INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Bhutanese Charge Hums an Old Refrain On Bhutanese

Published: Wed 16 Sep 2009 12:55 PM
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UNCLAS NEW DELHI 001935
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL PHUM CH SL IN
SUBJECT: BHUTANESE CHARGE HUMS AN OLD REFRAIN ON BHUTANESE
REFUGEES
1. (SBU) PRM DAS David Robinson met Bhutan's Charge
d'Affaires Kinga Singye on September 4 to discuss
Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. Robinson reported on the
excellent progress of third-country resettlement of
Bhutanese refugees from Nepal and his own recent visit to
Bhutanese refugees successfully resettled in Iowa.
Robinson then reminded Singye that, although the U.S. is
pleased with the progress of the resettlement program,
the U.S. also strongly supports the refugees'
aspirations to return home.
2. (SBU) Singye responded that Bhutan remained ready to
sit with Nepal for further discussion on "agreements we
have reached." Singye claimed it was only Nepal's
unreliability that stood in the way of further meetings,
noting that a meeting between foreign ministers at the
recent Non-Aligned Movement summit was canceled when
Nepal backed out at the last moment. Singye went on
to reiterate Bhutan's long-held positions: the refugees
were not really refugees but illegal immigrants; the
problem only existed because the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) set up the camps to support the
refugees; violent groups from the camps continued to
launch attacks against Bhutan (although when pressed
for recent examples, Singye could not give any); and
negotiations with Nepal's weak and unreliable
government were impossible.
3. (SBU) Singye went on to describe for DAS Robinson the
results of the 2003 joint assessment by Bhutan and Nepal
of the population of Khudunabari camp. The people from
that sample population fell into four groups: Category
one (2.4 percent of the camp's population), who seemed
to have a valid claim to Bhutanese citizenship; category
two, "voluntary migrants" who might have a claim after
further investigation; category three, which Singye
described as both Nepalis and Indians claiming to be
Bhutanese; and category four, comprised of "criminals."
4. (SBU) Robinson asked Singye why the individuals from
the first category who had a recognized claim to
Bhutanese citizenship could not return. Singye replied
that the individuals needed to be "verified" by the
Government of Nepal, a process Singye reiterated would
be impossible with Nepal's current government. Robinson
asked if Bhutan had consular access to these citizens.
Singye seemed to be disconcerted by the question but
said that access was not necessary since UNHCR takes
care of everyone in the camps. When asked whether Bhutan
would still consider individuals for repatriation from
the first category, Singye confirmed that Bhutan would
in principle accept them but said the individuals would
still need to be verified. When pressed further for a
mechanism for resettled individuals to pursue
their claims (such as forwarding citizenship claims to
Bhutan's Missions to the UN in New York and Geneva),
Singye at first demurred, then said weakly that perhaps
Bhutan's Mission to New York could forward claims from
refugees in the U.S. to Thimpu for verification.
5. (SBU) Comment: All rhetoric to the contrary aside,
it was clear during the meeting that Bhutan remains, at
least for now, firmly opposed to repatriation. To make
clear that the USG firmly supports repatriation as well
as resettlement, we recommend that support for
repatriation be a priority talking point in USG
interactions with the Government of Bhutan.
End Comment.
ROEMER
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