Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

The Exodus of Ethnic Nepalis from Southern Bhutan

Publisher WRITENET
Author Tessa Piper
Publication Date 1 April 1995
Cite as WRITENET, The Exodus of Ethnic Nepalis from Southern Bhutan, 1 April 1995, available at: [accessed 21 February 2018]
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.


In 1988, citing concerns about the possibility of a rapidly increasing illegal immigrant population, the Bhutanese authorities began to carry out a census in southern Bhutan to determine citizenship. Shortly after the census began, the Government also introduced a series of measures ostensibly designed to integrate ethnic Nepalis more fully into Bhutanese society. As a result, a series of demonstrations, unprecedented in the country's history, took place in southern districts of Bhutan in September 1990 as thousands of ethnic Nepalis protested about the census and the Government's so-called 'Bhutanization' policies. The Government's response to the demonstrations was reportedly swift and harsh, and the months that followed saw widespread arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment and torture, followed by an exodus from the country of thousands of ethnic Nepalis from southern Bhutan.[1]


Bhutan is a monarchy, with sovereign power vested in the King. The present King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck (who ascended to the throne in 1972 at the age of 16 and was formally crowned two years later[2]2) is the fourth king of the Wangchuck dynasty in Bhutan. The country has no written constitution.

2.1 The National Assembly

A partially elected National Assembly was established in 1953. It usually meets once or twice a year for a two-week period, although since the problems in the south began it has only met annually, if at all. The last meeting of the National Assembly, its 72nd session, was held in July 1993. As of the time of writing there was no indication of when the 73rd session would take place.

The number of National Assembly members fluctuates around 150. There are usually between 105 and 110 members elected by limited franchise, 12 appointed from the monastic establishment, and the remainder, about 35, are high-level government officials appointed by the King.[3] In the 1991 elections the body consisted of 154 members: 105 indirectly elected representatives, 39 representatives of the Government and 10 representatives of the monastic establishment.[4] Members of the National Assembly serve three-year terms (recently changed from five-year terms), although members can, and often do, serve one or more consecutive terms.[5]

The main functions of the National Assembly are to enact laws, approve senior government appointments, and advise the King on matters of national importance. It also provides a forum for presenting grievances and rectifying cases of maladministration. The King is not in a position to formally veto legislation, but he may return bills to the Assembly for further consideration. The members occasionally have rejected the King's recommendations or delayed their implementation, but in practice the King retains sufficient influence to ensure approval of legislation he considers essential or the withdrawal of proposals he opposes. Government officials may be questioned by the Assembly, and ministers may be forced to resign by a two-thirds majority vote of no confidence.[6]

Representation in the National Assembly of Nepali speaking southern Bhutanese is low. In 1990 the National Assembly is reported to have had just sixteen southern Bhutanese members.[7] In an interview in October 1990 in the Indian newspaper, Sunday, the King conceded that there was insufficient representation of southern Bhutanese in the National Assembly and that the ethnic composition needed to be changed in order to better reflect the ethnic composition of the country,[8] although no such changes appear to have been made to date.

2.2 The Royal Advisory Council and the Council of Ministers

The official functions of the Royal Advisory Council (RAC) are to advise the King on all matters of national importance, to promote the welfare of the people and the country's national interests, to develop good relations between the Government and the people and to ensure that the laws and resolutions passed by the National Assembly are implemented.[9]

Since its establishment in 1965 there have been between eight and ten members in the Royal Advisory Council, and membership currently stands at ten. Of these, six are elected from the National Assembly, two are representatives of the Buddhist clergy and two are appointees of the King. Two of the six National Assembly members are members from southern districts.[10]

Three years after the formation of the RAC the Council of Ministers was established. Presided over by the King, the Council is made up of ministers, deputy ministers (who since 1978 have been appointed by the King) and all members of the RAC.[11]

2.3 Local Administration

Local administration is organized into 20 districts each headed by a district chief appointed by the King and directly responsible to the Ministry of Home Affairs.[12] In 1981, District Development Committees (DDCs) were established as part of a decentralization programme. There are currently twenty such DDCs in the country, encompassing a total of some 560 elected members.[13]

All districts are divided administratively into blocks, which in turn are made up of several villages. Block Development Committees (BDCs) were established in 1991 in all the 196 blocks of villages in the country to promote further decentralization. The 196 BDCs have a total of 2,589 elected members.[14]

Prior to National Assembly sessions, meetings take place at block level, where heads of households are entitled to put forward issues of concern. Issues that cannot be addressed at block level are passed on for discussion at the district level by the DDCs. Issues deemed by these committees to be of national importance are then forwarded for inclusion in the National Assembly agenda.[15]

2.4 International and Domestic Instruments

Bhutan is not a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide; the Convention on Statutory Limitations of War Crimes; the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, nor the Geneva Conventions, and has not signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.[16]

The country is, however, a state party to the 1979 Convention on Discrimination Against Women; the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.[17]

Criminal cases and a variety of civil matters are adjudicated under a 17th century legal code, revised in 1959. Judges are responsible for all aspects of a case, including investigation, filing of charges, prosecution and judgment. The legal system does not provide for jury trials or the right to a court appointed defence counsel. It has no provision for lawyers or solicitors, although it does allow for the appointment of a jabmi (a person well versed in law) if the defendant so desires.[18]

Minor offenses are adjudicated by village headmen and appeals can be made to the district court.[19] More serious cases are dealt with in district courts, of which there are 20, presided over by a magistrate appointed by the King and aided by assistants.[20] There is one high court in the capital, Thimphu. This consists of the chief justice and seven other judges, out of whom three are from southern Bhutan.[21] The high court serves both as a court of appeal against district court decisions and as a special court for matters involving state security. Proceedings are brought before the high court by the Public Prosecutor's office which comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs.[22] There is no law school in Bhutan and during its visit to Bhutan in October 1994 the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that none of the judges has a law degree.[23] After appeal to the high court a final appeal may be made to the King.[24]

2.4.1 The Nationality Law of Bhutan, 1958

In 1958 the King granted Bhutanese citizenship to Nepali settlers living in Bhutan by virtue of the Nationality Law of Bhutan, enacted that year.

Articles 3, 4 and 5 of the 1958 Nationality Law set out the conditions for obtaining Bhutanese citizenship, as follows:

3.         Any person can become a Bhutanese national:

a)         If his/her father is a Bhutanese National and is a resident of the Kingdom of Bhutan; or

b)         If any person is born within or outside Bhutan after the commencement of this law provided the previous father is a Bhutanese National at the time of his/her birth.

4 (1) If any foreigner who has reached the age of majority and is otherwise eligible, presents a petition to an official appointed by His Majesty and takes an oath of loyalty according to the rules laid down by the Government to the satisfaction of the concerned official, he may be enrolled as a Bhutanese National, provided that:

a)         The person is a resident of the Kingdom of Bhutan for more than ten years; and

b)         Owns agricultural land within the Kingdom.

4 (2) If a woman, married to a Bhutanese National, submits a petition and takes the oath of loyalty as stated above to the satisfaction of the concerned official, and provided that she has reached the age of majority and is otherwise eligible, her name may be enrolled as a Bhutanese National.

4 (3) If any person has been deprived of his Bhutanese Nationality or has renounced his Bhutanese Nationality or forfeited his Bhutanese Nationality, the person cannot become a Bhutanese National again unless His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo grants approval to do so.

