On 1 January 2008,
But the challenges of the new democratic regime in Thimphu, the capital city of
The Bhutanese refugees (mostly Nepali-speaking) are taking shelter in western
The chief election commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi called a successful attempt to transform their kingdom to a democracy.
The security was a major concern for the kingdom during the polls. The
Currently there are two political parties in the fray. The People's Democratic Party, headed by the former agriculture minister, Sangay Ngedup, and the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, led by the former home minister, Jigmi Y Thinley.
Significant enough, the offer of transformation from monarchy to democracy came form the Dragon King Jigme Singye Wangchuk himself and that too not because of any popular uprising.
After the general election paves way for an elected Prime Minister (with a council of ministers) in 2008, the
"But the new Druk democracy will find it difficult to resolve the 100,000 Bhutanese refugees issue, who have been denied to access the poll process," argued a
Even the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres admitted that 'it was difficult to see any immediate solution' to the Bhutanese refugee issue. The UNHCR Representative in Nepal said that 'UNHCR prefers to help refugees go back to their home countries when they can do so in safety and dignity, however, in this case, the only option currently available is that for resettlement in a third country for those refugees who wish to make this choice'.
Suhas Chakma, the Director of the Asian Human Rights Centre, stressed that the international community must be mindful of the implications of any resettlement process without any written commitment from
Kuldeep Nayar, a senior Indian journalist expressed his concern over the apathy towards the Bhutanese refugees. He had a word for the King of Bhutan: 'he is really taking honest steps for a democratic system in Bhutan, he should call all those citizens of Bhutan who are staying in refugee camps since last 17 years, back to the country before the scheduled election in 2008'.
In a time, when the international communities are crying against the tyrannical rule under the present regimes in Burma, Pakistan and the pro-democratic activists have stepped up their voices in Thailand, Nepal, Tibet and also in Bangladesh, the development in Bhutan came as a positive reassurance for various democratic organizations and political analysts of the globe.
(Nava Thakuria is a senior journalist based in Assam,
The Seoul Times, South Korea (7 January 2008)
Scoop Independent News, New Zealand (9 January 2008)
Central Chronicle, Madhya Pradesh, India (11 January 2008)