Last Updated: Thursday, 18 December 2014, 14:40 GMT

Chronology for Lhotshampas in Bhutan

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Lhotshampas in Bhutan, 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f386a1e.html [accessed 19 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
Jul 1990 The Bhutan People's Party (BPP) submitted a memorandum to King Wangchuck in which it demanded the establishment of a democratic system. The Bhutanese government argued that there are already representative political institutions in existence including a National Assembly and a National Advisory Council.
Sep 1990 A Bhutanese embassy official in New Delhi denied reports that some 327 people were shot dead by government troops during two weeks of pro-democracy demonstrations in Bhutan's southern districts. The spokesman said protesters armed with petrol bombs and guns confronted police and soldiers in nine areas along the Kingdom's border with India. He said two policemen and two demonstrators were killed. Members of the Bhutan People's Party are reported to have decapitated officials and kidnapped suspected police informers some of whom were later tortured and killed. The BPP is allegedly using the tea estates in West Bengal province in neighboring India as hideouts (Los Angeles Times, 12/23/95).
Oct 1990 Bhutan fiddled its population count to impress the United Nations, its embassy in New Delhi admitted. It rejected charges by dissidents that it consistently did so to play down the proportion of Nepalese in the country. A spokesman said a population estimate made just before Bhutan joined the UN in 1971 was based on village headmen's reports. "The figure didn't amount to a million, so friends of the (then) King suggested that it would be better to round up the figure. The reason was we were about to enter the U.N." (Reuters, 09/06/90). Several thousand Nepali-origin dissidents demonstrated in Bhutan, alleging that their civil rights were being violated, Bhutan's New Delhi embassy reported. "There was no violence because our district officials accepted the memorandum, they didn't want trouble", he said (Reuters, 09/08/90).
Feb 1991 An influx of Nepali migrants poses the greatest threat to the survival of Bhutan since the seventh century, says the 35-year old King Wangchuck. He makes frequent visits to the troubled southern districts, where most of the immigrants live, in an effort to redress grievances. He pledged, "If I, as the King, cannot protect the sovereignty and integrity of our country and ensure a secure future for our people, then it will be my duty to accept full responsibility and abdicate". Over strong objections of the National Assembly, he has granted amnesty to more than 1,500 "anti-nationals", the government's term for those who are arrested in connection with anti-government activities. The King also exempted Nepalese from rural taxes this year and resumed development activities in the south. However, King Wangchuck warns, "Right now the factor that is at stake for us is basically the revival of the Bhutanese people.... It will be a Nepali state...just like Sikkim...unless this problem is amicably and effectively solved" (Reuters, 02/20/91). Neighboring Sikkim, which was once an independent monarchy, was annexed by India in 1975. Its last ruler was the Bhutanese King's uncle. The ethnic Sikkimese, like the Bhutanese, are of mainly Mongol stock, related to the Tibetans who share their Buddhist religion. Nepali migrants, many of them ethnically Indo-Aryans and mainly Hindu, made the Sikkimese a minority in their own land. The King said a recent census had shown that 28% of Bhutanese citizens were of Nepali origin. Southern Bhutan was ideal for Nepali migration, the King said, because of its free education, free health services, higher wages and available good agricultural land. The King said the revolt was led by a group called the BPP, whose militants number about 1,000. At least 30 people have been killed so far in cross-border raids, kidnappings and clashes with security forces. Still violence continues mostly against Nepalese believed to be government loyalists.
Oct 1991 Three exiled Lhotshampa members of Bhutan's National Assembly began a 24-hour hunger strike in Kathmandu to protest the convening of their legislative body in Thimpu. The trio, who are staging their protest in front of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meeting, said the session made a "mockery of democracy" since it does not represent the Bhutanese people. Only 14 members of the 150-seat National Assembly are Bhutanese of Nepali origin despite the fact that ethnic Nepalese comprise nearly 53% of Bhutan's population of 600,000, they said. Of the 14, 5 have fled to Nepal and one is in jail (Japan Economic Review, 09/08/91). The Assembly is composed of 105 persons who are elected by limited franchise (heads of family in Hindu areas, village headman in Buddhist areas), 12 elected by the monastic establishment, and 33 high-level officials appointed by the King (US State Dept. Human Rights Report, February 1992).
Dec 1991 "The Bhutanese King must be persuaded to introduce measures aimed at liberalization so that those who have fled Bhutan in the past will be able to return home and live there as dignified citizens", said the Nepali Prime Minister on the eve of his first visit to India (Inter Press Service, 12/03/91). Prime Minister Koirala's government is the first democratically elected in Nepal in 32 years and his Nepali Congress Party has strongly supported the BPP. Some ranking Bhutanese civil servants of Nepali origin have recently resigned and fled the country, saying they have been harassed and persecuted by the royal government in Thimpu.