5 (1) If any foreigner submits petition to His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo according to rules described in the above sections, and provided the person has reached the age of majority and is otherwise eligible, and has performed satisfactorily in Government service for at least five years and has been residing in the Kingdom of Bhutan for at least 10 years, he may receive a Bhutanese Nationality Certificate. Once the certificate is received, such a person has to take the oath of loyalty according to the rules laid down by the Government and from that day onwards, his name will be enrolled as a Bhutanese National.

5 (2) Any foreigner who has reached the age of majority and is otherwise eligible, can receive a Nationality Certificate provided that in the opinion of His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo his conduct and his performance as a Government servant is satisfactory.[25]

Under the law a person shall forfeit their Bhutanese nationality if s/he: becomes a national of a foreign country and lives in that country (Article 6 (a)); has renounced Bhutanese nationality and settled in a foreign country (Article 6 (b)); claims to be a citizen of a foreign country or pledges an oath of loyalty to that country (Article 6 (c)); is registered as a Bhutanese national but has left his agricultural land or has stopped residing in Bhutan (Article 6 (d)); being a bonafide national has stopped residing in the country or fails to observe the laws of the Kingdom (Article 6(e)).[26]

Citizenship is liable to cancellation if it is found to have been obtained under false pretences (Article 7(1)); for engaging in activities against the King or for speaking against the King or the people of Bhutan (Article 7(2)(a)); for assisting the enemy in times of war (Article 7(2)(b)); or if, within a five-year period from being made a Bhutanese National, a person is imprisoned in any country for more than one year (Article 7(2)(c)).[27]

The granting of citizenship in 1958 was notified by royal proclamation. It was not, however, accompanied by any special certification process and there is little evidence that the enactment of the 1958 law made any real practical difference to the population.[28]

2.4.2 The Bhutan Citizenship Act, 1977

With the passing of the 1977 Citizenship Act, the basic principles of the 1958 Act remained unchanged but amendments to the 1958 Act made eligibility criteria more stringent.

Under the 1977 Act the length of unblemished service required before citizenship may be granted is increased to 15 years.[29] For persons not in Government service, citizenship may only be granted after twenty years of residency in Bhutan.[30]

The criteria for spouses of Bhutanese nationals to acquire citizenship are also tightened under the 1977 amendment and they are no longer automatically eligible for citizenship. Spouses who are not Bhutanese nationals are allowed to live in Bhutan, but citizenship has to be applied for.[31] The children of a Bhutanese father and a non-national mother are automatically granted citizenship,[32] but the children of a Bhutanese mother and a non-national father have to apply for citizenship.[33]

New criteria were introduced in the 1977 legislation, namely that all applicants should have some knowledge of both written and spoken Dzongkha, as well as some knowledge of the country's history.[34] This stipulation was especially difficult to meet for ethnic Nepalis in Southern Bhutan. Most ethnic Nepalis had very little contact with northern Bhutanese, and only a small minority of ethnic Nepalis would have any knowledge of the Dzongkha language, even though they may have lived in Bhutan all their lives.[35]

Citizenship can be revoked under the 1977 Act for involvement in activities against the King, speaking against the Government, or association with others involved in anti-government activities,[36] and for presenting false information when applying for citizenship.[37]

Two years after the 1977 Act came into force, the Government embarked upon a three-year census, carried out by district officials and village headmen, following which Citizenship Identity Cards began to be distributed. However, refugees report that distribution had still not been completed when the 1988 census got underway.[38]

2.4.3 The Bhutan Citizenship Act, 1985

The 1985 Citizenship Act tightened up still further the regulations on eligibility for the automatic granting of citizenship. Under this amendment, citizenship by birth is only available to persons whose parents are both Bhutanese citizens (Article 2). Those who have only one parent who is a Bhutanese citizen must apply for citizenship by naturalization. Additional requirements introduced in the 1985 Act are that applicants for citizenship must demonstrate proficiency (i.e. "some knowledge" as required in the 1977 Act is no longer sufficient) in speaking, writing and reading Dzongkha (Article 4 (d)) and good knowledge (rather than "some" as required in the 1977 Act) of the culture, customs, traditions and history of Bhutan (Article 4 (e)). Anyone who has been imprisoned for criminal offenses in Bhutan or elsewhere or has spoken or acted against the King, country and people of Bhutan is not eligible to apply for citizenship (Article 4(f) and (g)).[39]

The most contentious provision of the Act is the one which retroactively makes 1958 the cut- off year for determining citizenship and limits the granting of citizenship to those who can prove residence since before 31 December of that year (Article 3).

2.4.4 The Bhutan Marriage Act, 1980

The Bhutan Marriage Act of 1980 sets out a number of conditions concerning marriage between Bhutanese citizens and non-nationals.

In addition to establishing requirements such as that the non-national abide by traditional customs and government orders,[40] the marriage itself is only recognised as valid under Bhutanese law provided two people are present at the wedding to act as guarantors, one of whom must be a Bhutanese citizen.[41]

The Act provides strong disincentives to marriage to a foreigner above and beyond the restrictions on citizenship eligibility of non-national spouses provided for under the 1977 Citizenship Act. Under the 1980 Act, a Bhutanese citizen who marries a foreigner loses the right to government assistance in the form of land, seed, loans and livestock, as well as health benefits.[42] This stipulation was to prove especially disadvantageous in the predominantly ethnic Nepali populated south of the country where agriculture is the primary occupation. If an individual is in the service of the Government, promotion is denied from the day of marriage,[43] and removal from service is mandatory for Bhutanese citizens working in the national defence department or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who marry a non- national.[44] All government funding for education and training terminates upon marriage to a non-national and any expenses incurred up to the day of the marriage must be refunded.[45]

Ethnic Nepali refugees in Nepal contend that this act is discriminatory because of the disparate impact on ethnic Nepalis in southern Bhutan who, because of strict cultural and caste restrictions concerning marriage, commonly seek spouses outside of their home communities, often in Nepal and India. Refugees have also pointed to the unequal application of the act, citing cases of high ranking Drukpa officials who have foreign spouses but who appear to have been exempted from the penalties set out in the Act.[46]


3.1 Ethnicity and Population

The three main ethnic groups in Bhutan are the Ngalongs, the Sarchops and the ethnic Nepalis. The Ngalongs live mainly in the west of Bhutan and are the dominant political group, while the Sarchops are primarily located in the east. The ethnic Nepalis, known in Bhutan as Lhotshampas (meaning "southerners"), live primarily in the southern districts of Samchi, Dagana, Chirang, Sarbhang, Chhukha and Samdrup Jongkhar. Other ethnic groups include Khengs (often grouped together with the Sarchops), Adhivasi, Birmi, Brokpa, Doya, Lepcha, Tibetan and Toktop. Together, these latter groups are estimated to make up approximately 10 per cent of the population.[47]

The Ngalongs and the Sarchops are Buddhists and the two groups are together called Drukpas (in reference to the followers of the Drukpa Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism). Ngalongs and Sarchops speak closely related languages, although the language of the Ngalong, Dzongkha, is the national language. Only a minority of ethnic Nepalis are Buddhists, while the majority practise Hinduism.[48]

Population statistics for Bhutan are a source of considerable controversy and the accuracy of available population data is unclear. No reliable independent data is available and government figures have varied widely over the last fifteen years. In 1979, the Government estimated that the population of the country was 1.2 million. The estimate rose to 1.375 million in 1988, but in 1991 the figure was drastically reduced to 600,000.[49]

