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.
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.
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
September 15 to Oktober 26, 2012
The color of orange is hijacked by criminals supporting morons. This is why I state this:
All over the world we have nations. Nations with laws. Laws to protect the rights of the citizens of these nations. And where there are no laws we see chaos. Some nations, in fact many, have terrible laws. Nations that abuse human rights of some of their citizens. Nations like Russia, Poland and the Ukraine.
And then we have sports. International sports. With it’s own laws setting itself apart from society. Organized around large amounts of money and exercising their financial powers to push governments to their desire. That goes for the International Olympic Committee and that goes for international soccer. International sports knows a lot of corruption simply because when there’s a lot of money flowing, corruption is always around. The FIFA knows that and so does the UEFA. So often they organize major sports events in countries that are well known for their lawlessness, human rights abuse and corruption. One of the main events in Europe this year is obviously the European Soccer Championships. The location is Poland together with the Ukraine. The argument that the international sports federations use to defend themselves when organizing events in human rights violation countries are always the same: it is for the good of the people living in those countries. Therebye underlining the position of sports as not being bound by international law. The FIFA is the worst as they actually demand countries to change their laws, but UEFA is not much better.
So this year the soccer players have shifted to Poland and Ukraine. The Ukraine where a list of governments has an equally long list of human rights violations and political oppression. Where political opponents are abused and thrown into jail, tortured and sometimes killed. Where free speech is absent and free press is hindered when it addresses government initiated crime. The Ukraine being a country that – just like Poland – is increasingly homophobic and transphobic. Where violence against homosexuals, lesbians and transgenders is not being addressed by the government but silently supported. And sometimes not even silently but explicitly with police force. The Ukraine is working on draconic laws against any public display or discussion of gay and trans rights. Even supported by the political party of Mrs. Timosjenko who is herself in jail being the victim of her own government (after having been responsible of victimizing others when she was ruling). This is what the Ukrainian parliament will be discussing any time soon:
Bill # 8711 proposes:
1. To ban any production or publication of products promoting homosexuality;
2. To ban the use of media, TV or radio broadcasting for homosexuality promotion;
3. To ban printing or distribution publications promoting pornography, cult of violence and cruelty or homosexuality;
4. To ban import, production or distribution of creative writings, cinematography or video materials promoting homosexuality.
Bill # 10290 determines the forms of homosexuality promotion as follows:
1. holding meetings, parades, actions, pickets, demonstrations and other mass gatherings, which are directed to and/or are expressed in intentional dissemination of any positive information about homosexuality, which may negatively influence physical and mental health, moral and spiritual growth of children;
2. holding educational lessons, thematic conversations, interactive games, optional classes, other educational events on homosexuality;
3. messages, articles or appeals spreading in any form the call for homosexual lifestyle in mass media, which may negatively influence physical and mental health, moral and spiritual growth of children;
4. spreading information in any form about homosexuality or of the call for homosexual lifestyle in institution of general education, which may negatively influence physical and mental health, moral and spiritual growth of children.
If adopted, the laws will introduce steep fines (up to 100 net minimum incomes or 300 net minimum incomes) or imprisonment up to five years for “homosexual propaganda”.
Now obviously these proposed laws are directly violating the basic rights of homosexuals and transgenders in the Ukraine. The international sports associations like UEFA don’t care about that. The soccer players, their team managers and trainers, there staff and their supporters do not speak up. They just celebrate their freedom based on the financial and corrupted power invested by UEFA. They vandalize society, they incriminate their countries in supporting a government that is abusing it’s own people and they are in fact – by staying silent and being in the Ukraine – passively supporting the government of that country. It makes them co-conspiracers of a government that incriminates gays and transgenders.
Which is why I don’t give a shit about international sports events and why I do not want to be associated with the European Soccer Championships at all. It is why I do not support the Dutch soccer team that is in my views composed of a bunch of rich hippocrites. Which is also why I hope they are ousted asap and the color orange is given back to the rest of the people after being hijacked by a bunch of criminal supporting idiots.
I want my orange back, without the filth attached to it caused by soccer supporters.
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.
director of the upcoming documentary ‘Headwind, the forgotten exiles from Bhutan’
the Netherlands www.headwindfilm.com
Sometime ago I wrote an email to the USFulbright Program (funded by the US government) about a scholarship they gave to a scholar to study the conceot of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan. Paid by them and thus paid by the US tax payers. As people reading my publications are probably well aware the concept of Gross National Happiness is a hoax. A cover up of te reality that Bhutan is in fact the country with the terrible history of being the percentagewise largent ethnic cleansing nation of the last 50 years if not longer.
This, dear readers, is the response of the Fulbright program to the questions asked:
This of course means that they simply do not want to answer the questions raised and hide their responsibility behind their acclaimed history as an academic organization of importance. Fulbright is with this answer the hallmark of US academic arrogance and certainly does not enter into discussions about theit granting policies in regard to human rights breaching nations. My answer to them is this:
My conclusions based on the response from Fulbright are obvious. These ‘academics‘ are disgusting and more interested in supporting human rights violating regimes than entering discussions about their policies. Interesting enough it is the same government of the US that is funding most of the third country resettlement effort of UNHCR to resettle the Bhutanese exiles who were exiled by the government that Fulbright is actively supporting.
That attitude reminds me of the books of Karl May in which the North American indians frequently state about their American counterparts that they are speaking with split tongues. Deceitful and manipulative. It is sad to see that Fulbright is still having that General Custer attitude.
Movies That Matter is on in The Hague until next Wednesday when the party hit’s the theatre. And you better don’t miss it if you care for great filming, documentaries and human rights. All in an amazing mix. And next year there will be another Dutch film there as far as I am concerned.
That is also where my only criticism is to this wonderful cinematographic event. Too few Dutch films and too many films focussing on the Arabian Spring, the Middle East, North Africa and Iran / Iraq. As if there isn’t really happening much concerning human rights elsewhere on this beautifully godforsaken planet. Sure, there are films from other areas like China and elsewhere but it seems that the programming this year is a little too much influenced by the usual suspects. It is how it works, when there’s a hot spot on the globe you only have to wait for a year or so and all the film festivals get filled with documentaries about these regions. It would have been nice to see just a little more diversity.
