|A woman in the audience raises a question during the talk on Bhutan by Dr Bunting at the Asiatic Society, Washington|
Asia Society 10 May, 2011 – Bhutan is not the only country in the world that has been affected by both economic and political migrations, according to the president of the Bhutan Foundation, Dr Bruce W Bunting.
He was responding to a question on the people in the camps in Nepal that was raised during a talk on Bhutan in Washington DC by an American tourist, who visited Bhutan in March this year.
She said that Bhutan is an exotic country, where people enjoy peace and happiness, but she never thought it would have such a problem.
Dr Bruce Bunting said that Bhutan has a population of about 670,000 while Nepal has more than 25 million people, and the number of ethnic Nepalese living in the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal is estimated to be around 17 million. “Bhutan, therefore, is really a little island in a sea of humanity,” he said.
According to the BF president, Nepal has undergone a long period of instability and still has a lot to sort out. “A small and isolated kingdom like Bhutan has pristine environment, political stability, economic growth and leaders really care about their people,” he said. “So everybody would love to live there.”
He said that Bhutan closed its border to immigration, after they discovered the country had a significant population of illegal migrants. Bhutan also passed the citizenship law in 1958, and anybody residing in Bhutan in 1958 became citizen. When Bhutan conducted a census in the late ‘80s, it was found there were thousands of people living illegally in Bhutan, he said.
On the Nepal side, however, things got very political when then the prime minister of Nepal, Girija Prasad Koirala, decided to bring in Lutheran services and UNHCR, and then they opened camps in Nepal. “It was a very unfortunate thing to happen and I think Bhutan has an option,” Dr Bunting said. “In fact, United States was a quiet partner in helping to resolve this issue, and has agreed to take in 60,000 and European countries are also taking some. Basically, it pretty much resolved the issue and it isn’t a issue of ethnicity or discrimination.”
In response to question why there were no formal diplomatic ties with the USA, Dr Bunting said, while Bhutan does not have formal diplomatic relations, they have excellent informal relationships with the United States. “Bhutanese feel that, before they can formalise relations with yet another distant neighbour, United States, they really need to have their own neighbourhood in order,” he said.
During the talk, Dr Bunting presented a brief history on Bhutan, how it evolved from monarchy to the constitutional form of democracy, and on the four pillars of GNH.
For most Americans, Bhutan is still unheard of. “The initiative taken by BF to create more awareness of Bhutan in the United States is a good idea, considering many Americans don’t know much about our country,” Loday Tsheten, who is a fellow at the university of Syracuse, said. “And even those, who’ve heard about Bhutan, have totally wrong information or misinformation, with respect to tourism policy in Bhutan.”
The talk, organised jointly by the Bhutan Foundation (BF) and Asia Society in Washington DC last Wednesday, was intended to bridge understanding between the two countries. Source: Kuenselonline