The ethnic breakdown of these figures is equally controversial and, although the three main ethnic groups are accepted as together comprising 85-90 per cent of the population, estimates of the percentage of the population represented by each of these groups varies considerably. As an example of the lack of clarity on this issue, Michael Hutt (who believes it is probable that none of the main ethnic groups is in a majority) points out that estimates of the Ngalong population vary from 10 to 28 per cent, the Sarchops from 30 to 40 per cent and the Nepalis from 25 to 52 per cent.[50]

Ethnic Nepalis began to settle in Bhutan in large numbers at the end of the 19th century, when the Dorji family was granted permission to settle immigrants in the south of the country in order to open up the land for cultivation. Most of the settlers were Nepali-speaking Hindus and by 1932 a British army officer is reported to have estimated that about 60,000 had settled in Samchi and Chirang districts in southwest Bhutan.[51]

According to the Government, ethnic Nepalis remained in these two districts until the early 1950s, when they began to occupy the areas of Sarbhang, Geylegphug and Samdrup Jongkhar.[52] The timing of the arrival of Nepalis in Bhutan since then is a highly contentious issue. Most of the refugees in camps in Nepal claim to have settled in the southern districts of Bhutan before 1958 or to trace their ancestry to those early settlers to derive claims of citizenship.[53] However, the government argues that large numbers of Nepalis came to Bhutan as a result of the development activities undertaken under the first Five Year Plan, launched in 1961. The Government suggests that they were brought in either to work on development projects and road construction, or entered as illegal immigrants attracted by better economic prospects in Bhutan. The Government stresses, however, that it was unaware of the scale of immigration until the 1988 census was carried out.[54]

Until the 1950s the Government appears to have paid little attention to developments in the south of the country. It was then that it began to introduce policies which granted ethnic Nepalis greater recognition and involvement in political and administrative life. Some observers suggest that the impetus for this may have come from political developments in neighbouring countries as well as the formation in Assam of the Bhutan State Congress by ethnic Nepalis in 1952.[55] Regardless of the Government's motives, however, the mid- to late-1950s saw a distinct change in the Government's policy towards ethnic Nepalis living in the south of the country, at the same time as the King began to bring Bhutan out of its isolation and to implement development policies. Not only were they for the first time granted citizenship, but ethnic Nepalis were also represented in the National Assembly.[56] In addition, ethnic Nepalis began to be admitted into the bureaucracy, the army and the police, and were made members of the cabinet and the judiciary.[57] Recognition was also given to the Nepali language, as well as to the festivals, customs, dress and traditions of ethnic Nepali southern Bhutanese.[58]

From the late 1970s there was another shift in the Government's approach which signalled a growing unease among the political leadership of Bhutan about the ethnic Nepali population in the south of the country. Legislation, such as the 1980 Marriage Act and the 1977 and 1985 amendments to the Citizenship Act, focused on deterring further immigration, while other policies became more integrationist, with the emphasis on encouraging ethnic Nepalis to adapt to northern Bhutanese practices. For example, in 1978 the National Assembly adopted a policy which provided for a payment of 5,000 ngultrum (Nu.) as an incentive for marriage between ethnic Nepalis and northern Bhutanese (this figure was increased in 1990 to Nu. 10,000, although the low take-up rate led to the policy being stopped the following year.)[59] And in the early 1980s ethnic Nepalis in government service began to be required to undergo training in driglam namzha (a code of values, dress and etiquette based on northern Bhutanese traditions), learn some Dzongkha, and wear the Ngalong dress when engaged in official duties.

Despite these efforts by the Government, by the late 1980s the ethnic Nepali population in southern Bhutan remained culturally distinct from the rest of society, and there was no indication that the Government's integrationist policies were achieving the desired effect. It was in this context that the Government initiated a census to determine citizenship, and to implement a series of more rigorous policies to integrate ethnic Nepalis into the northern Bhutanese culture.

3.2 The 1988 Census

The census of 1988 which was carried out only in the southern districts of Bhutan, used the criteria set out in the 1985 Citizenship Act to identify Bhutanese nationals. The census placed the population into one of seven categories:

F1        Genuine Bhutanese citizens.

F2        Returned migrants (people who left Bhutan and then returned).

F3        "Drop out" cases, i.e. people who were not around at the time of the census.[60]

F4        A non-national woman married to a Bhutanese man.

F5        A non-national man married to a Bhutanese woman.

F6        Adoption cases (children who have been legally adopted).

F7        Non-nationals, i.e. migrants and illegal settlers.

Although the way in which the census was conducted varied in different areas (some districts and villages are said not to have experienced the complications and harassment that others did) the census ran into controversy almost immediately.[61] Not only was there no clear indication given by census officials about the implications of being placed in any of the seven categories,[62] there were also consistent reports that the census was being carried out in an arbitrary fashion,[63] and that the standards being applied for proof of citizenship were unduly rigorous.[64]

In accordance with the 1985 Citizenship Act the census required ethnic Nepalis to provide documentary evidence of their residence in the country in 1958. The standards set for proving residence were extremely strict and in some areas no account appears to have been taken of the difficulties that the production of appropriate documentation would pose for a largely illiterate people in a country that has only recently adopted basic administrative procedures.[65] In some cases it has been suggested that appropriate documentation simply would not exist. It has also been pointed out, for example, that the Home Ministry did not exist until 1968, and that prior to this census records were held by village headmen who did not keep accurate and comprehensive records.[66] Although comprehensive systems for enumeration in the census records only date back to 1972, it was only in 1977 that proper documentation providing proof of payment of land taxes was instituted.[67] Furthermore, in some districts and villages no provision was made for village elders and headmen to vouch for people they knew to be citizens but who lacked the relevant paperwork, as had been permitted in the past.[68] Census teams are also said to have refused to accept as evidence of residence relevant documentation for the years prior to 1958.[69]

Even those ethnic Nepalis who were able to produce what they believed to be evidence of their eligibility to be granted F1 status were exempted under the very strict guidelines used by the census teams. Many ethnic Nepalis who possessed citizenship certificates issued by district officials under the provisions of the 1958 Nationality Law found these declared null and void unless they could produce documents proving at least residence, and often land ownership, prior to 1958.[70] Others who possessed the citizenship identity cards that had begun to be distributed following the previous census, were similarly classified as non- nationals or "illegal immigrants".[71] Many refugees have complained that when they provided relevant documentation it was frequently seized or confiscated by the census or other local officials.[72]

Even when people were able to supply the documentation required, refugees in Nepal complain that impossibly strict standards were set for their acceptance. For example, some said that documentation was rejected for minor spelling differences, or because middle names were spelled out on one document and were given simply as initials in another.[73]

Refugees report further that the results of the categorization were liable to change. In most cases families were advised orally of the decision, and despite being advised initially that their citizenship had been confirmed, in some cases they were subsequently told that they had been declared "illegal immigrants" or non-nationals.[74]

Despite the problems associated with the census, the Government has given no indication that it will be discontinued. In late October 1993 there were reports that the administration had begun evicting alleged non-nationals detected in Chhukha district, and it was announced that another census in Samchi district was to be carried out.[75] Three months earlier, the Home Minister estimated that the census would be continuing until at least 1998.[76]

3.3 "Bhutanization" Policies

There is no doubt that the census caused considerable anxiety among the ethnic Nepali population in southern Bhutan. But this was not the only concern of ethnic Nepalis in the late 1980s. The Government also introduced a series of policies as part of the promotion of the distinct national identity and the "One Nation, One People" theme of the sixth five-year plan, aimed at instilling a greater sense of unity among the population as a whole. Whether or not this was the true intention of the authorities, the policies have had a very different result. In practice, the measures which include the requirement that southern Bhutanese wear traditional northern Bhutanese dress, and the withdrawal of the Nepali language from school curriculums in the south, engendered a growing sense of anxiety, resentment and alienation among the ethnic Nepali population, culminating in unprecedented demonstrations in the south of the country in late 1990.[77]