Still, it’s a great little festival. One cinema and one theatre, being next door neighbours, showing great films from great film makers on topics that are important. In this time of Voice of Whateverland, X-Factor and all that crap it’s good, no essential, that festivals like these are there. Quite simply to keep the minds of the people in focus concerning the state of the world. Now that even my country, formerly a decent and social country, has become xenophobic and selfish (who the heel do they think they are that they have the right to even talk about cutting development aid funding) it is so clear to me that we need to grab the attention on what really matters in life. And that is not ecnomical crisis but that’s life itself. And where that is made impossible I can assure you people will loose dignity and decency. And when that happens it not religion but the arts that are the last straw for human values and human rights. Actually, looking at many films in the programma it is ever so clear that it is most of the time religion that is the cause of the problems.
So, do yourself a favor and go there. Watch some movies, talk to people. Get involved and when you’re at the flyer stand near the entry of the Filmhuis cinema, get yourself a Headwind flyer! If not this year, I hope to see you next year. In a seat watching my film.
I live in a hypocrisy. I used to live in a democracy but to all realistic standards my country of birth cannot be declared a democracy in the true sense of the word. The reason being that in a true democracy (the old Greek model and not the all to common US model) a democracy is a state form where the majority of the representatives of the people in some sort of parliament decide on the countries policy with keeping the interest of and respect for the minorities alive. And that is what is not the case in my country. Unfortunately.
Over the past week the minority government in the Netherlands has been negotiating amongst themselves and with their supporting partner about the ways to fight the economical crisis in the country. And although little or none is leaked from the negotiating table the negotitations seem to be the most selfish negotiations any Dutch government has done for deciding on future policies in decennia. And everyone is playing smart. The now right wing governed media is focussing extensively on who is to become the next ‘opposition leader’, that opposition is focussing on their own party politics of course and as a result of that the media is not covering the government negotiations to an acceptable level. The press is silenced by their own morale of preventing to be leftish as leftish is out of fashion in the increasing inward looking society.
So negotiations at the table are going in an undisturbed manner. Of course there are protests in the country. Public transport, teachers, students, social workers, health workers, artists and many other groups that are touched by the strict financial policy of the current government have protested and some of them still do. But after the protest day is over, the issue is passed too. Society simply is not interested. When asked on the streets and elsewhere people are most willing to make immigration laws even stricter and limiting development aid funds even further. In the meanwhile the government is sending homosexuals back to countries where they are harrased and killed because they are not allowed asylum in the Netherlands. In the meanwhile the spending on international development aid is at its lowest in decennia and at the minimum internationally agreed level of 0.7% of the GNP. According to ‘the man in the street’ the immigration rules are still not strict enough and the first area of budget cuts people name is development aid.
This country has become selfish. While globally hunger and economic challenges are pushed on third world countries in an extreme manner because the simple fact that the west still has much of the global wealth in its hands and the rich always win, the people in my country are focussed on their own wallets, their old age pension security, their ability to buy that big flat screen so they can watch increasingly idiotic tv programs and their fear for immigrants.
Thanks to right wing politicians with distorted minds the country has become xenophobic. The Bush administration some time ago was successful in convincing most of the western governments of the threats from the middle east and countries like Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result my country of non US criticizing governments followed the US in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and even the ‘left wing’ politicians supported that. It is obvious to any human being that those decisions were wrong. Both Iraq and Afghanistan are now destroyed countries, the number of civilians victimized by western wars is enormous and the human rights violations from US, UK and no doubt Dutch troups will only be uncovered more and more in the coming years. All for the good of fear for Islam. That same islamophobic attitude translates in attacks on Muslims. Mostly verbally but like in Belgium yesterday attacks on mosques are to be expected. Because society has turned xenophobic and that always leads to violence in the end. As history has proven. The Netherlands have been unable to escape from the US sourced fatalistic xenophobia.
The combination of economic selfishness and xenophobia is poisoness. It is also the very basis of the negotiations that the goverment leaders are having in a closed setting just a few kilometers from my home. The measures and decisions from those meeting are feared by me and people like me. Because slowly I see my own country becoming unattractive, scared and threatening to the weak in it’s society. My country is turning from a democracy to a hypocrisy. A travesty of western civilization that is ruled by a government that does not care about it’s people, a government that is harsh, selfish and xenophobic. A government that is slowly killing what is left of our own civilization and what is left of what our parents have worked and fought for: a social state.
The anti socials and the anti democrats seem to have won in this country and the people don’t care about it. We suffer under a minority government that is only able to govern because it is allowed to do so by a flat out xenophobic political party giving them a majority of exactly 1 seat in parliament. And with that majority vote they disregard the interest of the real majority in the country in a manner that is by all means undemocratic. The political opposition is fighting amongst themselves for the political centric position, the place where traditionally the most votes are held and abondoning progressive politics although their words are quite different. The media is recoded to right wing supporting media with a populistic voice. And many of my fellow countrymen love that. Because populism always is greeted with pleasure, no matter if that populism is in fact pushing down others. The prime minister of my country did not set himself at a political distance from a website that is flatout discriminating and was created by his right wing populistic government partner. Because he need that partner to stay in the governing seat. That is how true hypocracy looks like.
So, my country is not a democratic country anymore, it’s a hypocrisy. A country on a moral downward slope heading for the new dark ages of selfishness, xenophobia and in the end violence. I can only hope that the people will recognize the manipulation before it is too late. The Christian Democrats in the government cabinet have already proven to have lost all sense of their own values and the liberals in that cabinet have proven to be more interested in limiting liberalism than in expanding it. I am unfortunately not hopeful for a turn for the better. I am no longer regarding myself as Dutch because that stands for unlimited hypocrisy, I do no longer want to be part of this, I do no longer want to live in a country like this.
