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Bhutanese Community

November 3, 2014

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to defame The Kingdom of Bhutan. All the facts are obtained from a local library exhibition and a little of Wikipedia lookup.

Nepal is not connected to Bhutan, between them is a small buffer region belonging to India. About two decades ago,  (1993, I think), Bhutan had valid reasons to kick out a fifth of its population who were Nepali Hindus. That one-fifth total to about 104,000 people who were suddenly left with nowhere to go but the forest of Nepal and eventually make-shift refugee camps (7 or eight of them in total) in Eastern Nepal.
nepal bhutan buffer
In the early 1990s, the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan wanted to impose the country dominant Buddhist culture. So a royal decree order all to wear Bhutanese dress of gowns and robes. And speak a common Bhutanese language, Dzongkha.  King Wangchuk said,

“…illegal migrations posed the greatest threat to Bhutan, a Buddhist country locked between China and India and dominated by an ethnic group known as the Drukpas. The Drukpas make up 70 percent of the population of 600,000, and are Buddhist. The Nepalese now number about 28 percent and are Hindus.”
— New York Times

The Bhutanese male dress

But The Western part of the country live many Hindus who prefers to be dressed as depicted below.

not wrong what

Hmmmh, I tried to think what it would be like if Singapore decided to oust 20% of its minority (be it religious, language or political, income-based or even fashion-wise).
Say, S’pore declares that if your CPF were below S$20,000 after 5 years, then you are probably some lazy Singaporeans and we cannot afford to keep you because of your laziness, you and your family must leave. Or you cannot wear purple jeans, or have too many tattoos, because those were “social outliers” equivalent to having kids who like to vandalize, we cannot tolerate such images, you have to leave.

What is more unbelievable was that this issue was never solved or no compromise was made for about 20 years.
UNHCR kept that in refugee camps in Nepal for about 20 years and then Nepal decided that 20 years is too long, these refugee have to leave.

So UNHCR seek the help of 8 countries (U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands) that would agree to take them. The United States took in 34,000 of them and agree to take in all the new refugee applicants which could total up to 50,000 in the future.

I do not know much about refugees and countries who created them and countries who accepted them.

Here are my immediate questions (some funny, some serious, most due to my ignorance)

1) Why didn’t India create refugee camps for these people when they flee? I read from my library that the process of fleeing is not just walking away or taking a bus, some involved noncompliance to be jailed or even tortured. The region of India surrounding Bhutan is bigger than Bhutan itself. Those area were mainly mountainous and even hiding is not allowed according to the Indian government.

2) Why did Nepal take them in the first place? Maybe these people who were escaping to Nepal were mainly of Nepali origin.

3) In a report, it was said that 2% (or about four thousand) of these refugee are Christians. So even though they are non-Hindus, they are not spared?
Is it because these Christians also refuse to wear that “Bhutanese costumes”? Or learn Bhutanese (language) in school? I do not know how Indonesia or Thailand did it, but they don’t seem to have a problem enforcing 1 common language.

4) Of those thirty-four thousand refugees, some were in Erie, and ironically, some were Buddhist and one of them was even a Buddhist lama.

5) I attended the Bhutanese culture program featured in Wilson Middle School (6 blocks from my house) and all I saw were as far as my ears can understand “indian songs, Indian music and Indian dance”. It seemed the people learned a lot of Bollywood culture whilst in Nepali refugee camps.

6) Isn’t Bhutan the country that price “happiness” higher that GDP?  Doesn’t the king’s religion advocate compassion and tolerance?

7) If those refugees were mainly Nepali-Hindus^***, couldn’t Nepal absorb most of these refugees into their country? If Eastern Ukrainian ran over to Russia as refugees, Russia would embrace them. if Malays in Singapore stayed in JB as refugees for 20 years, Malaysian will not ask UN to ask them to be driven to America and Europe.  (You will begin to see how naive I am.)

The above questions were all my naivety. Even if I befriend a “Bhutanese Nepali refugee” here, they will not answer me because they were all very polite people who don’t talk and make claims like I do.

*** this is a silly note for the ignorant: Even though the Buddha was born in Lumbini in Nepal, Nepali were mainly Hindus (and lots of Gurkhas!)

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