Democracy With a Rider


After the southern Bhutanese problem in 1990 and demand of Democracy and Human Rights emanated from the discriminatory ethnic cleansing policy of the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB) led by the fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuk and forcefully evicting 110,000 Lhotsampas arbitrarily depriving nationality and citizenship though living in Bhutan for generations, the 100 year old absolute monarchy relented to constitutional monarchy in 2008. The king Jigme Singye Wangchuk even abdicated the throne to his eldest son Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and officially enthroned on 6th November 2008 as fifth king of Bhutan. The abdication was taken as philanthropic and generosity of the king Jigme Singye Wangchuk and not power thirsty by the International community and people of Bhutan considered Democracy as a gift from the fourth King notwithstanding that it was over due in 1993 itself as declared by the king that he would abdicate the throne if he could not solve the southern Bhutanese problem by that time and the result of struggle and the sacrifice of southern Bhutanese. He dragged on till 2007 and the southern Bhutanese problem specifically the Bhutanese refugees’ problem remained unresolved then.

To smoother his guilt of crime against humanity and divert the attention of International community pressurizing on repatriating the Bhutanese refugees to their own homesteads in Bhutan, the democracy was floated. A constitution drafting committee was formed in 2006. The much awaited country’s constitution was drafted but vesting sacro sanct power to the king and empowering the democratic government to execute just the development plans. On the other side, RGOB adopted a strategy to lobby the International community in the name of democracy that if it had to repatriate the Refugees from the camp, the very foundation of the Democracy would be shaken and there would be question of survival of the fledgling democracy as Refugees in the camps are politically conscious and motivated and which the gullible International community believed hypocrite Bhutan government. Further, taking advantage of the gullible International community, went ahead to allege with its fear psychosis that the southern Bhutanese of Nepali speaking would swamp up the northern Bhutanese and make Bhutan a Sikkim like situation fully knowing that who was the main person to merge Sikkim with India and why?

The unstable government in Nepal, continuous political imbroglio, weak diplomatic dealings with Bhutan government coupled with lack of charismatic central Bhutanese Refugee leadership and disunity was propitious moment for International community to look for other alternative to resolve the protracted refugee problem on humanitarian ground as continuous assistance to 110,000 refugees indefinitely was becoming difficult as there was growing donor fatigue. Meanwhile, the International community, especially the US wanted to fish out of the trouble water with Bhutan at the cost of Refugees’ right to return. It bargained with RGOB to take the Bhutanese refugees for resettlement in lieu of establishment of permanent American Embassy in Bhutan, which of course yet not materialized. Bhutan agreed in alacrity. Eight countries namely, the USA, UK, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Canada, Australia and New Zealand formed a core group for accepting refugees. The ongoing third country resettlement program then began in 2008. Till date more than 75000 refugees are resettled. The USA agreed to take the highest number of refugees. The eight core countries besides humanitarian resolution of the Bhutanese refugees concomitantly endorsed the systematic ethnic cleansing policy of the fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuk, the perpetrator and thus given clean chit to crime against humanity. It can be further substantiated by their silence on issue of repatriation and the right to return of the willing refugees and not accepting resettlement. The resettlement is left to the refugees as Hobson’s choice instead of side by side executing the other two options of repatriation and local assimilation that was initial assurance pronounced by UNHCR and the core countries. Not only that, despite our incessant apprise of the pathetic situation of refugees’ relatives still living in Bhutan and Tibetan refugees without nationality and citizenship in various census category of Bhutan, deprived from government facilities and taking part in much hyped democracy and right to vote, the International community that espouse human rights and democracy in the world are quiet. There are about known 80,000 southern Bhutanese and about 5000 Tibetans, virtually stateless still in Bhutan.  It is a wonder to see the International community, especially the eight core countries so apathetic and prejudicial to southern Bhutanese and what inhibits the International community to speak about those suppress, oppress, voiceless and helpless people while they make much ado on issue of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya et al.

The Democracy in Bhutan is just an eyewash to the International community. In fact the rein of power is in the hand of the king remotely controlled by the fifth king Jigme Singye Wangchuk as all the political parties’ first pledge to serve the kings and then the country and the people. The king has established welfare office parallel to district administration in different part of the country to look after the welfare of the people. There is king’s relief fund for welfare of the people but no prime minister’s relief fund as in other democratic country. There are five political parties registered for the coming parliamentary election that would be held in June/July 2013 as the fifth year term of the ruling government will be over by April 2013. Although three new parties are registered and in the election fray, the Election Commission had already issued standing order notice restricting people assembling, hold mass meeting, perform religious ceremonies, funeral rites and celebrate mass marriage. Not to discuss politics in open for early campaign.

Besides development activities, the interesting thing, there is no mention in their manifestoes of crucial, serious and sensitive national problem of southern Bhutanese including the refugee problem. Yet, the very southern districts are considered strategically very important to all five political parties. The omission indicates that how concern are the political parties on the national issue and to what extent they are inhibited by the government policy to speak about the southern Bhutanese problem and their welfare and resolution of the manifesting problem through rapprochement and national reconciliation. The media in Bhutan are restricted to write mostly the government version and anything serious especially in favor of the southern Bhutanese and their human right violation invites reprimand or action by the government. Some websites critical of government policies are being censored. No outside media are allowed unless invited inside Bhutan that would expose the government misdemeanors. Therefore Democracy in Bhutan is exclusive, rhetoric and functions with a rider.

