Open letter to Jigme Y Thinley


The Prime Minister of Bhutan

Dear Mr. Thinley,

Please acknowledge my tardy wishes, both congratulations and appreciations, for serving the country in the aptitude of the first elected prime minister of a “democratic” Bhutan. In many areas in the country, some positive changes, which are noticeable, have taken place. This is an appreciating initiative. Honestly, you should, however, admit that the phenomenon of modern democracy is yet to be ushered in true guts.

Discrimination on suppressed ethnic groups continues in “democratic” Bhutan. The towering power and monarchy’s direct influence in active politics keeps going. The formation of the Bhutanese Media Foundation under the king’s initiation is an instance. The public’s fundamental rights, in many aspects, have not yet been guaranteed in the practical sense. The question of safeguarding national sovereignty is doubtful — foreign intervention in our politics is the same despite your claim that the country has stepped into the democratization process.

Initially, your recent visit to Nepal had given hope to the Bhutanese refugees because many had thought that you would present yourself intrepid to speak of their immediate return home. You did, but more in a tactical way; it could be another ploy to keep the protracted issue as it is.

Not being an exception, like in the past, you did not overlook to say that your government was committed to resolving the crisis. Just hours after paying homage to the late G.P. Koirala on the 13th day of his death, journalists in Nepal busied themselves in running after your stories. Their grave concern and continuous follow-ups to your visit developed due to your refugees camped in their country for almost two decades.

Dear sir, I was a little bit perplexed to read news stories in the mainstream media in Nepal where you were quoted as saying that the governments of both Bhutan and Nepal have given top priority to resolving the refugee crisis. You did not mention back-up points regarding how your government has been giving it top priority, though. Had it been true, the problem could have been solved many years back. You are also well aware of the fact that despite 15 rounds of Nepal-Bhutan bilateral talks, not a single refugee has been able to go back home.

I wonder for how long your “democratic” government will continue to swindle the international community by maintaining that you are solemn towards kick-starting the repatriation process at the soonest possible.

During the meeting with your Nepali counterpart, Madhav Kumar Nepal, you apparently thanked the core groups for resettling “people in the camps”, in your own words. As has been a trend in Bhutan, you were even hesitant to say “Bhutanese refugees” in the camps, thus, you addressed them as “people in the camps”. Often, politicians or media houses in Bhutan address us as “refugees in Nepal” or “people in the camps”, both of which are not the best terms. I would rather not feel odd to let you know that refugees from various countries including Tibet, Burma, Somalia and Pakistan, among others, too live in Nepal.

There was no coherent basis to thank the core groups if these refugees were not from Bhutan. At least, you deserve appreciation from the exiled Bhutanese for extending your government’s words of gratitude to the resettlement countries. At last you proved that your own regime’s proclamation, quite often, at international arenas labelling those “people in the camps” as “terrorists” is misleading. These “people in the camps” are resettled in various Western countries as refugees from Bhutan, not as terrorists.

Dear sir, I am neither a historian nor a politician. I was a five-year-old boy when my father, besides thousands of others, was brutally tortured — both mentally and physically — for 31 days inside the “black” jail in Bhutan before he was forced to sign the so-called voluntary form at gunpoint in the early 1990s, the time when the mass exodus took place. What I learnt of Bhutan, though I am its genuine citizen, is only through books and from conversations with exiled Bhutanese, leaders or concerned experts.

Apparently, I might be too immature to remind you about the history, which speaks of the fact that these “people in the camps” had a bigger volume of contribution than anyone in Bhutan to drive the country to this stage. Those politicians undermining the history of these great contributors, for sure, shall be demoralized by the standard set norms and values of “true” democracy.

I wonder with whom your government holds bilateral talks. India, that has been a think tank for Bhutanese politics behind the curtain, claims the issue is a bilateral one between Nepal and Bhutan, citing the fact that a majority of your refugees dwell in Nepal. If you are updated, a clear majority among 108,000 persons will soon reach the U.S. through the third country resettlement program. Does this now mean, according to India’s definition, that the bilateral talks should be between your government and the US?

I believe you can’t deceive the US, the world’s biggest democracy, as you did to Nepal, which was an all-time-rubberstamp during 15 rounds of bilateral talks. There isn’t any alternative for your government except to expedite the dignified repatriation process through which those willing to go back home will remain blissful.

Thank you in advance for creating this opportunity to write you an open letter. However, I do not wish to keep writing the same way.

Yours kindly,

T.P. Mishra
New York City


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A father, husband, public speaker, and a freelancer, Mr. Mishra returns to this news portal as the Executive Editor after he had served in the same capacity for nearly three years in the recent past. Born in Dagana, Bhutan and raised in the refugee camp in Nepal, Mishra’s entry into journalism began as early as 2002, and he has been volunteering in the area since then.
Mr. Mishra worked as a special correspondent for The Bhutan Reporter (TBR) Monthly for a few years in the early-mid 2000s. Later, he became Editor at the same newspaper, and also served as the Chief Editor of TBR for two years. He is one of the founder members of Bhutan News Service (BNS), where he started serving as Editor (2006-2009), and later Chief Editor (2009-2011).
Mr. Mishra also served as one of the main hosts of the radio program, Saranarthi Sarokar (translates to ‘Refugee Concern’ in English) in one of the local FM stations in Kathmandu, Nepal from 2007 through 2009. As a host of the program, he interviewed dozens of high-profile Nepalese and Bhutanese politicians, academicians, social and community leaders, including foreign diplomats then based in Kathmandu and Jhapa, Nepal.
Aside from his reporting work while in Kathmandu, Mr. Mishra also got involved in other philanthropic work, and helped needy refugees. Mr. Mishra led two donation campaigns through the lobby in Kathmandu among fellow Bhutanese refugees and supported fire victims in the refugee camp in the eastern part of the country. Mr. Mishra also directly assisted dozens of sick patients with various illnesses from the refugee camps in Jhapa to get their appropriate treatment in Kathmandu-based hospitals at a discounted rate and/or free of cost.
Mr. Mishra has appeared in various national, regional and international publications including the Wall Street Journal, Aljazeera America, Explore Parts Unknown, Global Post, Himal Southasian, among dozens of other media outlets with articles aimed at advocating the Bhutanese refugee issue. The New York Times, BBC, Guardian Weekly, among many others have featured Mishra’s work. Mr. Mishra has also written articles extensively reflecting the state of ‘freedom of speech & expression in Bhutan.’
Mr. Mishra is also the author of a handbook called Becoming a Journalist in Exile.
Mr. Mishra is the recipient of two awards—one by the Bhutan Press Union (2006), and the other by the Organization of Bhutanese Communities in America (2011) for his contributions in the related field. Founder President of the Bhutan Chapter of the Third World Media Network (2006-2012), Mishra has also represented Bhutan in various regional and national-level trainings and seminars on media freedom while during his stay in Nepal.
Mr. Mishra holds his first Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Purbanchal University in Nepal, and the second Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.