism, they adopted all sorts of strategy ranging from non-cooperative movement to satyagraha movement, and understood the degree of extremism and suppression from others, but when the expert became a mere observer, problem became exponential.
    Our demand was as simple as ‘don’t implement the royal decree of one nation one people’. There was fairness and logic in the people voice. But how fair is on the government side to evict such proportion of population without trial. This a disaster.

  5. Good thoughts, and well expressed in this article.
    The Royal Government’s chief intentions were to evict suspected illegal immigrants, and cause a demographic balance in the country for political advantages. It is more than half way through in this mission and therefore, the old governemnt classifucation of the population as Lhotsamp, Sarchop etc are no longer applicable. The people henceforth need to identified by their ethnic namings – Drukpas, Nepalese etc.

  6. People should know the significance of Dick and Jay in Bhutan. It is the sign of Good Luck and also the sign that decorates the home to protect the Truth and keep evil, devil out of the home.
    I think both are doing a great job in omne way or the other. If someone doesn’t like it, for eg Jamu and Nilik, they should suck it up! Otherwise come to the serious discussion of the serious topics and don’t try to make it a joke of generational sacrifice.
    Pardon me.

    Dick Chhetri

  7. Alice,
    We say Kuzu Zangpo in our custom;Lhotshampas or Indians and Nepalis nay prefer Namaste! Just a correction, ’cause we belong to non-Lhotshampa community all over in the northern Bhutan. I salute your essay except for some ……which can be discussed in person for updating or upgrading your quality of scholarly knowledge on Bhutan and her situation.

  8. First of all, is Dick Dick Bahadur Chhetri? I hope not! Whatever….if it is not just a satire in the above comment of Dick Bahadur / Dick pointed out at me??, it is untrue to state that I do not like Dick. I have often appreciated his concern he has for the Bhutanese movement and the role he has been playing in various forms to support it. The only time I tend to differ – many of you have seen too – is when some of his reasoning become not so relevant and logical, For instance, he thinks we should reserve our talk on marriages of the Royals and the elites for a special occasion even when they are some of the core causes of making us refugees. I think this is the best forum and best time ( may be late!!!) to talk about and bring out to every ones knowledge. What chhoejay did in his article is absolutely valid and demands every ones support and respect.


  9. Karma, I like your article and I really appreciate for nicely and timely taking up the issues, which are of everyone’s concern and interest. Unless, more easterners and northerners come out boldly and openly in support of peoples’ pro-democracy movement in Bhutan, there cannot be real democracy. And without real democracy, there cannot be a free and fair peoples’ participation in the democracy making process.

    Marriage, of course, is the right of individuals in all parts of the world and one need not worry or comment on such affairs. However, in the case of royal families and royal elites in Bhutan, it’s really different and plays vital role in the politics of the nation. So, when one talks about the political system of Bhutan, it cannot be completed without touching the subject. The people, who are aware on the real politics of the marriage affairs of royal families in Bhutan since its inception, will certainly appreciate your point.

    I think the hollow concept of gross national happiness propagated in Bhutan needs to be exposed more in depth by the representatives of all the communities. People are suffering by various means of state affairs. Many are intimidated daily. While others continued to suffer stoically. Those citizens who raised voice for democracy are even today languishing in the prisons. The royal democracy in Bhutan does not and will not recognise the voice of true democracy. When will this agony ends?

  10. Dear Mr. Karma.
    I am confident that this article shall be an eye-opener for those who blindly favoured one sided propoganda of Royal Govt of Bhutan.I am confident that such presentation shall create an atmosphere where true nationals shall seek answers for Nationality among Diversity. I have an expectation that your Future Write-ups shall build momention for Advancement of Our Goal(That is Vibrant Democractic Bhutan) and inspire Bhutanese to set a Mission and Be Missionaries.

  11. Dear Friends & Seniors,

    I am indeed happy to see several comments made on my article and hence I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to each and every one of you. All the comments are very educative and very positive. All have added more valuable experiences and knowledge on the Bhutanese struggle for true democracy. It certainly encourages me to write more on the cause of the Bhutanese people.

    I am also very happy to share with you all that irrespective of our differences on ethnicity, culture and traditions, we are Bhutanese first and for the common cause of every Bhutanese, we could join together and work collectively. Ours is a national movement and it should not be bifurcated by a regional or ethic issue. Bhutan government is trying to play the game of divide and rule. We should not give this chance to happen.

    I look forward for sharing and hearing more on issues of our common interest, which shall be immensely helpful for us to understand ourselves deeper and closer. This would certainly lead us to a healthy future, where true democracy flourishes to fulfil the aspiration and expectation of every Bhutanese.

  12. Dear Karma,

    Your article is really thoughtful, considerate and deserves high appreciation. It is true that the royal government of Bhutan have always tried to play the game of divide and rule. The government in fact wanted to create Sri Lanka like situation in Bhutan. It was the wisdom of the common citizens of Bhutan, who always adhered the principle of social harmony and religious tolerance that saved the country from the disaster. Today, the Bhutanese movement has spread all over the world. But there are only Lhotshampas in the forefront picture. This has made easy for the royal government again to tell the world that the Bhutanese problem is the issue of ethnic Nepali speaking community, who want to create Bhutan a Sikkim like situation, which is nothing but merely a morass of lies and deceit. The government has never recognised the contribution made by the Lhotshampa community in the task of national building. Quite similar is with the Sarchokp community. This does not mean here that Ngalongs are all happy with the government. No, they are not. There are several untold stories about them too. It is only the matter of time, when their dissidence will cross the saturation point.

    Therefore, unless the conscious, educated and committed people from all the communities join their hands to work collectively, Bhutanese struggle for true and inclusive democracy cannot be materialised. The Lhotshampa community has created a good ground. Now it is the time for the members of other communities to play the game. Only then the Bhutanese of diverse ethnicity, truly aspiring for democracy, human rights and repatriation (for those in exiles) with safety and in dignity will win the match successfully.

  13. Bhutan was colonized by Nepali (like they did in Sikkim). When the Bhutanese became strong, it is their rightful position to throw out those disgraceful people who are good for nothing but trouble. Nepalis are like wolves who roam around in search of food. When they face strong opponent like British, they would give in and become their hunting dog (like Royal Gurkha Army). When they face someone less strong but not easy to defeat, they will make friend with them (like they did with India, but this friendship was betrayed by those ill-minded Nepali again by siding with Britain later.) When they face someone fragile, they will just eat it up, like they did in Sikkim and tried to do to Bhutanese.

    But don’t worry, they follow only food and now resettlement is in place. So for Bhutan, the problem is solved, because those wolves will never come back for democratizing Bhutan as they don’t have the cell of caring for others in their blood.

  14. Dear Mr. Hawari,
    I believe you belong to Ngalongs community, It is not strange learn about hated comments by Sarchokp to Lachhampa and Sarchokp community. I think you are aware of the facts going on in Middle Eastern countries, long time cruel ruler are falling down to the majority, Maummor Gaddafi from Libya, mubarak from egypt and few more. Who once used to think they would not thrown out, but slowly they are getting out. beleive me time will come in Bhutan as well…..just need to wait. Ngalongs are not majority in Bhutan, there are many groups who are deprived for many years……at that time you would the reality.