Viewing cable 03KATHMANDU2386
Title: NEPAL: BHUTANESE REFUGEE LEADER DEPLORES

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
03KATHMANDU23862003-12-05 08:10:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kathmandu
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KATHMANDU 002386 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR SA/INS, PRM/ANE; LONDON FOR POL/GURNEY; NSC FOR 
MILLARD; GENEVA FOR PLYNCH 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/06/2013 
TAGS: PREF PREL PHUM BH NP
SUBJECT: NEPAL: BHUTANESE REFUGEE LEADER DEPLORES 
CONDITIONS INSIDE BHUTAN 
 
Classified By: DCM Robert K. Boggs for reasons 1.5 (b,d). 
 
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SUMMARY 
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¶1. (C) On December 3, DCM and PolOff met with Bhutanese human 
rights activist Tek Nath Rizal to discuss conditions inside 
Bhutan and the repatriation of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. 
Rizal contends that the Royal Government of Bhutan's system 
of discrimination continues to oppress the ethnic Nepali 
community inside Bhutan.  Consequently, the refugees of 
Khudunabari Camp are extremely anxious about repatriation and 
particularly worried about personal security and safety in 
Bhutan.  Third-party monitoring is essential to ensure the 
refugees' safety, he emphasized.  Despite his concerns, Rizal 
is encouraging all eligible Khudunabari Camp refugees to 
return to Bhutan.  Rizal believes that a meeting between the 
refugees and the Bhutanese King would go far to alleviate 
their concerns and to build mutual trust.  End Summary. 
 
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CONDITIONS INSIDE BHUTAN 
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¶2. (SBU) On December 3, DCM and PolOff met with Tek Nath 
Rizal, a long-time human rights activist and former prisoner 
of conscience in Bhutan, to share views about possible 
repatriation of the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal.  Rizal was 
accompanied by fellow refugee community leader Ratan Gazmere. 
 Rizal is currently chairman of the Human Rights Council of 
Bhutan, which acts as the umbrella organization for all of 
the refugee-based advocacy groups. 
 
¶3. (C) Rizal expressed appreciation for the USG's 
interventions on his behalf while he was a prisoner in 
Bhutan.  Despite his activism promoting human rights for 17 
years as an elected member of the Druk National Assembly, 
Rizal said, he had achieved little success.  Although he has 
not been inside Bhutan since his release from prison, Rizal 
believes that life for ethnic minorities in Bhutan continues 
to be very difficult.  "They are in misery," he said. 
 
¶4. (C) Rizal alleged that ethnic Nepalis in Bhutan are 
discriminated against on many levels -- everything from 
purchasing bus tickets to qualifying for a bed in a hospital. 
 Rizal also claims that the Northern and Eastern Bhutanese 
resettled by the RGOB in southern Bhutan force the ethnic 
Nepalis to work in fields, in some cases the same fields the 
Nepalis had formerly owned.  He explained that there is a 
system in Bhutan whereby all residents are required to 
provide free labor to the government, but in practice only 
the ethnic minorities are expected to fulfill this 
requirement.  As a result, Rizal said, even U.N. development 
programs have used this so-called free labor to dig 
irrigation ditches and break rocks for construction of 
hospitals and schools.  He worried that this type of 
discrimination would continue to plague the refugees upon 
their return to Bhutan. 
 
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REFUGEES WORRY ABOUT PERSONAL SECURITY 
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¶5. (C) As a result, the refugees in the camps inside Nepal 
are extremely anxious about what type of treatment they will 
receive in Bhutan.  Gazmere asserted that the refugees are 
most concerned about personal security after returning to 
Bhutan, fearful that they would be subject to the same sort 
of violence and intimidation that drove them out of Bhutan 
thirteen years ago.  The refugees fear harassment by 
government authorities and security forces as well as 
victimization by the Indian militants now based in southern 
Bhutan.  Rizal noted that what used to be known as "No 
Objection Certificates" are now called "Security Clearance 
Certificates," adding that without these documents, ethnic 
Nepalis inside Bhutan are denied access to social services as 
well as citizenship status.  The Royal Government of Bhutan 
(RGOB) has not made it clear whether returning refugees would 
receive these certificates, he said.  Despite these concerns, 
however, Rizal had decided to encourage all Khudunabari Camp 
residents who are eligible for repatriation to return to 
Bhutan in February 2004. 
 
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THIRD-PARTY MONITORING ESSENTIAL 
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¶6. (C) Without third-party monitoring in southern Bhutan, 
Rizal argued, the RGOB would feel even freer to continue 
systematic ethnic discrimination.  Because of the alleged 
complicity or at least lack of interest of the UNDP and other 
UN agencies in this discrimination, Rizal and other refugees 
are opposed to those bodies providing oversight for the 
repatriation.  (FYI: These sentiments are supported by the 
UNICEF representative from Thimpu, who told UNHCR regional 
director Fakhouri that the RGOB had approached UNICEF to 
request its assistance in moving ethnic Nepalis from southern 
Bhutan into interim camps in other parts of the country. 
And, to UNHCR's chagrin, the UNICEF official at the time has 
seen nothing inappropriate about this proposal.  End FYI.) 
 
¶7. (C) The two Bhutanese interlocutors indicated that they 
had met with foreign diplomatic missions in New Delhi 
recently where they heard that the RGOB might consider 
allowing other agencies, such as ICRC, to provide third-party 
oversight.  Rizal holds ICRC in high regard and appreciates 
the effort it has made to protect ethnic Nepali prisoners 
inside Bhutan, but noted that protection of refugees is well 
beyond ICRC's mandate or abilities.  He also noted that the 
ICRC's charter includes a confidentiality clause that might 
prohibit it from divulging sensitive information.  Rizal said 
the refugees continue to hope that UNHCR will be able to 
provide third-party oversight for their repatriation.  He did 
not understand how Bhutan, as a U.N. member state, "was able 
to get away with" preventing UNHCR from fulfilling its lawful 
mandate for refugee protection.  If the UNHCR continues to be 
unacceptable to the RGOB, he said, the refugees would be 
willing to accept certain international NGOs, such as 
Lutheran World Federation, Oxfam and Caritas, who they regard 
as more sincere and dedicated to the refugees' cause. 
 
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MEETING WITH KING WOULD GO FAR TO ALLEVIATE REFUGEE CONCERNS 
--------------------------------------------- --------------- 
 
¶8. (C) Rizal was disappointed that the Bhutanese King had 
thus far declined to talk with the refugee leaders.  He 
believes that the two sides could reach an amicable 
understanding and build mutual trust through such a meeting. 
In concluding the visit, Rizal made a plea for financial 
assistance to enable the refugee group to continue -- and 
intensify -- its lobbying activities in Nepal and abroad. 
 
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COMMENT 
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¶9. (C) Rizal's willingness to encourage Khudunabari Camp 
refugees to return to Bhutan despite his fears and 
uncertainties about conditions may, at first glance, seem 
contradictory.  However, he might have calculated that the 
refugees will have more strength in numbers and determined 
that the first group from Khudunabari Camp will provide the 
litmus test for future repatriation.  Rizal's accounts of 
conditions inside Bhutan are certainly worrisome and 
underlines further the need for third-party monitoring, 
particularly by the UNHCR.  End Comment. 
 
 
MALINOWSKI