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Department Seal


DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Bhutan is an absolute monarchy, ruled by the Wangchuck dynasty 
of hereditary monarchs since 1907.  Located in the Himalayas 
between India and Tibet, the small Kingdom has been able to 
escape domination by any external power since the 10th 
century.  There is no written constitution or bill of rights.  
King Jigme Sinhye Wangchuck, on the throne since 1972, has 
continued social and political reforms begun by his father, but 
progress has been disrupted over the past half decade by civil 
strife involving ethnic Nepalese.  Buddhists constitute between 
one-half and two-thirds of the population; another third, 
mostly from the southern districts, is of Nepali Hindu ethnic 

The Royal Bhutan Police, a force of about 5,000, assisted by 
the Royal Bhutan Army, with approximately 7,000 lightly armed 
men, and a militia of about 10,000, maintains internal security.

An estimated 90 percent of Bhutan's 600,000 population are 
largely illiterate and live in rural areas on subsistence 
agriculture in a mainly barter economy.  India is Bhutan's main 
trading partner and principal source of foreign exchange.

Despite some positive actions, including the Government's 
authorization of periodic prison visits by the International 
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and implementation of certain 
legal reforms, there remained serious concern about the 
Government's human rights practices, including implementation 
of the 1985 Citizenship Act; related measures to strengthen 
Bhutanese culture; the failure to prosecute security force 
members who committed rape, torture, and other abuses in the 
name of enforcing citizenship laws; and the status of 85,000 
ethnic Nepalese refugees from southern Bhutan currently in 
camps in eastern Nepal.  

The 1985 Citizenship Act targets the ethnic Nepalese minority, 
whose growing percentage of the population was perceived by the 
ruling Drupka Buddhists as a threat to their culture.  Under 
the Act, tens of thousands were declared to be illegal 
immigrants and forcibly evicted from Bhutan.  Others fled

*Bhutan and the United States do not have diplomatic relations, 
and U.S. officials travel there infrequently.  Since few 
independent observers have visited southern Bhutan, information 
on Bhutanese practices affecting human rights is often 

voluntarily in the face of officially sanctioned pressure, 
including arbitrary arrests, beatings, rape, robberies, and 
other forms of intimidation by police and the army.  The Bhutan 
People's Party (BPP) and the Bhutan National Democratic Party 
(BNDP), organized by ethnic Nepalese in exile, continued to 
press for democratic reforms and resist government policies 
they argue would suppress their ethnic and cultural identity.  
The Government outlawed the BPP in 1990, accusing it of killing 
government officials, destroying government property, and 
kidnaping or attacking southerners who did not support its 

Other human rights abuses included:  denial of the right of 
citizens to change their government; limitations on the right 
to a fair trial; restrictions on peaceful association and 
assembly, and worker rights; and traditional cultural practices 
that result in some discrimination against women.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no independent confirmations of such killings.  A 
government report charged ethnic Nepalese dissident groups with 
responsibility for 17 murders between August 13, 1992, and June 
5, 1993.  Bhutan's government-controlled weekly newspaper 
described numerous incidents during 1992 and 1993 in which 
unidentified attackers killed and mutilated government 
officials and civilians living in the south.  Among the victims 
were Dattaram Sharma, a former government official stabbed to 
death in August 1992, and Dil Maya Dungel, the daughter of a 
village headman who suffered gunshot wounds when armed men 
raided the family's home.  A substantial but undetermined 
number of the attacks the Government has identified as 
incidents of terrorism appear in fact to have been the work of 
armed robber gangs taking advantage of unsettled conditions on 
the Indo-Bhutan border.

     b.  Disappearance

Over the past 3 years, police and army forces have arrested 
thousands of ethnic Nepalis suspected of supporting the 
dissident movement, some of whom were held incommunicado and 
consequently were thought to have "disappeared."  According to 
a 1993 government report, 1,592 accused "antinationals" were 
subsequently released under official amnesties.  Bhutanese 
human rights groups claim many other detainees outside the 
Thimphu area are still unaccounted for and presume these people 
are being held without charge.  They also charge that some may 
have been "disappeared" by government security forces.  The 
Government denied such disappearances ever took place and 
accused dissident groups of kidnaping over 200 people during 
the last 3 years, including 24 between August 13, 1992, and 
June 5, 1993.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

