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Writer: Bhutanese ‘third country resettlement’ sets a bad precedent

Posted by Ann Corcoran on January 8, 2013

Joseph Mathew (or is it Mathew Joseph?) writing at the International Business Times has penned an interesting article giving us the background on why the people of Nepali origin were expelled from Bhutan which led to the US (under the Bush Administration and continuing into today) taking tens of thousands of those expelled people to America over the last five years.  Here is just one recent post about Bhutanese/Nepali people coming here en masse.

Below are my excerpts from the article by Mr. Mathew:

The long pending issue of the repatriation of Bhutanese refugees of Nepali origin, who were housed in the UNHCR-sponsored refugee camps in the eastern Nepal districts of Morang and Jhapa since early 1990s, was “resolved” to many by the Third Country Resettlement proposal put forth and being carried out by countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and the Netherlands. As of now, a sizable section of the refugees have been resettled in these countries, with a majority of them now living in the United States.

These Bhutanese refugees of Nepali origin were expelled from Bhutan in the early 1990s as a result of the state sponsored Bhutanization drive epitomized in the promulgation of “Driglam Nam Za” (code of social etiquette) in 1989, which stipulated strict controls over the people of Nepali origin who inhabited the southern districts of Bhutan.

The author explains that the ruling class in Bhutan feared the growth of the population of people of Nepali origin.

A growth in the number of the people of Nepali origin and their cultural distinctiveness from the ruling elite became a cause of worry for them. The heightened political consciousness among the people of Nepali origin compounded the fears of the Ngalong ruling elite.

Several times Mr. Mathew implies that the ruling class fears of being eventually taken over demographically by the Nepali people and losing control of their government was an irrational fear.  I do remember when I first wrote about the Bhutanese years ago that there was mention of the Maoists agitating within this expelled population.  I don’t know if that is so, but that might have been behind some of the intransigence of Bhutan’s government.  Yes, I found it! here is the news story that reported Maoists in the camps.

Mathew continues:

In the last 20 years, Bhutan has undergone many changes including transforming herself from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy and became a “democracy” from above. However, while undergoing these changes Bhutan has not changed a bit her policy towards the repatriation of the refugee population located in the UNHCR camps in eastern Nepal. On the contrary, it has created many hurdles in the process of resolving the refugee problem amicably despite the efforts of Nepal.

Frankly folks,  I have never understood why Nepal didn’t want its own ethnic people back!

So why did the US get into this squabble?

I have no answer to that.  Discerning readers at this point are likely asking—why is it the business of the US to resolve a dispute involving Bhutan and Nepal and to a lesser degree India?  Why is this in our national interest?

The only answer I have is this—that open-borders agitators wanted more immigrants, more Democrat voters, more people in need of Social Services, more cheap (captive because they can’t go home!) laborers in meatpacking plants and other low-wage industries.

And, then writer Mathew brings up the downside of this wholesale dispersal of a population to the four winds.  He notes that with this UN push to resolve the issue, we helped let Bhutan, Nepal and India get off the hook.  Consequently they didn’t have to come up with a solution that might have led to repatriation (or their resettlement in their original home country of Nepal!).

The diplomatic deadlock between Nepal and Bhutan and India’s non-involvement in resolving the problem created the opportunity for the international community to step in. The context of the proposal of the Third Country Resettlement is that. The proposal for Third Country Resettlement came as a blessing in disguise for Bhutan, Nepal and India as it will definitely ‘resolve’ the refugee problem without affecting their interests and concerns. For many refugees, mainly young people, it offered new opportunity in rebuilding their lives, though the older lot among them was not in agreement with this thinking. The socio-psychological impact of the Third Country Resettlement on the Bhutanese refugees is something to be visible in the course of time.

We have already seen some of the psychological impact with the high suicide rate of Bhutanese here in the US.

The decision to move this entire “refugee” population and not resolve it between the countries involved will have “serious implications” for the future resolution of similar problems around the world:

The proposal for Third Country Resettlement in effect, in this particular case, turned out to be a rejection of the right of repatriation of the refugees. This is going to have serious implications for the resolution of various refugee issues pertaining to different regions of the world. International community, instead of making arrangements for Third Country Resettlement, must put pressure on the concerned parties to facilitate the process of repatriation for the resolution of refugee problems. As far as refugee problems are concerned, repatriation not Third Country Resettlement is the only meaningful solution. [Agreed!—ed]

3 Responses to “Writer: Bhutanese ‘third country resettlement’ sets a bad precedent”

  1. mjazzguitar said

    I guess we could take in all the descendants of the original palestinian refugees that the arabs and the palestinian authority don’t want, and call the problem “solved”.
    (I certainly hope not!)


    • Ann Corcoran said

      It’s a good point. The UN HAD to resolve this Bhutanese stalemate between Nepal and Bhutan and get these people moved out to third countries,but after, what? 60 years!, there is no hurry to move the Palestinians to third countries. Why didn’t we demand the right of return for the Bhutanese? Hmmmm!


  2. tomasrose said

    Remember when Bhutan was all the rage in the media because its leader declared that his subjects’ happiness was the most important goal a government could strive for? He replaced GDP with a measure called something like the Gross Domestic Happiness index. The admiring and credulous media no longer talks about the country as a model for others to follow.


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