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

Cremations

Thimphu mourns

Thirty two people were cremated today. 18 of them were pilgrims who died in the recent plane crash in Nepal. The rest were from other parts of the country – they were bought to Thimphu when their families learnt that that His Majesty the King was personally supporting the cremations, and that His Holiness the Je Khenpo was presiding over the final rites.

Thousands of mourners, from all walks of life, gathered in Thimphu’s cremation grounds to stand by the bereaved families of the air crash victims. The outpouring of public support reconfirms how readily we are able, and willing, to come together, as one family, whenever we are faced with adversity.

But we are fortunate that we’ve been able to hold the cremations at all. The air crash, after all, occurred in the high mountains, in a foreign land, and barely five days ago. In most such cases it would be near impossible to bring home the remains of even one victim. Yet, in this case, every one of the bodies were retrieved from the crash site, transported to Katmandu, identified, embalmed and brought home, all in record time. And, given the circumstances, in a manner that caused as little suffering and grief as possible.

All this, and much more, was possible because His Majesty the King personally oversaw the relief work, and ensured that the victims and their families were given complete and unconditional support. The Gyalpoi Zimpoen’s office and government officials worked round the clock, in Nepal and at home, to make sure that the families of the victims would be able to provide funerals for their loved ones, at home, with dignity, and in accordance with our traditions and beliefs.

A terrible tragedy is coming to an end. But through it, I am reminded that we are indeed fortunate to be Bhutanese.

Tragic news

Tara Air's Twin Otter

Bhutan is in mourning.

Nepalese officials have confirmed that all 19 passengers and 3 crewmembers onboard the Twin Otter aircraft that crashed in eastern Nepal have died. The airplane, which crashed shortly after taking off from Lamidanda airport, was carrying 18 Bhutanese pilgrims. Our fellow citizens were returning to Kathmandu after visiting Maratika’s sacred caves.

A team from Bhutan, led by the Cabinet Secretary and two Zimpon Wongmas, are already in Nepal overseeing relief operations and providing support. The bodies of our pilgrims have been recovered and identified, and are expected to arrive in Paro tomorrow.

The Galpoi Zimpon’s office has established a Crisis Unit to provide support and respond to inquiries. The Unit can be contacted at 188 (hotline), 02-35589 and 1711-6667.

The Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs has also established a similar unit. They can be reached at 233 (hotline), 02-327098 and 1760-9591.

The tragedy has shocked our entire nation. And we are united in our grief. Together we offer our condolences and moral support, our thoughts and our prayers, to the families and friends of the victims of yesterday’s tragedy.

Photo credit: BBC

Impersonating OL

A friend of mine asked me to look at a certain Govinda Rizal’s blog. I did. And I was shocked. Mr Rizal claims that we had been in touch. And that I had written to him. I did no such thing. So someone has impersonated me.

I don’t see why anyone would want to pretend to be me. But I’m concerned that this may be an attempt to bring discredit to the opposition. And to defame me.