According to human rights groups, there were continuing reports 
from ethnic Nepalese refugees in India and Nepal of hundreds of 
cases in which police or army forces had allegedly beaten, 
raped, and robbed suspected supporters of the dissident 
movement and their families.  In a survey of 1,781 refugee 
families living in camps in Nepal conducted by the Human Rights 
Organization of Bhutan (HUROB), 204 respondents stated they had 
left Bhutan because a family member had been beaten or 
tortured.  Twenty-one respondents claimed to have been raped, 
and 383 said they left Bhutan because they had been threatened 
with or feared rape.  HUROB, the People's Forum for Human 
Rights, Bhutan (PFHRB), and the South Asia Human Rights 
Documentation Center (SAHRDC) published dozens of affidavits 
from victims of rape and torture who fled to the refugee camps 
in Nepal.  Several nongovernmental organizations in Nepal are 
providing rehabilitation services to torture victims among the 
ethnic Nepali refugees.

In the aftermath of widespread arrests in 1990 and 1991, prison 
conditions were poor, with inadequate sanitation, unhealthy 
food, and endemic overcrowding.  Several detainees were alleged 
to have succumbed to harsh prison conditions.  Responding to 
pressure from Amnesty International (AI), the Government ended 
the use of shackles in 1992, and periodic ICRC prison visits 
beginning in 1993 also contributed to a marked improvement in 
conditions of detention.

The abuses committed by government forces in southern Bhutan 
were a consequence of government policies intended to reduce 
the presence of ethnic Nepalese.  These policies created a 
climate in which intimidation of ethnic Nepalese was encouraged 
and physical abuse tacitly condoned.  A 1993 survey of victims 
of violence in the refugee camps, prepared by a consultant to 
an international refugee agency, found that most alleged 
incidents of torture in southern Bhutan took place in 1990 and 
1991.  This finding is consistent with reports that abuse by 
government forces peaked during the year following the 
September 1990 disturbances led by the BPP.  The consultant 
found that reported rapes continued at a high rate into 1992; 
however, there were few reported cases of rape and torture in 
1993.  The Government flatly denied such abuse ever occurred.  
Since October 1993, newly arriving refugees have reported 
incidents of intimidation and abuse which indicate another 
deterioration of the situation in Bhutan.  While the influx to 
camps has remained low, cases accepted by the United Nations 
High Commissioner for Refugees on the grounds of persecution 
(as opposed to family reunion claims) have doubled to 66 

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Bhutanese law contains no guarantees against arbitrary arrest.  
The Government said that 17 "confirmed terrorists" were 
arrested by the security forces between January 1, 1992, and 
May 21, 1993, and that another 55 "terrorists" were caught by 
village volunteers and handed over to police during the same 
period.  The Government released no information about what 
happened to these detainees or when they might be tried.  Past 
treatment of other such detainees suggest that their detention 
may be arbitrarily prolonged.  

The November 1992 session of Bhutan's National Assembly 
produced a new national security law that eliminates the 
mandatory death penalty for treason.  Government officials 
previously cited the death penalty requirement, and their 
desire to avoid executions, as an excuse for delay in trying 
those held on charges related to the unrest in the south.  In 
late 1992, judgments were handed down against 37 people charged 
with treason and various other "antinational" activities.  
Thirty-two defendants were found guilty and given sentences 
ranging from 9 months to life in prison.  As of late 1993, 
about 200 "antinationals" were still in detention pending trial 
on charges related to political unrest in southern Bhutan.  
Most were housed at a prison camp in Chemgang, a mountainous 
area outside Thimpu.  Evidence suggests that incommunicado 
detention is no longer a problem.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system consists of district courts and a High 
Court in Thimpu.  Minor offenses and administrative matters are 
adjudicated by village headmen.  Criminal cases and a variety 
of civil matters are adjudicated under a 17th-century legal 
code, revised in 1959, which applies to all Bhutanese 
regardless of ethnic origin.  Judges appointed by and 
accountable to the King are responsible for all aspects of a 
case, including investigation, filing of charges, prosecution, 
and judgment.  After appeal to the High Court, a final appeal 
may be made to the King who traditionally delegates such 
matters to the Royal Advisory Council.  The legal system does 
not provide for jury trials or the right to a court-appointed 
defense attorney.