In January 1989, the King issued a decree which required all citizens to observe driglam namzha, the traditional northern Bhutanese code of values, dress and etiquette. The most controversial element of this was the requirement that everyone wear the traditional costume of the Drukpa people (for men this means wearing the gho, a one-piece tunic, while women have to wear a kira, a one-piece dress) clothes commonly worn in the north, but seldom seen in the south of the country.[78]

The introduction of this requirement was regarded by ethnic Nepalis as a clear attack on their cultural identity. Resentment quickly grew as the policy was implemented. On-the-spot fines or imprisonment for a week were the penalties for failure to comply with the new dress code, and the police, who were permitted to keep 50 per cent of the fine as an incentive to enforce the policy, did so rigorously. The Government has since accepted that the policy was overzealously applied, and enforcement of the decree has since become lax, although it is still being observed during office hours in southern towns like Phuntsholing and Geylegphug.[79]

Concern among ethnic Nepalis about the threat to their cultural identity implied by the application of driglam namzha was heightened still further in February 1989 when the Nepali language was removed from the curriculum in schools in the south of the country.[80] The Director of Education claimed that the decision was taken on purely educational grounds, in response to a UNICEF report which suggested that the requirement for southern schoolchildren to study three languages -- Nepali, Dzongkha and English -- was hampering overall levels of achievement.[81] Nevertheless, the timing of the decision ensured that it was perceived as a further attack on ethnic Nepali southern Bhutanese culture.


4.1 Petition to the King and Demonstrations

As the census went on and the "Bhutanization" programmes continued, unrest grew as a result of what was perceived by the population in the south as an attempt by the Government to oust ethnic Nepalis and impose an alien culture. The widespread anxiety about the census was formally voiced in a petition to the King, submitted in April 1988 by two southern Bhutanese members of the Royal Advisory Council, Tek Nath Rizal and B. P. Bhandari. The petition raised concerns about the way in which the census was being carried out and about the retroactive application of the 1985 Citizenship Act, and urged the intervention of the King to remedy the situation. Far from achieving the desired result, the petition was declared seditious and against Tsa-Wa-Sum (the three elements of King, Country and People). Tek Nath Rizal was briefly detained, and the census operation continued as before. (Tek Nath Rizal was sentenced to life imprisonment in November 1993. Three days after he was sentenced he was granted a pardon by the King. However, the pardon is conditional on the Governments of Bhutan and Nepal resolving the issue of ethnic Nepali southern Bhutanese refugees living in refugee camps in Nepal.)[82]

Disaffection among ethnic Nepalis also resulted in the politicization of at least a small sector of the ethnic Nepali population, and various political groups were formed, both in Bhutan and in Nepal, which set up discussion groups and circulated anti-government literature. One of the first of these was the Peoples Forum for Human Rights (PFHR), established in Nepal by Tek Nath Rizal and others in July 1989.[83]

By early 1990 discontent was widespread in the south of the country and the Government began to attribute criminal acts to people whom the Government labelled ngolops or "anti- nationals". Initially, their activities are reported to have centred on extortion and the stripping of people wearing northern Bhutanese dress. From mid-1990 the "anti-nationals", said by the Government to include members of the Bhutan People's Party (BPP), are alleged to have engaged in more serious crimes such as the murder and kidnapping of civilians, including census officers and other government officials.[84]

In September and October 1990, resentment of government policies erupted in a series of unprecedented public demonstrations throughout the south by thousands of ethnic Nepalis. The demonstrations, which in some districts continued for days, were reportedly organised by the BPP, together with the PFHR and the Students Union of Bhutan.[85] Although in the main peaceful, there were incidents involving material damage and violence, such as the destruction of census records and the stripping of local officials wearing ghos.[86] The Government responded by calling the protesters "anti-nationals" who were guilty of treason,[87] and banning the BPP, accusing it of responsibility for violent attacks on people and property.[88]

4.2 "Anti-National" Activities

Following the demonstrations there were increasing reports in the country's only newspaper, Kuensel, of criminal acts being committed in the south of the country, attributed to "anti- nationals". These ranged from murder, kidnapping and rape, to threats to local officials, harassment of teachers and students, and robbery and assaults on civilians. In addition, "anti- nationals" were blamed for attacks on property in the south of the country, including schools and private homes.[89]

It is generally accepted that a wide range of crimes have been committed in southern Bhutan since the beginning of the unrest.[90] In some cases so-called "anti-nationals" do appear to have been responsible for these acts. However, it is by no means clear that government opponents are to blame in all cases, and the Government's claim that "most of the terrorist raids are being carried out by terrorist groups sent from the refugee camps in Nepal"[91] is not substantiated. In fact, as the U.S. Department of State points out, it appears that a large number of the attacks the Government has identified as incidents of terrorism have in fact been the work of criminal gangs taking advantage of unsettled conditions on the Indo-Bhutan border.[92]


5.1 Arbitrary Arrest, Ill-Treatment and Torture

In the aftermath of the demonstrations there were consistent reports of widespread human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and torture, being committed against ethnic Nepali southern Bhutanese. Anyone suspected of involvement in, or support of, "anti- national activity" was a target, as were the families of people thought to have been involved in protest of any kind. In some cases the violations were simply carried out in retaliation to the protests. In others, the violations, or the threat of such, appear to have been deliberately aimed at forcing ethnic Nepalis to leave the country.

Amnesty International reports that from late 1990 raids on the homes of Nepali speaking southern Bhutanese became common. During the raids families were questioned about their involvement in the September 1990 demonstrations and about their links with the BPP. Suspects were arrested. Those detained were held in poor conditions either at the district jail or local school (all schools in the south were closed following the demonstrations and many of them were converted into army barracks or detention centres) and kept for periods ranging from one week to 12 months without charge or trial. Upon release former prisoners report being warned against involvement in "anti-national" activity and threatened with rearrest. Others say that they were released only on condition that they leave the country.[93]

In some cases the Government is said to have arrested and ill-treated prominent figures in local communities to intimidate others into leaving the country so as to avoid a similar fate. For example, following the refusal in late 1991 by the inhabitants of Lamidara in Chirang district to leave the country, three respected community figures were arrested and tortured. Following this, some 500 households in Lamidara, almost the whole population, filled out emigration forms.[94]

Many of those detained were ill-treated and tortured and several prisoners are reported to have died in detention during 1991 as a result of ill-treatment or torture or due to receiving either inadequate medical treatment or no treatment at all for illnesses contracted during imprisonment.[95]

In a survey carried out in the refugee camps in Nepal between May and July 1993, 95 male torture victims confirmed that severe beating and kicking was the most common method of torture. Beatings were frequently carried out with bamboo canes or wooden sticks, but also with iron rods, electric wire, belts, whips, rifle butts, bayonets, roots of trees and thorn branches. The men also described being subjected to a variety of other torture techniques, as well as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.[96]

From the evidence it appears that abuse by government forces peaked during the eighteen months following the September 1990 disturbances. Amnesty International points out that reports of gross human rights violations declined "significantly" from about mid-1992 onwards.[97] The findings of the survey appear to bear this out, with 86 of the 95 torture victims interviewed claiming to have been tortured during 1990 and 1991.[98]

Following the demonstrations another form of gross human rights abuse being perpetrated was rape. Amnesty International reports having received numerous allegations of rape of women by army personnel. Some of the victims are said to have died as a result of being raped.[99]

