Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bhutan "very serious" towards resolving refugee crisis


The government of Bhutan is very serious regarding finding an amicable solution to the Bhutanese refugee crisis and has formed a high-level team comprising of government ministers for this, a senior Bhutanese minister said Friday.

Dr Pema Gyamtsho, Minister for Agriculture of the Royal government of Bhutan told that the protracted crisis has been an "embarrassment" for the Himalayan Kingdom "as much as any other party concerned", and hoped that the new-round of talks that is soon going to start between Bhutan and Nepal on the issue will bear fruit.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had met with his Bhutanese counterpart at the sidelines of SAARC summit in Sri Lankan capital Colombo right after assuming office and thereafter at the BIMSTEC meeting in Thailand. On both these occasions, Bhutanese Prime Minister reportedly pledged Bhutan's commitment to resolving this problem by agreeing to resume the stalled talks.

Minister Gyamtsho, however, said that political stability in Nepal was necessary for the talks to become successful, adding that frequent changes in the government in Nepal in the past was the main reason the high-level talks between the two countries couldn't make any headway.

"We should understand that it is not always Bhutan to blame for failure of the talks," he added.

The Bhutanese minister even went so far as saying that the Nepalese media has been biased in its coverage of the Bhutanese refugee crisis till now, always reporting one-side of the story, hence portraying Bhutan in a very negative light.

According to him, Bhutan wants to see the refugee problem resolved as much as Nepal or any other parties involved, but the "negative coverage" [by the Nepalese media] has become a major hindrance to realize this goal.

"This negative coverage should stop if Nepal wants to see the problem resolved," Dr Gyamtsho said, "the Nepalese press should try to administer positive energy into the whole process so as to derive positive results."

He, however, refused to comment on the third country resettlement program that has clearly divided the Bhutanese refugee community languishing in refugee camps in eastern Nepal where they had arrived more than 17 years back after being forced to flee from their homes in Bhutan.

Some 1,00,000 Bhutanese still reside in makeshift huts built inside these UN managed refugee camps, even though hundreds of them have been leaving Nepal for U.S.A, Australia and other European countries every day as part of the third country resettlement program. However, Bhutanese refugee leaders have been opposed to the idea of third country resettlement, insisting that the only solution lies in the "respectful return" of the Bhutanese refugees.

Minister Gyamtsho is currently in Kathmandu to attend the 25th Anniversary celebration of the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). ananda gurung Dec 06 08

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