The Bhutanese legal system has no provision for lawyers or 
solicitors, although it does allow for the appointment of a 
"jambi" (a person well-versed in the law) if the defendant so 
desires.  Questions of family law, such as marriage, divorce, 
and adoption, are resolved separately according to traditional 
Buddhist law for the majority of Bhutanese and Hindu law in 
areas where persons of Nepalese extraction predominate. 

Tek Nath Rizal, an ethnic Nepali, former member of the Bhutan 
National Assembly and Royal Advisory Council, and founder of 
PFHRB, was held for over 3 years pending trial.  Rizal was 
abducted in November 1989 from eastern Nepal, where he fled 
after clashing with the King of Bhutan over ethnic Nepalese 
rights.  The Government accused Rizal of orchestrating an 
"antinational campaign" and on December 29, 1992, formally 
charged him with conspiracy, sedition, and treason.  Rizal 
waived his right to a jambi and defended himself at his trial.  
On November 16, Tek Nath Rizal was convicted and sentenced to 
life imprisonment under the National Security Act of 1992.  The 
Government found him guilty of violating the National Security 
Act by carrying out harmful activities against the Tsa Wa Sum 
(King, country, and people).  Rizal was granted a conditional 
clemency on November 19 which provides for his release as soon 
as the southern problem is resolved.  Rizal is the only 
internationally recognized political prisoner in Bhutan.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

There are no written guarantees of privacy, but Bhutanese 
cultural traditions are highly respectful of personal privacy.  
These traditions were undermined by the Government's emphasis 
on promoting national integration.  A royal decree issued in 
1989 made Drukpa national dress compulsory for all citizens.  
Anyone found violating the decree may be fined or sentenced to 
jail for a week.  Although enforcement of the decree has become 
lax, it is still observed during business hours in southern 
towns like Phuntsholing and Geylegphug.  According to human 
rights groups, police regularly conduct house-to-house searches 
for suspected dissidents without explanation or legal 

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

With an adult literacy rate reliably estimated at around 30 
percent, Bhutan's population is relatively unaffected by the 
print media.  Kuensel, the Government's weekly newspaper, with 
a circulation of 10,000, is the country's only regular 
publication.  Indian and other foreign newspapers are 
available, but authorities confiscate and censor editions 
carrying articles critical of the royal family or government 
policies.  Bhutan has no television broadcast service.  In 1989 
the Government ordered the dismantling of about 20 television 
satellite dishes which were being used to distribute illegally 
television transmissions from neighboring countries as well as 
through satellite technology.  Many Bhutanese continue to 
receive television transmissions from neighboring couintries as 
well as through satellite technology.  

The government radio station broadcasts each day in the four 
major national languages (Dzongkha, the language of the western 
highlands; Nepali; English; and Sharchop).  Indirect criticism 
of the King is permitted in the National Assembly and is 
sometimes covered in the Kuensel.  The Government banned the 
Nepalese language as a medium of instruction in Bhutanese 
schools at the end of 1990.  Many schools in the south were 
closed in the aftermath of the 1990 disturbances or converted 
into army camps and detention centers.  The Government reported 
that most had reopened by mid-1993, but outside observers are 
only able to confirm the reopening of about half the schools.  
The ban on instruction in Nepali remains.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

There are no written guarantees of these freedoms.  Bhutanese 
may engage in peaceful assembly and association only for 
purposes approved by the Government.  Although the Government 
allows civic and business organizations, there are no political 
parties.  The BPP and BNDP, organized by ethnic Nepalese exiles 
from Bhutan, have been labeled "terrorist and antinational" and 
according to the Government "have no standing inside the 
country."  Both parties advocate a constitutional monarchy with 
a parliamentary democracy and claim wide support in southern 

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Buddhism is the state religion.  The Government subsidizes 
monasteries and shrines and provides aid to about a third of 
the Kingdom's 12,000 monks.  The monastic establishment enjoys 
statutory representation in the National Assembly and Royal 
Advisory Council and is an influential voice on public policy.