5.2 Other Human Rights Violations

For approximately eighteen months after the demonstrations ethnic Nepalis were at the greatest risk of gross physical abuse. Experience of such treatment, or the threat or fear of being subjected to it, was commonly cited by refugees who left the country during this period as the primary motivation for doing so. Since then, the level of serious physical abuse has declined significantly, although cases of torture and ill-treatment in police stations and prisons in the south continue to be reported.[100] The arrest of ethnic Nepalis also continues, albeit on a much smaller scale, but refugees state that many of those who are detained are released only after specifically agreeing to leave the country.[101] As of late 1993, in spite of the release in amnesties of over 1500 suspected government opponents, about 200 "anti-nationals" were still in detention pending trial on charges related to political unrest in southern Bhutan.[102] During their visit to Bhutan in October 1994 the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention visited Chemgang Central Jail which then held 148 prisoners. Of these 36 had been convicted under the National Security Act, 1992, 51 were charged with having committed offenses under the Act and the other 61 were awaiting commencement of proceedings against them under the Act.[103] The Working Group reported that in the course of its interviews at Chemgang Central Jail it found that in many instances people had been detained for years without having been charged and that persons who had been charged had not been brought before a judge for trial. In most instances those charged did not know when they might be tried.[104]

In the main, however, the methods of persecution of ethnic Nepalis have changed. Where previously they were at risk of arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and torture, including rape, from about mid-1992 onwards ethnic Nepalis were increasingly coming under different forms of pressure to leave the country. Reasons for departure now more commonly cited include forcible eviction, the destruction of houses and harassment and intimidation by local authorities. This despite a royal decree issued in January 1992 making it a criminal offence to force any genuine citizens to leave the country, and reports that some district officials in the south have been prosecuted for intimidation and corruption.[105] The continuing denial of public services, increasing depopulation in the south of the country, and the wish to be reunited with family members who have already left the country are also reasons for departure given by refugees arriving in Nepal.

The census operation, which is continuing in southern Bhutan, is another reason why ethnic Nepalis are still leaving the country. Refugees interviewed by Amnesty International in November 1993 reported that the census continues to be carried out unfairly and improperly and described a variety of abuses associated with the census. These include the confiscation of citizenship identity cards and land tax receipts, and being threatened with imprisonment or a fine for failure to leave the country within days of a negative citizenship decision being made. The census also continues to be carried out arbitrarily. For example, one refugee reported being classified as a non-national simply because his parents and brother had left the country. In some cases people who were told that they were classified as genuine Bhutanese citizens have subsequently been deprived of citizenship on the basis of a decision by a local government official. In others, married couples have been forced to leave Bhutan after they were put in different categories by the census teams, even when one of them was confirmed as a Bhutanese citizen.[106] In 1993 there were also reports that additional administrative obstacles, such as alterations to the way in which land deeds are numbered, have been placed in the way of ethnic Nepalis seeking to provide proof of land ownership to the census teams.[107]

Another means by which ethnic Nepalis are being forced to leave the country, and a method cited by an increasing number of refugees during 1993, is the revocation of their citizenship under the provision of the 1985 Citizenship Act concerning citizens who have been "shown by act or speech to be disloyal in any manner whatsoever to the King, country, and people of Bhutan" (Article 6(c)).[108]

Refugees also report being coerced into signing so-called "voluntary migration forms", stating that they are selling their land and leaving the country of their own free will, under the threat of large fines or imprisonment if they failed to comply.[109] Many acknowledge that they did receive some compensation for their land, although others did not, but almost all stress that any money they received was well below the market value. More importantly, though, they all confirm that they felt they had no choice but to sign the forms. Occasionally, refugees report that they were videotaped signing the forms. One refugee said that after the camera was turned off officials made various "deductions" which left him with no money.[110] Another refugee, who was told during the census that he could not stay in the country because his brother had already left, said that a pistol was held against his back while he made a statement in front of the video saying he would not return to Bhutan.[111] Amnesty International reports that journalists and visitors to Bhutan have been shown videos of ethnic Nepalis signing the forms as proof that those involved left the country of their own volition.[112] Human rights organizations report that the practice of the forced signing of "voluntary migration forms" continues.[113]

There are also reports of ethnic Nepalis being forced by the authorities to leave Bhutan in retaliation for criminal activities perpetrated by others. In some instances interviewees described whole village blocks (a group of between three and six villages) of families, who were recognised as Bhutanese citizens, being nonetheless forced out en masse, apparently in retaliation for a robbery or an attack on a local government official attributed by the authorities to "anti-national" elements.[114]

On a day-to-day basis ethnic Nepalis are also liable to be subjected to lower level harassment, such as the repeated checking of documents. For example, during December 1993 there were reports of security forces visiting houses in Gaylegphug, Sarbhang district, at night and demanding to check identification documents.[115]

As the number of ethnic Nepalis who have left Bhutan has increased, so the depopulation of villages in the south of the country has become an increasingly serious problem for those who remain. Without community support, such as the joint maintenance of irrigation canals and assistance with sowing and harvesting, and the lack of common security against criminals, it can be extremely difficult for isolated households to survive on their own, with the result that in some cases they opt to leave and seek refuge in Nepal.[116]

Although depopulation is causing considerable hardship for ethnic Nepalis in southern Bhutan, the Government's response, through the settlement of northern Bhutanese in areas formerly inhabited by ethnic Nepalis, is a matter of some concern, and could have serious implications for any future repatriation programme. Resettlement does not yet appear to be happening on a large scale, but there is evidence that resettlement is already taking place in some parts of southern Bhutan, for example in Samdrup Jongkhar district. There have also been reports that land in Samdrup Jongkhar, Chirang and Samchi districts, left vacant by ethnic Nepalis who have sought refuge in Nepal, is being made available to northern Bhutanese at very low prices.[117] The statement by the Home Minister in the 1993 session of the National Assembly, when he confirmed that a nationwide survey of suitable land for resettlement of landless people was then in progress,[118] indicates that the Government plans to increase the rate of resettlement.

5.3 Denial of Public Services

A number of other government initiatives that discriminate against ethnic Nepali southern Bhutanese have created additional hardship for them since the 1990 demonstrations. Many of these are still in operation today.

One of the most controversial of these initiatives was the introduction of "No Objection Certificates" (NOCs), documents issued by the police which confirm that the bearer has no involvement in "anti-national activity". Following the unrest in the south of the country prompted by the census operation and the Government's "Bhutanization" policies, possession of an NOC became mandatory for ethnic Nepalis who wished to gain admission to schools, be eligible for scholarships to study outside Bhutan, get jobs in the civil service and places on training courses, as well as in order to obtain business and trading licenses and travel documents. Farmers also required an NOC in order to access their earnings from cash crops, the sale of which is government controlled.[119] Refugees report that it was virtually impossible for ethnic Nepali southern Bhutanese to obtain NOCs.[120]

The Government claims that, on command of the King, the NOC requirement for school admissions was dropped in 1992.[121] However the NOC is still reported to be required for ethnic Nepalis seeking government employment and training, or to travel abroad.[122] Ethnic Nepalis are also said to be denied the necessary documents to enable them to travel within the country, thereby denying them educational and employment opportunities.[123]

It is unclear to what extent public services in the south of the country, many of which were suspended in the wake of the 1990 demonstrations, have been restored as Government statistics on this are challenged by refugee groups. For example, as of mid-1993 the Government claimed that sixty-four schools had been reopened,[124] but refugee sources claim that only twenty-four schools were then in operation. According to these sources, of the twenty-four, nine are in parts of the south without ethnic Nepali populations, while admission to the remainder is said to be restricted to children of members of the security forces, government officials, etc.[125]


Talks between the governments of Bhutan and Nepal on the refugee issue have been continuing since November 1992, although progress has been slow and the signs are that it has by and large been Nepal that has made the concessions necessary to keep the talks going. The first major breakthrough in the talks occurred in July 1993 when a joint statement was signed announcing the formation of a six-member Joint Ministerial Level Committee. The joint statement gave the Committee the mandate to "determine the different categories of people in the refugee camps who are claiming to have come from Bhutan" and "to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement on each category, which will provide a basis for the resolution of the problem".[126] It took a further two months before the committee members were announced.

