Ramesh Gautam / Tejman Rayaka, Geneva
Dec 4: With the presentation of its long awaited Human Rights Report, the UPR Session for Bhutan has formally ended this evening.
The fact that might have surprised the RGOB delegates the Bhutanese refugees attended the government`s country report presentation for the first time in nearly two decades.
But had the RGOB delegation suspected the refugees would resort to do any-thing undesirable during the presentation – that turned to be GUILTY MIND IS ALWAYS SUSPICIOUS as the refugees sitting at the last row maintained silence and polity with high attention to the RGOB presentation which contained that southern Bhutanese had entered Bhutan as economic migrants.
The chilly cold day with three degree Celsius and light rainfall on 4th December had begun with the demonstration by all the sixteen Bhutanese refugees in front of Palais de Nations.
Four of the delegates, some of whom had dressed in Bhutanese national dress Gho, at around ten thirty left to hold meeting with Karim Amer and Pierfrancesco Maria Natta who are Senior Desk Officer and Senior Legal Officer of Bureau for Asia and Pacific for UNHCR respectively for lobbying.
Durga Giri who this team was led by, had briefed the officers stating ´simultaneously with resettlement repatriation options has to be activated´.
The issue of non registered Bhutanese living in India and Nepal was also raised.
Ram BK Chettri, another member of the same team had also raised the mixed marriage cases in response to which Amer had said that their cases will be considered at the last. Chhetri had also complained of the malpractices of the local UNHCR staff.
However, in regard to the complaint, Mr. Amer maintained to say that the people in the camps believe in rumor and they need to get shared of the information by those who have already got resettled.
Similarly, another group of three others with two women, left to meet Natacha Foucard the Human Rights Officer of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
‘We found Foucard highly concerned on the issues of Bhutanese women and children’ said one of the delegates who had met her adding “we are suggested to prepare a comprehensive report on children and women before Bhutan tables its reports in 2010 and 2015 respectively’.
She is learnt to have said this if there comes only one report the international community can’t make critical evaluation.
After the successful meetings, both the teams returned to join and continue the demonstration.
The last meeting the delegates attended was with the UPR management specialist. The team had raised the issue of the Human Rights issues in Bhutan, the situation of refugees in Nepal and the HR reports RGOB was presenting today. The team was advised to widely start the lobbying and advocating with the international communities at large.
Then, the delegates cum demonstrators concluded the demonstration and entered the hall where Kinzang Dorji the head of RGOB delegation made the opening statement.
His nearly 21 minutes long statement was followed by both recommendations for improvement of Human Rights situation and greater political participation and critical questions for clarification on wide range of issues from refugee imbroglio to vague components of GNH.
The session of comments and recommendations by different member states shortly started. The Bhutanese delegation tried clarifying the issues raised by delegates of different countries.
Different member states raised the issue of human rights situation in Bhutan, the state of children and women, refugee situations , media freedom, poverty and many other issues which Bhutanese delegates were vividly seen unable to address the issues.
The refugee issue raised by different European countries including its major donors the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway went unaddressed.
The US delegate strongly raised the issue of unsolved refugee crisis, failure of Bhutan in implementing different acts and protocols, citizenship act etc. Nepal delegate´s concern about resuming the bilateral talks was addressed as it may start when the conducive environment for the talks is resumed.
The Bhutanese delegates were seen killing the time addressing some general issues rather than the issue of refugees which many countries had raised. Bhutanese delegates termed the refugee issue as a humanitarian issue and thanked the countries which took step to resettle them.
The three hour session got completed pouring a big pressure on the Bhutanese delegates. In its first presentation of HR report in the international forum, Bhutan could not only gather appreciation for getting peacefully transformed to a constitutional monarchy, it could too bear the criticisms on different issues. It tried to escape the situation presenting that a new democracy is likely to have an ample issues which need to be cautiously addressed.
It is clear that Bhutan will no longer be able to always sit by the shoulder of India, its big brother of all times, in the international arenas.