Citizens of other faiths, largely Hindus, enjoy freedom of 
worship but may not proselytize.  Under Bhutanese law, 
conversions are illegal.  The King has declared major Hindu 
festivals to be national holidays, and the royal family 
participates in them.  It is illegal for foreign missionaries 
to proselytize in the Kingdom, but international Christian 
relief organizations and Jesuit priests are active as teachers 
and in other humanitarian activities.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Some Bhutanese enjoy considerable freedom of movement, but many 
reports indicate that ethnic Nepalis face substantial 
restrictions on their ability to travel inside Bhutan.  For 
many years, Bhutanese seldom traveled inside or outside the 
Kingdom, but the construction of roads and the establishment of 
air links with neighboring countries have encouraged travel.  
Bhutan's southern border with India is open, and people 
residing in the immediate areas freely cross this border.  
Indians from other regions who enter Bhutan by airplane or stay 
in hotels must have visas and fall under the cap set by the 
Government limiting the admission of tourists to 4,000 per 
year.  By treaty, Bhutanese are free to reside and work in 

Since early 1988, Bhutan has sought to reduce the ethnic 
Nepalese population by implementing a 1985 act that 
significantly tightened the requirements for transmitting 
citizenship.  Until 1985, citizenship was transmitted as long 
as the father was a Bhutanese citizen under the 1958 
Nationality Law of Bhutan (which granted citizenship to all 
ethnic Nepalese adults who owned land and had lived in Bhutan 
for at least 10 years).  The 1985 act raised this standard by 
requiring that both parents be Bhutanese citizens in order to 
transmit citizenship.  Residents of Bhutan who could not 
satisfy this new requirement were retroactively declared 
illegal immigrants.

People losing their citizenship under the 1985 act may apply 
for naturalization but only after satisfying a rigorous set of 
standards, including proficiency in the Dzongkha language and 
proof of residence in Bhutan during the previous 15 years.  
Exile political groups complain that the law makes unfair 
demands for documentation on largely illiterate people in a 
country that has only recently adopted basic administrative 
procedures.  They claim that many ethnic Nepalese whose 
families have been in Bhutan for generations were expelled 
because they were unable to document their claims to 
residence.  The Government denies this and asserts, for 
example, that the word of village leaders is an acceptable 
substitute for written documentation.  Refugee groups dispute 
this statement and report that village elders are not present 
when citizenship interviews are carried out. 

The 1985 Citizenship Act also provides for the revocation of 
citizenship of any naturalized citizen who "has shown by act or 
speech to be disloyal in any manner whatsoever to the King, 
country, and people of Bhutan."  The Bhutanese Home Ministry, 
in a circular notification dated August 17, 1990, advised that 
"any Bhutanese national leaving the country to assist and help 
the antinationals shall no longer be considered as a Bhutanese 
citizen....such people's family members living under the same 
household will also be held fully responsible and forfeit their 
citizenship."  Human rights groups charge this provision was 
widely used to revoke the citizenship of ethnic Nepalese who 
were subsequently exiled from southern Bhutan.  In 1993 growing 
numbers of refugees reported their citizenship was revoked 
under this provision.

Arrivals of refugees from Bhutan in the eight camps run by the 
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its 
cooperating agencies in Nepal peaked during 1992.  By mid-1993, 
arrivals had fallen to slightly more than 100 per month, 
reflecting tightened screening at the Nepalese border and an 
apparent reduction in official pressure on the ethnic 
Nepalese.  By September 1993, 85,000 were registered in the 
UNHCR camps, of whom about 66,000 arrived during 1992.  Between 
5,000 and 15,000 more are believed to have left Bhutan and 
settled with family members in India.  The total outflow of 
approximately 100,000 people is equal to about 15 percent of 
Bhutan's population.