Progress since then has been disappointing. The first meeting of the Bhutan-Nepal Joint Ministerial Level Committee, headed by the home ministers from both countries, took place in Kathmandu in October 1993. At the meeting the two sides agreed that all the people in the refugee camps in Nepal would be grouped into one of four categories. Since then there have been three more joint ministerial meetings (in February, April and June 1994) but little concrete progress has been made. The Government of Bhutan has refused to agree to Nepal's proposal that an independent panel be set up to categorise the refugees, and instead a bilateral joint verification team is to be established. As yet, however, no agreement has been reached about the criteria that will be used to categorise the refugees, and the fifth meeting, scheduled for September 1994, was postponed because of general elections in Nepal held in November.

A sixth meeting of bilateral talks which was held in April 1995 concluded without an agreed date for the next meeting.

The four categories of refugees that have been agreed are:

1.         Bonafide Bhutanese, if they have been evicted forcefully

2.         Bhutanese who emigrated

3.         Non-Bhutanese

4.         Bhutanese who have committed criminal acts

Refugee groups and human rights organizations have expressed serious reservations about the agreement on categorization that has been reached between the two governments and about the methods that appear likely to be used to implement it.[127] If eligibility for return is based on Bhutanese citizenship laws (and the nature of the four categories clearly implies that this is so) this will certainly raise serious problems, not least because some of the provisions contained in Bhutan's citizenship laws conflict with international law. Therefore, if Bhutan's domestic laws are used to define eligibility, they are likely to result in people who are entitled under international law to return to their own country (for example, those who signed "voluntary migration forms" and so-called "anti-nationals", who would presumably be placed in category 2 and category 4, respectively) finding themselves denied citizenship and therefore the right to return. Clarification of the criteria to be used to classify refugees into the four groups must therefore be sought at the earliest opportunity.

Even as far as category 1 is concerned, there is no clarity about the criteria that will be used to determine who will be defined as belonging to this category. If the criteria are the same as those used during the census operation to define citizenship then all the problems associated with that will arise again. Indeed the difficulties will be compounded for refugees, many of whom have had what documentation they possessed confiscated prior to leaving the country.

Finally, if Bhutanese law is used to determine eligibility for return to Bhutan a crucial question that needs to be addressed is what will happen to ethnic Nepali southern Bhutanese who are denied the right to return and who will have no claim to nationality or right to live in any other country. There is thus a very real danger that the process as it now stands is likely to result in a large number of refugees being rendered stateless.


The slow pace of progress of the Nepal-Bhutan government talks means that there is still some way to go before an end to the refugee crisis will be in sight. However, the situation as it stands leaves considerable room for an unsatisfactory resolution to the crisis unless certain key issues are addressed.

First, as far as the refugees in Nepal are concerned, the priority must be to clarify the categorization process agreed by the Bhutan and Nepal governments before any screening of refugees begins, and to ensure that eligibility will be defined according to international law and not simply in accordance with Bhutanese domestic legislation. However, for as long as talks continue on a bilateral basis only, it is questionable whether this will be achieved. Bhutan seems to be under no great pressure, and is therefore in no great rush, to resolve the matter, while Nepal would no doubt like to see the refugee crisis resolved as soon as possible.

If a third party were introduced into the equation, there is a chance that further backsliding could be avoided and a fair and safe resolution to the crisis could be achieved. The Government of Nepal has, since talks with Bhutan on the matter began, indicated that it would seek India's good offices to resolve the issue in the event that Nepal and Bhutan were unable to resolve the matter bilaterally, and this was reiterated in October 1994 by the then- prime minister (of Nepal) Girija Prasad Koirala. Most observers argue that India holds the key to the solution of the crisis and that its considerable influence over both Bhutan and Nepal can be used to press for progress to be made. However, it does not appear that India is prepared to get involved, and indeed it has repeatedly stressed that it regards the issue as a bilateral one, to be sorted out by the governments of Bhutan and Nepal. A solution to the issue at hand may thus be to engage the involvement of either a third government to act as arbiter, or an independent third party to act as intermediary.

Even if this were to occur, and in the event that a determination process gets under way that accords with international law, the matter of the human rights situation in Bhutan still needs to be resolved. From the evidence of refugees arriving in the camps it is clear that the persecution of ethnic Nepalis by the Bhutanese authorities continues. Before any of the refugees are repatriated it seems imperative that the Government of Bhutan undertakes to end state-sanctioned persecution and to offer guarantees for the safety and security of returning refugees and of ethnic Nepalis who remain in the country. Before repatriation begins the problems associated with the on-going census operation should also be addressed, and there should be an immediate halt to continuing forcible eviction of ethnic Nepalis. The resettlement of northern Bhutanese in areas formerly inhabited by the refugees should also cease.


AHURA (Association of Human Rights Activists, Bhutan).

Bhutan: A Shangri-la Without Human Rights. Jhapa [Nepal], June 1993

Amnesty International.

Bhutan: Human Rights Violations against the Nepali-speaking Population in the South. AI Index: ASA 14/04/92. London, December 1992

Amnesty International.

Bhutan: Appeal for the Release of Tek Nath Rizal. AI Index: ASA 14/02/94. London,

March 1994


Amnesty International.

Report 1994. London, 1994

Amnesty International.

Bhutan: Forcible Exile. AI Index: ASA 14/04/94. London, August 1994

Aziz-al Ahsan, Syed and Chakma, Bhumitra.

"Bhutan's Foreign Policy: Cautious Self-Assertion, Asian Survey, vol. XXXIII, no. 11 (November 1993)

Bhutan Department of Information.

Anti-National Activities in Southern Bhutan: An Update on the Terrorist Movement. Thimphu [Bhutan], 12 August 1992

Bhutan Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Southern Bhutan Problem: Threat to a Nation's Survival. Thimphu [Bhutan], May 1993

The Bhutan Review Monthly [Lalitpur, Nepal],

"Schools Reopened in Southern Bhutan?". May 1993

The Bhutan Review Monthly,

"Build-Up to the 73rd Session of the National Assembly". August 1994

The Bhutan Review Monthly,

"'Amnesty' to Prisoners". September 1994

Dhakal, D.N.S., and Strawn, C.

Bhutan: A Movement in Exile. Jaipur: Nirala Publications, 1994

Dubble, C.

Survey of Victims of Violence in the Bhutanese Refugee Camps in Eastern Nepal (May-July 1993). N.p., July 1993

Far East and Australasia 1994,

Europa Publications Ltd

HUROB (Human Rights Organization of Bhutan).

Annual Report 1992. Lalitpur [Nepal], 10 December 1992


Annual Report 1993. Lalitpur [Nepal], 10 December 1993


Letters to the author, 27 August 1994 and 5 October 1994

Hutt, M.

"Bhutan's Crisis of Identity" in The World Book Year Book. London. 1994

Hutt, M.