Feb 1992 Since the enforcement of Bhutan's citizenship law in 1985, about 10,000 foreigners, mostly of Nepali origin, have been expelled. Many more have left because of the government's Bhutanization policy. The BPP, formed in 1989, was banned in 1990 and operates primarily out of Nepal and India. No figures are available on the BPP's actual membership. Over the last decade, the government has implemented a number of liberal measures that have benefited ethnic Nepalese, including the encouragement of intermarriage (the government pays Nu 5,000 for every intermarriage), educating Nepalese students in regions other than their own, and giving priority to the economic development of the south. The government also allotted land and special loans to Nepalese. More young Bhutanese of Nepali origin have entered administrative service. However, the recent reenactment of the nationality law and the Bhutanization program to assimilate ethnic Nepalese have promoted ethnic conflict (State Dept Human Rights Report, 02/92).
May 1992 A group of gunmen assassinated Chimi Dorji, the Deputy District Administrator in the southern district of Geylegphug. They then fled across the border.
Sep 1992 In recent weeks, departing families in Geylegphug (see above entry) are alleged to have looted or destroyed more than two dozen district facilities. Investigators found more than $80,000 in damages at schools, health units and other sites that had been stripped of equipment. They declared as baseless charges that the successor to the Deputy District Administrator (the previous one was assassinated) had pressured the Nepalese families to leave (Los Angeles Times, 09/01/92).
Mar 1993 Senior civil servants fleeing Bhutan say what is going on in their country is "ethnic cleansing" -- a deliberate policy to depopulate the country of non-Drukpa people. S.K. Pradhan of the People's Forum for Human Rights in Bhutan, an exile group based in Kathmandu, says the government is trying to divert international attention away from the issue of human rights. Ravi Nair of the Delhi-based South Asian Human Rights Documentation Center (SAHRDC) agrees: "The violations (in Bhutan) are in blatant disregard of civil and political rights, but they have not caused even a moderate splash in the world media" (Inter Press Service, 03/31/93).
Jun 1993 Nepal and Bhutan have finally agreed to hold talks later this month to resolve the issue of Bhutanese refugees living in crowded camps in eastern Nepal. The refugees now number about 86,000. The flow peaked late last year and hundreds are still arriving every day, relief officials say (Inter Press Service, 06/19/93). Some analysts indicate that Bhutan's new-found keenness to hold talks could have been timed to prevent Kathmandu from raising the issue at the European Community meeting in Brussels and the UN human rights conference in Vienna this month.
Jul 1993 A joint ministerial committee has been formed by the governments of Bhutan and Nepal. The committed has agreed to classify Bhutanese refugees located in Nepal under four categories: a) bona fide Bhutanese evicted forcefully; b) Bhutanese who have emigrated; c) non-Bhutanese people; and d) people who have committed criminal offenses. They also agreed to form a verification committee with five members from each country which would group the refugees into the different categories.
Feb 1994 A Nepali newspaper, The Independent, says that members of the Sarchokpas, the second largest community in Bhutan, organized anti-government demonstrations in eastern and southern Bhutan which were crushed by the security forces. Police opened fire at the demonstrators, killing eight of them. "The Sarchokpas are angry with the King for the false promises made by him during the last three years, when he managed to raise over 10,000 militiamen from among them to crush the southern Bhutanese movement", the newspaper said (Japan Economic Review, 02/23/94). Sarchokpas are said to represent some 30% of Bhutan's population.
Jan 1995 Indian Prime Minister P.V. Rao has advised Nepal and Bhutan to resolve the issue of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal bilaterally and in the spirit of good neighborliness. The two governments had asked India to help mediate their dispute (BBC, 01/17/95).
Mar 1995 During the latest round of talks earlier this month, Bhutan agreed to take full responsibility for the refugees under the category "bona fide Bhutanese evicted forcefully", Nepali officials said. But only a few refugees fall into this category, they added. Nepal also says the "non-Bhutanese" who are long-term residents of Bhutan should be given a chance to return. Bhutan disagrees and has accused the refugees of mounting a campaign of terror in its southern provinces to create a Nepali homeland in Bhutan (Inter Press Service, 03/17/95). The allegations that Nepalese have been forced out prompted King Wangchuck to issue an edict declaring it illegal for any citizen to be involuntarily removed. The US State Dept Human Rights Report 03/95) states that three government officials were convicted on charges of intimidating ethnic Nepalese.
