Bhutanese regime and its art of lying


It is an undeniable fact that most of the nations know that Bhutan is a country of immigrants, who entered into Bhutan through different time periods. However, the country itself is yet to admit this fact. Therefore, labeling citizens, whose entry into Bhutan dates back to not before the 17thcentury, as “illegal immigrants” of Bhutan is neither logical nor justifiable.

All the Bhutanese in exile, who have been dwelling in ramshackle huts in Nepal or elsewhere with hardship since two decades, are confidently ready to prove themselves to be bona-fide Bhutanese, be it in the presence of unbiased representatives from the international community. So, the question here is not how over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees prove their “Bhutanese identity”, but it should be, instead, is Bhutan prepared enough to accept them when these so-called “illegal immigrants” certify their status in the presence of international community?

Sense of cruelty: It is well agreed that Bhutan is a Buddhist nation with multi ethnicity and multiple religions. From the very beginning of the history of Bhutan, it has been continuously ruled by Buddhist rulers. However, the rulers seem to be far behind in concept of true philosophy of Buddhism, as a result of which they unleashed numerous chapters of “killing each other” mercilessly to hold supreme position. Although never mentioned in the history of Bhutan, even the re incarnations of Zhabdrung Ngawang the most famous spiritual leader of Bhutan, were assassinated from time to time to hold the power by the rulers.

The rulers, who also follow Buddhism, as commoners do, have been discriminating and suppressing other religions. A monk named Gomchen Karma from Tashigang, a follower of another sect of Buddhism Nyningmapa, was shot dead on October 27, 1997 by the district officer Lakpa Dorji and expelled many senior Buddhist monks of eastern Bhutan simply for attending a peaceful procession demanding equal rights to religions. After this incident, to appease this community and to avoid two front enmities, the regime promptly promoted Sharchop officers to the ranks of ministers. But all the ministers from other ethnic community are still under compulsion to dance to the tunes of the regime.

Crux of refugee crisis: Until late 70s, Bhutan remained as one of the poorest countries in the world. However, there existed very good relationship between the ruler and citizens. Such a relationship was, indeed, taken as an indicator of prosperity in the nation in the days to come. But that was not liked by the neighbor country which started creating melodrama, first in Sikkim and later in Darjeeling aiming at arousing Bhutan against the southern Bhutanese.  In both the issues, the Indian citizens of Nepali ethnicity were projected in the front, ultimately Sikkim was annexed to India; people of Darjeeling had to be satisfied with old Hill Council and ethnic Nepali of those regions were blamed for swallowing Sikkim. Thus, the scaremonger easily motivated Bhutan to act against the southern Bhutanese of Nepali ethnicity.

The wiseacre rulers of Bhutan did not waste their time to hatch up conspiracies against the citizens of southern Bhutan, mostly Nepali-speaking people called Lhotsampas by the regime. The autocrat started executing discriminatory and suppressive policies upon the Lhotsampas targeting their culture, religion and livelihood. These people were left with no option but to request the ruler-turned-predator for institutionalizing human rights as enshrined in United Nations.

But the regime chose military crackdown on its citizens when many people were intimidated, arbitrarily arrested, tortured and murdered in jails. This is not enough. Many women were gang-raped, houses set ablaze, huge properties of the citizens destroyed and important documents were confiscated by the security forces to erase their “Bhutanese identity” permanently.

Refugee arrivals: Tragedies of Lhotsampas did not end there as the government started evicting them systematically on various pretexts. They had to enter India. Unluckily, those evicted Bhutanese were not given asylum in the first port of entry, India, rather the security forces of India motivated and even instigated them to enter Nepal. Thus Bhutanese never entered Nepal by their own will, but it was a Hobson’s choice (without options). Fortunately, Nepal was kind enough to take them on humanitarian ground and within very short time the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) came to assist these people.

Bhutan and its advisors were thinking that those Bhutanese after their eviction from their homeland would be assimilated in Indian borders as Duars and Nepal because of their similar language and ethnicity but that could not take place as they realized they and their forefathers had sweated and bled for their motherland and have remained determined to return Bhutan in days to come. To keep the ball rolling in his desired track, Bhutan even attempted to convince the Nepali authority for not granting them asylum. Probably, Bhutan wrote some letters to the UNHCR to stop its aid basket for these people. But, both couldn’t happen as expected by the Bhutanese regime. Irked with such humanitarian supports from Nepal and the UNHCR, it instead started evicting citizens en masse.

