Bhutanese refugee

Bhutanese refugee

Bhutanese refugees are a group of people of Nepalese origin, some of whom had been living in Southern Bhutan, and many of whom now live in refugee camps in Nepal. Many of the details concerning Bhutanese refugees are debated, so this article presents the two predominant views separately.

Bhutan's Point of View

"Many of us left our home in southern Bhutan voluntarily fearing arrests and assaults,” said a refugee on condition of anonymity. “There were rumors in all southern Bhutan area bordering with Assam that people of Nepalese origins would be executed. When I met leaders of Nepalese origin, they showed me the way to flee Bhutan and go to Nepal"."cite news | last = Poudel| first = Keshab| title = Hoping Against Hope| pages =
publisher = Nepal News| date = 2006| url =| accessdate = 2006

Immigration in Bhutan by Nepalese settlers began slowly towards the end of the 19th century. Immigrants who had been resident in Bhutan prior to 1958 were granted citizenship through ‘registration’ in 1958. However, There is a dispute claiming the citizenship. The only acceptable proof of being a resident of Bhutan prior to 1958 was registration with the Ministry of Home Affairs. However, according to historians, the Ministry of Home Affairs did not exist in 1958. It was established ten years later in 1968. Thus, the new legislation made it next to impossible for Lhotshampas (of Nepalese origin) to claim Bhutanese citizenship.

There had long been an ambiguity in Bhutan's endeavor to economically catch up with the rest of world. During the mid 1900s the late king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, the father of the current king, implemented policies aimed at modernizing Bhutan and uplifting it from economic backwaters. The king saw economic development as necessary not only for the well-being of his people, but also for the sustenance of his monarchy. But, through various government policies aimed at modernizing Bhutan, an increasing number of Bhutanese people became exposed to the West. Many Bhutanese (both Drukpas and Lhotshampas) traveled abroad and brought back notions of democracy and political freedom, and began criticizing the monarchy as dictatorial and despotic.

Consequently, most of the economic development programs were brought to an abrupt halt in 1985. Opposition to the monarchy was suppressed. Contact with foreign countries was cut off. Television antennas were dismantled. Tourism was curtailed. Lhotshampas were identified as a threat to the Drukpa monarchy and legislation was passed that attempted to destroy their cultural and religious identity. The Drig Lam Namsha (code of cultural correctness) mandated all Bhutanese (specifically Lhotshampas) to wear traditional Drukpa clothes in public. Use of Dzonkha, the Drukpa dialect, was made mandatory in all public areas despite the inability of a large number of Lhotshampas to speak the dialect and the fact that king Wangchuk himself was known to speak Nepali language in casual conversations. The practice of Hinduism (by the Lhotshampas) and any religion other than Mahayana Buddhism was prohibited. Other rules included specific hair-styles and ways of addressing each other in public.

The Lhotshampas protested against these laws as gross violation of their human rights and openly defied the Drig Lam Namsha. The government responded by claiming such actions were a clear case of rebellion against the king, the kingdom and the government. Violent confrontations ensued. In addition, the government passed new legislation in 1985 which set forth fresh criteria for Bhutanese citizenship. Nullifying any prior legislation, the new laws stipulated that only those individuals who could provide proof of being a resident of Bhutan prior to 1958 were eligible for citizenship. Any individual who was unable show proof of residency in Bhutan prior to 1958 (including those who had already been granted citizenship through previous legislation of 1977) were deprived of their citizenship status. The only acceptable proof of being a resident of Bhutan prior to 1958 was registration with the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The 1988 census attempted to distinguish the legal immigrants from the illegal settlers (based upon the above mentioned criteria) and this resulted in a number of ethnic Nepalese being asked to leave Bhutan. The deportees first settled in the Nepali dominated tea gardens in the Duars bordering India, but eventually found themselves settled in refugee camps in Eastern Nepal.

The census was implemented according to the 1985 Citizenship Act and has been heavily criticised for ‘retroactive’ application to immigrants who settled before the Act was passed. However, the 1985 Citizenship Act made no fundamental deviation from the 1958 Act. The census also made concerted effort to clearly distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants. Legal immigrants remain in Bhutan and form as much as 15% of the total population.

The leaders of the refugees claim that all ethnic Nepalese were forcefully evicted and Nepalese culture and language have been suppressed in Bhutan.

