Nepal snubs Bhutan over royal coronation

November 9th, 2008 - 4:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha PatilKathmandu, Nov 9 (IANS) The new Himalayan republic of Nepal has snubbed its neighbour Bhutan over the much-acclaimed three-day coronation ceremony of the Druk kingdom’s new king Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk.Nepal, once a hereditary kingdom like Bhutan, held a historic election this year driven by anti-monarchy Maoist insurgents and overwhelmingly voted to abolish its 239-year-old royal family.

While Nepal’s ruling Maoist party regards Bhutan a feudal country, the Maoist-led government’s relations with the Dragon kingdom are chilly over the issue of more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees who have been living in Nepal following their eviction by their own government in the 1980s.

Despite more than a dozen talks sessions between Nepal and Bhutan, the latter has refused to take its citizens back.

Nepal’s new head of state, President Ram Baran Yadav, and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda were not invited to the new Bhutanese king’s coronation, held from Oct 6-8.

In sharp contrast, the coronation was dominated by Nepal’s southern neighbour India, whose President Pratibha Patil was the guest of honour with India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and United Progressive Alliance chief Sonia Gandhi and her family featuring on the star guest list.

Only Nepal’s ambassador to Bhutan and India Durgesh Man Singh was invited.

Reacting to the slight, neither Prachanda nor Yadav issued any congratulatory message to the new Bhutan king.

The omission was underlined Sunday when both offered Cambodian king Norodom Sihamoni health and happiness on the occasion of the Cambodian Independence Day.

An even more blunt message came from the Maoist daily, Janadisha, which compared the coronation to the infamous coup by deposed king Gyanendra in Nepal in 2005 when all phone links were disconnected and the country’s only international airport was shut down.

The Maoist daily is also raising the issue of the Bhutanese refugees, who have been leading a bleak life in camps in eastern Nepal for nearly two decades now.

It said that the underground Bhutanese Maoist party has threatened to start a revolt if international donors did not stop resettling the refugees in their countries by January.

Over 5,000 refugees have been resettled in the US, Canada and Australia. In the days to come, more have expressed willingness to leave the camps after giving up hope of being able to return to Bhutan.

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