04/14/2011, 00.00
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Bhutanese PM in Nepal, deaf to appeal by 50,000 refugees

Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley is the first foreign head of government on an official visit to Nepal since Prime Minister Khanal took office. His visit is set to end Sunday. Ethnic Nepali refugees from Bhutan demand the right to return after 20 years in exile.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley began an official visit to Nepal, first head of government to be officially welcomed in Kathmandu by the new Nepali Prime Minister, Jhala Nath Khanal. The visit is scheduled to last until Sunday and aims at closer economic and political cooperation between the two countries. It also provides the opportunity to discuss the repatriation of 50,000 Nepali refugees expelled from Bhutan in the 1990s.

Today, the exiled Bhutan People’s Party (BPP) appealed to the Bhutanese government to allow the 50,000 refugees to return home after 20 years of exile.

BPP chief Balram Poudel said the government should start talks on the matter not only with Nepal but also with India, Bhutan’s main economic partner, and consult representatives of the exiled community.

Between 1977 and 1991, Bhutan expelled more than 80,000 Bhutanese of Nepali origin during a Bhutanisation campaign launched by King Singye Wangchuck. The goal was to create a nation free from foreign influences.

Despite recent moves towards democracy, the Bhutanese government continues to reject repatriation of the refugees, forcing the international community to move them to third countries.

In 2010, about 30,000 refugees began a new life in Australia, the United States and Canada. However, some 50,000 are still in Nepal, stuck in camps without the possibility of employment and few hopes for the future.

For 15 times, Bhutan has rejected requests from the Nepali government to start talks on repatriation, claiming that terrorists are hiding among the refugees, dismissing appeals and open letters signed by human rights activists and associations.

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