Sunday, December 23, 2007
Bhutan: Bhutan jails 30 'Maoists'
Bhutan has sent over two dozen people of Nepali origin to prison on the allegation that they were Maoists planning to launch an armed insurgency movement like in Nepal, a report said.Thirty people, said to be supporters of the Communist party of Bhutan-Marxist-Leninist-Maoist, received a nine-year sentence each, Bhutan's official daily Kuensel reported Saturday.Two of the 30 arrested are high school students. The group is alleged to have stayed in the refugee camps in eastern Nepal, where over 100,000 Bhutanese of Nepali origin have been languishing for 17 years after being evicted by the Bhutan government, and been trained in Maoist revolutionary philosophy there.With Bhutan facing an election, the government has begun a fresh crackdown on people of Nepali origin, suspecting them of being a threat to national security.The government media says Maoists have been holding frequent secret meetings in Bhutan to trigger an anti-monarchy movement there, and have been harassing residents for food and money.Kuensel said two women from the refugee camps in Nepal went to a village in India's Jalpaiguri town, where they gave training to over a dozen people.Bhutan's security agencies are alleging that the exiled Bhutan Communist Party has links with Nepal's Maoist guerrillas, who fought a decade-old war against monarchy before declaring a truce last year. It has been trying to start an armed insurrection in Bhutan again, security agencies say.The report blames an organisation, Bhutan Tiger Force, for an explosion in the capital Thimpu, alleging the BTF is close to the Maoists.The state media said that the police have confiscated Maoist literature and pamphlets from the arrested people.However, the evicted refugees who have been living in seven closed camps in eastern Nepal deny the allegations, calling it a ploy to block their repatriation.'These are baseless allegations intended to prevent us from returning home,' Bhutanese refugee leader Balaram Poudel said.Poudel and other senior refugee leaders have been trying in the past to stage 'Long Marches' back to Bhutan, but were thwarted by the Indian police guarding the strip of Indian land they have to cross to enter Bhutan.Over 108,000 refugees have been living in Nepal's tea garden districts of Jhapa and Morang for 17 years, hoping they would be able to return home one day.However, hopes started fading after several rounds of repatriation talks between Nepal and Bhutan failed.This year, the US offered to resettle the refugees in American cities and villages and the first resettlement is expected in January.Refugees like Poudel, who want to return to Bhutan, fear once third country resettlement starts, the lessening numbers of refugees in Nepal would ease the pressure on Bhutan to take the remaining numbers back.They also fear that if Bhutan thinks it can get away with the evictions, it will force more ethnic Nepalese to leave the kingdom.