Apr 1995 No progress was reported following the sixth round of talks between the governments of Nepal and Bhutan over the issue of Bhutanese refugees who are residing in eight camps in Nepal. Bhutanese officials indicate that Nepal has now toughened its position by seeking the repatriation of all the refugees. Earlier, Nepal had agreed to not to repatriate those who emigrated on their own along with non-Bhutanese nationals. The refugees left Bhutan in 1991 to reportedly escape the suppression of their rebellion against the monarchical government (BBC, 03/29/95).
Jul 1995 The United States has provided its first direct aid (medical and other supplies) for some 86,000 Bhutanese in refugee camps in Nepal (Agence France Presse, 07/03/95).
Nov 1995 The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has denied a report that it is considering drastically reducing or even eliminating aid for Bhutanese refugees in Nepal (Xinhua News Agency, 11/10/95).
Dec 1995 According to the UN World Food Program (WFP), food aid will be supplied to Bhutanese refugees for another two years. The food aid is estimated to cost $16.3 million; since 1992, the WFP has provided aid at a total cost of $21.5 million. Nepal will provide $200,000 worth of food commodities during the next two years (Japan Economic Newswire, 12/10/95). In an in-depth profile, The Los Angeles Times reports on how Bhutan is struggling to modernize while still maintaining traditional Bhutanese (Drukpa) culture. The government has no television station and has attempted to keep foreign broadcasts out of Bhutan until a state facility is developed. Toward this end, in 1992, a royal decree required that all private satellite dishes be dismantled. Less than a dozen or so dishes now remain. Further, a number of laws now explicitly require the promotion of the dominant Buddhist tradition. For example, a new building code requires Bhutanese wooden-frame windows, cornices and other motifs of traditional architecture (12/23/95). New Delhi-based human rights activists assert that about 400 ethnic Nepalis in Bhutan remain jailed as "political prisoners". Bhutan argues that the detainees are guilty of "anti-national" or terrorist acts. In 1992, Amnesty International was successful in convincing Bhutanese authorities to stop shackling inmates (Los Angeles Times, 12/23/95).
Jan 1996 During the first week of this month, Indian security forces arrested numerous Bhutanese Nepalis when they attempted to cross the Nepal-India border. India asserts that it will not allow its territory to be used for any anti-Bhutan movement. The Lhotshampas, who have been residing in refugee camps in Nepal, were undertaking a protest march to Bhutan in order to press for their repatriation and for democratization in the tiny kingdom. Over 90 Bhutanese were arrested while others were sent back to Nepal over two days. A small stretch of Indian territory separates Nepal and Bhutan (UPI, 01/04/96, 01/05/96). A Bhutanese activist, Ratan Gazmere, says that despite Indian opposition, the refugees are planning another march to Thimpu. The protestors are part of the Appeal Movement Coordinating Council (AMCC), a Bhutanese organization based in Nepal. Gazmere says another 250 protestors will leave their refugee camps shortly to undertake the 23 day journey (UPI, 01/11/96).
Jan 12, 1996 Over 96 Bhutanese refugees in jails in West Bengal have begun a food boycott program to press for their unconditional release. The demonstrators were arrested on January 4 for taking part in a refugee march to Bhutan. 102 refugees were released from jail when they agreed to sign a personal release bond (PTI news agency, New Delhi, as reported by BBC, 01/14/96).
Jan 13, 1996 Sir John Stanley, a British Member of Parliament who is on an official visit to Nepal, says that the estimated 100,000 Bhutanese in refugee camps should be allowed to return home. Following a visit to the camps, Stanley criticized Bhutan's intransigence while supporting Nepal's desire to repatriate the refugees. Six rounds of talks have been held between Nepal and Bhutan on the status of the refugees (UPI, 01/13/96).
Jan 14, 1996 A dawn-to-dusk mass strike called by the Association All-India Gurkha League (ABGL) paralyzed three sub-divisions in Darjeeling district. The strike was called to express support for Bhutanese refugees who are trying to return home. The Bhutanese movement has already gained the support of two regional parties, the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPIM) and the Communist party of India, in the state of Bengal (PTI News Agency, as reported in the BBC, 01/15/96).
Jan 17, 1996 Around 150 Bhutanese refugees were detained by Indian security personnel at the India-Nepal border. The refugees, part of the Appeal Movement Coordinating Council (AMCC), were marching to Bhutan to press King Jigme Singhe Wangchuck for their repatriation. Indian security forces have been given special emergency powers of arrest to halt the cross-border march (UPI, 01/17/96).
