Hague: Rinzin Wangdi was 30 years old when he was arrested on 25 June 1999 for being a part of the pro-democracy movement spearheaded by the exile-based Druk National Congress in eastern Bhutan in 1997.
Initially, he was sentenced to 25 years and three months imprisonment but later seven years and three months were added as punishment for being in contact with another dissent prisoner. Rinzin was shifted to a prison in Mongar from Chemgang Central Prison in 2012 and is currently serving his sentence at Mongar prison.
During the political uprising in eastern Bhutan in 1997 at his village Dramatse, in Mongar, his family members were forcefully exiled. His father, Sangay Dorji, was arrested for participating in a peaceful demonstration, and his father was released only in 2005 after serving an eight-year sentence. His mother and sister are in a refugee camp at Beldangi camp in Jhapa in eastern Nepal.
In November 2022, Global Campaign for the Release of Political Prisoners in Bhutan (GCRPPB), as part of its financial support program, distributed financial support to Rinzin’s family, besides other families of the serving political prisoners and the recently released political prisoners living in the camps. The photo below shows how happy Rinzin’s mother and sister became while receiving financial support from GCRPPB. His sister also expressed gratitude to all the donors for the financial support she needed to treat her ailing mother.
GCRPPB, since its formation in 2019, has been consistently campaigning to release all the Bhutanese political prisoners languishing for several decades in various prisons of Bhutan. As of now, GCRPPB has been successful in compiling the details of 55 political prisoners, of which six were released in April 2022. Five were released for completing their 15 years’ sentences, and the King granted amnesty to one former sub-divisional officer Chewang Rinzin who was serving a life sentence.
Though the majority of those remaining 49 political prisoners are from ethnic Nepali-speaking Bhutanese community, quite a few are still from other ethnic communities of Bhutan, such as Naglong and Sharchopas.
Ram Karki is Coordinator of Global Campaign for the release of Political Prisoners in Bhutan (GCRPPB).