Many refugees, especially those who arrived in Nepal during 
1991 and 1992, claim to have been pressured to leave by local 
authorities.  These pressures include the threat to confiscate 
property, denial of public services, and physical 
intimidation.  For much of 1993, refugees reported leaving 
Bhutan because of increasing depopulation in southern 
districts, feelings of apprehension and insecurity, the loss of 
their jobs after it was discovered that they had family members 
who had fled the country, and the wish to be reunited with 
relatives already living in the camps.  As the year drew to a 
close, however, refugees increasingly reported incidents of 
persecution--including beatings, destruction of homes, and 
eviction at gunpoint--as the reason for fleeing.  Expulsions 
appear to continue under the government circular described in 
Section 1.f. which provides for the exile of persons whose 
family members have joined the "antinational" movement.

The Government claims that those who were expelled are Nepalese 
or Indian citizens who came to Bhutan to work after the 1958 
Nationality Law was issued.  It also claims the majority of 
those arriving in Nepal have left voluntarily after selling 
their land and property.  There are credible reports that these 
"voluntary emigrants" were compelled to sign away their 
property by government officials.  In July Nepal and Bhutan 
agreed to form a joint committee to settle the problem of the 
refugees.  However, the King and other Bhutanese officials have 
repeatedly stated they will accept responsibility only for 
"bona fide Bhutanese nationals who have been forcibly evicted." 
Documentation requirements are to be determined by the joint 
committee.  However, the Government of Bhutan has made clear 
that it plans to accept few repatriates.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens of Bhutan do not have the right to change their 
government.  Bhutan is an absolute monarchy, with sovereign 
power vested in the King.  The Government has resisted 
democratic changes.  Decisionmaking is centered in the Palace 
and involves only a small number of officials in the civil and 
religious establishment.  Although the present King and his 
father have made attempts to integrate women and some 
southerners (ethnic Nepalese) into the body politic, the system 
is still dominated by the male members of an aristocracy of 
Mahayana Buddhist ancestry.  Political parties do not exist, 
and the Government discourages their formation.  The BPP, 
founded in June 1990, was outlawed the following September 
after widespread protests by ethnic Nepalese in southern 
Bhutan.  The Government claimed the BPP was a terrorist 
organization, responsible for murders, kidnapings, and 
destruction of government property in the south.  The 
Government also outlawed the Bhutan National Democratic Party 
(BNDP), founded in February 1992 by former government officials 
of ethnic Nepalese origin.  

The National Assembly, formed in 1953, is composed of 105 
members elected by limited franchise (heads of family in Hindu 
areas, village headmen in Buddhist regions), 12 elected by the 
monastic establishment, and 33 high-level government officials 
appointed by the King.  Its principal functions are to enact 
laws, approve senior government appointments, and advise the 
King on matters of national importance.  It also provides a 
forum for presenting grievances and rectifying cases of 
maladministration.  Voting is by secret ballot, with a simple 
majority needed to pass a measure.  The King cannot formally 
veto legislation, but he may return bills to the Assembly for 
further consideration.  The members occasionally have rejected 
the King's recommendations or delayed their implementation, but 
the King has always had enough influence to persuade the 
Assembly to approve legislation he considers essential or to 
withdraw proposals he opposes.  Government officials may be 
questioned by the Assembly, and ministers may be forced to 
resign by a two-thirds vote of no confidence.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Just as it does not permit political parties, neither does the 
Government permit local human rights groups.  At least three 
groups led by ethnic Nepalese exiles, HUROB, PFHRB, and the 
Association of Human Rights Activists - Bhutan (AHURA), monitor 
the human rights situation in southern Bhutan and collect 
depositions from refugees in Nepal.  These groups also campaign 
internationally to put pressure on the Bhutanese Government and 
conduct human rights education among the refugees in the 
camps.  These groups report human rights violations by 
dissident groups but only rarely.  The Government accuses 
HUROB, PFHRB, and AHURA of working for antinationals.