Jan 18, 1996 An indefinite strike has paralyzed India's eastern Darjeeling district. The strike was called by two student organizations, the All Gurkha Students Union and the Akhil Bharatiya Gurkha League, to press for the release of over 150 Bhutanese who are being held by Indian authorities. The Lhotshampas were arrested as they attempted to march across the India-Nepal border. The term gurkhas is used to refer to ethnic Nepalis who migrated to India and are concentrated in country's northeast (UPI, 01/18/96).
Jan 19, 1996 A report in The San Francisco Chronicle reveals that Bhutan still remains largely isolated from the modern world. There are no television stations, one weekly newspaper, and three lawyers in the small Himalayan country. The average Bhutanese only yearns $180 a year (01/19/96).
Jan 23, 1996 Nepal is calling for talks with Bhutan at the foreign ministers level in order to solve the predicament of up to 100,000 Lhotshampas who are entering their sixth year in Nepali refugee camps. Six rounds of talks at the home minister level have not resolved the issue of refugee verification. Four categories have been agreed upon by which to classify the refugees: bona fide Bhutanese forcefully evicted, Bhutanese who have emigrated, non-Bhutanese, and those Bhutanese who have committed criminal offenses. Bhutan argues that the majority of the refugees left the country voluntarily while Nepal asserts that they are bona fide Bhutanese who were evicted. While India has so far urged the two countries to solve the issue bilaterally, its recent arrest of over 150 Lhotshampas is viewed as sending a signal to Nepal. Under a 1949 treaty, India controls Bhutan's defense and external policies (Inter Press Service, 01/23/96).
Jan 24, 1996 Over 300 Bhutanese refugees have been stopped by Indian authorities as they attempted to cross into India from their camps in Nepal. The march was organized by the AMCC (Agence France Presse, 01/24/96).
Jan 28, 1996 Nepal has asked India to become involved in its dispute with Bhutan over the status of up to 100,000 Lhotshampas who are in Nepali refugee camps. India believes the talks should be resolved bilaterally. India's role in pro-democracy movements in Nepal and Bhutan have led to charges that it is playing the Big Brother role in South Asia (Reuters, 01/28/96).
Feb 1996 A three week sit-in at Nepal's eastern border with India ended on February 15 as Indian security forces arrested the nearly 300 Bhutanese protestors when they entered Indian territory. The sit-in was to protest the continued detention of over 150 Bhutanese refugees and to press demands for free passage to Bhutan (Xinhua News Agency, 02/15/96).
Feb 26, 1996 Another 343 Bhutanese refugees have been arrested as they crossed into Indian territory en route to Bhutan. Over 400 other ethnic Nepali Bhutanese are already in detention. Nepal criticized the Indian action asserting that India did not stop the Bhutanese when they fled their country and crossed India before ending up in UN refugee camps in Nepal (Japan Economic Newswire, 02/26/96).
Feb 28, 1996 Over 420 Bhutanese have been released from Indian jails. They were arrested over the past few weeks as they entered Indian territory in their march to Bhutan. Over 300 others remain in custody (Xinhua News Agency, 02/28/96).
Mar 1, 1996 The UN High Commissioner for Refugees will fund eight Nepali refugee camps for Bhutanese refugees for another year. The cost of running the camps is estimated at more than $13 million. However, the UNHCR says that funding cannot be provided indefinitely (Asiaweek, 03/01/96; Agence France Presse, 04/04/96)).
Mar 1996 The US State Department's Report on Human Rights in Bhutan in 1995 reveals that in 1994 the flow into refugee camps in Nepal had slowed to about 60 persons per month and has declined further. The refugees state that they left Bhutan because of depopulation in the south, heightened apprehension and insecurity, and the desire to be reunited with family members in Nepal. While Bhutan claims that the vast majority in refugee camps are not Bhutanese citizens, the UNHCR reports that almost all of the refugees have documentary proof of Bhutanese nationality. Meanwhile, significant limitations remain on the right to a fair trial, assembly, and association in Bhutan. Political parties are not allowed and Bhutanese Nepali parties such as the Bhutan People's Party are regarded as "terrorist and anti-national". These parties operate from Nepal (March, 1996).
Mar 6, 1996 India and Bhutan have begun talks on developing an extradition treaty to combat cross-border rebel activities. Both countries assert that rebels seek sanctuary across their common border (Reuters, 03/06/96).
Mar 11, 1996 A non-governmental forum being held in Kathmandu, Nepal, has signed a letter asking UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to personally become involved in the Bhutanese refugee situation. The delegates also appealed for the repatriation of the almost 100,000 Lhotshampas in Nepali refugee camps. Over 300 representatives from around 50 countries attended the forum (Xinhua News Agency, 03/11/96).
