Stating that the regime will continue human rights violations until a powerful human rights body starts monitoring the situation, exiled human rights leader Tek Nath Rizal asked the South Asian for Human Rights (SAHR) to coordinate for its branch office in Bhutan.
According to Rizal, SAHR has organized several conferences and published material on Bhutanese refugee issues, and must try its best to lobby with the government seeking permission to open a branch office to monitor the issues of human rights violations.
Presenting a paper at a three-day regional conference, ‘The Challenges FOR SOUTH Asia: Human Rights and Democracy’ ongoing in Kathmandu since Saturday, leader Rizal said, “Bhutan has been blindfolding the international community in the name of democracy and human rights.”
According to leader Rizal, 80,000 Nepali-speaking Bhutanese, who have been dwelling in the countries for centuries, were denied voting rights during the time of the first general election in 2008.
Lauds media initiative
Leader Rizal said that the role of Bhutanese media in exile has not been recognized by international media organizations.
“The Bhutanese refugee community is proud of the media activism in exile,” he said, “Probably, no refugees have done the work of what our young journalists in exile are doing.”
According to him, encouragement and support for media activism in exile are essential. “We cannot depend on the totally censored media operating inside the country.”
He also asked the forum to pressurize the government to release exiled journalist, Shanti Ram Acharya. “Though his friends and organizations have been advocating for his release globally, I urge this forum to create pressure on Bhutan to recognize his journalistic status and free unconditionally.”
‘Protect citizens’ right to religion‘
In another context, Rizal said that it is a moral obligation of all powerful nations and human rights defenders to ask the government to find out the whereabouts of two Christian Bhutanese who have left their village for safety as they have been hunted by the security.
He also urged the international community, resettlement countries and Bhutan’s donors to speak on behalf of the Bhutanese Christians and pressurize the government to immediately release Prem Sigh Gurung, who was slapped a three years jail term by Gelephug District court charging him for showing film of Jesus to his village.
He further said, “The government has imposed ‘One Language and One Religion’ policy which has victimized ethnic languages. This policy accepts Dzongkha as medium of communications and Kagyurpa sect of Buddhism as a State religion.”
‘Need of HR Commission’
Chief Commissioner of Nepal Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Kedar Nath Upadhya, opined there must be national level human rights commissions in each country of the South Asia in order to promote democracy and human rights in the region.
Speaking at the seminar, chief commissioner expressed, “The citizens of Bhutan and Pakistan are at greater risk of facing human rights abuses as these countries lack human rights commissions.”
Meanwhile noted Nepali political analyst and writer CK Lal expressed that Bhutan must be understood as the “land ethnic cleansing”.
He further said, “This country has strange existence South Asia,” he said, “The refugee voice should be given high priority in South Asian human rights discourse.”