Zit ik op mijn facebookje te rommelen en komt er een melding van het Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap langs. OCW heeft op een bijeenkomst in New York (!) op een bijeenkomst van de Verenigde Naties mooi weer gespeeld met betrekking tot de bevordering van de rechten van lesbiënnes en transgenders.
Welnu, ik ben lesbiënne en transgender. En voor wat betreft het laatste is Nederland een land dat mijn mensenrechten en burgerrechten schendt. Zoals dat onderschreven wordt door de mensenrechten commissie van het Europees Parlement, Human Rights Watch en vele, vele anderen. En dan staat daar dus die van Bijsterveldt met droge ogen andere landen te informeren over hoe goed het hier in Nederland gaat? Waar haalt ze het lef vandaan om zo leugenachtig de situatie in Nederland te verdraaien?
Natuurlijk wordt door het COC (Vera, ben je er nog?) dat zonder kritish commentaar gespiegeld op Facebook.
De leugen kan niet groter zijn. Dit kabinet weigerde in januari nog om medische noodzakelijke behandelingen voor borstvergroting (iets dat veel transvrouwen keihard nodig hebben om zich enigszins met hun toch al gemankeerde lijf te kunnen verenigen) buiten de basiszorg te houden. Want dat zou biologische vrouwen negatief discrimineren. Laserbehandeling voor gezichtsontharing wordt ook nog steeds niet vergoed bij wet (wel door enkele verlichte verzekeringsmaatschappijen) want tsja, secundaire geslachtskenmerken… Vrouwen met baarden zijn gewoon bij dit kabinet.
Geslachtsverandering kan juridisch alleen nog maar als je ook in je lijf laat snijden en het bewijs daarvan in de vorm van een artsenverklaring overlegd. Rechtstreeks in strijd met het Verdrag voor de Rechten van de Mens.
En in New York wordt mooi weer gespeeld bij de organisatie waarvan diezelfde mensenrechten de basis zijn. Wat een stelletje hypocrieten, wat een schandalige praktijk van een minister van een kabinet om over de ruggen van transgenders in Nederland mooi weer te spelen. En denk maar niet dat het COC (die club van homo’s en lesbo’s) daar kritisch op is. Welnee, die zijn gewoon eigenlijk nog erger.
Today I read this news item at IPA Journal, a website maintained by I.P. Adhikari, who amongst others writes there frequently about all kinds of issues concerning Bhutan. It’s one of my respected information sources.
Latest news from Thimphu confirms that King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk has issues orders to release 16 people who have been jailed for smuggling tobacco. The names of all those sent behind the bars for carrying tobacco is not available at this hours but campaigners for release of monk Sonam Tshering confirmed that he has been released. The arrest and imprisonment of Tshering for carrying tobacco worth less than $2 had invited widespread criticism within and outside the country. His supporters had run campaign for his release.
Despite criticism, many citizens have been given harsh sentences for minor offences. The law enforcement agencies and courts became so harsh in implementing the law that citizens were barred for purchasing tobacco for their personal use.
Sale of tobacco is banned and consumers in all parts of the country have to travel to India to purchase, which is not possible in all circumstances. The tobacco Control Act does not specify criteria to call it illegal quantity. Under such vague provisions, people buying tobacco in different quantities have been given same sentences.
After public criticism, advocacy and division among the parliamentarians, the government amended the act in the last session of the parliament but did nothing to minimise sentences of those already given. The Act is still regarded as ruthless. The release of these innocent citizens is appreciated. It comes a few days before the king celebrates his birthday. Hope, families of these ‘imprisoned citizens’ will find meaning to smile at his birthday bash.
Of course people should celebrate this release and the intervention in the Bhutanese judicial system. For the first time in his reign the king actually shows some level of compassion with his people. Bhutan is not only an amazing beautiful country but also and amazingly strictly ruled country where general liberties and freedom are not something natural. Growing, harvesting and trading tobacco is prohibited by a 2010 harsh law. That law was relaxed in january this year reducing penalties. And now the king stepped in and ordered the release of the poor prisoners who were thrown in jail because they broke that law. In fact the king used his power as an usurpator to have them released.
But Bhutan will next year be scrutinized again for the human rights situation and it is obvious that the four yearly UN evaluation of Bhutan’s human rights status will give a lot of bad press. Simply because the continuation of the Bhutanese exile and the stalling of talks between Bhutan and Nepal that were supposed to end that situation and start repatriation. It is obvious that another negative evaluation will add to the slowly emerging political pressure on Bhutan. And as history shows time will always bring change, also in Bhutan.
So, the question is whether the kings compassion with the ‘law breaking tobacco smugglers’ (some of them Buddhist monks who just carried around 30 grams of tobacco for their own use) is in fact a move to demonstrate human rights improvement or is just an answer to building internal pressure in Bhutan.
One thing remains: change is imminent. No country can uphold human rights violations as a standard government practice. Not even Bhutan. The policy might last for decades as proven by dictators like Khaadaffi and Mubarak, but in they end they will fall when they continue repressive policies. Always. It is to be hoped that the king of Bhutan will not persist in allowing his government to breach human rights. For the sake of his people and for the sake of his reign.
Maybe, this release is a small but important step.
The news earlier this week of a cowardly terrorist bomb attack at a police station in Puentsholing which is another attack in a long list of attacks in the past decades gives a signal that there always is the risk of violence against the Bhutan government. The answer until now has been further repression. Maybe another answer would be wiser.
UPDATE: The ‘Partij voor Geluk‘ has removed their link to Bhutan as a guiding country for Gross National Happiness in response to the comments made by me. Which is a good thing and I welcome that! I wish this new party all the best in their endeavors. Obviously it is important that the myth of Bhutan as a hallmark for happiness is dismantled and the human rights violations by Bhutan are recognized and acknowledged.
A new political party is coming to the Dutch politcal arena. As a counter movement to the current development of Dutch (or even western) society. The Party for Happiness, in Dutch ‘Partij voor Geluk’ (www.partijvoorgeluk.nl). How nice.
