Flirting with danger

Clear and present danger

Last month, on 17 February, at about 8:45 PM, a policeman was shot and severely injured when gunmen opened fire on the Rinchending check post. Moments later a bomb blast ripped through the check post.

The United Revolutionary Front of Bhutan, an armed outfit based in Nepal, has claimed responsibility for the attack. URFB is just one of the many Nepal-based organizations committed to spreading terror in Bhutan.

Last week, on 1 March, less than two weeks after the attack on the Rinchending check post, the prime minister announced that he is willing to repatriate bona fide Bhutanese living in the Nepal camps who fulfill required conditions.

I’m shocked. Our country was attacked barely two weeks ago. So we expect the government to be on a war footing – we expect them to hunt down the perpetrators and to hold them to full account; we expect them to demand answers from Nepal.

But what does the prime minister do? He flirts with the idea of repatriating the very people who are committed to attack and to spread terror in our country.

I’m shocked. And I told the media as much. Here’s my full interview with Bhutan Today:

Bhutan Today Prime Minister has said that the government might bring back (repatriate) some of the people living in camps in eastern Nepal if they fulfill the criteria agreed upon earlier by the governments of Bhutan and Nepal. What is your overall view on the issue?

Opposition Leader I don’t understand how the prime minister can even consider repatriation.

In 2001 the Bhutanese and Nepalese governments began a joint verification of the people in Khudunabari camp. That verification process came to an abrupt end after the Bhutanese team was attacked and beaten up violently in 2003, just before they completed the joint verification of the people in Khununabari camp. The joint verification process did not resume after that unfortunate incident. Therefore, I don’t see on what basis, on what criteria, the prime minister could even consider repatriating people.

Does PDP support repatriation?

No. Repatriation is no longer possible. Repatriation of some people was a genuine possibility 10 years ago, but even then, only if the verification process was honest and complete. That didn’t happen. Now it’s more than 20 years since people settled in the camps, plus most of them have opted to resettle in third countries. If repatriation was not possible 10 years ago, in spite of the best efforts of the governments of Bhutan and Nepal, I don’t see how the prime minister can even talk about it as a possibility now.

At a time when most of the camp people have accepted resettlement in third countries, some observers feel that the prime minister should not have spoken that the government “will bring” some of the people back as the PM’s speech might disturb the resettlement programme in third countries. Please comment.

I fail to see the logic in the prime minister’s statement. How can he commit to repatriate people if we now don’t have any basis of even identifying whether a person is a genuine Bhutanese or not.

What is the best solution according to you?

I am grateful for, and support resettlement in third countries, especially since the people in the camps themselves prefer to settle in third countries. In addition, I strongly support honest dialogue between the governments of Bhutan and Nepal to consider workable ways of bringing closure to this difficult problem.

Photo credit: BBS