Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bhutan's "Nelson Mandela" struggling with life and death in Druk regime's jail

Source: Nepalnews.com

Bhutanese human rights leader Dhan Kuma Rai has been languishing in Bhutanese jail for the last 17 years on the charge of "treason".

Rai, 45, a resident of Sibsu bloc in Samchi district of southern Bhutan, was sentenced to life by the country's autocratic Druk regime for his involvement in 1990's pro-democracy movement in the tiny Himalayan kingdom.

The Indian police had arrested Rai from bordering Indian town of Chisang in the year 1991 while he was living a life of a political exile there and then, much to the dismay of pro-democracy Bhutanese leaders, handed him over to Bhutan.

Rai's family was among the hundreds of thousands of Nepali-speaking ethnic Bhutanese driven out forcibly from Bhutan in 1990 in the largest ever ethnic cleansing South Asia has seen. They took shelter in one of the UN-run refugee camp in Khudunabari, Jhapa.

Rai's family members told Kantipur daily that nothing has been done till now for the release of Rai from the Bhutanese jail.

Bhutanese refugee leader Tek Nath Rijal told the daily that the Druk regime had accused Rai of treason for his involvement in the 1990 pro-democracy movement.

Rijal said that Rai was also the first engineer of Druk Air, Bhutan's national flag carrier. Rai is also the founding general secretary of Bhutan People's Party, which had waged a short-lived armed movement in Southern Bhutan in the 1990s against Druk regime's relentless oppression of ethnic
Nepali-speaking populace of the region officially called the "Lotshampas".

BPP's spokesperson Gopal Gurung said that in recognition of Rai's relentless struggle to establish democracy in Bhutan the party has continued to retain Rai in the party's top post.

However, Gurung admitted that the party has been unable to launch a strong campaign for Rai's release.

"Due to torture he received in the jail my brother has somewhat lost his mental balance," Rai's younger brother Suman said. He had met his brother a year ago.

Rai has been kept in Chemgunj jail, 8 kilometers away from capital Thimpu. After falling seriously ill, Rai had been transferred to General hospital inThimpu a year ago.

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