A Party for Happiness, what a great initiative don’t you think? Because, to be honest, everything in this world is judged in financial economical terms like Gross National Product (GNP) meaning money, the filth of the earth. And there is another option like the one that this PvG suggest. Just look at Bhutan they say. Bhutan the buddhist Himalayan kingdom where Gross National Happiness is the measure for government success, Bhutan where the people are happy and Bhutan where according to it’s prime minister Mr. Thinley ‘even the dogs smile’…
But is that true? How are things concerning Gross National Happiness in Bhutan really? Is Bhutan really that happy conutry and does the United Nations indeed push them forward as an example, as a guiding nation for the world?
The answer my friend, is blowing in the Himalayan wind. And it simply says: no. Not at all. Bhutan is not an overly happy country and although the dogs might smile, many of it’s people certainly don’t. Bhutan is the only 100% Bhuddist ruled country in the world. A country that in the years 1990 – 1992 exiled some 120,000 of it’s citizens to India and in the end to refugee camps in Nepal where they have lived ever since. Almost 20% of the Bhutanese population now live outside the country in global diaspora since the United Nations started mass third country resettlement in 2007 shifting almost all of these refugees to countries like the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the UK and the Netherlands. Bhutan as a nation is responsible for the percentagewise largest ethnic and cultural cleansing since world war two. Hardly a nation to set an example to the world.
Gross National Happiness in Bhutan is according to the latest results certainly not all over. Things like health care and education are experienced as factors making the mostly rural population less than happy. According to Bhutan’s own annual GNH report that was recently published. Bhutan does not have freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of travel, freedom to speak Nepali, freedom to dress to your own desire, freedom to smoke a cigarette… Bhutan does however have over 400 political prisoners (according to sources like Human Rights Watch), it throws monks in jail for carrying 30 grams of tobacco on them and has been denying international requests to repatriate it’s own people to the south and east of the country. Bhutan sabotaged 19 years of talks with the Nepalese government for repatriation, lies structurally to the refugees, the international community and the press about their willingness to take their people back and Bhutan remains a country as closed to the outside world as North Korea. If you live in Bhutan and oppose the government you can be thrown into jail, be tortured (Bhutan has the doubtful reputation of a great inventor of torture methods), thrown into exile or even get killed.
Over the past decades the Human Rights Evaluations by the United Nations on Bhutan have repeatedly shown many comments from countries like the US, Canada, UK, Netherlands and others on the situation concerning the exiled population now living in the refugee camps in Nepal with already half of them resettled in the largest third country resettlement project of the UNHCR ever. Continuous reporting by organizations like Human Rights Watch and Global Human Rights Defence have made clear that Bhutan is not a country of Gross National Happiness but a country of Gross Human Rights Violations.
It’s sad to see that western society has a very biased and uninformed view of the Bhutanese reality. Bhutan has been able (and has been given ample space to do so) to build an effective reality distortion field around it’s atrocities. That reality distortion field has a name: Gross National Happiness. As a concept welcomed by Buddhists and politicians globally. It is because of that western urge to be inspired by something nice as ‘happiness’ that helps Bhutan in covering up the reality and trying to change history. Using that concept is very much like taking king Herod’s approach to an unwelcome reality: washing hands in innocence while allowing human rights violations to continue.
Not quite a good start for a political party I suppose.
Mrs. Hillary Clinton gave an already historical speech at the United Nations in Geneva in the week running up to International Human rights Day on December 10. This is the video and the transcript of the speech. Read it, spread the word, advocate for LGBT rights!
The following is a transcript of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Human Rights Day speech, delivered today in Geneva. Text posted with permission from the White House Office of Communications:
Good evening, and let me express my deep honor and pleasure at being here. I want to thank Director General Tokayev and Ms. Wyden along with other ministers, ambassadors, excellencies, and UN partners. This weekend, we will celebrate Human Rights Day, the anniversary of one of the great accomplishments of the last century.
Beginning in 1947, delegates from six continents devoted themselves to drafting a declaration that would enshrine the fundamental rights and freedoms of people everywhere. In the aftermath of World War II, many nations pressed for a statement of this kind to help ensure that we would prevent future atrocities and protect the inherent humanity and dignity of all people. And so the delegates went to work. They discussed, they wrote, they revisited, revised, rewrote, for thousands of hours. And they incorporated suggestions and revisions from governments, organizations, and individuals around the world.
At three o’clock in the morning on December 10th, 1948, after nearly two years of drafting and one last long night of debate, the president of the UN General Assembly called for a vote on the final text. Forty-eight nations voted in favor; eight abstained; none dissented. And the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. It proclaims a simple, powerful idea: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. And with the declaration, it was made clear that rights are not conferred by government; they are the birthright of all people. It does not matter what country we live in, who our leaders are, or even who we are. Because we are human, we therefore have rights. And because we have rights, governments are bound to protect them.
In the 63 years since the declaration was adopted, many nations have made great progress in making human rights a human reality. Step by step, barriers that once prevented people from enjoying the full measure of liberty, the full experience of dignity, and the full benefits of humanity have fallen away. In many places, racist laws have been repealed, legal and social practices that relegated women to second-class status have been abolished, the ability of religious minorities to practice their faith freely has been secured.
In most cases, this progress was not easily won. People fought and organized and campaigned in public squares and private spaces to change not only laws, but hearts and minds. And thanks to that work of generations, for millions of individuals whose lives were once narrowed by injustice, they are now able to live more freely and to participate more fully in the political, economic, and social lives of their communities.
Now, there is still, as you all know, much more to be done to secure that commitment, that reality, and progress for all people. Today, I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today. In many ways, they are an invisible minority. They are arrested, beaten, terrorized, even executed. Many are treated with contempt and violence by their fellow citizens while authorities empowered to protect them look the other way or, too often, even join in the abuse. They are denied opportunities to work and learn, driven from their homes and countries, and forced to suppress or deny who they are to protect themselves from harm.
