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The plight of the over 120 thousand Bhutanese exiles in Nepal has led to the emergence of Maoist groups in refugee camps. Indian sources raise the possibility of an armed insurrection in the coming months. Meanwhile, the Bhutanese government promises by year’s end better conditions for the Nepalese minority.In the little kingdom on the slopes of the Himalayas, there is the risk of an armed insurgency by Maoist groups born in refugee camps on the border with Nepal, where for years more than 120 thousand citizens of Nepalese origin live in exile.
According to Indian intelligence sources, the recent alliance of the Communist Party of Bhutan with some Indian separatist groups operating on the border, risks turning the tensions of recent years into open armed conflict. The sources say that "Through this alliance, the militant Bhutanese may learn how to make more powerful bombs, acquire more experience in handling weapons and fight it more effectively."
Bill Frelick, head of political refugees for Human Rights Watch, says that the militants are little more than a thousand, and are a long way from organising a real revolution. But other analysts see in the alliance with the armed groups in India and the ongoing recruitment of volunteers within the camps a signal to an actual armed rebellion.
Between '77 and 85 the Nepalese minority in Bhutan, then about one third of the population, were subjected to a cross-border deportation, commissioned by the then King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The campaign, which aimed to build a state based on Buddhist culture and devoid of outside influences, ended in the '90s with the deportation of over 105 thousand civilians of Nepalese origin. In 2008, the ascent to the throne of 28-year old King Jigme Khesar brought new hopes of opening the country and a possible way out for the refugee population in Nepal.
Until now the government of Bhutan has been committed alongside the international community to promoting democratic change. By the end of the year 15 schools are expected to be reopened as well as the construction of medical centres in the border area still inhabited by the minority Nepali.