Under the British influence a monarchy was set up in 1907; three years
later a treaty was signed whereby the country became a British protectorate.
Independence was attained in 1949, with India subsequently guiding foreign
relations and providing aid.
Bhutan is located in the eastern Himalayas bordered by India in the south,
east and west and by the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China in the north.
It is a land-locked country having an area of 46,500 Sq. Km. between latitudes
26 45 0 North and 28 10 0 North and between longitudes 88 45 0 east and
92 10 0 east. At its longest east-west dimension, Bhutan stretches around
300 kilometres and it measures 170 kilometre at its maximum north-south
DEMOGRAPHY AND POPULATION
Bhutan does not have any indigenous group. It is a nation of immigrants
and a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-linguistic society. There
are three main ethnic, religious and linguistic groups and a dozen smaller
The Ngalung often called Drukpas are the ruling group who
control the monarchy and the government and dominate the economy. King
and all the high Government Officials belong to this politically and economically
dominant ethnic group. They live in the north-western region, speak Dzonkha
language and wear robe like dresses. They migrated from Tibet. They are
called Drukpas as they follow the Drukpa Kargyupa school of Mahayana Buddhism.
The second ethnic group is called Sharchop, who inhabit in eastern and
central region and practice Nyingmapa sect of Mahayana Buddhism and belong
to Tibeto-Burman ancestry. They speak Tsangla, Kurteop, Kheng and Brokpa
dialects. They were supposedly migrated from North-east India.
The third ethnic group is called Lhotshampas ( meaning Southern Bhutanese)
live in six southern foothill districts, speak Nepali language, practice
mostly Hinduism and migrated from Nepal, Darjeeling and Sikkim in India.
All three ethnic groups migrated to Bhutan at different points of time
in history, but before the exodus of British from India in 1947. There
are other minority ethnic groups having their own distinct characteristics
in terms of language, culture, religious practices etc. They are Tibetans,
Doyas, Khengs, Adivashis, Brokpas Mangdepas and Kurteopas. In terms of
religion and faith, Bhutanese people practise Hinduism, Christianity,
Drukpa Kargyupa and Nyingmapa sects of Buddhism and Animism.
Each ethnic group of Bhutan have lived clustered together in separate
regions. For example, the Nepali-speaking Lhotshampas lived in southern
foothills, the Sharchops lived in eastern region and the Ngalungs lived
in north-western regions. In Bhutan the census record is maintained in
the district of origin, even though they are living in different parts
like capital Thimphu
The government of Bhutan does not disclose the exact number of population.
It has been a guarded secret. In the eighties the government put the figure
at 1,165,800 and even increased to 1.4 million. The reason and the need
for this inflated figure could not be ascertained. However, due to external
pressure and after the dissident groups published the population figure
at between 600,000 to 700,00, the king of Bhutan admitted in 1991 that
the real number was just about 600,000.
In 1999, Bhutans population was 657,548 according to the Planning
Commission of the Royal Government of Bhutan. There are 125,000 Bhutanese
refugees living in Nepal and India. Out of which around 105,000 are living
in Nepal and another 20,000 in India.. Thus, the total population of Bhutan
was estimated at 782,548 ( 657,548 + 125,000). The world Banks population
figure for the year 2000 was 782,000. Bhutan is administratively divided
into western, central, eastern and southern regions. Kings religion
-Drukpa Kargyupa Buddhism is the state religion. Kings language
Dzonkha is the national language. The following unofficial demographic
statistics have been derived by a complex system based on Government statistics,
population figures of 1980 and 2000, UN, World Bank and other international
sources. The following figures include the refugee population, about 125,000
living in refugee camps in Nepal, other parts of Nepal and India.
SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE
With the support
of British Empire, monarchy was established in 1907. Since then, Bhutan
is ruled by an absolute hereditary monarch since 1907. There is no Constitution
or the Bill of Rights in Bhutan. The system of governance is practically
autocratic, primitive, despotic and feudal. The King is the head of the
state, government and the highest court of appeal. In the absence of the
Constitution or clearly defined powers of the government., the executive,
judiciary and the legislature function as a single administrative structure
under the command of the King. There is a Council of Minister under the
chairmanship of the king.