"Refugees from Shangri-la" in Index on Censorship, vol. 22, no. 4, (April 1993)

INHURED (International Institute for Human Rights Environment and Development).

Bhutan: An Iron Path to Democracy. Kathmandu, January 1992


Bhutanese Refugees: Destitutes without Destination. A Documentation of Human Rights Violations in the Kingdom of Bhutan. Kathmandu, February 1993

The Kathmandu Post.

"Bhutanese Refugees: One Year of Talks". 30 April 1994

Kuensel [Thimpu],

National Assembly Supplement, "The Proceedings and Resolutions of the 72nd Session of the National Assembly (8-30 July 1993), 7 August 1993


The Politics of Bhutan: Retrospect and Prospect. Delhi: Pragati Publications, 1992

SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).

The Bhutan Tragedy When Will It End?. Kathmandu, May 1992

Thronson, D. B.

Cultural Cleansing: A Distinct National Identity and the Refugees from Southern Bhutan. Kathmandu: INHURED, August 1993

UN Commission on Human Rights.

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Visit to Bhutan (E/CN.4/1995/31/Add.3). Geneva, 16 December 1994

U.S. Department of State.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993: Bhutan. Washington D.C., 1994 [electronic format].


The views expressed in the papers are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of UNHCR.


[1]Although the flow of refugees has diminished considerably since 1993, the slow but steady trickle of ethnic Nepalis into Nepal, and the testimonies they provide, are evidence that they continue to face persecution in Bhutan, albeit the methods have changed.

[2]Far East and Australasia 1994, Europa Publications Ltd, p. 134.

[3]D.N.S. Dhakal and C. Strawn, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile, (New Delhi, 1994), p. 88

[4]According to the Bhutanese newspaper, Kuensel, 28 September 1991, quoted in D.N.S. Dhakal and C. Strawn, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile, p. 88

[5]D.N.S. Dhakal and C. Strawn, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile, p. 93

[6]U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993, Bhutan. Washington D.C., 1994 [electronic format]

[7]M. Hutt, 'Refugees from Shangri-la' in Index on Censorship [London] (April 1994), p. 11

[8]Parmanand, The Politics of Bhutan: Retrospect and Prospect, (Delhi: Pragati Publications, 1992), pp. 60-61, citing Sunday [Calcutta], 'The People will Decide: King Jigme Singye Wangchuck on the future of Bhutan', 28 October 1990

[9]D.N.S. Dhakal and C. Strawn, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile, p. 99, citing Dorji, Rigzin. 1989. A Brief Religious, Cultural and Secular History of Bhutan. Asia Society Galleries: New York, p. 13

[10]D.N.S. Dhakal and C. Strawn, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile, p. 98

[11]D.N.S. Dhakal and C. Strawn, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile, p. 100 quoting Parmanand, p. 54

[12]UN Commission on Human Rights. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Visit to Bhutan (E/CN.4/1995/31/Add.3). Geneva, 16 December 1994, paragraph 10

[13]Bhutan Ministry of Home Affairs, The Southern Bhutan Problem: Threat to a Nation's Survival, (Thimphu [Bhutan], May 1993), p. 20


[15]Parmanand, The Politics of Bhutan: Retrospect and Prospect, p. 60

[16]UNHCR/CDR Legal Databases, April 1995

[17]UNHCR/CDR Legal Databases, April 1995

[18]U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993, Bhutan. Washington D.C., 1994 [electronic format]

[19]UN Commission on Human Rights. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Visit to Bhutan (E/CN.4/1995/31/Add.3). Geneva, 16 December 1994, paragraph 14(a)

[20]Ibid, paragraph 14(b)

[21]Bhutan Department of Information, Anti-National Activities in Southern Bhutan: An Update on the Terrorist Movement, p. 43. These figures do not tally with those given in the report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention which states that the high court consists of six judges. See UN Commission on Human Rights. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Visit to Bhutan (E/CN.4/1995/31/Add.3). Geneva, 16 December 1994, paragraph 14(c)

[22]UN Commission on Human Rights. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Visit to Bhutan (E/CN.4/1995/31/Add.3). Geneva, 16 December 1994, paragraph 14(c)

[23]ibid., paragraph 27

[24]Ibid, paragraph 8

[25]The text of the Nationality Law of Bhutan, 1958, is reproduced from the text as it appears in Bhutan Ministry of Home Affairs. The Southern Bhutan Problem, Appendix Two. References are to numbered paragraphs (articles) in this text.



[28]D.B. Thronson, Cultural Cleansing: A Distinct National Identity and the Refugees from Southern Bhutan, (Kathmandu: INHURED International, August 1993), pp. 14-15

[29]The text of the Bhutan Citizenship Act, 1977, is reproduced from the text as it appears in Bhutan Ministry of Home Affairs. The Southern Bhutan Problem, Appendix Two. References are to numbered paragraphs within sections identified by letter combinations (KA, KHA etc.). Conditions Required for the Grant of Citizenship, KA 1".

[30]Conditions Required for the Grant of Citizenship, KA 2.

[31]Procedure for Acquisition of Citizenship, CHA 1 and 2.

[32]Procedure for Acquisition of Citizenship, CHA2.

[33]Procedure for Acquisition of Citizenship, CHA 1.

[34]Conditions Required for the Grant of Citizenship, KA 3.

[35]D.N.S. Dhakal and C. Strawn, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile, pp. 172-173

[36]Penalty for Violation of Rules, TA 1

[37]Penalty for Violation of Rules, TA2

[38]HUROB (Human Rights Organization of Bhutan), Annual Report 1992 (Lalitpur [Nepal], 10 December 1992), p. 2

[39]The text of the Bhutan Citizenship Act, 1985, is reproduced from the text as it appears in Bhutan Ministry of Home Affairs. The Southern Bhutan Problem, Appendix Two. References are to numbered sections (articles) in this text.

[40]The Bhutan Marriage Act, 1980, Kha 2-10. References in this section are to numbered paragraphs (Kha 2-1 etc.), of the text of the Act as reproduced in D.B. Thronson, Cultural Cleansing, Appendix 2. Thronson notes that this text is reproduced from SAARC, The Bhutan Tragedy. When Will It End? and is not an official translation by the Bhutanese Government.

[41]Ibid.,Kha 2-1

[42]Ibid.,Kha 2-7

[43]Ibid.,Kha 2-4, Kha 2-5

[44]Ibid.,Kha 2-6

[45]Ibid.,Kha 2-8

[46]INHURED (International Institute for Human Rights Environment and Development), Bhutan: An Iron Path to Democracy, (Kathmandu, January 1992), p. 9

[47]D.N.S. Dhakal and C. Strawn, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile, (New Delhi, 1994), pp. 44 and 49

[48]M. Hutt, 'Bhutan's Crisis of Identity', in The World Book Year Book, (London, 1994), pp. 65-66

[49]D.N.S. Dhakal and C. Strawn, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile, p. 48

[50]M.Hutt, 'Bhutan's Crisis of Identity', p. 66

[51]M. Hutt, 'Refugees from Shangri-la', p. 11

[52] Bhutan Ministry of Home Affairs. The Southern Bhutan Problem, p. 3

[53]D.B. Thronson, Cultural Cleansing: A distinct National Identity and the Refugees from Southern Bhutan, (Kathmandu: INHURED International, August 1993), p. 7

[54]Dawa Tsering, Bhutan's Foreign Minister, quoted in Himal, July/August 1994, p. 22


