Bhutanese refugees on protest in northeastern Nepal | india | Hindustan Times
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Bhutanese refugees on protest in northeastern Nepal

Bhutanese refugees exiled in Nepal, took out a peaceful march in Kakaritta, bordering Nepal, to oppose the draft Constitution.

india Updated: Jul 24, 2006 15:14 IST

Bhutanese refugees exiled in Nepal, took out a peaceful march in northeastern Kakaritta, bordering Nepal, to oppose the draft Constitution and mobilise international public opinion on the issue.

They have been, for long, claiming that certain parts of their country's first-ever constitution give too much power to the monarchy.

"We are not against the draft constitution but we are against the contents of the draft Constitution because draft Constitution is a process which has emerged as a process of democratisation in Bhutan after 16 years of our struggle.

But it is unfortunate that the contents that has been enshrined in the draft Constitution are not in keeping with the desire of the people and aspirations of the people and not in keeping with the international norms," said Thinley Penjore, Chairman, National Front for Democracy.

Bhutan 's King Jigme Singye Wangchuck has been slowly trying to bring his country on parallel track with the modern world. And, it was in this direction that a new draft constitution was drawn up in 2005, which would surrender some of the king's powers to an elected parliament.

But thousands of Bhutanese refugees argue the new constitution still allows Wangchuck to appoint key officials like the Parliamentary Speaker, Election Commissioner and Chief Justice.

They say this would allow him to continue to impose his own authority, without seeking advice or approval from cabinet or parliament.

The refugees claim they were ignored when officials prepared the draft constitution and are campaigning for their right to return to the country and vote in elections, as well as constitutional protection for their customs and religion.

The protestors now say they would resort to the use of arms if needed to fight for their justice.

"We and our leaders, all of us did work for the peaceful solution. We resorted to peaceful protests and still if the Government of Bhutan does not take any step then we will not abstain from using arms also if needed," said Yeshodha Buratoshi, Bhutanese refugee.

The Bhutanese refugees have even drafted a parallel constitution and, Penjore said, they have sent a copy of it to the king.

Bhutan does not have a written constitution and its monarchy dates back to 1907 when the great grandfather of Wangchuck, was formally anointed the first king with British support.

The new draft aims to set up a two-party democracy after nearly a century of absolute monarchy.

The country's 700,000 people are expected to vote on it in a referendum in 2008, and if it is passed elections will be held before the end of the year.