The refugees, said to number anywhere from 85,000 to 125,000 remain in Nepal’s eastern districts of Jhapa and Morang. Exact figures are not verifiable as the refugee leaders and the government of Nepal have never permitted UNHCR or any other aid organization to conduct a proper census of the camps. Many of the refugees also do not live in the camps, many living in Kathmandu itself or have already emigrated to western countries.

Refugee Point of View

Bhutanese refugee (Lhotsampa) have been living in southern Bhutan since the late nineteenth century [ [ Voice of America 18 October 2006] ] who were expelled from Bhutan after the country carried out its first census in 1988. [ [ UNHCR Publication] ] They currently reside in refugee camps in south-eastern Nepal.

Historical Background

The ethnic Nepalese population consisting of Kirat, Hindu, Tamang, Gurung etc. had been living in Southern Bhutan from nineteenth century. These people are called Lhotsampa or the Southern people by the Druks.

The problems started when in 1980s when the Government of Bhutan discovered in a census that the Druk population were slightly larger than the Lhotsampa population and that the population growth rate of Lhotsampa was greater than that of Druks. This was perceived as a threat by the autocratic Government. Hence, in 1985, the Government passed out a new Citizenship Act which prevented many of the Lhotsampa from being recognized as Bhutanese nationals. To reinforce this movement, the Government forced the use of Druk dress and etiquette and closed down Nepalese schools and curriculum.

People from Royal Advisory Council such as Tek Nath Rizal, a Lhotsampa, was also imprisoned. He later fled to Nepal to form "People's Forum for Human Rights".

Most of the refugees were taken up by Nepal which currently has about 103,000 Bhutanese refugees according to UNHCR.


Resettlement Efforts:

The U.S. has offered to resettle 60,000 of the 107,000 Bhutanese refugees of Nepalese origin now living in seven U.N. refugee camps in southeastern Nepal. Six other nations -- Australia, Canada, Norway, Netherlands, New Zealand and Denmark -- have offered to resettle 10,000 each []

See also

* Ethnic cleansing
* Persecution of Hindus
* Illegal immigration
* Immigration in Bhutan


* UNHCR brief on Bhutanese Refugees:

* Bhutanese Refugee page on Human Rights Watch:




* cite news | last = | first = | title = 327 Killed in Bhutan Last Week | pages = 12–27
publisher = Japan Times | date = 1990-09-28| url = | accessdate = 2006-07-03

* cite news | last = | first = | title = Anti-nationals in open revolt | pages = 1
publisher = Kuensel| date = 1990-09-29| url = | accessdate = 2006-07-03



Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно сделать НИР?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bhutan — /booh tahn /, n. Bhutanese, adj. a kingdom in the Himalayas, NE of India: foreign affairs under Indian jurisdiction. 1,865,191; ab. 19,300 sq. mi. (50,000 sq. km). Cap.: Thimphu. * * * Bhutan Introduction Bhutan Background: In 1865, Britain and… …   Universalium

  • Википедия:Проект:Бутан — Проект «Бутан» Проект «Бутан»  создан для координации написания статей о Бутане, населении, культуре, политике, экономике, географии, истории Бутана и пр. Также планируется улучшение уже существующих статей о Бутане. Если Вам интересна тема… …   Википедия

  • Immigration in Bhutan — The earliest surviving records of Bhutan’s history show that Tibetan influence already existed from the 6th century AD. King Songtsen Gampo who ruled Tibet from AD 627 649 was responsible for the construction of Bhutan’s oldest surviving Buddhist …   Wikipedia

  • Lhotshampa — Bhutanese refugees in Beldangi Camp Total population 241,899[1] Regions with …   Wikipedia

  • Demographics of Bhutan — This article is about the demographic features of the population of Bhutan, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population. Bhutanese… …   Wikipedia

  • Nepalese American — Total population 59,490 as of 2010 Regions with significant populations New York City Metropolitan Area[1] · Washington Metropolitan Area[1]  …   Wikipedia

  • Nepalese Australian — The Nepal Peace Pagoda at South Bank Parklands in Brisbane, Australia Total population 17,000 (2009)[1 …   Wikipedia

  • Outline of Bhutan — The Fl …   Wikipedia

  • Foreign relations of Bhutan — Bhutan This article is part of the series: Politics and government of Bhutan Constitution Law of Bhutan …   Wikipedia

  • Population Trends — ▪ 1999 Introduction Demography       At midyear 1998, world population stood at 5,926,000,000, according to estimates prepared by the Population Reference Bureau. This total represented an increase of 84 million over the previous year, firmly… …   Universalium

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”