Bhutanese diaspora calls to rescind award to former Bhutanese Home Minister on charge of human rights violation

Dago Tshering, former Home Minister of Bhutan, has been accused of being a primary perpetrator responsible for atrocities and abuse of human rights and forcible eviction of tens of thousands of Bhutanese in the 1990s

Former Home Minister of Bhutan, Dago Tshering. (Photo: Bhutan Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

NL Today

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Kathmandu: The Global Bhutanese Campaign Coordination Committee for Japan Campaign 2021 (GBCCC-JC 2021) has drawn the attention of the Japanese government over an award to former Home Minister of Bhutan, Dago Tshering, accused of atrocities and abuse of human rights in Bhutan.

The government of Japan on April 29 had conferred “The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star” upon Tshering who is also the former Ambassador of Bhutan to Japan ‘in recognition of his contributions to strengthening the friendship between Japan and Bhutan.’

The campaign has accused Tshering as a primary perpetrator responsible for atrocities and abuse of human rights in Bhutan and forcible eviction of tens and thousands of southern and eastern Bhutanese in the 1990s.

“The decision of the Japanese government to award Dago Tshering, a primary perpetrator of human rights violations and voice of democracy in Bhutan during the 1990s has come to us with surprise, pain and shock,” reads a press statement by the committee.

The campaign has further urged the government and people of Japan to review its decision and withdraw the award conferred on Tshering. It has also launched an online petition to ‘voice their concern to the Japanese government’

What’s in the letter?

In a letter sent to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on June 24, the Global Bhutanese Campaign Coordination Committee for Japan Campaign has called upon the Japanese government to use wise counsel to review the decision and rescind the award from Dago Tshering.

“As the Home Minister, Dago Tshering exercised enormous power and authority, next only to the King. He misused his powers to silence and repress people often with no restraint or control. As the Japanese government proceeds to finally bestow the award to the perpetrator of human rights abuses, we sincerely urge your government to extricate itself from this commitment and withdraw the award,” reads the letter.

Why Dago Tshering is a controversial figure?

Tshering is a controversial figure who served as the Minister of Home Affairs of Bhutan from 1991 to 1998 and as an Ambassador of Bhutan to Japan from 1999 to 2008. He is accused of executing a military crackdown on the peaceful activists of the pro-democracy and human rights movement in 1990, which forced a sixth of Bhutan’s population to flee the country and take refuge elsewhere.

He had issued directives revoking the citizenship of thousands of southern Bhutanese citizens and their families who fled the country amidst ‘widespread state persecution’. The directive was the basis of the expulsion of over 130,000 Bhutanese citizens.

Former Bhutanese Home Minister Dago Tshering had issued directives revoking the citizenship of thousands of southern Bhutanese citizens and their families who fled the country amidst ‘widespread state persecution’.

Following the expulsion, thousands of Nepali-speaking Bhutanese citizens were rendered homeless. Over 1,00,000 of them lived in refugee camps in Jhapa. According to ReliefWeb, a humanitarian information portal, around 110,000 refugees have been resettled to various countries under the third country resettlement programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR). Around 6,500 Bhutanese refugees are still living in Nepal and most of them want to return to Bhutan. 

Support in Nepal 

Intellectuals in Nepal have supported the demand of the Global Bhutanese Campaign Coordination Committee for Japan Campaign 2021. Signing the online petition, senior journalist and writer Kanak Mani Dixit, appealed to all to sign #NoAwardtoDagoTshering petition. “We lobbied for third-country settlement for Bhutanese refugees for humanity’s sake, and also hoping that the camp youngsters would grow to committed adults who demand accountability. It seems to be happening.” he wrote on Twitter

“It is good to see them demanding accountability,” Dixit told Nepal Live Today. “They are reminding the world what Bhutan did by depopulating one-seventh percent of its population,” he said, adding “for nearly two decades they were the most ignored refugees.” 

“Few people outside Bhutan & Nepal know the massive ethnic cleansing that occurred there in the early 1990s. It’s a pity Japan was unaware,” rejoined Kul Chandra Gautam, Former UN Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF on Twitter. 

“Let us strongly support Bhutanese diaspora,” wrote Jainendra Jivan on Twitter.

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