Mar 13, 1996 Another 183 Bhutanese refugees have been arresting while attempting to cross Indian territory on their way to Thimpu. Hundreds of Bhutanese refugees are already languishing in Indian jails (UPI, 03/13/96).
Mar 19, 1996 The European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the Bhutan government to take concrete steps to ensure the repatriation of Bhutanese in Nepali refugee camps. It also urged Bhutan to respect minority rights in its territory (Reuter Textline: Agence Europe, 03/19/96).
Mar 31, 1996 The foreign ministers of Nepal and Bhutan will meet on April 4 to discuss the refugee issue. Nepal says the refugee presence has promoted social tensions as the Bhutanese are willing to work for lower wages. Further, the refugees have reportedly been cutting down trees which Nepal says threatens its fragile environment (Reuters, 03/31/96).
Apr 1996 Talks between the Nepalese and Bhutanese governments over the refugee verification process began in Kathmandu on April 4. Prior to the beginning of the negotiations, King Wangchuck asserted that over 99% of those in Nepali refugee camps are not Bhutanese citizens. However, a Bhutanese human rights spokesman states that just the opposite is true (Agence France Presse, 04/04/96).
Apr 7, 1996 An unidentified number of Bhutanese refugees were arrested at Nepal's eastern border as they were attempting to continue their protest march to Bhutan. More than 1000 Lhotshampas have been arrested since January; some of these were recently released when an Indian court ruled that their arrests were illegal (Xinhua News Agency, 04/07/96).
Apr 8, 1996 The first round of talks at the foreign minister level on the status of Bhutanese refugees languishing in Nepali camps has ended with no progress. Nepali officials indicate that the issue of adequate verification of refugee status remains the main stumbling block. Observers believe that little headway can be made until India steps in as a mediator, a role it has so far refused to play. Meanwhile, Bhutanese refugees in Indian jails went on a hunger strike to protest their detention and one refugee group announced that it would wage an "armed struggle" against the Bhutanese government (Reuters, 04/08/96).
Apr 18, 1996 The Appeal Movement Coordinating Council (AMCC) has called off its four-month-long protest march to Bhutan. Instead it will ask the Indian government for free passage and will seek international support to pressure India. Most of the over 1000 Lhotshampas who were arrested by Indian authorities have now been released (Xinhua News Agency, 04/18/96).
Jun 1996 The AMCC re-launched its protest march to Thimpu on June 1 when over 200 refugees left Nepali refugee camps. The protestors will reportedly seek to cross Indian territory through non-traditional routes to avoid arrest by the security forces (Xinhua News Agency, 06/01/96).
Jun 4, 1996 Over 100 refugees were arrested as they crossed into Indian territory on their protest march to Bhutan (Xinhua News Agency, 06/04/96).
Jun 20, 1996 More than 100 Bhutanese refugees residing in Nepal and India were arrested by Indian authorities when they attempted to cross Indian territory. The 100 were part of a funeral procession of over 300 refugees that were seeking to return the body of a protestor to Bhutan for last rites. The protestor died a week ago in an Indian prison. The Nepal-based AMCC, which organized the protest, says that 5 refugees were seriously wounded and another 50 suffered minor injuries when Indian security halted the procession (Xinhua News Agency, 06/20/96).
Jul 1996 A coalition has been formed in Nepal between political parties that represent Bhutanese refugees, human rights groups and Bhutanese intellectuals. The United Front for Democracy in Bhutan (UFD) plans to intensify the struggle for democracy and the free repatriation of the refugees. The front includes the Bhutan Democratic Party (BDP), the Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP) and the Druk National Congress (DNC). It will be led by DNC leader Rongthong Kunley Dorji. The UDF plans to lobby Bhutan's donor countries for support (Japan Economic Newswire, 07/11/96; UPI, 07/11/96).
Aug 1996 Nepal has asked the Netherlands to help break the deadlock in its negotiations with Bhutan over the refugee issue. Netherlands Development Cooperation Minister Johannes Pronk says that his country is ready to mediate if the Bhutanese government agrees (Japan Economic Newswire, 08/06/96).
Aug 8, 1996 A member of Nepal's opposition Communist Party of Nepal called upon the government to separate Bhutanese refugees from local inhabitants in the eastern areas. Guru Baral asserts that a barbed wire fence should be built around the refugee camps and that identity cards be issued to the refugees. He stated that more than 25% of the Bhutanese had become involved in marital relationships with the locals (Xinhua News Agency, 08/08/96).