The High Court in
Thimphu known as Royal Court of Justice is the country's supreme court
was set up in 1968. It comprises of six judges. The district courts have a lone district judge.
The judiciary is not independent of the king and neither is it impartial
or neutral. Since, it functions under the command of the king, the King
exercises strong, active and direct power over the judiciary. The Government
significantly restricts the rights of Bhutanese citizens and the judiciary
has never protected these rights. The judiciary is also never known to
declare any government action unlawful. Provisions for defence attorneys,
lawyers, solicitors and jury trials are non existent. No Judicial official
including the Chief Justice is trained in law. The current judges do not
possess any university degree. In fact an important institution like the
judiciary has been made a dumping ground for inefficient and unwanted
civil servants. Arbitrary arrest and detention is the rule rather than
exception. Royal Bhutan Police has never seen an arrest warrant. Bhutan
has the most outdated, unprofessional and unlawful prosecution and trial
system. The government restricts citizens right to a fair trial.
In contravention to all established jurisprudence and international legal
norms, the judges in Bhutan investigate cases, file charges, prosecute
and even award judgment. The hearing judge assists the police from the
executive branch of the government in the prosecution and decides the
cases. The entire basis of the judicial system is extraction of the confession
of the crime.
The National Assembly of Bhutan ( a unicameral house ) is called Tshogdu.
It consists of 150 members. 100 seats are filled up by the so-called representative
of people, selected by the King appointed Dzongda (Chief District Officer).
The Chief District Officer is the final authority to decide on the person
to be selected. Forty members are appointed by the King from among the
bureaucracy and ten members are nominated by the Buddhist clergy. There
is no fair representation to the National Assembly. It is a rubber-stamp
of the executive and its deliberations are all engineered by the Government.
There is only Treasury bench.
The king and his Council of Ministers is
the single source of law. Members of national Parliament -- the National
Assembly (NA)-- themselves cannot pass any legislation. They do not belong
to any political party, since political parties and human rights organisations
are banned in Bhutan. The Council of Ministers sends all legislation to
the National Assembly for approval and enactment. The NA just approves
them and all legislation passed by the NA is sent to the King, who has
the power to veto any legislation. NA has been relegated to the institution
of eulogizing the magnanimity of the king, paying adulatory and flattering
tributes to him and legitimising government action. NA members are indoctrinated
to deliberate on pre-decided agenda set by the government. Laws in Bhutan
have no respect at all for individual rights and civil liberties. Citizens
including members of NA lose their nationality if they criticize the King
and his government. The king and his government are above law and supreme
in the legal system.
Bhutans foreign policy is guide by India under Article 2 of the
Indo-Bhutan Treaty, 1949. India has been the largest foreign aid provider
and trading partner. Bhutan has diplomatic relations with India, Nepal,
Pakistan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden,
EEC, Norway, Netherlands, Kuwait, Japan, Finland, South Korea, Austria,
Thailand, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Singapore and Macaw. It does not have diplomatic
relations with the nest door neighbour China and USA.
residential diplomatic missions are located in New Delhi, UN Headquarters,
New York, UN Offices Geneva, Kuwait city, Bangkok, Colombo and Dhaka.
India and Bangladesh have their embassies in Thimphu. The Austrian Cooperation
Bureau, Canadian Co-opeartion Offive, GTZ, SNV Netherlands, DANIDA, HELVETAS,
UNDP, UNICEF, FAO, WFP and WHO maintain their resident representatives
was admitted to the United Nations in 1971. Bhutan is a member of. Colombo
Plan, UPU, UNCTAD, ESCAP, NAM, IFAD, IMF, IBRD, IDA, FAO, WHO, UNESCO,
ADB, UNIDO, ITU, ECOSOC in 1992. The United Nations Development Programme
(UNDP) opened its office in Thimphu in 1979.
Bhutan's literacy level is lowest in South Asia, around 42%. There are
less than 3,000 graduates in all streams together (arts, science, commerce,
engineering and medicine together). Less than 40 people hold Master degrees.
