thatcher funeral

I have never been a supporter of Margaret Thatcher. I fact I opposed her policies on the de-industrialisation of the UK, trade, economics and also her foreign policies. I am a pacifist, she most certainly was not. I did not like her dealings with the Falklands although I do think that those islands should stay British.

But there is no doubt Britain would be like it is today without her reign as prime minister. And there certainly is no doubt about the quality of British tradition and the British sense of dignity and decorum as shown today.

Today I watched the funeral of Thatcher with growing admiration for what the British can do and how they adhere to their traditions. The whole day has been a proof of how a state funeral, albeit not a formal state funeral, should be organized and executed. Every little detail had been taken care of, no flaws in concentration of anyone involved in this very special occasion. The funeral was a hallmark example of British pride and military strength.

The whole funeral showed how (most of) the British honoured a leader who without any doubt was responsible for the resurrection of Britain.

When I visited the UK in the 1980’s on a very frequent basis it was a nation in decline. Unemployment, lack of interest for the historical value of it’s culture, the constant threat of terrorism and an overall feeling of nationwide depression were omnipresent. But when I returned to London this year after decades of absence I was surprised to find a clean and proud city, people who were open and welcoming and monuments, buildings and a city that looked better and more impressive than ever. The contrast between London in the eighties and today were remarkable and impressive.

Today’s funeral underlined this new quality of that country.

I still do not approve of many aspects of Thatcher’s politics. But I do feel that today’s funeral was appropriate and fitting for a woman of her stature and strenght. Because no matter what anyone might think or say, she certainly was a remarkable and impressive prime minister. A woman of great strength. The only disturbance of the occasion was the lack of control of those who protested against her even after her death. They shouldn’t have done so.

© 2013 Alice Anna


Why does Jack own a gun?

About a week ago kids were shot in a school in the US. The after effect is a discussion about gun laws. The main argument used by gun owners and the NRA (National Rifle Association) being that everyone has the right to protect him- or herself and their property. It’s the second amendment of the US constitution. Written when cowboys rode the plains of America to steal land from the native Americans, made when guns where needed for the creation of a nation.

Jack lives on Davenport Avenue in Westchester County, New Rochelle, New York City. It’s a quiet neighborhood. The crime rate is low, the apartments look nice and the cars in the streets are average from cheap to middle class. Jack might very be your run of the mill Mr. Average living in the block next to you. Your friendly neighbor. I really don’t know Jack, no idea how he looks like, no idea how he makes a living. However, I do know where he lives. I even know the exact address, according to his gun permit.


The Journal News published that information together with names and addresses of another 44,000 gun owners in the Westchester County and adjacent Rockland and Putnam Counties. One in every 23 adults, carrying a gun. Most of them are male. They did so by claiming the right to that information on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act, another basic citizens right in the US. Gun owners of course are angry as a result. This column is not about wether they should or should not have published the map. Obviously there’s a risk in that piblication as it drills down to names and addressess, something I find hard to support. But, it’s out there now and no one can deny it’s reality. Gun owners of course went bazurk over the publication and en masse condemned The Journal News for doing so. On the other hand, it only proves that there are so many guns in that area. And as it is an average community out there, one can be sure things are in fact much, much worse on a national scale. Mind, these are the registered gun owners, not the unregistered and it doesn’t even tell  how many guns are owned by a specific person. The number of guns will abviously be way more than 44,000.

As the map shows the area is absolutely overcrowded with gun owners. Most of them are according to the NRA and a lot of (mostly Republican) politicians ‘decent and responsible citizens’. Who shoot guns. Most of them. The map only shows the pistol owners. Not the ones owning Bushmaster semi automatics or rifles. The map would become unreadable if it did.


Anyhow, Jack owns a gun. No idea also what gun and what for. But as Jack is Mr. Average, it might very well be for the purpose of self protection and protection of his property. He might think he needs a gun to do so. But does he? Thing is, he would probably, if it was true that he or his relatives, friends or property are under threat. According to US laws that is. But are they? Is it that dangerous to live in the part of New York where Jack lives? Is the crime rate so alarming there? By the way, this is how Jack’s street looks like. Just an ordinary street in an ordinary neighborhood. Doesn’t seem that there is much happening out there.


There’s more information available on the area he lives in. Like on, a website showing details of crimes committed anywhere in the US. It also shows the crimes committed in Jack’s neighborhood. In the last three months one crime was registered. An assault resulting from a dispute. Two blocks away. Apart from that nothing happened in the area where Jack lives. No burglaries, no muggins, rapes or killings, nothing. But Jack still owns a gun. Like at least 5 others in his street and over a dozen in the adjacent blocks. Probably all for their safety because there is no way that all of them are sports shooters or hunters or anything like that. They are just Misters Average and Mistresses Average.


So why, if for the past three months the only scary thing that happened in Jack’s street was a dispute, does Jack have a gun, a pistol to be exact? Maybe in a drawer in his bedroom, or a cabinet. Maybe in his pocket when you’re having a coffee at the nearby diner.

Or in the café a little bit more further away.

When he gets drunk for no reason.

And gets into a fight with you.

Pulls his gun.

And shoots.

Kills you.

Why does Jack own a gun?

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

Note: Jack exists, he really lives there and if you would search for it you would find out exactly where. Not that it matters because Jack is just one of these tens of thousands of gun owners I picked from the map published by the Journal News. Jack could just as well have been Jill or Bill or one of his neighbors Rodney, James, Robert, Salvatore or Thomas. Sorry Jack, it had to be you. I’m sure you’re a decent guy. With a gun.

Is UNHCR creating malnutrition in the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal?

A few days ago a letter was written by important members of the Bhutanese refugee community in Nepal to the UNHCR in that country. The letter is a request to discuss maltreatment by the UNHCR regarding the refugees they are supposed to take care of.

What is happening?

Since the early 1990’s the UNHCR has managed and maintained a number of refugee camps in the southeast of Nepal (more exact, in the Jhapa and Morang districts). At its height there were over 107.000 refugees listed in those camps. Since 2008 the UNHCR has started the by far largest third country resettlement program ever aiming at completely solving the decades long refugee crisis of the Bhutanese who exiled from their Shangri-La like country in the Himalayas.


The UNHCR has done a tremendous job in guarding peace in those camps while at the same time bringing essential humanitarian aid the the inhabitants. Nepal (just like India and Bhutan) never signed the UN refugee treaty so the UNHCR has been working there on a UN mandate. They have been partnering with AMDA (Asian Medical Doctors Association) for health care, Caritas for education, Lutheran World Federation for camp management and monitoring and the WFP World Food Program for food distribution to the camp communities that have no other means of existence.

But things have changed. The aim of the UNHCR in Nepal seems to have shifted in the past few years from caring for the refugees who livin in limbo in the camps to bringing a durable solution to their situation by third country resettlement. According to the international morale of refugees the people should repatriate but that has obviously proven to be an impossible dream as Bhutan, the country of Gross National Happiness, has been frustrating talks and efforts for that ever since the crisis started in 1991. Assimilation in the Nepalese and Indian society is also a no go as Nepal and India do not accept that (the lack the resources to do that on a humanitarian responsible manner), hence the durable solution of the UNHCR: resettling to the west.