Aug 18, 1996 From 50 to 150 Bhutanese protestors were deported back to India after they crossed from West Bengal into Bhutan on August 15. They were arrested soon after entering Bhutanese territory. The AMCC, which organized the protest marches, called upon Indian Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda to allow refugees residing in India free passage to Bhutan (Xinhua News Agency, 08/18/96).
Aug 31, 1996 Some 150 Bhutanese protestors are staging a sit-in at an eastern Indian town near the Bhutanese border to press for their repatriation (Xinhua News Agency, 08/31/96).
Sep 1996 A delegation of unknown size has left UN refugee camps in Nepal to stage a sit-in in India's capital city, New Delhi. It will attempt to draw attention to the plight of the almost 100,000 Lhotshampa refugees (Xinhua News Agency, 09/29/96).
Nov 1996 Twenty Bhutanese refugees from two camps have been arrested by Nepali authorities following an attack on one of the camp's police post. Three policemen were injured. The refugees were reportedly angry that they were not allowed to leave the camp to work outside (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 11/01/96).
Dec 1996 Despite the large-scale exodus in the early 1990s, the highest-ranking ethnic Nepalese in the Bhutanese government says that Nepalis still constitute 30% of the country's population and occupy 25% of civil service jobs. However, tensions between the two communities, the Drukpas and the Lhotshampas, remain high. An in-depth Asiaweek survey reveals that many Bhutanese believe that the UNHCR's provision of free food was responsible for the refugee problem. This report was compiled following a six month investigation in Nepal, Bhutan, and the refugee camps. It states that it is clear that from the mid-1980s, the Bhutanese government tried to preempt a demographic war while some Nepali politicians actively sought to oust the absolute monarchy. The survey says that Bhutan claims that militants trained in Nepal have launched attacks inside the kingdom. Exiled Bhutanese leaders responded that such actions are beyond their control (Asiaweek, 12/13/96).
Dec 17, 1996 Freedom House's annual survey reveals that more countries were free societies in 1996 then since the human rights organization began its reports in 1972. It says that while 79 out of 191 countries are now considered free, the "worst of the worst" includes states like Bhutan (UPI, 12/17/96).
Dec 30, 1996 Over 600 Bhutanese refugees were loaded onto buses from refugee camps in West Bengal and dumped at the India-Nepal border. It is not clear whether the refugees were originally from Nepali or Indian refugee camps. Refugees have periodically attempted to cross India en route to Bhutan (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 12/30/96; UPI, 12/30/96).
Jan 1997 Thousands of Bhutanese refugees are continuing a sit-in at the India-Nepal border following efforts by the Indian government to deport some 850 Bhutanese to Nepal on December 30. The protest, which has blocked transport between India and Nepal, is beginning to cause shortages of daily consumer goods in Nepal. The protestors are holding 13 Indian buses that transported the refugees and state they will release them if the refugees are allowed to return to India (Xinhua News Agency, 01/02/97).
Jan 3, 1997 A sit-in by thousands of Bhutanese refugees at the India-Nepal border has ended. The AMCC called off the action, claiming that the Indian government had admitted its mistake in deporting the Lhotshampas. Thirteen Indian buses were also released. However, an Indian official denied that any agreement was reached. Indications are that the deported refugees will remain in Nepal (Xinhua News Agency, 01/03/97).
Jan 8, 1997 India will ask for the cooperation of Bangladesh and Bhutan to help flush out militants who operate in its seven northeastern states. New Delhi claims that the militants often seek sanctuary in neighboring states (Reuters, 01/08/97).
Jan 25, 1997 India claims that its six-month old "asymmetrical" foreign policy toward its regional neighbors means that New Delhi will do more for its neighbors than it expects in return. The cornerstone of this policy is the promotion of regional harmony and economic cooperation. The seven nations of SAARC have already agreed to establish a regional free-trade zone. India has also solved long-standing water disputes with Bangladesh and Nepal and hopes to normalize relations with Pakistan. South Asian countries have generally viewed India with distrust, accusing it of attempting to play a Big Brother role (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 01/25/97).
Feb 1997 The US State Department's Report on Human Rights Practices in Bhutan in 1996 indicates that some state security forces committed human rights abuses against the Lhotshampas. Two people were arrested for "anti-national" activities in southern Bhutan. Bhutanese Nepalis who attempted to re-enter the country were forcibly stopped (02/97).
Mar 18, 1997 Some 15,000 Bhutanese refugees in Nepali camps go on a hunger strike to press the United Nations to help ensure their return. The action is organized by the Appeal Movement Coordinating Council (AMCC) (Xinhua News Agency, 03/18/97).
