Bhutanese Refugee

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Bhutanese Refugee

The ethnic Nepalese population consisting of Kirat, Hindu, Tamang, Gurung etc., had been living in Southern Bhutan since the nineteenth century. These people are called Lhotsampa or the Southern people by the Druks. They were the descendants of economic migrants who had initially found refuge in Southern Bhutan.

The problems started in 1980s when the Government of Bhutan discovered in a census that the Druk population were slightly larger than the Lhotsampa population and that the population growth rate of Lhotsampa was greater than that of Druks. This was perceived as a threat by the autocratic Government. Hence, in 1985, the Government passed a new Citizenship Act which prevented many of the Lhotsampa from being recognized as Bhutanese nationals. To reinforce this movement, the Government forced the use of the Bhutanese national dress and etiquette.

People from the Royal Advisory Council such as Tek Nath Rizal, a Lhotsampa, a trusted official who acted as a chief link between the Government and the Nepalese population in the south was also imprisoned as one of the chief instigators of the racial riots in Southern Bhutan. In 1998 after being granted a Royal Pardon, he left for Nepal to form the "People's Forum for Human Rights".

Most of the refugees were taken up by Nepal which currently has about 103,000 Bhutanese refugees according to UNHCR.

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