Kathmandu: Minutes after he held his maiden press conference in Kathmandu, Thiley Lama, exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama`s envoy in Nepal, was arrested by police on Friday along with his personal secretary, Subhash Acharya.
The 55-year-old representative, who is officially known as the volunteer coordinator of the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office (TRWO) in Kathmandu, was arrested for urging Nepal`s government to address the rights of all refugees uniformly in the new constitution and resume issuing identity cards to Tibetan refugees in Nepal.
Sources said he was likely to be released after interrogation and being made to sign a warning bond.
Thiley, the first Nepali to assume the position, was appointed only last month.
The arrest comes amidst growing complaints by the Buddhist community in Nepal that they are being increasingly hounded.
Monasteries have faced media propaganda that they harbour weapons and were fomenting anti-China activities while Buddhist monks and Tibetans are arrested routinely when any official Chinese delegation visits Kathmandu with Beijing tightening screws on Nepal to stop any activity that is linked to the Dalai Lama.
Despite the high risk of being arrested, Thiley`s office had Friday held a sombre press conference in a Kathmandu hotel to urge the government to address the rights of all refugees in the new constitution, scheduled to be unveiled by Aug 31.
The move came close on the heels of police arresting several people, regarded as Tibetans, for obtaining fake Nepali passports.
The TRWO, earlier known as the office of exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama in Nepal, was shut down by the government in 2005 under pressure by the Chinese government, which said that Tibet being a part of Nepal, such an office should not be allowed to function.
The appeal came after police arrested eight people in three separate cases for trying to obtain fake Nepali passports or seeking to travel abroad on the basis of fake documents.
Thiley said the eight people, described by the media as Tibetans, were not Tibetans. He said his office had verified their backgrounds with the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala, the Tibetan Reception Centre (TRC) in Kathmandu that facilitates the travel of Tibetan refugees to India and elsewhere, and the Tibetan refugee camp in Boudha.
None of them were found to have been registered as bona fide Tibetan refugees. Also, the documents two of them were carrying, said to be issued by the TRC, were fake, Thiley said.
The incidents, he said, tarnished the image of Tibetans living in exile in Nepal and other countries.
The community is now asking Nepal`s communist government to resume issuing identity cards to Tibetan refugees living in Nepal.
In 1998, Nepal last issued the IDs, stopping the distribution subsequently under Beijing`s instructions. China refuses to accept the existence of Tibetan refugees, saying they are illegal immigrants who should be punished strictly as per the law of the land.
There are over 20,000 Tibetan refugees living in Nepal and the halt in the issuance of IDs has left hundreds in the lurch.
Hospitals could refuse to register the birth of children, banks refuse to let them open accounts and government schools refuse to admit refugee children. In addition, the government doesn`t allow them to work or run businesses, creating unemployment and waste of human resource.
Human rights activists have condemned Nepal`s double standards towards refugees. While it allowed Bhutanese refugees to be resettled in western countries, it has blocked the US bid to offer Tibetan refugees a new life in American cities after China opposed the move.
Though Thiley said his organisation was a non-political body concerned only with protecting the human rights of Tibetan refugees and that it was not against any person, society or state, Beijing regards it as a political entity and has been pressuring Nepal to close it down.