Bhutan Prime Minister’s Remarks Raise Questions Over Democracy Transition

The remarks of the Bhutanese prime minister regarding Bhutanese refugees are the last resort of the Druk regime to escape from its illegal and inhuman activities that it carried out during the early 1990s.

The statements have raised questions about the regime’s intention for sincere transition of the kingdom from an absolute monarchy to a democratic nation, which is another attempt to hoodwink the international community.

In fact, the state terrorism in Bhutan still continues, at village level, where people have no medium to bring out their voices but remain suppressed at gun-point. On one side, the Bhutanese regime has been advocating that it is willing to see the establishment of political parties in the country whereby the country can move ahead to a democratic system, while at the same time alleging the political parties and other organizations to be terrorist groups.

We question, when the government called parties terrorist groups while they were established in 1990 demanding democratic freedom and human rights, how can the groups created by such an autocratic regime not be a terrorist group? This is another way of imposing state terrorism.

It is time that government act responsively towards finding peaceful solutions to the problem before the situation becomes uncontrollable. The refugee community is consciously concerned that if anyone takes up arms against the government, it not only leads to collapse of the government but also to put the stability and sovereignty of the kingdom at risk. But we also have no option to sympathizing with the group advocating armed rebellion in Bhutan because we think this is the only alternative they found for getting justice. They are frustrated by not being heard when their voices were raised through peaceful means almost for the last two decades.

Taking up arms is the last measure that people find to get justice. Bhutanese people have been peace loving and still believe in it. The failure of the Bhutanese regime to understand the reality of the situation is gradually leading the country to destruction and havoc. Who shall hold responsibility for that?

We demand that the Bhutanese government withdraw its statement and take a bold initiative towards maintaining harmony and equality among all citizens of the country. As the chief of the government, the prime minister, and we hope of the king as well, should in no way instigate or prompt the frustrated young refugee population to take up arms. The situation has turned otherwise than what the Bhutanese government thought that refugees would be self-dismantled after years of lives in abysmal camps.

We again stress that statements like that of prime minister Khandu Wangchuk would further enhance the existence of armed rebellions and encourage them to take up arms. The government must usher in peaceful means of finding the solution and respect the voices of all section of its citizens. Civil liberties, equality, human rights, press freedom, right to association, equal access to state facilities, representative government, independent judiciary, sovereign powers on the people and end of discrimination based on ethnicity, language, culture, geography and sex and repatriation of the exiled citizens should be the essential components of the upcoming Bhutanese democracy and constitution.

I. P. Adhikari is a Bhutanese journalist who writes about Bhutan and Nepal, and is a member of the Association of Press Freedom Activists-Bhutan. He founded Bhutan News Service. A former Bhutanese refugee, he was forced to leave Bhutan with his family in 1992.
in 2001, he started The Shangrila Sandesh, and in 2004 he and Vidhyapati Mishra started the Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA) Bhutan. In 2007 they started Bhutan News Service. He worked in The Rising Nepal, The Himalayan Times, Nation Weekly and while living in Nepal as refugee.

Adhikari moved to Adelaide, South Australia under the resettlement program of the UNHCR for Bhutanese Refugees. There, he founded Yuba Sansar, a weekly Nepali-language radio program on Radio Adelaide.