Friday, March 13, 2009

Far from Bhutan: A Refugee’s Life

Source: Scoop

By Bhumika Ghimire

On November 6th, 2008 Bhutan crowned a new King-Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. The day was a bitter reminder to almost 103,000 Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal that their country has moved on without them. The new monarch did not mention the refugees in his first speech to the people and the nation was immersed in festivities, no one spared a thought for the 103,000 missing.

After my blog post on the coronation event in Bhutan was published, a young lady asked me if I could help tell her side of the story. Seeta Ghimire is a Bhutanese refugee who grew up in a camp in Nepal. For 16 years, a mud hut with no electricity or running water was her home.

Here is her story.

I was born in Bhutan. The government forced my family to flee my home land. After leaving the country, we arrived in Nepal as refugees. For 16 years we were housed in a camp in south-eastern part of the country.

I could not visit my birth place for all those 16 years and, if we had done that we would have been arrested by the Bhutanese army. Bhutanese government never tried to take us back. There were many meetings between Nepalese and Bhutanese government on the refugee issue but they failed to reach an agreement.

United States of America resettled us in the country to end our stateless and homeless status.

The campaign against Nepali speaking Bhutanese started in the late 80s and early 90s. Schools and place of employment with majority Nepalese were closed in 1990. After a year the schools were opened but we were not allowed to join the schools. The government asked us to produce a Non Objection Certificate(NOC) to go to school, to work, to open Business etc. We were never given NOC because my father supported peaceful demonstration in 1990s demanding democracy and respect for human rights.

We were not allowed to collect the harvest. Government gave different citizenship status to the members of the same family. The army burnt all our documents. They took all our cash crops and food crops. They pasted a paper in our home to leave our place and threatened to kill us if we disobeyed.

There are seven Bhutanese refugee camps in the eastern part of Nepal. Six of them are in the Jhapa district and t one is in the Morang district. Caritas Nepal, a non governmental organization supports the education of the Bhutanese refugee children up to the 10th Grade. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR) supports the refugees for food, shelter and health care.

We are a family of six ,I am the youngest . We lived in a small thatched hut made of mud that had a size of an average living room . There was no electricity and gas facility in the camps.

At present I am in the United States. When we first arrived, it was very difficult for me to communicate with people around. I could not understand American accent. Now I am a sophomore at a local high school and hope to go to college in future.

When some body asks me about my country, I cannot say much because I left Bhutan as a baby and I was a refugee in Nepal. But I don’t think much about it. I am in America now and I love this country. I can become a U.S citizen after 5 years. That will be a proud day for me.

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