This resettlement project is well underway with almost two thirds of the refugees already resettled to mainly the US and countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway Denmark, Netherlands and the UK. But there are fears that not all refugees will resettle. After all it is an opt-in project and not all refugees desire a life in a completely alien western society ultimately losing their history, religion and way of life in due time. Some 10,000 refugees have not opterd for resettlement. Let alone the other more than 4,000* refugees that have not been registered as refugees for a variety of reasons. They do however live in those camps without food, healthcare and proper housing. (* The number is based on a headcount by camp management in 2011 and has decreased to a yet unknown figure.)

So something needs to happen. Recently the UNHCR has announced that they can no longer provide vegetables to the refugees, taking out an important element in their diet which is by no means extensive. The effects of not supplying vegetables as of January 2013 will no doubt be deteriorating health of the camps population in the coming years. The reason the UNHCR has given is that they lack a proper budget for this essential food. Which is very strange as the European Union has provided for a over 3 Million Euro budget for the UNHCR for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014, continuing the financing of the UNHCR’s operation in regard to those camps. So what is happening?

According to the Beldangi camp secretary, Dhan Bir Subba, (Beldangi is the largest of the two remaining camps) the UN has informed them that the budget is redistributed by the UNHCR to other refugee crisis areas in the world. Basically stating that they simply do no longer see a priority in maintaining proper support to the Bhutanese refugees still living in the camps in Nepal. Which of course is an extra push to get the refugees to the point that they will opt for resettlement. So is this argument used by the UNHCR just a trick to reach a ‘durable solution’ by increasing pressure on the refugee community to resettle completely? And if so, is that ethical?

According to Subba the UNHCR has declared that they have no other option than to decrease the available budget for the Bhutanese exiles in the camps, a ‘Hopson’s choice’ so to speak. The UNHCR has also declared that they will distribute vegetable seeds as an alternative, but as the remaining camps are heavily populated, the availability of enough land to grow crops is a question that remains. The UNHCR seems to have suggested to use the empty huts of resettlers for that purpose.

The chairman of the Bhutanese Refugee Representative Repatriation Committee, Dr Bhampa Rai, who I have het the privilige to interview a number of times concerning the situation of the refugees, has condemned the UNHCR decision. And by all means, the timeline between announcing and stopping vegetable distribution is just over a month, making it impossible for the refugees to grow enough crops for a healthy nutrition, seems irresponsible.

“The decision has created doubts on UNHCR’s intention towards refugees. How can those who themselves survive on delicious vegetables on daily basis decide to stop the supply of the same items for us,” Dr Rai said according to the Bhutan News Service.

The question that this raises is wether the UNHCR is now going to a stage in promoting resettlement to the refugees by disregarding basic human rights like proper nutrition. And that is not all. The Bhutanese refugees feel that they are pressurized by the UNHCR to resettle, which means that they doubt wether they really have a free choince NOT to resettle but continue hoping for repatriation to their motherland.

Apart from the other issues mentioned in the request written by major community leaders to the UNHCR (see the attached letter), the nutrition issue is a very serious decline in the basic care for the refugees and frustrates the mandate of the UNHCR itself. The monthly supply of (only) 500 grams of season vegetables is ending this month. The diet of refugees in the camps will lack one of its important components and is for health reasons undesireable.

It is worrying that the UNHCR is also forbidding the refugee leaders to bring their complaints to the VIP’s who visit the camps. From personal experience working as a journalist in the camps I do know that some issues (like the large numner of unregistered refugees, the deteriorating education in the camps and the mounting crime like identity fraud and even institutionalized fraud) are being kept under the radar. Freedom of press and freedom of speech are just as much at stake as the basic human rights of the camp population. ‘Thou shalt not report negative’ is an adagium in this unmonitored situation.


It seems that the UNHCR is building pressure to end the Bhutanese refugee crisis and is not stepping away from methods that should be doubted and discussed on an international level and especially at the European Union, being the main financier of the UNHCR in Nepal.

In the meanwhile malnutrition is something that the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal should fear. The reality of life in the UNHCR managed refugee camps in Nepal is that things are not at all nice and dandy and in fact seem to become worse. But will the international community respond to that?

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

The fall of the sportsman.

Remember how it all began
the apple and the fall of man
The price we pay
so the people say
Down the path of shame it led us
dare to bite the hand that fed us
Fairy tale the moral end,
wheel of fortune never turns again
Never turns again

Above lyrics have been my phones ringtone for quite sometime. I know them by heart. They’re from a song by Natalie Merchant. ‘Thick as thieves’ is the title. It’s a mysteriously complex song with lyrics of biblical proportions. She sings about the fall of men and of how a king abandones his people and in the end falls from grace. Like mankind has fallen from grace.

Like the sportsman that fell from grace. Like Lance Armstrong.

I use that ringtone as a constant reminder to me about the nature of mankind and the consequences of that. To warn me against deceit and to let me understand that superiority and status have no meaning but are nothing more than the outcome of fortune. In most cases. Of course, for the real great women and men in history this is different. They have gained status and were in many cases superior. But not without mistakes. Gandhi was a strange guy doing very strange things to young girls. Mandela was involved in agression and Rabin was a freedom fighter with blood on his hands. But all of them were great in their own right because they’ve changed themselves over time and have become examples of man’s greatness to the world.

So how about Lance Armstrong? The fallen sportsman. And how about cycling as a sport or sport as a part of society? What is the relation with the songtext I wrote just above these lines?

Lance Armstrong was a cancer patient. And he survived. Not because of persistence although his fight must have been heroic. Not because of his abilities. No, he simply survived because he was fortunate. If not damned lucky. All the noise around him when he returned to cycling after having ‘conquered’ cancer, was crap. And we all knew that. But many wanted to believe. The man now seems to have been a spider in the largest doping & deceit web in cycling history. Maybe in the history of sports all together. And he has fallen. Deep.

But his sport, cycling, had long before fallen. Fallen in the hands of man’s greatest enemy: greed. Sponsors and all kinds of people and organizations, have bundled their forces many years ago. For their own good and for the money. Because cycling is business. Actually sports is business. And where there’s business, there’s greed and deceit. It really is not that complicated to comprehend. Which makes the sport’s crocodile tears the more unbelievable. But there is more.

Where in everyday’s society we have laws to guide us all, sports has its own mechanisms. No laws, but rules. Rules that are constantly broken. To understand the status of rules versus laws one only has to watch a soccer match. Hitting or spitting someone in the face will result in a red card, if its seen by the referee. Or nowadays by the camera. If one would do so in the real world, a night in a cell would be regarded as fairly normal and justified. And that’s just an example. The incidents in sports concerning discrimination of minorities, abuse, substance abuse, deceit, drugs trafficking and dealing, bribes, slander and violence, are countless. Only seldom does that, in normal society defined as anti social, behaviour come to public conviction. Sports have rules, no laws. And because of that sport is behaving lawless because bending and braking the rules is ‘all in the game’.

But is it? Is all of that really ‘all in the game’? Isn’t it logical to file suit against the likes of Armstrong, when proof or testimonies against him are there? Wouldn’t a court case be a normal thing for someone who has become a very rich person thanks to the sport that he used for his own purposes and richness? And wouldn’t it be logical for the police to arrest footbal hooligans who defame people with another skin colour or sexual prevelance? And get them on trial to be convicted. Because in fact, they do break the laws that are in place for the rest of the society.

