Bhutan keen to settle refugees` issue with Nepal bilaterally

Last Updated: Saturday, April 16, 2011 - 19:50

Kathmandu: Bhutan on Saturday underlined the
need for an early resumption of negotiations with Nepal to
settle the two-decades-old lingering dispute of repatriation
of Bhutanese refugees languishing in camps in eastern Nepal
for two decades.

The two countries agreed to resume the stalled
negotiations to settle the issue during Bhutanese Prime
Minister Jigme Y Thinley`s three-day visit to Nepal during
which he met his Nepalese counterpart Jhala Nath Khanal,
Maoist chief Prachanda and Nepali Congress president Sushil
Koirala.
Addressing a press conference at the end of his visit
today, Thinley said his country wanted to resume the talks at
the earliest but rejected the idea of involving India in
settling the refugees issue.

The two sides have not held talks since 2003 to settle
the issue of over 100,000 refugees who have settled in Nepal
for two decades.

Thinley also praised the international community for
lending support for the resettlement of over 40,000 refugees
on humanitarian grounds and maintained that the refugees issue
would be settled through bilateral talks.
"We are really grateful to the international community
for showing sympathy to the refugees," he said.
16 rounds of ministerial talks between Nepal and
Bhutan failed to achieve the repatriation of even a single
refugee, and over 40,000 refugees have been resettled in the
US and some European countries at the initiative of
international refugees agency UNHCR.

Still there are some 80,000 refugees in eastern Nepal
camps.

He reiterated the Druk government`s stance that the
identify and background of the refugees` residing in eastern
Nepal camps has to be investigated to find out whether they
come from Bhutan.

He declined to term them as Bhutanese refugees, saying
"they are economic, environmental and political refugees, and
their identify is yet to be decided".

PTI



First Published: Saturday, April 16, 2011 - 19:50

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