Apr 14, 1997 The Bhutanese refugees end their almost month-long hunger strike (Xinhua News Agency, 04/14/97).
Apr 19, 1997 In Kathmandu, the United Front for Democracy demanded the release of its leader, Rongthong Dorji, an ethnic Sarchop, who was arrested in New Dehli on the 18th. He was arrested for having no proper travel documents. The UFD is afraid he will be handed over to the Bhutanese government who he fled in 1991. (Japan Economic Newswire)
Apr 20, 1997 Some 20,000 Bhutanese hold two rallies in Nepal to oppose the Indian government's arrest of Rongthong Kunley Dorji, the leader of the United Front for Democracy in Bhutan (UDF). The UDF was established in Nepal in 1996 to press for democracy and the repatriation of the refugees. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 04/20/97).
Apr 25, 1997 Bhutan's pro-democracy leader Teknath Rizal completed the 9th day of an indefinite fast in his prison cell at Chamgang in the capital Thimbu. He demands to be given an audience with King Wangchuck to discuss the country's political crisis. Rizal was a member of the National Assembly until 1988 when he spoke out against the forced eviction of Napali-speaking Bhutanese. He lived in exile in Nepal until November 1989 when he was kidnapped and returned to Bhutan. He was convicted to life imprisonment in 1993 after three years in solitary confinement. (Japan Economic Newswire)
May 1997 Reports indicate that there has been a rise in crime and violence in southern Bhutan, especially close to the Indian border. The Lhotshampas are assumed to be involved (Asia & Pacific Review: World of Information, 05/97).
May 14, 1997 An Indian court told the government to consider releasing Bhutan opposition leader Dorji. He has been lobbying Indian leaders and met with donor governments to plead his case. (Agence France Press)
May 20, 1997 While in Singapore, Bhutan's Foreign Minister Lyonpo Dawa Tsering stated that Bhutan is under threat of being overrun by "Nepalese" (The Straights Times, Singapore).
Jun 5, 1997 Some 35 Lhotshampas were arrested in Kathmandu prior to a planned protest which was to coincide with a visit by Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral (Agence France Presse, 06/05/97).
Jul 14, 1997 Some observers believe that Bhutan is ready to launch another ethnic cleansing campaign against the country's Nepalese population. The state-owned newspaper, Kuensel, recently reported a national assembly decision which makes it compulsory for relatives of Bhutanese nationals of Nepali origin to retire from government jobs. The newspaper claims that the Nepalis are attempting to destabilize the kingdom and disrupt peace and harmony (Japan Economic Newswire, 07/14/97).
Aug 1, 1997 Official sources in Nepal indicate that a breakthrough was achieved in recent talks with Bhutan. Bhutan has reportedly agreed to major concessions that will help facilitate the return of the refugees. In particular, those refugees who voluntarily left will now be allowed to return. Previously, Bhutan only agreed to accept those who were forcibly evicted (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 08/01/97).
Oct 1, 1997 The UDF says that it will launch a peaceful movement to press for political reforms in Bhutan. Acting UDF leader Thinly Penjore, left Bhutan last month and said that discrimination is widespread in the civil service, business, and the education system, and that religious persecution was becoming common place. (Japanese Economic Newswire).
Dec 18, 1997 Bhutanese refugee groups and Nepali government officials urge India to help persuade Bhutan to accept the Lhotshampa refugees. India says that the refugees are a bilateral issue between Nepal and Bhutan (Inter Press Service, 12/18/97).
Dec 27, 1997 The Appeal Movement Coordinating Council (AMCC) states that there are more than 100 political prisoners in Bhutan, including scores of monks (Agence France Presse, 12/27/97).
Jan 15, 1998 The Bhutanese government begins distributing land in the south that belongs to the Lhotshampa refugees. The Federation of Human Rights Organizations of Bhutan, which is based in Nepal, says that the land is being used to resettle some 370 families from northern Bhutan. Several hundred Bhutanese refugees demonstrate in Kathmandu to protest the action (Agence France Presse, 01/15/98).
Jan 18, 1998 A new report by Amnesty International states that political activists in Bhutan are regularly tortured and any dissenters are persecuted. More than 150 political prisoners are in custody. Most of those targeted are members of the Sarchop ethnic group who reside in eastern areas. The Sarchops have been organizing grassroots campaigns to press for democratic reforms and respect for human rights. Amnesty also reports that many Lhotshampas refuse to wear the required national dress (Sunday Telegraph, 01/18/98; Amnesty International, "Bhutan: Crack-Down on Anti-Nationals in the East", 01/14/98).
