Saturday, September 15, 2007

Refugee camps mgmt poll by Sept-end



DAMAK, Sept 14 - The Bhutanese Camp Management Committee's elections that was postponed nine months ago, is slated to be held in 24 September this year.

This was decided after an interaction held on Tuesday inside the camps by the government-administered Refugee Coordination Unit (RCU) to declare election plans. The decision came to light on Thursday. Citing the ongoing census inside the camps from November last year to May this year, the RCU had given continuity to the then management committee.

According to assistant director of RCU and Deputy Chief District Officer Laxman Hamal, the elections will be conducted for four days starting from 24 September, across the seven refugee camps which includes three Beldangi camps - No. 1, 2 and Extension - Goldhap, Timai and Khudunabari camps in Jhapa and Sanishchare in Morang. There are about 108,000 Lhotsampas (Nepali-speaking citizens of southern Bhutan) in the camps.

The elected committee will represent all the administrative works carried out on behalf of refugees inside the camps, while the RCU will function only as the support group to the committee.

Sources inside the camps said the current camp secretaries, six of whom have been supporting third-country resettlement as proposed by United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and other donor countries, are reluctant to compete for the upcoming elections fearing reprisals from anti-resettlement groups.

Frequent riots and violent attacks among refugees, especially targeted at camp secretaries in the camps made headlines in the national media in the wake of third-country resettlement option for evicted Bhutanese refugees. Some leaders, none of who live in the camps, are against the resettlement option, and have been accused of provoking violence in the camps. These leaders hold the view that resettlement option would not only derail respectful repatriation but would embolden the India-backed Bhutanese government to evict more Lhotsampas.

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