The opinions expressed here are the writer’s personal view, and doesn’t officially represent the Bhutan News Service. The writer chairs Human Rights Organizations of Bhutan (HUROB), and can be contacted at [email protected]


  1. The system of governance existing in Bhutan is not related to Democracy. It is worth calling JYTcracy. In this type of system any sorts of criticisms, public opinion, opposition’ disagreement will have no any meaning. Rulers select handful of people from pocket and make public say YES. There will always be two supporting pillars in such governance. JYTcracy has
    1. 4th King.
    2. Big brother India

    4th king has and shall back JYTcracy to hide the cruelty and abuse of national treasury in the name of his Maternal Uncle groups (Tashi) and kith and kin of his FOUR WIVES line. In the name of Singay Company almost all the resources are drained by Royal family. Fifth king is just a show-case King. He is remotely controlled. FIFTH king is often termed illegal son born to the Royal family. For 4th king got married in 1988 and THE FIFTH KING WAS BORN IN 1980!!!”
    Thousands of legal children of citizens are made illegal and stateless. Yet, an unknown child born in 1980 became king’s son after he got married to 4 queens in 1988!!!!. Thus, in such country suits JYTcracy.

    2. India serves being a big brother. India ‘s only and the biggest target in Bhutan are : Hydroelectricity and coal mines. For the same India drafted the constitution of Bhutan. India remained mute on Bhutan loosing around 12000sq km of land to China. You know why?
    India very well knows China never attempts southern belt and thus, hydroelectricity is being generated in the south. Once the interest is met and situation prevails India very well shall engulf the south. The JYTcracy team by then will have made their safe heaven elsewhere. Word Patriotism shall never be in the guiding dictionary of such rulers. Very well this drama was sensed by the intellectuals and scholars from southern and eastern part of Bhutan. Thus, those patriots signaled the then rulers in the form of appeal. The then ruler termed the approach anti-national and crushed the southern and eastern population. Unless people do not challenge the JYTcracy from inside Bhutan, Bhutan’s future is in big question mark!!

  2. Very well written, informative and an eye-opener article! The writer has beautifully analyzed the crux of the Bhutanese refugee rigmarole. The writer has also mentioned the reasons behind the failure of human rights and democratic movement in Bhutan. He has also acknowledged the fact that there was lack of charismatic leadership in the Bhutanese movement for the establishment of human rights and democracy. Mr. Subba has not failed to present the clear picture of dictated democracy in the tiny Himalayan Kingdom. He has also mentioned how miserable the life of people in Bhutan is. They are stateless within the state. The only thing that the writer lacks in this article is the grand design of big brother, India in generating refugees from the dragon kingdom in coordination with the 4th King Jigme Singey Wangchuck and its reluctance in solving the crisis.

    Bhagirath Khatiwada
    Concord, NH

  3. So what is next? only the story or some solution? The writer should not write only the problems but if he is genuine should show how to tackle it. we heard stories since 20 years back but we are not hearing what exactly one wants if he/she is given chance to resolve the cause. Also, if there is anyone who can solve the writer’s problem?

  4. Mr. “Bed”, I think we all know that the perfect solution is repatriation, and that’s what the message of the article is. Let’s develop the habit of being optimistic and at least support some body else’s positive opinion. We all know no one can solve writer’s problem. However, dear writer, i enjoyed reading your article and hope some more stories comes from you in the future.

  5. Wangdi! are you a writer of the article? also, please don’t teach the lesson of optimism. in my opinion, we were optimistic because of what we are here in the third country resettlement program. If there were no hope of going back to Bhutan, I would hardly be here in the usa. Please analyse what I am trying to convey to you.

  6. bed, are you saying that you are in USA now with the hope of coming back to Bhutan? This is what your reply to Wangdi suggests…. Can this happen anytime now or in the near future? Then you are MORE OPTIMISTIC than Wangdi. This must be encouraging to Wangdi looking for OPTIMISM….

  7. Here you go Jigme, you right !!!!!!…Bed has no idead what he is taking about. This is not the matter of optimism to go back to bhutan, not the matter of making political correctness doing anything else being in US, Bhutan, or Nepal now. It is just the matter to respect and appreciate someone’s opinion disregard of who is what. Get out of illusion Mr. Bed !!!!!!.

  8. why do ppl want to go back to Bhutan whr democracy is just eye wash. Better enjoy true democracy in the developed western world. If you need some subject to complain abt, blame the incompetent leaders who could not unite and lead. What if you got the offer to repatriate tomorrow? there’s no guarantee you could not be refugees once again given the eye-washed democracy/ JYTcracy there. Nepal is itself not over with it’s internal haggling, and sometimes even contemplating copying Bhutan’s eyewashed democracy & development philosophy as are many others. As you pointed out, the international community is ‘gullible’ & they may continue to believe Bhutan’s lies instead of the refugee ‘truth’. What if Lhotshampas in Bhutan are awaiting our return with khukuris for having to endure a hard time on your behalf. If eyewashing & cheating international community is possible, brainwashing them is probably a click of fingers for JSW & JYT.