Slim hope for repatriation: With efforts of constant negotiation from Nepali side due to the international pressure, Bhutan at least accepted the presence of some Bhutanese in the UN-monitored camps in Nepal. So, in very trickery manner it proposed to categorize its own citizens in 1994. Subsequently, Khudunabari camp was verified in 2003 after forming a Joint Verification Team (JVT) with Nepal. During verification the whole show was dominated by the team from Bhutan and the verification was conducted in very deceptive manner and according to the whim of Bhutanese team. The results were amazing. Two four-year-olds, Srijana Poudyel and Ramesh Poudel, both born in camp, were categorized as “criminals” of Bhutan. Can anybody in the world tolerate such open deception? The JVT declared 293 to be forcefully evicted from Bhutan, 347 to be having criminal records in Bhutan, 8595 voluntarily migrated from Bhutan and 2948 having no link to Bhutan, could be Bhutanese whose documents were confiscated or destroyed by the security forces during military crackdown before they were evicted.

In 2003, the Bhutanese refugees, except those having no link in Bhutan, as accused by the regime, were verified to be bona-fide Bhutanese whatever the category they have fallen in. So Bhutan must take these people back to Bhutan with safety and dignity if it prefers to call it as a true democratic country where citizens enjoy their rights. The so-called democratic ruler must be brave enough to accept its mistakes if they have real faith in Buddhism and Bhutan as the last Shangri-la.

Regime’s art of lying: Even after finding all facts, Bhutan is still persistently and shamelessly campaigning in international community saying that the people in the camps in Nepal are illegal immigrants who had entered Bhutan as laborers to work in country’s first installed Chhuka Hydroelectric Project (CHEP) in early seventies. Bhutan must remember that I was deputed to this project as medical officer by the government. And, I was a doctor to sign on the medical fitness forms of those laborers coming from India and Nepal, if we accept Bhutan’s allegation. Later, in mid 80s those laborers were thrown out of the project and Bhutan, after official agreement with India. Now, Bhutan is trying to confuse the international community about the eviction of those laborers of the CHEP with the eviction of Lhotsampas since early nineties. Such persistent attitude of regime is an indication of aftermath of eviction which still looms around the remaining Bhutanese of Nepalese ethnicity in Bhutan.

Bhutan often engages itself in telling the Bhutanese refugee stalemate is a humanitarian issue but never dared say who or what caused this issue. So far, Bhutan is very lucky as it is backed by a giant neighbour and its propaganda is sellable in the market. Why Bhutan does not dare sitting across the table with the refugees and prove them “illegal immigrants” if they really are as it claims? What the refugee community hopes is Bhutan will stop telling such lies to hide the stories of injustice to its citizens and violation of human right and will start following true philosophy of Buddhism. Telling lies upon lies is unforgivable crime in front of Lord Buddha and against the principle of Shangri-la, which the present Bhutan needs to learn.

(Dr. Rai is the chairperson of Bhutanese Refugee Representative Repatriation Committee. He can be reached at: [email protected])



  1. Dr. Rai, your article lacks credibility because the Joint Verification Team of Nepal and Bhutan jointly verified that not all refugees are Bhutanese citizens.

    The Joint Verification Team (JVT) of Bhutan and Nepal presented the following results to the fourteenth meeting of the Ministerial Joint Committee (MJC) in Kathmandu in May 2003 on the verification of the residents of Khudunabari camp:
    Category ———–No. of people ——Percentage
    (1) Bonafide Bhutanese —-293—— ——-2.5 %
    (2) Emigrants ————–8,595————70.5%
    (3) Non-Bhutanese ——–2,948————24.2%
    (4) Criminals—————347————–2.8%
    Total ———————12,183 ————100%

    So, your article has got factual errors which you must correct before accusing others of lying.

  2. Rajesh_Gurung: The JVT also verified that one eighteen month old baby as a terrorist. They verified many born in the camps were classified as criminals. This was the data from one camp only with less than 12% of the total refugee population.

    The JVT was flawed, so, Dr. Rai would do better to not use it as authentic data. The Bhutanese side was dedicated to classify as many refugees as possible as non-Bhutanese. The Nepalese side had no stake in the issue. The refugees were not represented, nor was the UNHCR. The JVT data is pretty much shoddy at best.

    However, the emigrants in the classification are those who had been forcefully evicted. As you can see in the classification, only 24.2% were classified as non_Bhutanese. That means that even through the shoddy process, they classified 75.8% as Bhutanese. Extrapolation of this data to the general populations, flawed as it is, may not be accurate science, but if we do so, an overwhelming number of refugees were able to prove to their own persecutors as Bhutanese.

