Bhutan fears terror strikes ahead of historic vote

March 20th, 2008 - 12:15 pm ICT by admin  

By Syed Zarir Hussain
Gelephu (Bhutan), March 20 (IANS) One person was injured in an explosion in Bhutan as authorities in the Himalayan kingdom fear more terror strikes ahead of the historic parliamentary elections next week, officials said Thursday. A Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) spokesman said there was a blast Monday at the industrial town of Pasakha, close to India’s border with the eastern state of West Bengal, in which one person was injured.

“The blast took place near a fuel station,” a RBP official said.

The isolated but largely peaceful Buddhist kingdom of 700,000 people was rocked by a series of explosions - seven blasts since Jan 20 in which one person was killed and another wounded, besides causing damage to government and private buildings and power installations.

Quoting an unnamed RBP official, Bhutan’s national newspaper Kuensel said Nepal-based terrorist groups were planning to trigger more explosions in an attempt to scare Bhutanese nationals from participating in Monday’s parliamentary vote.

The elections would mark the formal transition of the 100-year-old monarchy to parliamentary democracy. “A number of terrorist organizations based in Nepal were trying to create chaos during the general election and to instigate a revolt against the government,” the Kuensel report said.

The Royal Bhutan Army in a massive military crackdown in January and February busted three Maoist camps belonging to the Communist Party of Bhutan and arrested 12 of their cadres with weapons and explosives.

The Communist Party of Bhutan has threatened to disrupt the elections to Bhutan’s National Assembly or the lower House of Parliament.

The country had witnessed a pro-democracy agitation in the 1990s with a section of Nepali-speaking residents in its southern parts rising in revolt against the monarchy.

The crackdown that followed led thousands of Nepali-speaking people from southern Bhutan to flee to Nepal.

Now an estimated 100,000 people are sheltered in relief camps.

There are reports that the Maoists are formed of aggrieved refugees now based in Nepal. “Among the revolutionary organizations, that have surfaced in the UNHCR-run refugee camps in Nepal, are the Communist Party of Bhutan, Bhutan Tiger Force, United Revolutionary Front of Bhutan, and Bhutan Gorkha Liberation Front,” the Kuensel report said.

Meanwhile, authorities in Bhutan have decided to seal its unfenced border with India from Saturday to Tuesday as precautionary measure to prevent infiltration of Maoist rebels from Nepal to disrupt the polls.

“We have taken adequate security measures for the peaceful conduct of the elections,” Bhutan’s chief election commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said.

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