PUCL Bulletin, September 2001

Persecution of Christians in Bhutan

Reproduced below is a letter written by Mr. S.K. Pradhan to the editor of Kuensel, the Government of Bhutan's mouthpiece on persecution of Christians in Bhutan.

Subject: Kuensel editorial on persecution of Christians
To, The Editor, Kuensel, Royal Government of Bhutan's weekly news bulletin Thimphu Bhutan.

Dear Mr. Kinley Dorji,
I wish to write this letter with reference to your editorial in Kuensel, "Tolerating intolerance" dated April 28, 2001. Your editorial gives a totally wrong impression about the status of the freedom of religion that exists in the country. You seem to be posing innocent and trying to justify as if religious freedom as a fundamental right of the Bhutanese citizens exists in the country. This is not true and you know it. Only Drukpa Kagyu is permitted to flourish under state patronage and huge public spending. Even Nyingmapa, the oldest sect of Buddhism in the country has been neglected. Hindus and Christians are not only discriminated against but persecuted and we have the proof. You need not portray a distorted picture of religious freedom in the country. Bhutanese citizens do not enjoy any right.

There is no written constitution or bill of rights granting fundamental freedoms to the Bhutanese people. You should know that when we talk of rights, we talk of legal provisions i.e. rights granted by laws and their protection ensured by laws. Can you tell me of any Bhutanese law that grants fundamental rights and freedoms to the Bhutanese people including the right to freedom of religion. And can you cite one example where the judicial system in the country might have stood in defence of the rights of the Bhutanese people. The only recorded function of the judiciary so far has been to persecute people like Tek Nath Rizal and Khenpo Thinley Ozoer because they demanded freedoms and issue warrant of arrest on false charges and request for extradition of people in exile.

The Bhutanese judiciary functions as a tool in the hands of the King to persecute and punish those who oppose his rule and policies. You are defending a system that deserves no defence but defiance. We as human rights activists have the responsibility to speak out in favour of the voiceless people, be they from north, south, east or west, if their rights and freedoms are violated, if they are denied their fundamental civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, the rights of religious, ethnic minorities, groups and indigenous people. You mentioned about the views of the people's representatives who reportedly complained about other religions in the National Assembly. But then, these people are not the true representatives of the people. The people through popular vote does not elect them. Where are elections in Bhutan? Where are Election Commission and the laws granting right to vote to the people? Any laws passed by an Assembly of People, which is not democratic cannot be treated as legal in true democratic sense.

Instead of defending the system, your paper should highlight the true status of rights and freedoms in Bhutan including the right to freedom of religion. We should have an open system that should recognize the rights and freedoms of every individual irrespective of ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds. Tolerance and respect always produce peace, harmony, and brotherhood. It is only when one tries to force policies like 'One-Nation, One People" in the name of smallness of the country, wrong notion of national security and preservation of one culture that peace and tranquility is broken. And one must realise that this is an age where people will ask questions and will not submit to any dictates of the rulers. -- Yours sincerely, S.K. PRADHAN, Secretary General, People's Forum for Human Rights and Development (PFHRD) Bhutan, at Kathmandu, Nepal

Note: Since, the Kuensel is a government mouthpiece; our comments will not be published by the Kuensel. Hence, we are compelled to distribute it to our network

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