The New Hampshire House committee of State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs held a hearing on a proposed resolution (SCR1) on Bhutan April 30. The resolution calls upon the state and the federal government to recognize the contribution of Bhutanese refugees to New Hampshire, and requests the United States government to work diligently on resolving the Bhutanese refugee crisis, reaching an agreement to allow the option of repatriation, and promoting human rights and democracy in Bhutan respectively
Senator Feltes, the primary sponsor of the resolution introduced the resolution to the House committee and clarified the importance of passing the resolution. In the hearing, the committee chairman, recommended Senator Feltes to attach a Senate letter to New Hampshire Congressional delegation as well. Sen. Feltes accepted the suggestion positively. Testifying for the resolution, the Executive Director of ICHRB, Suraj Budathoki, presented the contemporary human rights abuses in Bhutan focusing particularly on stateless Bhutanese in Bhutan and refugees in Nepal. Mr. Budathoki presented the committee official circular signed by Dago Tshering, the then Deputy Home Minister that reads, “It must be made very clear that such people’s family members living under the same household will be also be held fully responsible and forfeit their citizenship.” Mr. Budathoki said, “This is the very circular that gave absolute power to the then district administrators and police officers to confiscate citizenship and expelled thousands of them from their own homeland.” Doug Hall, a former member of the NH House, suggested that the US should establish an Embassy in Bhutan to take up human rights issues. Mr. Hall also exposed restriction put on foreign visitors to inquire anything about the refugee and Lhotshampas who have been enduring human rights and citizenship problem in the southern Bhutan.
William B. Gillett, Dean of the Business School at Southern New Hampshire University, testified and called for justice through reparation, repatriation and family unification for those who had been forcefully expelled.
Dhan Maya Nepal spoke of her father who had been arrested and brutally tortured in her own school that had been turned into an Army barracks and detention center. He was shoved into a narrow foxhole with 10 individuals on top of him. As per her, after his release, his father vomited blood, head was battered by blue bruises and fingers were broken due to torture. Another torture victim, D.B Chuwan shared with the committee his story of facing torture in Bhutanese prison.
Representative Patrick Long shared his experience with Bhutanese in Manchester. He praised Bhutanese culture of respecting their parents and grandparents and keeping with them when they grow old. Pandit Devi Khanal shared his experience of a week in the jungle, surviving by eating only wild plants. He had fled his home due to constant harassment and threats on his life by the Bhutanese army. Later the rest of his family had been harassed and made to leave the country. He was only reunited with his family in a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal.
The New Hampshire House will vote on this resolution and, if passed, copies signed by the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate will be sent to the President of the United States and the Secretary of the United States Department of State.
Talking to BNS over the phone, Suraj Budathoki suggested similar hearing process be initiated in other states to expand the knowledge base on the situation of human rights and democratic practices in Bhutan.