Isn’t it in a larger perspective not high time that sports in general becomes subdued to law? Wouldn’t it be completely logical to have for instance the FIFA targeted as a criminal organization after proven fraud, threats and bribing of government officials and indeed complete governments? Why would sport continue to have a ‘status aparte’? Why is it that we allow the IOC, the FIFA, the UCI, to name but a few, have a status above the laws of society. Isn’t it completely crazy that we allow these organizations to demand amnesty upfront for crimes by their staff, while negotiating the countries they hold their major sports events? Sport in the twentyfirst century has become almost, if not completely, the most openly corrupted business globally. And it certainly makes victims. Just ask the people in South Africa living close to the soccer stadiums and the people in East London living in the parts of town who were promised improved housing and services but were only used for the greater good of capitalism.

Sports is no loger what it once was intended for and what it for most of the amateurs still is: a fair competition of people who are skilled in a certain area. With winners and losers. And with a participating society that simply loves the games and hates the cheaters. The major sports have become openly criminalized parts of society living in a seemingly lawless world.

Maybe, just maybe, the fall of the sportman Armstrong will lead to a cleaner sport. And maybe, just maybe, society will learn form the fall of who many thought was a great man but who seems to be nothing less than just a fraud.

But unfortunately, Lance Armstrong will probably never get a fair trial in a normal court of law and sports will stay what it is: an in its core dishounest practice which is appealing to be witnessed by the general public. Next year, no doubt, people wil hail the new victor of the Tour de France at the Champs Élysée in Paris. As if nothing has happened and as if the competition was fair.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

The Floriade exhibition and Bhutan part 2.

An update.

Today we had a conversation with one of the people responsible for bringing Bhutan to the Floriade World Horticultural Expo in Venlo, the Netherlands this year. Next Sunday that expo will come to an end to return in ten years or so. As some (but not enough) people know is Bhutan the country with the largest number of refugees through ethnic cleansing per capita worldwide. On September 22nd the Floriade held a Bhutan Day focussing on the contribution of Bhutan to the world with the Bhutanese philosophy of Gross National Happiness and the countries rigid but nature friendly eco policies.

Bhutan House of Happiness:
“Happiness often sneaks in through a door, you didn’t know you left open.”
And so do human rights violators.

Main guest of that day was Mr. Dago Tshering, special envoy for the Bhutanese prime minister Jigme Thinley and the one responsible for the ukaze that started off the ethnic cleansing and many of the repressive policies behind that. A man with blood on his hands.

Our conversation was meant to get an answer to some questions concerning the organizers for Bhutan’s Floriade precence comments on the fact that they hosted one of the worst ethnic cleansers who is because of that in the eyes of many a de facto criminal.

We got our answer.

The organizers state that they are not in any way making any statement that they label as ‘political’. This means that they do not have any comments regarding the above and will not distance themselves from the presence of Bhutan and Bhutan’s special envoy of the prime minister, Mr. Dago Tshering. They acknowledged that they were in aware of the Bhutanese refugee crisis from the start but did not check the background of their honored guests.

The answer was not a surprise but is a trigger for further research on the financing of the Floriade event and the use of government and other susidies for presence and events on the Floriade for specific countries that are known for their human rights violations and by doing so passively supporting the governments of these countries to present themselves in a positive manner to the world without any discussion about these governments human rights violations. While the Floriade is partly subsidised by the Dutch government who in another capacity is taking the financial consequenses of keeping the UNHCR refugee camps and UNHCR third country resettlement project operational. Countries like China, North Korea and Bhutan have been present on the Floriade expo without any discussion on their human rights situation so far.

In the coming week extra research and the responses (or lack of that) from involved people like Mrs. Erica Terpstra (ambassador for the Bhutan presence on the Floriade) and long time VVD politica and the Floriade direction will result in an article concerning these matters and challenging the organization of the event about the human rights violations of their participants. Some information is already available including the answers to parliamentary questions regarding the €5,000,000 subsidy by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture for the Floriade and the skyhigh salaries of the Floriade board. More information will follow in the coming days regarding the flow of money.

Sometime next week such an article will be written and published in the media.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

Dutch Floriade exhibition embraces human rights violator.

Note: today we received an invitation from the organizing committee of the Floriade to discuss our findings with them. Of course we accept that invitation.

On September 22nd this year a Bhutan day was held at the Floriade World Horticultural Expo in Venlo in the Netherlands. The day was centered around making the world a better place and the concept of ‘Gross National Happiness‘. Amongst the people present that day was Mrs. Erica Terpstra, a well known Dutch liberal ex politician who made a television program about beautiful Bhutan, its nature and culture. Next to Mrs. Terpstra, Mr. Dago Tshering was present. He holds a minister seat in the government of the small Himalayan kingdom.

Erica Terpstra returned home with the honor of having a tulip named after the queen of Bhutan presented, presumably unaware of the fact that she had been shaking hands with a notorious human rights violator. Because, who is Dago Tshering for real?

In the early ninetees, after demonstrations against the at that time already longtime ongoing civil rights violations, a process of ethnic/religious/cultural cleansing was started by the Bhutan government. In just a few years the civil rights and citizenship were taken away from over 20% of Bhutan’s population. Changes in marital and citizenship laws were cooked up to do that. Wearing other clothes than the traditional dress from the powerful ruling elite minority was forbidden and the Nepalese language was banned from schools and government organizations.

Through a policy of state terror in which political murder, random arrests, torture and years long incarceration of intellectuals and leaders from the south and east of the country, the population in those regions was oppressed. After violent attacks by the Royal Bhutan Army and the police against village leaders, their families and other local leaders, a total of over 100,000 and possibly 150,000 people fled the country. Many of them at gunpoint after being forced to sign papers stating they were voluntary leaving and abandoning their homes, land and possessions. The by far percentagewise largest exodus in 100 years really started off in the first months of 1991 after an edict written by that same Dago Tshering who came to Venlo in the Netherlands to welcome the visitors to the Bhutan pavillion on the Floriade exhibition.

Because, on August 17, 1990, Dago Tshering, then Deputy Home Minister of Bhutan wrote a ‘NOTIFICATION’. It states literally, and I quote:

You are hereby instructed to immediately inform alls the gups, DYT members and the general public in your dzongkhag that any Bhutanese national leaving the country to assist and help the anti-nationals shall no longer be considered as a Bhutanese citizen. It must also be made very clear that such people’s family members living under the same household will also be held fully responsible and forfeit their citizenship.

With this order to the Dzongkhas’s, Dago Tshering personally kicked off the ethnic cleansing that would in the end lead to the exile of over 1/6th of Bhutan population.

The Netherlands is, together with the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the European Parliament, financing the UNHCR refugee camps in Nepal and the resettlement of the larger part of the population of these camps to these fore mentioned countries. By doing so the West is taking the rap for the effects of the Bhutanese ethnic cleansing that was initiated and excuted since 1990 by Dago Tshering and the current prime minister of Bhutan, Mr. Jigme Thinley. The international community has until now spend tens of millions of dollars on this issue and will continue to do so on request by the United Nations. The European Union itself has sourced the UNHCR at the end of 2011 with over 3 million euros for upholding the refugee camps in Nepal and taking care of the after effects after these camps will be emptied by the ‘durable solution’ as the mass resettlement is euphemistically named by the UNHCR.

Bhutan has since 1991 systematically refused to take a serious effort in repatriation of its own people to their villages and homes. The victims live in diaspora without expectations for return to their motherland.