  3. Dr. Bhampa Rai:

    I have tremendous respect for you for your great services to your Bhutanese community, and I hope, some day, you will become Prime Minister of Bhutan. However, I did not appreciate you accusing my country, the United Sates of America, for misleading or encouraging Bhutanese refugees to come to the United States just to help Bhutan’s regime and to hurt Bhutanese refugees just cause.

    I would like to remind you that it was the United States, which pressured Bhutan Government, in late December 2000, to agree with Nepal to a system to verify the nationality of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal in preparation for their return to Bhutan.

    The United States, even threatened Bhutan with its denial to its aid to Bhutan if Bhutan did not agree to start its verification process.

    Bhutan’s last diplomatic visit to the refugee camps happened in 2003, when a verification team comprised of Bhutanese and Nepali officials interviewed residents of the Khudunabari camp, one hut at a time. Camp residents remember welcoming the delegation with hospitality and open arms, hoping that this would lead to their repatriation. After they finished, however, the Bhutanese team held a meeting at the camp’s biggest building and announced that just 2.4 percent of Khudunabari’s more than 12,000 residents were “genuine refugees” from Bhutan who might be eligible to go back. Most of the others might have been living in Bhutan but had renounced their citizenship by voluntarily leaving, and another 24 percent were not in any way Bhutanese, the report claimed.

    (2): India did not allow the refugees to stay, so they were trucked to the border of Nepal, which accepted them. Before the United Nations took over the relief efforts in 1992, thousands of refugees lived in makeshift, riverside camps where illness and death were common. It is now a popular belief in Bhutan, fueled by official government statements, that poor citizens of India and Nepal sneaked into the camps for the free food and shelter, and now comprise a large percentage of those who are refugees. Those who have worked with the refugees say those allegations are wrong.

    Let us forget and forgive. I suggest you start discussing with Bhutan Government, a possible peace agreement.
    I would suggest Bhutan’s King to appoint you as the new Prime Minister of Bhutan, and appoint Mr. Tek Nath Rizal as Bhutan’s new President. The King also should allow all of remaining Bhutanese refugees living in the camps in Nepal to return to Bhutan with dignity and respect.
    Accepting remaining Bhutanese refugees should not be a problem since about more than 85% of Bhutanese refugees already have left for the United States and other countries, or have agreed to leave for America and other countries.
    I would greatly appreciate if you would please respond to my suggestions to my email address
    [email protected]
    as soon as possible.
    I will do my best to bring Bhutanese refugees and Bhutanese Government, both parties together at negotiating table to bring a permanent solution and peace to the region.
    Mr. Shahid M. Pasha, Massachusetts, USA

  4. Dear Dr.Rai,
    it is well written and i appreciate the support you been providing to nepali people so called Lhotshampa(esp.Refugee).

    it is really sad but one should look on the both the side.
    to address such issues, pls go back to the history and know about nepalese people.

    here are few things i want to say ; how we don’t get right.

    1* Nepali people are never nepali by heart cos this group consist of various racial people indo-aryan,mogolain and some Dravidian race.

    2* Mongolian Nepalese have been dominated by indo-aryan so called bahun’s.

    3* all nepalese was again conquered by British at one point of time.

    4* shah dynasty sold Mongolian race people to british(gurkha) to secure his throne.

    5* British Used Gurkha to serve their warfare purpose.

    6* indian used gurkha army and gave highest status in military forced and never gave them any LAND.

    so.. what is wrong when Bhutanese ruler dominate nepali. they know the loop holes and our community’s character and history.

    Bhahun’s think they are intelligent even if they are not, Rai, Tamang,gurung etc thinks they are brave when they are not…. so there is not point accusing other people. first place first, we need to streamline own community and i am 100% sure.. it will never happen.

    m not trying to be against your thought Dr.Rai but i feel nepali people would have been very successful if it was either Mongolian or Aryan.
    internal core part of nepali community is Indian and you know when i mean INDIAN.(esp bhahun’s)i.e even nepal has bad political condition cos of this immigrated indian’s.


  5. Well this is very funny stratching old wound and making it re-itch.
    The story of Sikkim’s annexion with India is very Simple…ie..two western ladies job and the sad thing..Sikkim lost its identity as a nation.Who are those ladies?!Grace Kelly or called Mrs Hope and Mr.Kazi’s Belgian wife and have not had the tug off war sharing the power of that tiny nation the Indian administration would have never bothered to look at it.Understand this …….