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BHUTAN – Democracy is still only “symbolic”

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The process of democratisation in
Bhutan faces obstacles with the lack of an independent judiciary and
violations of human rights, according to Karma Duptho, Secretary of the
Druk National Congress, a Bhutanese political movement operating in exile.
The process of democratisation in
Bhutan faces obstacles with the lack of an independent judiciary and
violations of human rights, according to Karma Duptho, Secretary of the
Druk National Congress, a Bhutanese political movement operating in exile.

Even after more than a year of
becoming a "democratic" country, independent judiciary is still
inexistent in Bhutan. Policies and restrictions from pre-democratic time are
prevail with about 200 political prisoners still in jail. Most of them were
jailed during the 1990s during peaceful demonstrations for human rights and
democracy. Ohters were jailed in 2007 for engaging in political activities
contrary to the belief and ideology of the Thimphu regime.

The rights of the ethnic minorities also are questioned: in early 1990s, tens of thousands of ethnic Nepalese were arbitrary
deprived of their Bhutanese citizenship. Some were then expelled from the country
and many fled to escape detention. According to Human Rights Watch , ethnic Nepalese who were not evicted and who
remain inside Bhutan face persistent discrimination.

The
Constitution of Bhutan recognises freedom of religion, but according to
the Druk National Congress there are reports of Buddhist culture and
religion
being imposed on people: members of other faiths face attacks, arrests
and
other forms of prosecution, including arbitrary detention.

Freedom of _expression and freedom
of the press are also non-existent, according to the Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA) . The
country's newspapers, radio and television are strictly censored by the
government. Anyone speaking against the government, the king orΒ  high
profiled bureaucrats, must face physical punishment in jail.

The Druk National Congress sees democracy in Bhutan only as
symbolic so far. In a letter to the Prime Minister of Bhutan, the
organisation said, "We are at a stage where democracy is still only
symbolic because of the
absence of appropriate institutions, processes and practices that
should be in harmony with a participative, vibrant and meaningful
democracy".