I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time. I speak about this subject knowing that my own country’s record on human rights for gay people is far from perfect. Until 2003, it was still a crime in parts of our country. Many LGBT Americans have endured violence and harassment in their own lives, and for some, including many young people, bullying and exclusion are daily experiences. So we, like all nations, have more work to do to protect human rights at home.
Now, raising this issue, I know, is sensitive for many people and that the obstacles standing in the way of protecting the human rights of LGBT people rest on deeply held personal, political, cultural, and religious beliefs. So I come here before you with respect, understanding, and humility. Even though progress on this front is not easy, we cannot delay acting. So in that spirit, I want to talk about the difficult and important issues we must address together to reach a global consensus that recognizes the human rights of LGBT citizens everywhere.
The first issue goes to the heart of the matter. Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same. Now, of course, 60 years ago, the governments that drafted and passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were not thinking about how it applied to the LGBT community. They also weren’t thinking about how it applied to indigenous people or children or people with disabilities or other marginalized groups. Yet in the past 60 years, we have come to recognize that members of these groups are entitled to the full measure of dignity and rights, because, like all people, they share a common humanity.
This recognition did not occur all at once. It evolved over time. And as it did, we understood that we were honoring rights that people always had, rather than creating new or special rights for them. Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.
It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave. It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished. It is a violation of human rights when lesbian or transgendered women are subjected to so-called corrective rape, or forcibly subjected to hormone treatments, or when people are murdered after public calls for violence toward gays, or when they are forced to flee their nations and seek asylum in other lands to save their lives. And it is a violation of human rights when life-saving care is withheld from people because they are gay, or equal access to justice is denied to people because they are gay, or public spaces are out of bounds to people because they are gay. No matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we are, we are all equally entitled to our human rights and dignity.
The second issue is a question of whether homosexuality arises from a particular part of the world. Some seem to believe it is a Western phenomenon, and therefore people outside the West have grounds to reject it. Well, in reality, gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths; they are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes; and whether we know it, or whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends, and our neighbors.
Being gay is not a Western invention; it is a human reality. And protecting the human rights of all people, gay or straight, is not something that only Western governments do. South Africa’s constitution, written in the aftermath of Apartheid, protects the equality of all citizens, including gay people. In Colombia and Argentina, the rights of gays are also legally protected. In Nepal, the supreme court has ruled that equal rights apply to LGBT citizens. The Government of Mongolia has committed to pursue new legislation that will tackle anti-gay discrimination.
Now, some worry that protecting the human rights of the LGBT community is a luxury that only wealthy nations can afford. But in fact, in all countries, there are costs to not protecting these rights, in both gay and straight lives lost to disease and violence, and the silencing of voices and views that would strengthen communities, in ideas never pursued by entrepreneurs who happen to be gay. Costs are incurred whenever any group is treated as lesser or the other, whether they are women, racial, or religious minorities, or the LGBT. Former President Mogae of Botswana pointed out recently that for as long as LGBT people are kept in the shadows, there cannot be an effective public health program to tackle HIV and AIDS. Well, that holds true for other challenges as well.
The third, and perhaps most challenging, issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. This is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition. But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.
In each of these cases, we came to learn that no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us. And this holds true for inflicting violence on LGBT people, criminalizing their status or behavior, expelling them from their families and communities, or tacitly or explicitly accepting their killing.
Of course, it bears noting that rarely are cultural and religious traditions and teachings actually in conflict with the protection of human rights. Indeed, our religion and our culture are sources of compassion and inspiration toward our fellow human beings. It was not only those who’ve justified slavery who leaned on religion, it was also those who sought to abolish it. And let us keep in mind that our commitments to protect the freedom of religion and to defend the dignity of LGBT people emanate from a common source. For many of us, religious belief and practice is a vital source of meaning and identity, and fundamental to who we are as people. And likewise, for most of us, the bonds of love and family that we forge are also vital sources of meaning and identity. And caring for others is an expression of what it means to be fully human. It is because the human experience is universal that human rights are universal and cut across all religions and cultures.
The fourth issue is what history teaches us about how we make progress towards rights for all. Progress starts with honest discussion. Now, there are some who say and believe that all gay people are pedophiles, that homosexuality is a disease that can be caught or cured, or that gays recruit others to become gay. Well, these notions are simply not true. They are also unlikely to disappear if those who promote or accept them are dismissed out of hand rather than invited to share their fears and concerns. No one has ever abandoned a belief because he was forced to do so.
Universal human rights include freedom of expression and freedom of belief, even if our words or beliefs denigrate the humanity of others. Yet, while we are each free to believe whatever we choose, we cannot do whatever we choose, not in a world where we protect the human rights of all.
Reaching understanding of these issues takes more than speech. It does take a conversation. In fact, it takes a constellation of conversations in places big and small. And it takes a willingness to see stark differences in belief as a reason to begin the conversation, not to avoid it.
But progress comes from changes in laws. In many places, including my own country, legal protections have preceded, not followed, broader recognition of rights. Laws have a teaching effect. Laws that discriminate validate other kinds of discrimination. Laws that require equal protections reinforce the moral imperative of equality. And practically speaking, it is often the case that laws must change before fears about change dissipate.
Many in my country thought that President Truman was making a grave error when he ordered the racial desegregation of our military. They argued that it would undermine unit cohesion. And it wasn’t until he went ahead and did it that we saw how it strengthened our social fabric in ways even the supporters of the policy could not foresee. Likewise, some worried in my country that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would have a negative effect on our armed forces. Now, the Marine Corps Commandant, who was one of the strongest voices against the repeal, says that his concerns were unfounded and that the Marines have embraced the change.
Finally, progress comes from being willing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. We need to ask ourselves, “How would it feel if it were a crime to love the person I love? How would it feel to be discriminated against for something about myself that I cannot change?” This challenge applies to all of us as we reflect upon deeply held beliefs, as we work to embrace tolerance and respect for the dignity of all persons, and as we engage humbly with those with whom we disagree in the hope of creating greater understanding.
