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🇳🇵 Bhutan's forgotten people P1 | 101 East



In the early 1990s, Bhutanese of Nepali origin suddenly found themselves stripped of their citizenship. Bhutan enacted a royal decree of single national identity, forcing more than 100,000 ethnic Nepalese to leave. For the next two decades, they lived in refugee camps in eastern Nepal. Almost two decades later, Bhutan remains silent on their repatriation.

Filmmaker Subina Shrestha gives her view
Now the refugee camps are emptying with the majority of people resettled in the west. But some want to stay — clinging on to the hope of returning home, despite reports that Bhutan’s discriminatory policies have left a percentage of its population grossly unhappy.

Bhutan is known to many as the Last Shangri-la; the country of “Gross National Happiness”. But behind the façade of a peaceful nation is a state that forcefully drove out a sixth of its population — an act which has been described as a systematic “ethnic cleansing”.

Sabitra Bishwa is one of more than 100,000 Lhotsampas or Bhutanese of Nepalese origin, who found themselves stateless. In the 1980s, Bhutan introduced the policy of “one nation, one people” and alienated the Lhotsampa culture. This was followed by a revision of citizenship laws. Many Lhotsampas found they did not qualify and in the early 1990s, many were forced to leave, reaching the border with India.

But India’s government also rejected them, taking them to the border with Nepal. In the 22 years since, the refugees have been unable to return to Bhutan. Without India’s support, the Nepalese government has been unable to influence Bhutan.

In the first of two special programmes, “Bhutan’s forgotten people” follows Sabitra Bishwa and her family from a refugee camp in eastern Nepal to their departure for a new life in the US. Around them, the camp is emptying fast. Ninety thousand people have already left, leaving behind empty shacks and their abandoned dreams of returning home. It’s a difficult choice to make, and many are heartbroken.

In the camp is Sancho Hang Subba, who still dreams of returning to Bhutan. He is willing to wait in the hope that the country will open its doors for repatriation. Subba left when he was just a child and has no memory of Bhutan, but he is attached to his identity as a Bhutanese and does not want to exchange it for anything else.

Subba is supported by people like Dr. Bhampa Rai, another Bhutanese exile and a former royal surgeon. Dr. Rai says that Bhutan is a country of migrants and that the Lhotsampas or the Nepalese Bhutanese had started living in Bhutan long before the current royal dynasty started.

At the Bhutan-India border, a Lhotsampa still living in Bhutan is depressed about the state of the country and takes the risk to talk to us.

He says the country still discriminates against his community — far from the eyes of foreign observers. Large tracks of Southern Bhutan is off limits to foreigners. He says that land belonging to those who were chased away have been distributed to the majority Drukpas.

For refugees like Sabitra, relocating to the US is a relief. Her sister moved there one year ago and is keen to see her again and give a better future to her family.

From the camp, we follow Sabitra to Kathmandu where the refugees are given an orientation on air travel — from how to go through security to how to find your seat.

The films ends with Sabitra and her family boarding the plane, ready to start a new chapter in their lives in a new country, one that is completely foreign to them, and which we will explore in the show’s part two, beginning on May 29th, at 2230 GMT.

Is third country resettlement the best option for Bhutan’s refugees? Share your views @AJ101East #Bhutan’sRefugees

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25 comments

  1. Every country has a dark history… even though Bhutan may seem happy and peaceful, it is no exception. Fight among its own people has never been without any lasting consequences. I know my country has faults… but which country doesn’t? I just hope everything calms down and a solution is made, a solution acceptable both to the Nepalis and the Bhutanese, because deep down everyone is good at heart. And people shouldn’t hurt one another.

  2. We are treated badly in Nepal than in Bhutan. I never forget words ‘ Randi chhora ; give me your bags.

  3. A story is only complete when you hear it from both the ends.

  4. Why don't they settle in India or Nepal? Why the US?

  5. illegal immigrants who cant assimilate

  6. Bhutan is puppet state of India …..Iam Indian we will take Bhutan

  7. Who ever you are speaking behind the MASK, you truly making the mistakes because I'm one of the lotshampa where I never seen as you elaborating about. You may had have someone there who expressing the cost of the fled. If you talk about the senses, if hundreds of thousand having it, why someone don't. Are they really not concerning about the country. I wish you to be mindful and sees things around vividly.

  8. Sir my number call you 8630609695 job in India sellry 45000 ru

  9. The truth is they are making you feel sorry for them but the actual truth is they are really happy to go away from Bhutan cause they can stay in aboard country and make money. Many lotsampa are still here in Bhutan happy and living a successful life, a beautiful place called Darjeeling started having many Nepali to stay there they are greedy and power hungry. They wanted Darjeeling as a separate state and caused lot of problem. It’s better to get rid of them and not suffer huge consequences.

  10. Many Nepali refugees from Bhutan have settled in Cleveland, Ohio. They are the greatest and by far most humble people I have ever met.

  11. one sided story all lie😤

  12. Thanks to the UNO, other wise some countries will butcher their own citizens..my god

  13. why always ended in USA ? These peoples should just stay in India

  14. The greatest causes that lead us to conflicts are cultural, racial, and national identities.
    Beneath our skin is only one color, Red blood. Miraculous it can transfer each other.

  15. As a Nepalese i will never forget what you did to our nepalese people bhutan you will pay for it karma will strike you

  16. I spit on the face of every Bhotay. Our people are hard working and intelligent, bhotays got jealous and they kicked our people out. The bhotay kings's regime tortured, killed and raped our people. Soon the invasion of Bhutan will happen and we'll be enjoying bhotays being tortured and raped

  17. Before this documentary all I heard about Bhutan was a peace loving and environmentalist country which is good but the media should do their job and report the bad side as well.

  18. Migrated without identity, without citizen king, king, lama. lama, wrong bhutan, bhutan cancel, Reject, it is criminal. can not be protection people. tibet has without Govt send to bhutan to Tibet,—it is Himalayan GorkhaDesh.

  19. Area name made Nepal Nepali, who is criminal made in bhutan, people are Effective. without identity migration Tibet from the criminal in tibet, it is not Bhutan. need the area for the people progress . bhutan is illegal. need cancel. it is nepal to Burma –Himalayan GorkhaDesh.

  20. These rotten bastards are being imported into my state. They're hated for a reason.

  21. the US should do this

  22. Why to blame Bhutan government on responsibility for this immigrants who from Nepal and Bangladesh while their born governments ignored them

  23. I wonder how could Bhutan 🇧🇹 can survive by side the gian China 🇨🇳 with only 797,765 inhabitants of population

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