In 2012 however, Dago Tshering is received and honored by the Floriade. There were no Bhutanese refugees present in Venlo. They were not invited by the organization and Mrs. Terpstra probably again had no idea what she was dealing with.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

The Bhutan lie exhibited on the Dutch floriade

Today was Bhutan day at the Floriade 2012 floral exhibition in Venlo, the Netherlands. A day underlining the message of Gross National Happiness as advocated by the king of Bhutan and his vasals like Jigme Thinley, the prime minister who are both responsible for the ethnic cleansing in the early ninetees in Bhutan.


Early April our queen Beatrix visited the Bhutan pavillion on the floriade to consume the lie. No mention then and no mention today about the continuous human rights violations by the Bhutanese government. No mention about political prisoners, violence against the Bhutanese citizens, the abuse of civil and human rights.

Of course not.

Because like Mrs. Happiness Netherlands, Erica Terpstra (ex sporter, ex politician and derailed public figure), the local Rotary club, the many companies involved in trade with Bhutan, the Floriade organization and the royal family, do not want to know or hear about what happened in the early ninetees of the past century and what is still happening regarding the fate of the Bhutanese people living in the south and east of that country.

The Floriade is a money (greed) driven event where companies promote themselves in a socially acceptable manner. And so, all the people passing through the Bhutan pavillion and all the companies involved, prefer positive-only information. The receivers are switched off, the ears closed and the eyes blinded. Be positive, be the change, be this and be that, be positive and be happy, that is what it is all about in this positiveness show.

In another place on the globe tens of thousands of Bhutanese still suffer hardship in camps. With too littje food, a lack of adequate healthcare, hostility from the surrounding community, without rights, without citizenship, be stateless, poor and driven away from their motherland over twenty years ago. By force, at gunpoint and as a result of threats, abuse, torture and even murder.

In yet another place on the globe (actually many other places of the globe) people live who have been resettled and who have suffered the exile, the camp life and the hardship. And who have been enabled to start a new life elsewhere. Away from their country and region, their culture and their friends and even their families. Living in diaspora. They are the ones who are not seen at the commercialized Floriade event. They are the ones who are not seen by our queen or our crown prince who prefers to shoot bows and arrows with his Bhutanese counterpart. They are the ones without the voices and without the faces, without the power to stand up.

And it is them who we care about. The fact that their situation is largely unknown in the misinformed western world is the reason why we do our work. Why we make our film, have published our books and exhibit our photos. To advocate their rights to be like we are, human beings with their own place under the sun and the same rights as anyone else.

Come visit our exhibition in the Domchurch and buy our books. Help us to tell their story and capture their history, help us to not forget them and help us to delete the myth of gross national happiness!

UNFORGOTTEN photo exhibition
Domchurch Utrecht
September 15 to Oktober 26, 2012



Dutch press: ‘Birma’ or ‘Myanmar’?

In 1995 the Birmese military junta changed the name of the country into ‘Myanmar’. An age old name for the area in South Asia that now is Birma (Dutch spelling). That name was not recognized by the United States, many other countries at the United Nations and many (western) media.

Ever since that last group, the media, have been using the name ‘Birma’, partly to support the Birmese opposition that wanted (more) freedom for the people in Birma and to support the honorable Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi.

Today that same Aung San Sui Kyi pleaded for the release of the Russian popband Pussy Riot. And the media name her ‘Birmese opposition leader’. And she certainly is that. But not the Dutch news website They seem to be oblivous of the value of the name ‘Birma’ for the Birmese people. And so they published the following:

Mrs. “Suu Kyi”, her name obviously being too loong or complicated to list properly in the title, is a Myanmarese opposition leader. According to that news site. is building on a reputation of shallowness as they frequently display a total lack for recent history, and this to be just another error in their list of errors. Or is there something else happening?

Remember my comments concerning Dutch journalism and the lack of checks and balances in the editorial teams of the major Dutch newspapers and news websites? Some time ago I wrote a rant on this website against the Dutch journalistic practice of cut-and-paste-journalism. Meaning the unchecked republication of news as formulated by the known press agencies and most notoriously the ANP (Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau, the Dutch Press Agency and Hollands version of AFP and Reuters).

And they did it again. It is not only but it is also a list of known Dutch newspapers including de Telegraaf, Wegener newspapers, and a list of news sites still holding on to the cut’n’paste journalism practice. Because the source of the ‘Myanmarese’ in stead of ‘Birmese’ politically sensitive error is that ANP news agency. (Compliments to the ‘white raven’ newspaper Algemeen Dagblad ( who rephrased the ANP article and corrected it (seemingly based on AFP article).

So there we are. They did it again. The ANP again made an error and all the Dutch press just reprints or republishes that error because they DO NOT CHECK! Again this is a small demonstration of the lack of editorial quality of the Dutch press. For the Dutch readers this obviously means that if they value proper news handling and reporting they simply cannot trust the Dutch news media. Because they just copy’n’paste everything without checking and as such multiply errors without any limitation. The other issue with this is of course that nowadays all media have become ‘parrot-media’. They report literally the same information, they do not check that information and do not even rephrase that information.

Thank the Lord for internet where conscious readers can turn to real news media for proper reporting based on checks and balances and editorial effort in bringing quality news. For me it just underlines why I nowadays more frequently turn to my media selection consisting of Al Jazeera, BBC News, CNN, ITN, Wachington Post, New Yorker Magazine, Huffington Post, AFP, The Indian Times amongst others. Because obviously we can not trust our local media anymore.

Alice Anna Verheij © 2012

Still no news from Jeetan

I think I have a friend in prison.

At least, he was imprisoned a couple of months ago and until today I’ve not been able to get new information regarding his safety and well being.

My friend Jeetan training refugee kids in a Journalism Training, summer 2011

I am convinced of his innocence to the charges against him. I worked with him for a while and I’ve seen his passion for his people and the youth that he supported and trained. He is a special guy.

I suspect that his arrest has a lot to do with his continuous efforts for the youth in the camps and his work as a writer / poet involved in community work and refugee journalism.

Currently most contacts in Nepal seem more or less frozen or have at least weakened. Partly because some of my friends were resettled to other places on the globe and mostly to the United States. Partly because some of them have been threatened. The effect is that the story of Jeetan (an alias for his real name Jit) is still unclear.

And I find that worrying.

Therefore I repeat the appeal made by the AHRC (Asian Human Rights Council) on his behalf. Here is the story. If you want to support and apeal his case, and I urge you to do so, go to the AHRC website and sign the petition. This is the link.

This is the story of a desperate guy who was arrested unjustly only days before he was supposed to resettle and get a better life elsewhere:

14 May 2012

NEPAL: Bhutanese refugee tortured and threatened with false charges in Kathmandu

ISSUES: Torture, Refugees, IDPs & Asylum seekers, Police violence, Arbitrary arrest and detention

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that a 29-year-old Bhutanese refugee, Jit Bahadur Subba, having applied for third country resettlement was arrested from the office of the International organization for Migrant on 27 April 2012. After his arrest, he was kept in illegal detention for two days without receiving any arrest warrant or detention letter in the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), Maharajganj, Kathmandu. He was severely tortured under interrogation and threatened that false charges of drug smuggling would be filed against him. He is now detained at Hanumandhoka Police Station and needs immediate medical treatment. He was not allowed to meet with his lawyer without the presence of the police. 


