Bhutanese Refugees

Exiled from Bhutan

Comic by Aita Singh Gurung



In the 1980s the kingdom of Bhutan took a series of measures that discriminated against a section of its people.

The culmination was the mass exile of one sixth of the population in the early 1990s.

A Brief History

Bhutan is a nation made up of several ethnic groups. One of these is the Lhotshampa, people of Nepali origin, who began to settle in the south of the country in the late 19th century.

In the 1980s it emerged that Lhotshampas were being seen as a threat to the political order.

When a string of measures were passed that discriminated against their group, the Lhotshampa organised a series of public demonstrations for which the participants were branded as "anti-nationals".

Several thousands of Southern Bhutanese were imprisoned, and more than 2000 tortured, according to Amnesty International. Very few of them were formally charged. Thousands fled to India and Nepal.

By the end of 1992, there were more than 80,000 living in UNHCR camps in south eastern Nepal.


a timeline of events relating the Bhutanese refugee issue


Human Rights Violations

International human rights organisations have published numerous reports on the human rights abuses that occurred when the Lhotshampa were exiled from Bhutan.

Bhutan is signatory to only two human rights instruments: the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The government can therefore be held accountable to its citizens under these two conventions. Monitoring under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular, has raised strong concerns about the violation of the rights of children from the Lhotshampa community (southern Bhutanese people of Nepali origin).

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