The Government's attitude toward international human rights and 
humanitarian groups continued to show signs of improvement in 
1993.  ICRC representatives visited prisons near Thimpu three 
times in 1993.  The Government had an ongoing dialog with 
Amnesty International (AI) focused on recommendations in an AI 
report issued in December 1992. These recommendations included 
the abolition of shackles, establishment of a mechanism to hold 
security forces accountable for torture, and ratification of 
the Convention Against Torture.  Although shackles appear to 
have been abandoned by government security forces, much more 
needs to be done.  The Government continues to deny visas to 
international groups and individual investigators.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


Bhutan has developed neither a rigid caste system nor customs 
that sequester or disenfranchise women.  Family land is divided 
equally between sons and daughters, and dowry is not practiced, 
even among ethnic Nepalese Hindus.  A United Nations Children's 
Fund (UNICEF) study found that boys and girls in Bhutan receive 
equal treatment as regards nutrition and health care.  This 
equality of treatment is reflected in data showing little 
difference between sexes in child mortality rates.

Among urban Bhutanese, girls are given "equal or near equal 
opportunities" to pursue education, UNICEF found.  This pattern 
of parents seeking education for their children, regardless of 
sex, appears to apply among both Hindu and Buddhist families.  
Nationwide, however, government data indicate that girls 
account for only about 40 percent of the school population.  
Although traditional cultural patterns place girls in a lower 
status than boys, girls are still cherished, since in Bhutanese 
society it is they who care for the parents when they reach old 

The sexes mix freely, and polygyny is sanctioned as long as the 
first wife gives her permission.  Marriages may be arranged by 
partners themselves as well as by their parents, and divorce is 
common.  Legislation has been enacted in recent years making 
marriage registration compulsory and favoring women in matters 
of alimony.  About 10 percent of government employees are 
women.  In rural areas, the division of labor follows strict 
gender lines, and women in unskilled jobs are generally paid 
slightly less than men.

Rape was made a criminal offense in Bhutan in 1953, but that 
law had weak penalties and was poorly enforced.  The National 
Assembly in its July 1993 session adopted a revised Rape Act 
with clear definitions of criminal sexual assault and enhanced 
penalties.  In cases of rape involving minors (which reportedly 
is a growing problem in Bhutan), sentences range from 5 to 17 
years.  In extreme cases, a rapist may be imprisoned for life.

The National Women's Association of Bhutan was formed by the 
National Assembly in 1981 to promote improvements in the 
socioeconomic status of women.  It now functions as an 
independent nongovernmental organization.


Children enjoy a privileged position in Bhutanese society and 
benefit from international development programs focused on 
maternal and child welfare.  The Government's 1992 5-year plan 
estimates the primary school enrollment rate at 66.9 percent in 
1990, based on an estimated population of 104,000 children 
between the ages of 6 and 12.  Bhutan's health care system 
combines internationally funded medicine with traditional 
spiritual and ritual remedies.  The child mortality rate in 
1984 was 21.1 percent.  In 1990, 84 percent of Bhutanese 
children had received required immunizations.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic Nepalese first came to Bhutan in large numbers at the 
turn of the century.  These migrants were granted Bhutanese 
citizenship for the first time under the Citizenship Law of 
1958 (see Section 2.d.).  The Government contends there was 
large-scale illegal immigration which went undetected by the 
Government until the census carried out in 1988.  The discovery 
that ethnic Nepalese were on the verge of becoming a majority 
prompted the Government to launch an aggressive campaign to 
reassert Bhutanese (Drupka) culture and tighten immigration.  
If no action was taken, the ruling elite feared, Bhutan's 
Buddhist society would be overwhelmed by the Hindu ethnic 
Nepalese, as happened in neighboring Sikkim (which was annexed 
by India in 1974).

Early efforts at halting the unfavorable demographic trends 
focused on limiting immigration and attempting to assimilate 
the existing ethnic Nepalese.  Attempts at assimilation 
included financial incentives for intermarriage, education for 
some students in regions other than their own, and direction of 
economic development funds to the south.  By 1989 assimilation 
gave way to policies aimed at "Bhutanization."  Measures 
intended to preserve a national identity required the wearing 
of Bhutanese dress, made the teaching of Dzongkha compulsory, 
and banned instruction in Nepalese.  Under the 1985 Citizenship 
Act, tens of thousands of ethnic Nepalese were declared to be 
illegal immigrants and forcibly evicted from the country.  
Still more fled the country in the face of officially 
sanctioned pressure (see Sections. 1.c. and 2.d.).