A fifth and final question is how we do our part to bring the world to embrace human rights for all people including LGBT people. Yes, LGBT people must help lead this effort, as so many of you are. Their knowledge and experiences are invaluable and their courage inspirational. We know the names of brave LGBT activists who have literally given their lives for this cause, and there are many more whose names we will never know. But often those who are denied rights are least empowered to bring about the changes they seek. Acting alone, minorities can never achieve the majorities necessary for political change.
So when any part of humanity is sidelined, the rest of us cannot sit on the sidelines. Every time a barrier to progress has fallen, it has taken a cooperative effort from those on both sides of the barrier. In the fight for women’s rights, the support of men remains crucial. The fight for racial equality has relied on contributions from people of all races. Combating Islamaphobia or anti-Semitism is a task for people of all faiths. And the same is true with this struggle for equality.
Conversely, when we see denials and abuses of human rights and fail to act, that sends the message to those deniers and abusers that they won’t suffer any consequences for their actions, and so they carry on. But when we do act, we send a powerful moral message. Right here in Geneva, the international community acted this year to strengthen a global consensus around the human rights of LGBT people. At the Human Rights Council in March, 85 countries from all regions supported a statement calling for an end to criminalization and violence against people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
At the following session of the Council in June, South Africa took the lead on a resolution about violence against LGBT people. The delegation from South Africa spoke eloquently about their own experience and struggle for human equality and its indivisibility. When the measure passed, it became the first-ever UN resolution recognizing the human rights of gay people worldwide. In the Organization of American States this year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights created a unit on the rights of LGBT people, a step toward what we hope will be the creation of a special rapporteur.
Now, we must go further and work here and in every region of the world to galvanize more support for the human rights of the LGBT community. To the leaders of those countries where people are jailed, beaten, or executed for being gay, I ask you to consider this: Leadership, by definition, means being out in front of your people when it is called for. It means standing up for the dignity of all your citizens and persuading your people to do the same. It also means ensuring that all citizens are treated as equals under your laws, because let me be clear – I am not saying that gay people can’t or don’t commit crimes. They can and they do, just like straight people. And when they do, they should be held accountable, but it should never be a crime to be gay.
And to people of all nations, I say supporting human rights is your responsibility too. The lives of gay people are shaped not only by laws, but by the treatment they receive every day from their families, from their neighbors. Eleanor Roosevelt, who did so much to advance human rights worldwide, said that these rights begin in the small places close to home – the streets where people live, the schools they attend, the factories, farms, and offices where they work. These places are your domain. The actions you take, the ideals that you advocate, can determine whether human rights flourish where you are.
And finally, to LGBT men and women worldwide, let me say this: Wherever you live and whatever the circumstances of your life, whether you are connected to a network of support or feel isolated and vulnerable, please know that you are not alone. People around the globe are working hard to support you and to bring an end to the injustices and dangers you face. That is certainly true for my country. And you have an ally in the United States of America and you have millions of friends among the American people.
The Obama Administration defends the human rights of LGBT people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of our foreign policy. In our embassies, our diplomats are raising concerns about specific cases and laws, and working with a range of partners to strengthen human rights protections for all. In Washington, we have created a task force at the State Department to support and coordinate this work. And in the coming months, we will provide every embassy with a toolkit to help improve their efforts. And we have created a program that offers emergency support to defenders of human rights for LGBT people.
This morning, back in Washington, President Obama put into place the first U.S. Government strategy dedicated to combating human rights abuses against LGBT persons abroad. Building on efforts already underway at the State Department and across the government, the President has directed all U.S. Government agencies engaged overseas to combat the criminalization of LGBT status and conduct, to enhance efforts to protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, to ensure that our foreign assistance promotes the protection of LGBT rights, to enlist international organizations in the fight against discrimination, and to respond swiftly to abuses against LGBT persons.
I am also pleased to announce that we are launching a new Global Equality Fund that will support the work of civil society organizations working on these issues around the world. This fund will help them record facts so they can target their advocacy, learn how to use the law as a tool, manage their budgets, train their staffs, and forge partnerships with women’s organizations and other human rights groups. We have committed more than $3 million to start this fund, and we have hope that others will join us in supporting it.
The women and men who advocate for human rights for the LGBT community in hostile places, some of whom are here today with us, are brave and dedicated, and deserve all the help we can give them. We know the road ahead will not be easy. A great deal of work lies before us. But many of us have seen firsthand how quickly change can come. In our lifetimes, attitudes toward gay people in many places have been transformed. Many people, including myself, have experienced a deepening of our own convictions on this topic over the years, as we have devoted more thought to it, engaged in dialogues and debates, and established personal and professional relationships with people who are gay.
This evolution is evident in many places. To highlight one example, the Delhi High Court decriminalized homosexuality in India two years ago, writing, and I quote, “If there is one tenet that can be said to be an underlying theme of the Indian constitution, it is inclusiveness.” There is little doubt in my mind that support for LGBT human rights will continue to climb. Because for many young people, this is simple: All people deserve to be treated with dignity and have their human rights respected, no matter who they are or whom they love.
There is a phrase that people in the United States invoke when urging others to support human rights: “Be on the right side of history.” The story of the United States is the story of a nation that has repeatedly grappled with intolerance and inequality. We fought a brutal civil war over slavery. People from coast to coast joined in campaigns to recognize the rights of women, indigenous peoples, racial minorities, children, people with disabilities, immigrants, workers, and on and on. And the march toward equality and justice has continued. Those who advocate for expanding the circle of human rights were and are on the right side of history, and history honors them. Those who tried to constrict human rights were wrong, and history reflects that as well.
I know that the thoughts I’ve shared today involve questions on which opinions are still evolving. As it has happened so many times before, opinion will converge once again with the truth, the immutable truth, that all persons are created free and equal in dignity and rights. We are called once more to make real the words of the Universal Declaration. Let us answer that call. Let us be on the right side of history, for our people, our nations, and future generations, whose lives will be shaped by the work we do today. I come before you with great hope and confidence that no matter how long the road ahead, we will travel it successfully together. Thank you very much.
the (unedited) story below was penned down and published on an independent news website. It’s an untold story like many stories from the southern Bhutanese. It tells about the gross human rights violations that happened in the early nineties of the last century in Bhutan. The problem with stories like these is the absence of physical evidence so people can only base opinions on oral reporting of the events. In Europe over the years projects were started to re-tell the stories of the people who have been oppressed and dislocated during the second world war. These project collected these stories and the basis was always recording first hand experiences told by the people themselves. It’s project like those that are continuously raising awareness of what happened and the threat of such situations in society.
