Call to involve India in refugee talks

Kathmandu, November 2:

A delegation of Bhutanese refugee leaders led by Thinley Penjore presented a memorandum to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs KP Oli today.

The memorandum called on Nepal and Bhutan to hold talks in New Delhi, “with the involvement of India in the process”, on the refugee crisis. Talking to the delegation at the Foreign Ministry, Oli said, “The refugee problem is a problem persisting between Bhutanese government and Bhutanese people.”

However, he assured the team that talks with Bhutan will be held in November.

In October, Bhutanese Prime Minister Khandu Wanchuk had proposed Thimpu as the venue for talks to the government.

Penjore, who is the chairman of the National Front for Democracy, said, “No results can be expected (on the refugee issue) if India is not involved in the talks.”

Pointing that the Bhutanese government had embraced the “process of democratic reform”, Penjore expressed hope that the u bilateral talks would be fruitful.

On the offer made by the United States for the resettlement of 60,000 Bhutanese refugees, he said they were ready to discuss the offer if the Nepal government directly raises the issue with them.

The memorandum further suggested that Nepal take up issues related to the refugees’ unassessed property in Bhutan and their right to compensation in the bilateral talks. The talks on the Bhutanese refugee issue are expected to be held this month.

The delegation demanded in its memorandum that those involved in raping refugees and torturing them be tried at the International Criminal Court.

Citing “insecurity” of its members, the Bhutanese Joint Verification Team had left Nepal in 2003.

The joint verification team had accused the refugees at the Khudunabari camp of pelting stones at them.

Over 1,06,000 refugees from Bhutan have been living in seven camps in eastern Nepal since the early 1990’s.