According to the information we have received, 29-year-old Jit Bahadur Subba lives in the Bhutanese refugee camp, Beldangi II. He belongs to one of the thousands Nepali-speaking families who, after having lived for several generations in Bhutan, were expelled from the country to refugee camps in Nepal twenty years ago. Mr. Subba had applied for resettlement to the USA and was kept in the transit office of the International organization for Migrant (IOM) in Baluwatar, Kathmandu for investigation of his identification documents from 12th to 27th April 2012.

On 27 April 2012 at around 2.30 pm he was arrested from the IOM office by 4 to 5 police officers in civilian clothes. He was not given any reason for his arrest nor was any arrest warrant produced by the police. He was then brought to the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), Maharajganj, Kathmandu. He was kept there for two days, without being provided with a detention letter or an arrest warrant. He was brought before a judicial authority on 29 April 2012, exceeding the 24-hour delay set up by the constitution for every person who is arrested to be produced before a judicial authority. This amounts to illegal detention.

He was kept in the CIB for two days, reportedly without being provided with any food or water. His family was not informed of his arrest. There he was interrogated regarding his alleged involvement in the forging of a fake passport and of having purchased Nepali citizenship. The first day he was tortured under interrogation by two policemen, wearing civilian clothes. He was slapped across the face a dozen times, the soles of his feet were beaten and the policemen beat him all over his body. Due to the pain he almost lost consciousness. The policemen then interrogated him on other the involvement of other persons in the same charges and, as he could not provide information, the policemen put a packet of drugs in his pocket and threatened to charge him with drug smuggling. As the policemen were wearing civilian clothes, he could not identify their ranks.

On 29th April, he was sent to Metropolitan Police Range, Hanumandhoka, Kathmandu, and was provided with warrant papers. He was produced before Kathmandu District Court on the same day. The court remanded him into custody for five days the first time, and for six days a second time. According to the police his case is under investigation under charges of forgery of citizenship documents and passports.

At no point during his detention was Mr. Subba informed of his legal rights. His lawyer visited him twice: once on 3 May in the office of the District Attorney, Kathmandu, and the second time on 8 May at the MPR Hanumandhoka. In both cases the police refused to allow the lawyer to meet with his client without the police presence. This is in spite of the Interim Constitution of Nepal guaranteeing the right of every person who was arrested to consult a legal practitioner and that the consultation should remain confidential.

The police was also present during the medical check-up of the victim when they sent him to Bir hospital on 7 May. Due to the presence of the police, the victim did not dare mentioning the torture to the doctor and the doctor did not ask about it either. Therefore the presence of the police during the medical examination prevented the victim from getting proper treatment and he was just provided with some anti-allergic medicines.

The victim’s health condition has deteriorated due to lack of proper treatment and the poor conditions in Hanumandhoka detention center. His body is covered with scars of worms and insects and he suffers from sleeplessness.

The victim is very afraid that he may receive further torture and measures must be taken for his protection immediately.

Please join us in writing to the authorities listed below to express concern upon learning of the torture inflicted to Mr. Subba and urge the authorities to guarantee his physical and psychological safety. Please demand that an investigation should be launched into the allegations of torture and that the perpetrators should be held accountable. Please further urge the authorities to ensure that no confession extracted under torture could be used in court proceedings against the accused.

Please be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment calling for his intervention into this matter.

Alice Anna Verheij
writer, filmmaker, journalist, human rights worker

Een kadootje voor mijn lezers.

Beste lezers,

soms moet je iets geks doen. Soms is dat heel zo gek niet.
Aangezien de drukkosten tegenwoordig hoog zijn en er geen fondsen zijn voor heruitgave van mijn debuutroman, gegeven dat ik die al lang in een eBook PDF versie klaar heb én gegeven dat ik gezien wat er allemaal dit jaar nog uitkomt aan nieuwe uitgaven, geef ik jullie hierbij een kado.

Daar is een reden voor. Ik ben een tegenstander van het beleid van het inmiddels demissionaire kabinet dat over zijn graf heen regeert en nog steeds allerlei maatregelen er door drukt die de samenleving schaden en de zwakken in de samenleving hard in de portemonnaie treffen. Ik ben een tegenstander van het beleid van de gemeente Den Haag die in navolging van dit cultuurbarbaarse kabinet de kunsten in Den Haag afslachten door intrekking van de steun aan het Koorenhuis waar duizenden Hagenaars met veel plezier tegen redelijke kosten kunst leren beoefenen. En ik ben tegen het intrekken van de subsidies aan kleine theaters als Branoul en de Regentes die een functie hebben in deze stad. Dat soort beleid raakt mij aan alle kanten. Het creeërt een klimaat in de samenleving waarbij kunst als nutteloos, overbodig en zonder waarde wordt gepositioneerd. Als hobby, als tijdverdrijf.

Met het gratis beschikbaar stellen van mijn debuutroman maak ik een statement tegen dat beleid. Tegen de destructie van de kunst, of dat nu amateurkunst of ‘professionele’ kunst is. Het is een statement gemaakt met de wanhoop van de schrijfster en de bohémienne die deze samenleving onderuit ziet gaan en als enig antwoord daar op heeft haar kunst op straat te gooien. Niet omdat die kunst niks waard is, maar omdat het de enige manier is waarop iedereen met of zonder geld daar kennis van kunnen nemen. In de hoop dat de bestuurders ooit hun verstand terug krijgen.

Mijn debuutroman Eén latte, een cappu en een espresso is vanaf vandaag gratis te downloaden vanaf deze website én vanaf GoodReads. Het downloaden hier is natuurlijk het eenvoudigst want dat is als U dit leest precies één klik weg. Klik HIER voor de eBook versie.

Ben ik gek dat ik de eBook versie gratis weggeef? Absoluut!

Alice Anna Verheij

For my English speaking readers: what is written above this is an announcement of the availability of my debuting novel FOR FREE DOWNLOAD. It is in Dutch, so if you’re in for a challenge, please go ahead and download and enjoy the book. And spread the word! To get it, just click on THIS.

Ernie and Bert suspected of fraud.

Nothing seems sacred anymore these days.

According to reliable sources in Pakistan a huge fraud at Sesamestreet was recently uncovered by the Pakistani police. In spite of Obama’s recent drone attacks this acknowledges the fact that there still is police in Pakistan working on very important cases. Of course the United States have retalliated in the strongest possible manner for the Pakistan Sesamestreet Fraud. It seems that the Pakistani Ernie and Bert, who are as everyone knows the producers of the childrens television show, have been arrested as they seem to have used the american dollars to pay of their debts.

And as the US is a bit sensitive on the dollar the Obama administration immediately increased diplomatic and military pressure on Pakistan once it became clear the dollars were leaking at the Sesamestreet headoffice. After a massive fluffy hunt the Pakistani police have been able to arrest the perpetrators who seemed to be employed by the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop. Although Pakistan Today claims that it is the little and übercute Elmo who has been caught with his hand in the USAID cookie jar (he is perceived to be quicker noadays than Cookie Monster on that) it is obvious that it were in fact Ernie and Bert who have become the real suspects now.

The Pakistan Children’s TV channel claims not to be involved but according to Kermit the current ceo of PCTV, miss Piggy, has been playing a doubtful role in the past concerning commercial deals with Ernie and Bert. The connection with Super Grover and Cookie Monster is also currently being investigated just like the activities of Elmo althoug he now is no longer the focus of the ongoing investigation.