International pressure on Bhutan increased during 1992, as 
concern spread about the ballooning refugee population in 
Nepal.  In response, the Government tried to stem the outflow 
of migrants from southern Bhutan.  A royal decree was issued 
making it a criminal offense to forcibly evict any citizen, and 
three government officials were convicted on charges related to 
intimidation of ethnic Nepalese.  Ethnic Nepalese also were 
excluded from paying rural taxes and contributing labor for 
development projects in 1992.  By that time, however, the 
exodus had gained momentum; thousands of ethnic Nepalese with 
unquestioned claims to Bhutanese citizenship moved to India or 
the refugee camps in Nepal to be reunited with family members 
and escape a climate of fear and uncertainty in southern Bhutan.

By law southerners may own land and establish business in the 
north, and northerners have the same right in the south.  
Nonetheless, it is reportedly still difficult for ethnic 
Nepalese (except government officials) to buy property in 
Buddhist areas.  Ethnic Nepalese have been required to produce 
"No Objection Certificates" issued by the police for admission 
to schools and for jobs.  For example, a November 6 
advertisement in the national newspaper requires students 
seeking to enter a driving school to produce a "No Objection 
Certificate."  Admission to a course for a postgraduate 
certificate in education requires a "No Objection 
Certificate."  These certificates continue to be required 
despite claims by the Government that they would be abandoned.  
In fact, these certificates are used to prevent ethnic Nepalese 
citizens from taking jobs or educational slots in many 
districts of Bhutan.

Exile student groups accuse the Government of revoking the 
scholarships of Nepalese students who were accused of 
supporting the dissident movement.  Government critics claimed 
families with ties to the Palace and senior levels of the 
Government are strongly favored in their access to government 
employment and state scholarships for foreign education.  The 
Government contends that it has made a serious effort to send 
qualified minority candidates for education overseas.  To 
defend its hiring practices, it cites data on government 
employment showing that as of 1991 nearly half of the civil 
service was filled by ethnic Nepalese.  Of 213 students sent to 
India for study between 1985 and 1991, it says, 127 were 
southern Bhutanese.

     People with Disabilities

Bhutan has not passed legislation mandating accessibility for 
the disabled.  There is no evidence of official discrimination 
against people with disabilities, but neither is there evidence 
of official efforts to assist the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Trade unionism is not permitted, and Bhutan has no labor 
unions.  There is no right to strike.  Bhutan is not a member 
of the International Labor Organization.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

There is no collective bargaining or legislation addressing 
labor-related issues pertaining to industry, which accounts for 
about 25 percent of the gross domestic product but only a 
minute fraction of the total work force.  The Government 
affects wages in the manufacturing sector through its control 
over parastatal wages.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Government uses a system of compulsory labor taxes to 
compensate for its low financial tax base.  Under various 
development schemes, a typical urban or rural family of 8.5 
persons could be liable for up to 40-person days of labor each 

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

There are no laws governing the employment of children.  
Children are not employed in the industrial sector, but many 
assist their families in the traditional economy.  In 
roadbuilding, for instance, eligibility for employment is by 
height, not age.  Although most workers are at least 15 years 
of age, a UNICEF study suggested children as young as 11 are 
sometimes put to work with roadbuilding teams.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

As noted above, there is no legislation addressing labor 
issues.  There is no legislated minimum wage, standard 
workweek, or health and safety standards.  Labor markets are 
highly segmented by region, and monitoring wage developments is 
inhibited by the preponderance of subsistence agriculture and 
the practice of barter.  The largest salaried labor market is 
the government service, which has an administered wage 
structure last revised in 1988.  Only about 18 industrial 
plants employ more than 50 workers.  Apart from a few of these 
larger plants, the entire industrial sector consists of 
home-based handicrafts and some 60 privately owned small or 
medium-scale factories producing consumer goods.  A 
predominantly agricultural country, Bhutan's rugged geography 
and land laws that prohibit a farmer from selling his last 5 
acres result in a predominately self-employed agricultural 
labor force.  (###)

[end of document]


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