Feb 11, 1998 Some 220 Lhotshampa civil servants (doctors and engineers) were dismissed last month by the Bhutanese government (Guardian, 02/11/98). There are reports of various acts of violence in Bhutan including the destruction of bridges, pylons, and buildings. The Lhotshampas are thought to be involved (Times Newspapers, 02/11/98).
May 8, 1998 The United Front for Democracy in Bhutan (UDF) declares that it is ready to launch a revolution to overthrow Bhutan's monarchy. The UDF says that it has given up hope that the King will introduce reforms (Agence France Presse, 05/08/98).
Jun 1998 For the first time in 26 years, Bhutan's King Wangchuck dissolved the cabinet and appointed six new ministers. Henceforth, the cabinet will be elected and be responsible to the national assembly. The national assembly will also have wider powers including the ability to call for a no-confidence vote against the king. If such a vote is passed by two-thirds of the assembly, the king would be required to abdicate. Analysts indicate that the reforms might be a move to ease ethnic tensions within the country and to improve Bhutan's international image (Agence France Presse, 07/06/98; Emerging Markets Datafile, 09/22/98).
Jul 8, 1998 The UDF, based in exile in Nepal, contends that recent reforms in Bhutan are a sham. It says that there are no Nepalis among the six newly appointed ministers. The UDF wants the King to initiate talks with pro-democracy groups (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 07/08/98).
Aug 14, 1998 Nepalese officials accuse Bhutan of stalling the resumption of talks regarding the Lhotshampa refugees. Formed in 1993, the Nepal-Bhutan Joint Ministerial Level Committee last met in early 1996 (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 08/14/98).
Oct 15, 1998 Divisions have reportedly arisen between the leaders of the United Front for Democracy in Bhutan (UDF). The organization's leader, Rongthong Kunley Dorji, is currently in New Delhi where he is out on bail. The acting leader, Thinley Penjore, who has been responsible for organizing protests for the past 18 months, is reported to be gaining in popularity (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 10/15/98).
Nov 17, 1998 The World Food Programme will provide Nepal with $6.32 million of assistance next year to help look after the Bhutanese refugees (Agence France Presse, 11/17/98).
Nov 21, 1998 A Nepalese delegation departs for Bhutan to hold talks about the return of the Bhutanese refugees (Japan Economic Newswire, 11/21/98).
Nov 26, 1998 Nepal and Bhutan agree to hold a new round of ministerial talks on the refugees in January 1999. Nepal says that it will not seek Indian involvement as it is a bilateral issue. Under a 1949 treaty, India controls Bhutan's foreign and defense policies (Xinhua News Agency, 11/26/98).
Jan 23, 1999 Analysts and Bhutanese refugees deny recent newspaper reports that the Lhotshampa refugees are being trained by the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) insurgents in Bhutan. ULFA is reported to have bases in Bhutan. A South Asian human rights group asserts that Indian insurgent groups, specifically the Bodos and ULFA, were responsible for committing some of the atrocities against the Nepalese in southern Bhutan (BBC: Kathmandu Post, 01/22/99).
Jun 2, 1999 In Nepal, some 40,000 Lhotshampas demonstrate in refugee camps while another 10,000 stage a hunger strike to protest celebrations in Bhutan that are marking the 25th anniversary of the enthronement of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. There are more than 90,000 Bhutanese refugees in Nepali camps and another 30,000 in India. Analysts contend that the refugee problem will remain unsolved until India intervenes (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 06/02/99). The king's enthronement ceremony is the first broadcast on Bhutan's newly-established television network. Previously, there were no local TV networks and the use of satellites to obtain foreign broadcasts was not allowed. This year, Bhutan will also establish its first internet service. Last month, a digital telephone network was inaugurated (Guardian, 06/03/99).
Jun 3, 1999 The Bhutan People's Party submits a 10-point memorandum to the King. It calls for the establishment of a multi-party democracy within a constitutional monarchy, respect for human rights, and the return of the Lhotshampa refugees. Political parties are banned in Bhutan (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 06/03/99).
Dec 17, 1999 The King reportedly released some 200 prisoners, including Rizal on National Day. (BBC, 12/23/99)
Jan 2000 The Bhutan Refugee Representative Repatriation Committee has threatened to enter Bhutan en masse if no steps are taken towards their repatriation by May. They declared 2000 the Year of Peace for Bhutan's Refugee Crisis. At a mass rally in east Nepal, the refugees demanded that the Bhutan government immediately stop a resettlement program on land that belonged to the refugees and the release of all political prisoners. (BBC, 1/9/00)

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