The Pakistani Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop

Currently it is impossible to assertain the damage done by the two Sesamestreet villains. What is clear however is that the 20 million dollar of USAID allotted US tax payers money is not completely used to create the agreed 78 episodes of Sesamestreet Pakistan. How much of that 20 million has been used by the whole Sesamestreet family remains to be found out. The Peerzada’s (the real names of the Sesamestreet family in Pakistan) as a close family of course appointed their own relatives in all relevant places in the production company thereby shifting funds into the family members NIB Bank Pakistan bank accounts.

Ernie and Bert are now in Lahore prison being questioned by the Pakistan police with support of Obama’s Secret Service who have abandoned the Colombian brothel research program recently. According to Lahore police they still deny all accusations and state that they are only puppets in a larger scheme. But according to sources they will soon be transfered to Guantanamo Bay for further interrogation by the US military as suspects of economic terrorism.

Alice Anna Verheij © 2012

No new constitution in Nepal but elections instead.

A couple of days ago the Constituent Assembly of Nepal dissolved after another extended term went without the outcome of an agreed concept constitution. Wether that is bad news or good news remains to be seen.

Seat of the Constituent Assembly of Nepal, Kathmandu

After the overturning of the monarchy almost a decade ago and the ending in 2006 of the ten year long civil war that devastated the countries economy and homogenity there have been elections only once. The outcome of those events was the installation of a Constituent Assembly and the dawn of the provisional Federal Republic of Nepal. Elections were held and a government was formed. And that government fell. A new one was formed. Which fell also. And another one and another one. Nepal became politically unstable with none of the major parties (including the Maoists who started the revolt against the former king) being large enough to stay in power for long. The core problem of Nepal turned out to be the many divisions in politics.

The country became paralized but because of the intentions of becoming a democratic nation it also became one of the countries with the largest support from international organizations, NGO’s and governments. The country became dependent on aid as the successive governments proved unable to bring the country from revolt to stability, to improve the economy and to improve the many infrastructural and social challenges that were present. In the meanwhile many Nepalese had hopes of the effects of a new constitution that was in the making. But that constitution never materialized. Terms for the 2008 elected Constituent Assembly (with its ludicrous large number of 575 seats) were extended several times. The 60% ballot turnout proved the high hopes of the people of Nepal. But these hopes deteriorated quickly due to the continuous inability of the assembly to come up with a draft constitution on time and agreed by a majority.

Still, that draft that didn’t materialize did have some very specific topics handled in a revolutionary manner in the last Hindu ex Kingdom and the results have been brought to a provisionary implementation by the government recently. The caste system became politically undesired which potentially freed millions of people from hardship and lack of opportunities and there was even a third or other gender introduced as a concept in gender identification releasing the gay and transgender communities from social pressure based on discriminatory laws.

But it all ended on May 27 of this year at midnight.

The Constituent Assembly outlived its term and its mandate and the government decided to dissolve the non working body. At the same time announcing general elections on November 22nd this year. The second general elections and the first one after four years of disappointment since the fall of King Gyanendra. At this moment in time the conditions for Nepal to come back to a stabile political solution are far from ideal. The political spectrum dominated by the Maoists, Marxist-Leninists and the conservative Congress Party is more divided than ever. No one is big enough, politicians are not trusted by the people any more because of the many broken promises and the country is in economically dire straits. The infrastructure of the country in areas like energy, transportation, education and health care are all in a very bad state. The international monetary crisis is devaluating the Nepali Rupee at an alarming rate and impovering the country faster and faster. The political squeeze from India and China is becoming more vivd in daily life because of the dependencies on those neighbours for basic resources like food and energy. There is an energy crisis in the country that is lasting for years now and becoming worse. India pretty much owns Nepal’s oil consumption which effects the economy.

The Nepalese are demotivated by the politics in the country. Young peoples main desire is to leave the country and indeed there’s a brain drain going on of enormous proportions. The number of refugees and stateless people in the country push an extra burden on the economy and mental stretch of the people. As the politicians are unable to bring salvation many groups in the country (political, ethnic and otherwise) are increasingly grabbing the only instrument they have to force the government to give them what they want: they strike. The destabilizing bandhas (strikes) have become a daily routine in many parts of the country and especially in the Terai, the southern part of the country which is of key importance for food production and the little industry the country has. These strikes slowly kill what’s left of the economy and by their nature prove the worst possible ‘solution’ to the many problems.

It remains to be seen wether the failure of the Constituent Assembly is a bad thing for Nepal. If on November 22nd elections turn out to be clear on which political parties should rule the country then a faster solution to the constitutional crisis is in sight. But that would be a miracle to be honest. Looking at the current political situation, the bad economy, the institutionalized fraud and corruption, the instability of the armed forces (the integration of Maoists in the Nepal Army is still very shaky) and the hunger for individual power of the politicians, it is impossible to be optimistic on the outcome. If it doesn’t work out later this year it will only mean that the largest of the former Himalayan Kingdoms will remain without a formalized constitution and with less hope of overcoming the many crisises the country is facing.

Hopefully the international community will be fully aware of Nepal’s problems and not turn it’s back on the country with it’s almost thirty million inhabitants. Nepal needs solid international backing and attention now more than ever.

Alice Anna Verheij © 2012

Robin Gibb

Photo © Robin Gibb & band

Today I read on the news of the death of Robin Gibb.

I grew up with the music of the Bee Gees, like I did with the music of Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Genesis, dire Straits and many, many others. Even Abba is part of my life’s soundtrack.

And so is Robin Gibb. There is no way to describe how I feel about his death after a fight he couldn’t win. I cherish the memory of this one song that says it all. Because of it’s intensity, because of the lyrics and because of that voice of Robin Gibb with that little crack in it that made it unforgettable.

This specific song reminds me of one of the darkest times in my life and of how this song made me clear what the world really was like. It comforted me then somehow and it still does.

Dear Robin, I loved you for your music.

Alice © 2012

This song should be listened to and the lyrics should be read to fully understand it’s value. Out of respect for Robin Gibb and his brothers Barry and Maurice (who passed away in 2003) I will translate this song later this week into a Dutch version. With love and good memories.


I started a joke, which started the whole world crying,
but I didn’t see that the joke was on me, oh no.

I started to cry, which started the whole world laughing,
oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me.

I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes,
and I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I’d said.

Til I finally died, which started the whole world living,
oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me.

I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes,
and I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I’d said.

‘Til I finally died, which started the whole world living,
oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was one me.

Is Nepal police killing a friend?

On April 27 a friend of mine who I value as a respectable journalist and community worker for the Bhutanese refugees in the camps in the Jhapa and Morang districts in Nepal was arrested in the IOM office in Kathmandu while waiting for his resettlement to the US to start a new life just like many other exiles through the UNHCR third country resettlement program. Jeet Bahadur Subba (who I know by a different name which is common practice for many Nepali youth) is a Bhutanese exile, writer, poet, community and youth worker who lived in a Bhutanese refugee camp for many, many years. But in stead of many other youth he worked hard for the benefit of the people, especially youth, in the camps. He did that by co-organizing social events, support actions for fire victims and trainings to empower youth and vulnerable groups in the camps.

