Bhutanese dissident: democratic government akin to absolute monarchy
by Nirmala Carvalho
In the country there are still violations of human rights, little freedom of press and political prisoners. Over 90 thousand refugees expelled in the 90s waiting to return.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "The constitution of Bhutan provides the foundation for democracy. But the activities of the new democratic government still reflect those of the old absolute monarchy. " This is the statement of Karma Dupto secretary of Druk National Congress, the Bhutanese political movement in exile in New Delhi. Despite the fact that the first democratic elections took place in 2008 there are still many unresolved issues in the country: political prisoners are still in prison, freedom of press and association is still lacking, but most importantly the condition remains unchanged for 90 thousand refugees who have been penned in refugee camps in 'UN on the border with Nepal since 1990.

Bhutan is a small town in the Himalayan region, caught between China, India, and Nepal, and until 2007 was ruled by an absolute monarchy. In 2008, the ascent to the throne of 28-year old King Jigme Khesar brought new hopes of opening the country and a possible way out for the refugee population in Nepal. These were expelled from the country between 1977 and 1991 during the campaign of nationalization promoted by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. But to date the new Bhutanese government refuses to allow their return to their homeland and Nepal has never granted them citizenship. In January 2009, U.S., Australia and other Western countries gave asylum to 25 thousand refugees. This is to avoid a humanitarian crisis due to lack of funds of the World Food Program.  


"For the Druk National Congress - says Dupto - the international community including India, should fight for the repatriation of refugees." In fact the 90 thousand refugees still live in camps, thousands have refused to emigrate to foreign countries in hopes of returning to their villages. For the leader the only solution is to force the government to restore citizenship to the deported Bhutanese.

Dupto says that the people residing in Bhutan undergo continuous human rights violations.  

"People - says Dupto - live in continuous fear of repression and never expresses their opinions." "Freedom of speech and expression - says the leader - are guaranteed by art. 7 of the new constitution. " He also explains that the government continues to prohibit the publication of policy documents made by the Bhutanese in exile who want a full democracy and prohibits foreign journalists from visiting the areas near refugee camps. "The media - continues Dupto - are under the control of the government that has banned the vision of foreign channels considered violent and obscene."

According to the dissidents hundreds of political prisoners are still in jail awaiting release. "Independence and efficiency of the judicial system is indeed questionable – he claims - few efforts have been made to reform the Supreme Court and make it free of government influence." According to the government newspaper Kuensel as of November, the Court is guided by a single judge, the only one able to sign the documents required for release of dissidents.