[56]D.N.S. Dhakal and C. Strawn, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile, p. 143

[57]Ibid, p. 151, citing Sinha, 1991, p. 223

[58]Ibid, p. 152

[59]Syed Aziz-al Ahsan and Bhumitra Chakma, 'Bhutan's Foreign Policy: Cautious Self-Assertion', Asian Survey, vol. XXXIII, no. 11, (November 1993), p. 1050, citing Kuensel, National Assembly Supplement, 2 November 1991, pp. 9-11

[60] Amnesty International, Bhutan: Human Rights Violations Against the Nepali-Speaking Population in the South, According to Amnesty International, this category has been phased out and the people originally placed in this category have been allocated to others, London, December 1992, p. 6

[61]D.N.S. Dhakal and C. Strawn, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile, p. 193

[62]D.B. Thronson, Cultural Cleansing: A Distinct National Identity and the Refugees from Southern Bhutan, (Kathmandu: INHURED International, August 1993), p. 16

[63]D.N.S. Dhakal and C. Strawn, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile, pp. 193-194

[64] D.B.Thronson, Cultural Cleansing: A Distinct National Identity and the Refugees from Southern Bhutan, (Kathmandu: INHURED International, August 1993), p. 18

[65]D.N.S. Dhakal and C. Strawn, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile, pp. 192

[66]INHURED, Bhutan: An Iron Path to Democracy, p. 4

[67]SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), The Bhutan Tragedy. When Will It End?, p. 9

[68]D.N.S. Dhakal and C. Strawn, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile, p. 193

[69]SAARC, The Bhutan Tragedy. When Will It End?, p. 9

[70]M. Hutt, 'Refugees from Shangri-la, p. 10

[71]Amnesty International, Bhutan: Forcible Exile, London, August 1994, p. 7

[72]AHURA (Association of Human Rights Activists, Bhutan), Bhutan: A Shangri-la Without Human Rights. (Jhapa [Nepal], June 1993), p. 24, citing Petition to the King of Bhutan, 9 April 1988

[73]D.B. Thronson, Cultural Cleansing: A Distinct National Identity and the Refugees from Southern Bhutan, (Kathmandu: INHURED International, August 1993), p. 18

[74]Amnesty International, Bhutan: Forcible Exile, p. 7

[75]HUROB (Human Rights Organization of Bhutan), Annual Report 1993, (Lalitpur [Nepal], 10 December 1993), p. 9

[76]Kuensel [Thimpu], National Assembly Supplement, 'The Proceedings and Resolutions of the 72nd Session of the National Assembly (8-30 July 1993), 7 August 1993, p. 8

[77]M. Hutt, 'Bhutan's Crisis of Identity', p. 69

[78]D.B. Thronson, Cultural Cleansing: A Distinct National Identity and the Refugees from Southern Bhutan, (Kathmandu: INHURED International, August 1993), p. 20

[79]U.S Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993: Bhutan, Washington D.C., 1994 [electronic format]


[81]M. Hutt, 'Refugees from Shangri-la', p. 10

[82]Amnesty International believes Tek Nath Rizal to be a prisoner of conscience held for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and association. For further information see Amnesty International, Bhutan: Appeal for the Release of Tek Nath Rizal, London, March 1994

[83]The formation of the PFHR was followed in June 1990 by the establishment of the Bhutan People's Party (BPP) and, in February 1992, the Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP), which was led by former government officials. Both the BPP and the BNDP have been labelled by the Government as "anti-national organizations" aimed at achieving the political domination of the country by ethnic Nepalis, and they are not allowed to function in Bhutan. Both parties advocate a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy and claim wide support in the south of the country. The most recently formed political party, the Druk National Congress, was founded in Nepal in June 1994. It is unusual in that its membership is made up of northern Bhutanese.

[84]Amnesty International, Bhutan: Human Rights Violations, pp. 10-11

[85]D.B. Thronson, Cultural Cleansing: A Distinct National Identity and the Refugees from Southern Bhutan, (Kathmandu: INHURED International, August 1993), p. 26

[86]M. Hutt, 'Refugees from Shangri-la', p. 12

[87]Ibid, p. 13

[88]U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993, Bhutan. Washington D.C., 1994 [electronic format]

[89]Amnesty International, Bhutan: Human Rights Violations, pp. 10-11

[90]A "Summary of Terrorist Activities" updated as of 17 October 1994, was given to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention by the Government of Bhutan. See UN Commission on Human Rights. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Visit to Bhutan (E/CN.4/1995/31/Add.3). Geneva, 16 December 1994, Annex 1

[91]Bhutan Ministry of Home Affairs, The Southern Bhutan Problem, p. 10

[92]U.S Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993, Bhutan, [electronic format]

[93]Amnesty International, Bhutan: Human Rights Violations, pp. 13-14

[94]D.N.S. Dhakal and C. Strawn, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile, p. 259

[95]Amnesty International, Bhutan: Human Rights Violations, p. 21

[96]C. Dubble, Survey of Victims of Violence in the Bhutanese Refugee Camps in Eastern Nepal (May-July 1993), (n.p., July 1993), pp. 7-12

[97]Amnesty International, Bhutan: Forcible Exile, p. 3

[98]C. Dubble, Survey of Victims of Violence, pp. 7-12

[99]Amnesty International, Bhutan: Human Rights Violations, p. 19

[100]Amnesty International, Report 1994, London, 1994, p. 74

[101]The Bhutan Review Monthly [Lalitpur, Nepal], '"Amnesty" to Prisoners', September 1994, p. 1

[102]U.S Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993: Bhutan, [electronic format].

[103]UN Commission on Human Rights. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Visit to Bhutan (E/CN.4/1995/31/Add.3). Geneva, 16 December 1994, paragraph 20

[104]Ibid., paragraph 21

[105]M. Hutt, 'Refugees from Shangri-la', p. 14, citing Kuensel [Thimpu], 30 November 1992

[106]Amnesty International, Bhutan: Forcible Exile, pp. 9-11

[107]HUROB, Annual Report 1993, p. 9

[108]U.S Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993: Bhutan, [electronic format]

[109]Amnesty International, Bhutan: Forcible Exile, p. 3

[110]D.B. Thronson, Cultural Cleansing, p. 33

[111]Amnesty International, Bhutan: Forcible Exile, p. 15

[112] Ibid., p. 13

[113]Ibid., p. 15 and HUROB, Letter to the author, 27 August 1994

[114]Amnesty International, Bhutan: Forcible Exile, p. 7

[115]HUROB, Annual Report 1993, p. 9

[116]HUROB, Letter to the author, 27 August 1994

[117]HUROB, Letter to the author, 5 October 1994

[118]Kuensel [Thimpu, Bhutan], National Assembly Supplement, 7 August 1993, pp. 17-18

[119]HUROB, Annual Report 1992, p. 14

[120]D.B. Thronson, Cultural Cleansing, p. 24

[121]Kuensel [Thimpu, Bhutan], National Assembly Supplement, 7 August 1993, p. 7

[122]HUROB, Letter to author, 27 August, 1994

[123]The Bhutan Review Monthly [Lalitpur, Nepal], 'Build-Up to the 73rd Session of the National Assembly', August 1994, p. 4

[124]Kuensel [Thimpu, Bhutan], National Assembly Supplement, 7 August 1993, p. 7

[125]The Bhutan Review Monthly [Lalitpur, Nepal] 'Schools Reopened in Southern Bhutan?', p. 4

[126]The Kathmandu Post, 'Bhutanese Refugees: One Year of Talks', 30 April 1994


Search Refworld