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Forced Eviction of Nepali-speaking citizens in Bhutan

 On 17 August, 1990 the Home Minster Dago Tshering issued a Government notification addressed to the Dzongdas (Chief District Officers) of six districts in southern Bhutan stating that " It has come to the government's notice that a large number of Southern Bhutanese people have left the country to join forces with the Ngolops (government declared the dissidents as Ngolops meaning anti-national). You are hereby instructed to immediately inform all the Gups (Village headmen), DYT (District development Committee) members and the general public in your dzonkhag (district) that any Bhutanese national leaving the country to assist and help the anti-nationals shall no longer be considered as a Bhutanese citizen. It must also be made very clear that such people's family living under the same household will also be held fully responsible and forfeit their citizenship". As a result of this government notification, more than 120,000 Lhotshampas were systematically evicted. This notification is the living testimony and evidence that the Lhotshampas were forcefully evicted.


The army, militia and the police were mobilised under him to forcefully evict the Lhotshampas. The citizenship cards of many fleeing Lhotshampas were confiscated by the government officials, though majority of them possess other documentary evidence of their origin to Bhutan. Amnesty International, London in its report clearly establishes that " under 1985 Citizenship Act, tens of thousands were declared to be illegal and forcibly evicted from Bhutan. Others fled in the face of officially sanctioned pressures.. arbitrary arrests, beating, rape, robberies and other forms of intimidation by police and army."


The government ordered demolishing and burning down of Lhotshampas' houses. Bhutan's barbaric act could not be more different from Yugoslavian president Slodoban Milosevich or Chile's ex-president Augusto Pinochet's acts.


In its report, 'Bhutan : Forcible Exile' published in August, 1994, Amnesty International believes that many people in the (refugee) camps in Nepal have been forced out of Bhutan as a result of measures taken by the Bhutanese authorities. Even the high level investigation team constituted by the king to look into the allegations of force eviction led by Home Minister, Dago Tshering reported that senior government officials in Chirang District intimidated two families to forced eviction.


Extreme racial discrimination including rape, torture, indiscriminate arrests, custodial deaths and eviction of Lhotshampas began after the peaceful protests against the forceful assimilation policies of 1985 and is continuing till today. According to the report of International Movement Against Discrimination And Racism, Japan, "A confidential survey carried out by a consultant to an international refugee agency found that most torture took place in 1990 and 1991, following the increase in demonstrations in September, 1990. Following the peaceful protests, demonstrators and members of their families were violently punished for their direct or indirect involvement in the protests. According to the study, repression in the form of rape did not abate until 1993".


The government planned a number of strategy to forcefully evict the Lhotshampas from Southern Bhutan. Firstly, through government created reign of terror. The state empowered the security forces to deal with the dissidents and their sympathisers. Mass arrests of innocent villagers, torture and death in police custody, rape, loot, plunder, threat to life of Lhotshampas by the security forces compelled the innocent Lhotshampa folks to flee Bhutan. Many families had to leave Bhutan to save the honour of their women folks from the brutality of security forces. The government conducted frequent population census of southern Bhutan to assess the targeted numbers of those fleeing Bhutan.

Second strategy was to seek a legislative mandate from the Drukpa dominated National Assembly to evict everyone related to or associated with the on-going peaceful human rights and democratic movement along with entire family, even though many of the family members did not participate in the peaceful demonstrations.


Thirdly, the security forces verbally threatened the Lhotshampa villagers either to leave the country by selling their properties or face the threat of imprisonment, death and continued harassment and humiliation. The fear-ridden folks had no choice but to sell their properties at throw-away prices to the government officers, their relatives and other Drukpas and apply for out-migration from the country. Their photographs and video films were taken as a proof of their being voluntary migrating. The government has classified them as 'voluntary migrants'. More than fifty percent of refugee camps inmates do fall in this category. Hence, the government's insistence on classifying them as 'voluntary migrants' not entitled to return, even if the refugee problem is resolved. Migrants are not entitled to return the country as per the existing laws of Bhutan.


Bhutan stepped out of her isolation late in sixties. Because of low rate of literacy, lack of information and communications with outside world (due to absence of frequent exchange of ideas, and television etc.), absence of freedom of expression, press and publications, it was only natural that majority of Bhutanese, by and large remained under-informed. There is not private intelligentsia in Bhutan. Most of the students who studied in Indian schools and colleges under the Government of India scholarship were all employed in the government services. So, the government bureaucracy was and still is the most dominant intelligentsia in Bhutan.


Mr.  Tek Nath Rizal was a civil servant. The  Nepali-speaking officials in the civil services drafted the petition submitted to the king by Mr. Rizal. Even the protest demonstration and human rights rallies were organised in southern Bhutan by the former civil servants  of Bhutan. Mr. R. K. Budathoki, the President of Bhutan People Party which organised the demonstrations in September-October, 1990 was a former Assistant Director in the Department of Revenue and Customs


In May 1991, six top bureaucrats resigned from their civil service posts in protest against the abuses of human rights by the government and defected to Nepal. They were Bhim Subba, the then newly promoted Director General of Power Department, R. B. Basnet, Managing Director of State Trading Corporation of Bhutan, Rakesh Chhetri, Assistant Managing Director of State Trading Corporation of Bhutan, D. P. Basnet, Joint Director, Department of Trade and Commerce, Mandhoj Tamang, Deputy Director of Planning Commission and Mrs. Usha Tamang, Assistant Director of Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan defected to Nepal and applied for political asylum in Nepal, which was granted by the Government of Nepal. They are now in the leadership of the movement. Rakesh Chhetri and Bhim Subba head two human rights organisations, CEMARD and HUROB, respectively, while R. B. Basnet is the President of Bhutan National Democratic Party After their defection, other bureaucrats followed.  Please click on Resignation letter to view it


Had the government of Bhutan read the writing on the walls and taken a rational approach to settle and diffuse the political problems, instead of declaring its citizens of southern districts as 'illegal immigrants' and 'anti-national' for opposing the violation of their fundamental human rights, i.e., the right to nationality, even with hindsight,. the peace and tranquillity of the country would have never been disturbed. This problem of small dimension has now engulfed the entire country and has taken the shape of present form of movement. The government itself is to blame for creating the problems.


Mass expulsion started in 1991 when the government resorted to forced evictions intimidating the innocent villagers into signing "voluntary migration forms" under torture and threat of life imprisonment. Now the majority of the refugees in the camps in Nepal fall under this category.


Continued: Please click on Myth of Voluntary Migration  for continuity of the events.

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