Until now, the stories from the southern (and eastern) Bhutanese, have not been captured and saved for history.
But I am sure that just like the story below they have a function in society. They remind everyone of what has happened and might in the end even proof to be of great importance to find justice for the people who became victims of a derailed regime. It is therefore that I republish this, and it is therefore that I seek confirmation of this story. So, can anyone confirm this specific story. First hand? And has anyone stories like these? If so, please let me know because I would like to collect them, list them and republish them on a dedicated website so that history will not be forgotten and not be deformed by propaganda.
This idea for document unwritten history came to me because of the problems concerning registration of refugees in the camps and the hunger strike of the past few weeks by a brave group of women in the Beldangi camp. It occurred to me that if stories untold become stories unwritten history will become blurred and truth fades away.
Dorona is the most remote and backward ‘Gewog’ (block) of all the inhabited area of Dagapela that can be logically argued through the availability of goods and services both in terms of forward and backward linkages. It had a dispensary in a two roomed single floor house at Nimtoladara with the staffing of a compounder and local peon and other was the Extended Classroom (ECR) of Powgang Primary School at Tharphu with the provision of one full time teaching staff and a local temporary teacher. The ECR was three roomed shed with wild bamboo messed walls and the double-pitched roof freely standing at the mud floor.
None of the houses were ever served with the public utilities and other infrastructure services for public goods. Furthermore, the most embarrassing situation was that due to the lack of any public built spaces; the ‘Gup’(Mandal –popularly elected block representative) had to run the office from their respective private houses. And till 1992, none of the Gups had the formal education, and this was not the qualifying criterion for that representation. The central had looked this area with least priority both in terms of capacity building and infrastructure development. May be with this reason, people used an idiomatic way of rating the civil officers as ‘am not afraid of such a high profile chaprasis (forest guards) and why should I fear of Dzongda’(Chief District Officer). Such was the exposure of the people from this block who couldn’t distinguish the comparative level of a Dzongda to a forester.
Some Phenomenal Incidences
Firstly, the officiating Gup left the country to join the antinational movements on September 1990 thereby creating a type of void between the grassroots people and the administrative authority for the proper and accurate communication. Taking the advantage of vulnerability of people, the remoteness and guardian-less condition, some 4 unidentified men took control of then on duty compounder at the midnight of September 29th, 1990. The staff didn’t surrender them but was helpless. The outfits then set the dispensary on fire where the inferno destroyed everything, the facility and the structure to ashes. On the same night they abducted the health staff leaving his wife and children there at miserable condition hardly anyone there to take care of them. This was all the movement of Dorona block.
Later when the country’s situation was normalize after a month or so the authority accused the local inhabitants not only of Nimtola village but for every household of the gewog for their involvement and not acting as a true citizen of Pelden Drukpa. People tried their best to convince their innocence, the authority turned their deaf ears and ultimately compelled everyone to leave the country.
The then Dzongda Hisey Dorji of Dagana District called a meeting for the people of Dorona block on April 4th, 1991 to convey the message of HM to the people of the block and also to review some of the occurrences that took place during the southern uprisings. The meet was conducted to find out the peoples’ involvement in the uprising that was against the prevailing regulations and give the clean sheets to the people. The meeting was scheduled to start at 9.00 am but due to commuting problems it actually began at 10.00am.
The general public were asked to sit at the ground like an amphitheatre stage, the performers at the front and the audiences facing towards the authorities that comprised of the Dzongda, the security chief Maj. Chachu with his armed military team and other local government staff. Dzongda was the all in all speaker to address the meeting. He began using really harsh language to scold the people and at times using bad mouthing. He took out a typed letter from his gho pouch and showed to the people mentioning that the very letter has been sent by the king. He didn’t read the letter but referring the document began saying that king isn’t happy with the people of south and got really infuriated with the type of situation prevailing in this region. He told that the king was caring the southern people more and had undertaken many physical development to facelift this area in spite of many developmental challenges. But he began losing faith and trust towards you all. You all used a plate to eat the food and used that same tool to pass the excreta. He questioned to the people whether or not the royal family would ever use the facilities of the local area.
There was a pin drop silence; no one had the courage to break such timing due to two reasons, first- all the participants were 100% illiterate comprising of shepherds, cattle herders and mere farmers to understand and explain the authority and second the people from the gewog never committed such act and lacked the background knowledge and factual information. Then it was dzongda himself to break the ice and said that you people pretend. Again he asked the mass to provide with the names of people who were involved at torching the dispensary building. Again no one uttered a word.
He took out another hand written paper that contained the names of all the people of the Gewog and began to read the names and segregate the people into two groups; one group was the clean sheet category and other the black list, people who had hands for the physical destruction a type of indirect challenge to the king and country. There were just two people on the clean sheet category namely the man who provided the list and second was his father in law family where as rest of the people were totally grouped under black list. The list was secretly prepared by the ‘Gup’ through the help from the local clandestine individual, a kind of espionage and was based on the personal relation of such providers.
Again referring to the letter send by HM, he began briefing that king has opened three options to the black listed people and told that it was mandatory to choose the best options for each family and told that early the better. The options opened were:-
Leave the country immediately with no conditions.
Serve the compulsory detention term of 13.5 years.
Face the extermination of public shooting at Capital’s national stadium.
Each family from my ‘Geog’ (block) had to choose the best among the above three alternatives provided by the state administration through the local bodies. Each option were detailed and explained to make it clear so that the ordinary layman can understand and reach at decision.