We traveled together to the fire struck Goldhap an Sanischare camp and on invitation of Caritas gave journalism training to youth in the Beldangi camp last summer. The way he motivated the youth in that training and his passion in doing so was impressive.

Hanuman Dhoka Police Station, Kathmandu

Jeet Subba (I know him as Jeetan) is quite a character, not to be disregarded. We shared passionate conversations and joined effort for the benefit of his people in the camps. He is now detained at the the Hanuman Dhoka police station on charges of document falsification for Nepalis to be resettled to the US and Canada and having a false Nepali passport himself. An accusation of crimes that are threatening honest and justified third country resettlement. If that is true they are a serious accusation and he should be brought to trial.

However, after his arrest Jeet Subba has been severely tortured by Nepal police during the days before he was formally accused. During that time between April 27 and at least May 2 he was the victim of police brutality and threats. The torture methods included hooding, beatings with batons, falanga and the threats of pushing fabricated accusations of drugs smuggling onto him. Jit Subba admitted the accusations after being heavily tortured and will be brought to court as a result af that. During those first days in detention he was not given food or water while being in solitary confinement , not being read his legal rights, not being handed an arrest warrant or detention letter and not being allowed to talk with a lawyer without police presence. After those first days a visiting lawyer from a Nepal based human rights organization found Jit Subba with scars on his body, not being able to stand or walk and scared for his life. A second visit by a lawyer on May 8 after Jit Subba was transferred from the Central Investigation Bureau in Maharajganj, Kathmandu to Hanuman Dhoka police station was again not allowed without police presence. Current information is that Jeet Subba still needs urgent medical treatment as the result of severe torture.

Yesterday the Asian Human Rights Commission requested the prime minister of Nepal to intervene, just like other organizations had done in the past week.

Obviously Nepal police is, if the accusations of torture are true (and they are confirmed by multiple sources), way out of line on many grounds. From illegal arrest to illegal confinement, torture, threats of framing a citizen, not allowing legal support and not adhering to the Nepal interim constitution in regard to human rights. This is a very serious matter because with everything that is now known the question rises why they do that.

Fact is that journalists working for the Bhutanese exiles in Nepal have continuously experienced trouble ranging from threats and abuse to extremely slow processing of their files for their resettlement resulting in unnecessary prolonged life in the refugee camps. This seems not only to be the case for active journalists but also for community workers.

From a personal angle I have to state that I have witnessed incidents and heard experiences from people I got to know while filming the situation concerning Bhutanese exiles in Nepal. Those incidents and experiences strengthen me in my conviction that also in this case the truth lies far from what Jit Subba is being accused of. For me it is obvious that human rights of Bhutanese exiles are structurally abused by the authorities. This concerns community workers, unregistered refugees and others who are left in limbo on their position and the way the third country resettlement project of the UNHCR is executed in some cases. The claim that Jit Subba was having a Nepali passport on him is something that is for me not surprising knowing the despair of youth who are actively supporting their own people with the side effect of seeing their own third country resettlement not happening. Eighteen years in a refugee camps can drive people crazy up to the point that out of despair they’ll do anything to escape to a better and more human life.

Jit Bahadur Subba seems to be the victim of this and might very well be proven innocent after a transparent and honest police inquiry. The fact that he has been severely tortured by police is by now undeniable, which is a disgrace for a country that is in the process of finalizing a new constitution aimed at bringing peace and order.

If nothing happens I will have to fear for the life of someone I regard a friend.

Alice Verheij © 2012

Six women.

Video courtesy of Bhutan News Service, filmed at Beldangi 2 on April 29, 2012

Six Women

Six women who do not exist
Waiting till death hard fist
Self chosen fate

Because their life is no life
No joy, not even for a while
Too often betrayed

Eyes directed the other way
Don’t see their loss, hear their say
They are not there

No one stands in front and stays
Or takes away their pains
In defence

When police throws them in a car
Resistance broken, no help so far
In their despair

Treated as if without rights
Because politics always decides
To force them to live

Alice © 2012

I feel powerless in support of these women I’ve met and respect deeply for their perseverence.
It’s always the women that pay the price in international conflicts and international disregard. 

More information on how these women are treated, lied at and cheated can be found elsewhere on this website and on

Happy 2069!

Namaste mero sathis!

For all my friends and especially for Vidhyapati, Binod, Ram and also Arati and all the others from NepalBhutan and all over the globe who have been helping so much with the production of Headwind and from who some of them have grown beyond friendship into brother- and sisterhood, I wish you all a very happy, healthy, friendly and free 2069! Also in name of all the others in the Headwind production team.

I miss you all very much and hop to be able to see you all soon.

Alice Verheij
director Headwind

Another step on Nepal’s long march to peace.

In between 1996 and 2006 Nepal was caught in a civil war. The Maoists euphemistically named it the Peoples War. It was a medium scale civil war which started with the aim to overthrow the Nepal monarchy. It was started and led by Maoist insurgents and forces within Nepal. When unexpectedly the royal family assassination took place in 2001 (many blame the former crown prince but the cause of the event was never completely unveiled) the country was brought into further turmoil. It ended with a peace accord on November 21, 2006. The then king abdicated and Nepal became a federal republic. A democratic republic also as a parliament was instated and efforts started to draft a new constitution. In 2012 the country still doesn’t have a completed draft for the new constitution let alone an installed one. It still lives under parliamentary supported government guided regime and is still in the process of becoming a peaceful democratic country. The good thing is that Nepal has been able to rebuild society into a more open and democratic one and many Nepalis are actively involved in constructing their nation.

Maoist forces in training (photo courtesy of Khairul Today)

Still, a lot of problems, challenges if you will, exist. Crime rate is high especially concerning trafficking of women and children, drugs trafficking and domestic and gender based violence. The Maoist forces have still not completely integrated in the Nepal society and the level op corruption although being the glue in society is very high. Nepal is for all intents and purposes a very complicated country. Poverty is all around but at the same time Nepal has become one of the most attractive tourist countries in South Asia. After all, Chomolungma (‘mother of the universe’ as the Tibetan’s call her) is overlooking the country and with the name Mount Everest it attracts large number of western tourists to the country. And because of that attention and the mystification of the former Hindu kingdom many westerners are confronted with the vast amount of problems that Nepali society faces. Resulting in an extreme large number of NGO’s working in the country with volunters from all over the globe.

What’s lacking is a strong connection on political level with the international community. Reasons for that being that the international community is pre occupied with Africa and the Middle East and everything in the Himalayas seem to be under control. But is everything under control?

Nepal is walking the tightrope. Just today the Nepali army finally took over the maoist army camps which is a major step towards lasting peace. The Maoist are a force to reckon with. They have a formal position in Nepal’s parliament, just as the other communist parties have. The current governent after all is a Marxist/Leninist led government. The Congress Party with it’s traditional India link is currently not in the government seat but has been there for long. None of the parties have a majority. New elections are still not there because there is no new constitution as the drafting process is continuously sabotaged by some of the political parties involved and because of that it is unclear how the democratization and constitutional processes in the country will evolve in the coming years. Which is a pitty as they started off so well in 2006. The drafting process of the new constitution involves a couple of revolutionary novelties in South Asian politics and rule, like the formal dismissal of the caste system that has held the whole population captive for hundreds of years, the introduction of third gender as a legal and equal foundation for lesbians, gays and transgenders and the rights to education and health care for all citizens. Those are few of the amazing changes that this newly drafted constitution will bring to beautiful Nepal. When it gets there and if it gets there.

