As Bhutan PM starts Nepal visit, refugees seek return homeApril 14th, 2011 - 5:51 pm ICT by IANS
Kathmandu, April 14 (IANS) Tens of thousands of refugees forced to live in camps in Nepal after their eviction from Bhutan once again raised their call to be allowed to return home as Bhutan’s prime minister began his three-day official visit to Nepal Thursday.
Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley became the first foreign statesman to visit Nepal since the formation of a new government headed by Jhala Nath Khanal, arriving in Kathmandu Thursday for regional cooperation talks with the Nepali authorities.
With Bhutan being the current chair of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Thinley will discuss issues concerning the eight member countries of the regional bloc: India, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Afghanistan.
Thinley’s visit triggered a call by the exiled Bhutan People’s Party for resumption of bilateral talks between Bhutan and Nepal for the repatriation of Bhutanese refugees.
Over 100,000 refugees have been living in Nepal since the 1990s after they were forced to leave Bhutan following a crackdown on people of Nepali origin.
After 15 rounds of repatriation talks broke down and Bhutan refused to resume dialogue, accusing the refugee camps of having been infiltrated by terrorists, the hapless refugees began to finally accept with a heavy heart western governments’ offers for resettlement in the US, Britain, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Sweden and Australia.
However, the immigrants still say they would prefer to return to their homes in Bhutan if the Buddhist kingdom allows them to go back.
Balram Poudel, chief of the Bhutan People’s Party, said in a press statement that the government of Bhutan should begin tripartite talks with India, Bhutan’s biggest trade partner and foreign affairs advisor, as well as members of the refugee community in Nepal for their repatriation.
India has refused to be involved, calling the refugee issue a bilateral matter between Nepal and Bhutan.
However, Nepal and the refugees point out that the Indian government that allowed the fleeing refugees to wander to Nepal through India, is now preventing them from treading the same path back to Bhutan - a step that has strengthened the Bhutan government’s desire not to allow the refugees to come back.
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at email@example.com)
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Tags: 15 rounds, bhutanese refugees, bilateral talks, buddhist kingdom, eviction, heavy heart, member countries, nath, refugee camps, refugee community, refugee issue, regional bloc, repatriation, resettlement, resumption, south asian association, south asian association for regional cooperation, trade partner, tripartite talks, western governments