For the 2nd options, it was mandatory for each and every individual who were black listed by the government and were over 18 years to serve the prescribed period. Had the people been interrogated and had chance to express their involvement or prove their innocence, it would have been fair to enlist but how rationale was it to rubberstamp the list provided by such miscreants.
Extermination threat was made more convincing through the justification of numbers of bullets per individual southern population and public announcement was made that RGOB had bought 10 bullets equivalent to each southern person very recently from India’s goodwill. And some examples relevant to such practice were highlighted naming Chabda, Mahasur and others and there could be similar fate for everyone and the people were threatened to take the matter seriously and give the prompt response.
For the first option, if people were interested to opt then government would immediately make the sufficient arrangement at the earliest possible. What people have to do was just submit in writing that the person would be leaving the country at own will. People also had to mention that they were not forced by any law enforcing authorities and need to sign it that would automatically convert into the legal documents.
People watched the government’s move for about one complete year with a hope that government will be little flexible and considerate enough on these options but the situation further ruined. There were no any indications of improvements and at each and every step there came a barrier at every mode of activity. Within the extremism there reached a critical stage where people began saying that it is worth to be sanity than to end the life. People can tolerate to certain degree and when the level crosses the bearing limit then it’s obvious to shift the position in regards to uncertainty. Sadly, at the end people were compelled to sign the eviction form preferring madness than facing unnatural human disaster. When the autocrats think in an ethnic superiority conditions with total dominating and hate feelings towards minority population then there could be chances that such exterminations would prevail in the broad daylight where history has shown many such lessons.
During the process of eviction, people need to submit and surrender all the testimonies in regards to Bhutanese identity, be it citizenship card, tax receipt or property registration certificate. It’s those documents that show the proof as Bhutanese and once such documents are seized then it is obvious to brand the people into different categories, call it by illegal immigrants, economic emigrants, homeless dwellers or people of nowhere.
Now can we term this entire phenomenal move to be at people own will or some externality compelled to leave from the place of birth and citizenry?
This fall WoordenStorm Publications will publish the novel ‘Headwind Laxmi’s Story’ by Alice Verheij. The novel is written in English to be able to distribute it in the Bhutanese and Nepalese communities globally. There will also be an edition published in Nepal for south Asia and global distribution.
About the story.
‘Headwind, Laxmi’s Story’ is a beautifully crafted and compelling novel about a young girl who was born in exile, resettled to the Netherlands and had to fight for both her place in society as her independence from her own society.
Laxmi, who names herself Cindy now was born in a Bhutanese family in a refugee-camp in Nepal. At a very young age she learns about the dangers in the camps as she is attacked and raped violently. But she also befriended Jigme, a Dalit (low caste) boy as a child and there friendship becomes more intimate over the years and grows to real love.
In 2008 Laxmi’s parents opt for resettlement, so Laxmi and Jigme have to part. Indefinitely. The life in her new homeland is difficult. But Shreeni learns to adjust. She is even able to find a job and after a few years she actually starts her own flower shop. But the cost is high as she has to break with her family not being able to feel part of their strict Hindu culture anymore. After a terrible row she finally takes her life in her own hands.
Then, a few years later she gets an invitation from her uncle who now lives in Chicago to come to his house for a holiday. She decides to go not knowing that her life will take a decisive turn.
Headwind, Laxmi’s Story is both a novel that is critical about the situation of the exiles form Bhutan as a great love story.
About the author.
Alice Verheij is a Dutch writer who started writing at a later age. After a theatre play in 2007 and a few yet unpublished novels she had her first novel published in 2010. She prefers to write about social and cultural issues in present day using the novel as a form to let people understand the challenges of the characters in her books.
Since 2010 she is involved with the exiles from Bhutan who had to leave their country as a result of horrific discrimination and ethnic cleansing in the early nineties of the last century. Until this day these people face many challenges and disregard for their situation by the international community.
About the Headwind project.
‘Headwind, Laxmi’s Story’ is the third part of the Headwind cross media project focussing on the situation of the Bhutanese exiles and refugees. In 2012 the feature length documentary, titled ‘Headwind’, will be released at the international documentary and human rights focussed film festivals.
The novel has been written in the summer of 2011 in between the shootings for the documentary in Nepal. Thereby the author has been able to capture the specific nature of the life of a young refugee girl, living in a camp in the Terai region in the subtropic southeast of Nepal. Having visited the camps many times the author’s descriptions of these camps and the live within are as close to reality as possible. This novel not only tells the tale of an original love story but also gives an inside look at the lives of the exiled Bhutanese. By that it is an unique work worth reading. For more information on the Headwind project please surf to http://www.headwindfilm.org.
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For more information about this novel, the upcoming documentary or the Headwind Project please contact:
Mient 247 2564 KM The Hague, Netherlands
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This essay has been written first as a part of my new novel (in which it is integrated as an extra chapter for reference on the history of the Bhutanese diaspora). But as it is in all aspects a work on its own I’ve decided to publish this essay under the Creative Commons License in such a way that with proper attribution and without changing any of it’s contents it is allowed to use it for non commercial purposes.
The essay ‘A view on the history of the Bhutanese Diaspora’ not only contains my analysis of the history of the exiles from Bhutan but it also states an opinion on what should happen to resolve this still existing humanitarian crisis. In the essay I explain history, politics and roles to partly resolve the unbearable situation that is existing. It’s a personal view that I’ve developed after thorough research, extensive interviews with exiles living in the Netherlands and the camps, journalists, politicians and scholars and many visits to the refugee-camps in the southeast of Nepal.
Currently political pressure on the Bhutan government (and king) to soften their policies and allow repatriation of exiles is building. In the last weeks only both the new prime minister of Nepal, the US ambassador in Nepal and the UNHCR issued statements that Bhutan should allow it’s own citizens to return to Bhutan in dignity. To understand the need for this pressure building to resolve the situation it is important to understand history. The essay I wrote might help with that. But it also tells that a complete solution is not any longer possible as a result of the ongoing third country re-settlement that in effect has re-settled tens of thousands of exiles to the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom. After three years of ongoing re-settlements there finally seems to be a response to the situation in the international political arena.