In the meanwhile the world economic crisis has hit the country hard. Energy is problematic as 100% of the oil reserves are managed by India and the production of electricity is way below the needs of the country. These two resulting in a hampering of economic activitities to an unacceptable level and gross unrest under the Nepali population. This, in combination with strong corruption and a weak and instabel government is continuously leading to bandhas (strikes) in the country. Especially in the densily populated and economic all important south of Nepal. The number of undisturbed working days available to build the economy is terrifying low. And then there still is that silent force of Maoist forces that has its position and power in the country and still has the risk of resurrecting itself if the political situation becomes undesirable for them. They have laid heir weapons down and are being integrated in the Nepal armed forces, their camps are now being taken over and at Thribuvan Airport there now is one checkpoint and not two (one of which was a seperate Maoist checkpoint). Their visible role in everyday life is decreasing fast and the Maoist veterans are slowly becoming part of the greater Nepal society. At least, that’s how it seems. But there are still political killings in the country and press freedom is threatened by continuous attacks on journalist. The government, being not very strong, is unable to dismantle the Maoist forces as they are in fact part of the current political system. And maybe they shouldn’t even try.

The good news is that today the Maoist army camps are no longer Maoist army camp but army camps from the Nepal army. That at least reduces the number of different armed forces in the country. The bad thing is that it didn’t happen voluntary but because of unrest in the camps making the handover of the camps two days earlier than planned to prevent outbreaks of violence.

Still, it’s a small but important step on Nepal’s log march to peace.

Alice Verheij © 2012

How CNN does not do it’s work on Bhutan’s behaviour.

I am appalled by CNN’s lack of journalistic fact finding and truth seeking considering Bhutan. This is my response to the article on their website on the UN Happiness Summit:
CNN published this blog from Stewart Patrick without any comment and without any hint of the Bhutanese reality. They are not doing what they should do on this topic as a free press organization.

The U.N. Happiness Summit

Editor’s Note: Stewart Patrick is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Program on International Institutions and Global Governance at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security. By Stewart Patrick, CFR.

My response:

Dear all at CNN, dear Stewart, dear readers,

I am flabagasted and to be quite honest disgusted by the onesided views presented in this article on this website. I am amazed that CNN without any criticism lends itself for the propaganda of the Bhutanese government. Let me explain.

It is a well known an proven fact that in recent history (early ninetees) the King and government of Bhutan have been orchestrating the percentage wise largest ethnic cleansing of it’s own population resulting in about 1/6th of the population being forcefully thrown out of the country. They have done so after a decade of discrimination, human rights violations, oppression including army killings, imprisoning innocent citizens, torture of political prisoners, stealing land, houses, cattle and goods. Of their own people living in the south and east of Bhutan for the simple fact that they are ethnically and religiously different from the Druk minority that holds power in Thimpu.

Over the past twenty years way over 120000 refugees have lived in and around refugee camps instated and maintained by the UNHCR without Bhutan giving any sign of allowing repatriation. Mr. Thinley, the prime minister, has been and still is the mastermind of both that ethnic cleansing as the cover up operation of the export of the concept of Gross National Happiness that te west has been all to eager to accept as a great way to look at what really counts in life.

Bhutan is constantly stating that Gross National Happiness is what it all should be about and is supported in that by the governments of the very countries that are now taking in 1/6th of Bhutan’s population through the largest massive third country resettlement project. Triggered by the US and executed by the UNHCR and IOM this resettlement program is in fact throwing the exiles from Bhutan in diaspora in a timeframe 6 or 7 years. It therebye passively supports the Bhutanese ethnic cleansing policy.

It is horrific to have to conclude that the free press is silent on this but is noise on the concept of Gross National Happiness as advocated by the government of Bhutan. It is downright disgusting that the UN is hosting an event to give this dictatorial government the opportunity to spread it’s lies and deceit while at the same time it is the UN that is shifting around 100.000 Bhutanese the globe unjustly.

It is also crazy to know that Bhutan is a memeber of the United Nations based on false data on the number of inhabitants in it’s country (when they joined they grossly overstated the number of Bhutanese to be over 1 Million whereas at the time any reasonable guess would have given a figure of around 700000 inhabitants which is under the minimal required inhabitants for a country to be a UN member). Bhutan has been living a lie since the 1980’s and has abused it’s population. It is in fact one of the biggest human rights violators when taken it’s size as a country into account.

When will the international community and when will the international press stop supporting the geopolitical framing of the Himalayan reality which is in fact one of poverty, unhappiness, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations. As a writer, film maker and journalist I am apalled by the lack of journalistic fact finding and thruth seeking in this article and many other media considering Bhutan.

Yours truly,
Alice Verheij
director of the upcoming documentary ‘Headwind, the forgotten exiles from Bhutan’
the Netherlands

Is democracy half the votes + 1?

Yesterday two former prime ministers from the Dutch Christian Democrat party (CDA) sent a message to the current prime minister and his team who are negotiating further budget cuts and reforms to manage the economical crisis. The current government is a minority government since it was elected but because it was tolerated a right wing xenophobic though in parliament powerful third party the coalition was abe to form the government. And ruin arts, public transport and the lives of mainly the weak in society and on top of it all enforce a policy of xenophobia and post colonial selfishness.

Last week the support from that right wing party, the PVV, was crushed because a member left with the effect that even with their support the current coalition has lost it’s virtual majority of 50% of the parliament seats +1. That happened when the negotiations for a draconic budget cut that will cost thousands of jobs and ruin the economics of the increasing number of poor people in this country. As the current coalition exists of the Liberals (VVD) and Christian Democrats (CDA) it’s obvious that further budget cuts in this direction will touch upon the core values of especially the Christian Democrats.

When this coalition was formed two years ago the Christian Democratic party was torn apart because many in that party did not want to support a government which would work together with the xenophobic and post fascist PVV party as it’s main supporter. But the opposition in the Christian Democratic party lost. On the other hand, democratic principles were never in good keeping with this cabinet of ministers I’m afraid.

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Piet de Jong and Ruud Lubbers. CDA ex prime ministers 

And now, two years later in the middle of the negotiations two former prime ministers from the Christian Democrats, Piet de Jong and Ruud Lubbers publicly opposed further cuts on development aid which in these negotiations seem to be one of the main areas touched upon by budget cuts. They finally have had enough. Mr. de Jong stated that if further cuts on the 0.7% GNP for development aid would be the new policy he would leave his party and battle with the government to his last breath if needed. Mr. de Jong was a submarine commander and knows what battle is. Mr. Ruud Lubbers, todays speaker at a conference on immigration policy, was equally clear on his statements to the current Liberal prime minister Mark Rutte and the Christian Democratic negotiator Maxime Verhagen.

In all honesty. The current government is a minority government. Only held on their seats because the Christian Democratic party has continuously shoved it’s principles aside and neglected it’s core values. So the message of these two old style politicians does count. And they are not the only ones. They follow Dries van Agt, another ex prime minister from the same party who uttered his disgust of the current government long time ago. This government has no backing anymore from the majority of the voters and of the majority of the well experienced politicians from one of it’s two coalition partners. So the only democratic move this government can do is to let the prime minister go to the palace and hand in his resignation to the queen. Instantly.

Alice © 2012