As a Least developed country Bhutan depends on foreign aids for financing
its developmental programmes and establishment costs. India is the largest
donor to Bhutan. Other donor countries to Bhutan include Australia, Austria,
Finland, Denmark, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Canada, Switzerland, Germany,
Italy, New Zealand, Sweden, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom and the
HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION
Bhutan is a closed society, where the Government of Bhutan virtually controls
everything. Politics and discussion about country's politics is banned.
Even viewing of television was prohibited until 1999. There is no newspaper
except one weekly bulletin owned by the government and the transparency
on the government action is non-existent. The radio, Bhutan Broadcasting
Service and newly established Television station are owned by the government.
These agencies are used for propaganda of the government. They publish
and broadcast only what the government wants the people to read, hear
There is no official guarantee for the protection of citizens' human rights.
The Bhutanese people are not secure and do not enjoy even the basic human
rights. Dissidence and opposition to the Government is treated as treason.
Bhutanese people have been absolutely denied of their fundamental human
rights and they have no Right to Freedom of speech, expression, press
and publication; no right to peaceful assembly and union; no right to
choose and oppose the government; no right to vote and elections; no right
to freedom of religion, worship, observe and practise their religion in
community, in public, or even in private; no right to form unions, associations,
organisations, NGOs and political parties; no right to social and cultural
rights. Bhutanese refugees have no right to return to their country. Bhutan.
Bhutan Government has violated 20 Articles out of the thirty Articles
enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It has not signed
major International Instruments on Human Rights, such as the Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights and Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights. Christianity is banned in Bhutan
Eviction: More than seventy percent of refugees falling under
category two were forcefully evicted by the Bhutanese government through
barbaric and brutal physical measures, contrary to its claim of them
seeking voluntary emigration. A government circular issued by the then
Deputy Home Minister Dago Tshering on 17-8-90 is an un-refutable
documentary testimony and evidence of Lhotshampas being forcefully evicted
from Bhutan. The circular addressed to all District Administrators of
Southern districts reads thus, ".. a large number of southern
Bhutanese (Nepali-speaking) people have left the country to join forces
with the Ngolops… (dissidents - pro human rights activists)…
that any Bhutanese national leaving the country to assist the
anti-nationals shall no longer be considered as a Bhutanese citizen…
that such peoples' family members living under the same household will
also be held fully responsible and forfeit their citizenship”. 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.
The governments of Bhutan and Nepal after a protracted negotiations
held since 1993 have finally agreed to form a Joint Verification Team (JVT)
to determine the status of Bhutanese refugees. The JVT has started its
work of interviewing Bhutanese refugees since 16 March 2001. The JVT has
selected Khudunabari camp to start with. This camp has 12,447 refugees.
verification of refugees living in Khudunabari undertaken by the
Nepal-Bhutan Joint Verification Team was completed on December 14,
2001 according to the office of the Joint Verification Team (JVT).
Khudunabari is the smallest of seven refugee camps. It has 12,447
refugees with 1,963 families. The verification of refugees was started
on march 26, 2001. The JVT has completed verification of 12,090
refugees from 1,935 families. The JVT took 264 days (153 working
days) to complete Khudunabari camp.
In view of the current slow pace of JVT, it
will take more than 5 years from now to complete the interview of
refugees. However, actual repatriation even after completion of interview
in next 5 years will be a distant dream for refugees. It is very
hard to believe that such slow process will be able solve the
refugee problem and their repatriation to Bhutan. It still is a grim
situation. Women and children constitute nearly 49 and 40
percent of the total Bhutanese refugee population respectively.
eleventh round of Nepal Bhutan Joint Ministerial Level Committee Talk on
the resolution of Bhutanese refugee issue held in the Bhutanese capital
Thimphu held on August 20-23, 2001 could not make tangible
progress on the need of speeding up the verification process.
Almost five months
elapsed after the completion of verification process in Khudunabari
camp on December 14, 2001. The Bhutanese
team went back. There is no progress in the verification process. The
bilateral talk on refugee has come to a deadlock again. Without
international intervention, Bhutan will not willingly come to the
negotiating table. Bhutan’s intransigence has made the life of its
over 120,000 citizens refugees miserable. A decade old refugee problem
cannot be resolved with out direct international intervention.
full account of Bhutanese refugees please visit the following website: