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Address rights in Constitution: Tibetans to Nepal

August 12, 2011

Kathmandu: Hounded by security forces and deprived of most of their rights as refugees, Nepal's vulnerable Tibetan Diaspora on Friday urged the government to address the rights of all refugees in the new Constitution, scheduled to be unveiled by August 31.

Making his first appearance before the media, Thiley Lama, the first Nepali to head the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office (TRWO) in Kathmandu, made the appeal on Friday close on the heels of police arresting several people, regarded as Tibetans, for obtaining fake Nepali passports.

The TRWO, earlier known as the office of exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama in Nepal, was shut down by the government in 2005 under pressure by the Chinese government. Beijing says Tibet being a part of Nepal, such an office should not be allowed to exist and the then king Gyanendra of Nepal ordered the closure after China supported his bid to grab absolute power through a coup.

The Tibetan appeal came after police arrested eight people in three separate cases within the last fortnight for trying to obtain fake Nepali passports or seeking to travel abroad on the basis of fake documents.

Lama said the eight, described by the media as Tibetans, were not Tibetans. He said his office had verified their backgrounds with the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala, the Tibetan Reception Centre (TRC) in Kathmandu that facilitates the travel of Tibetan refugees to India and elsewhere, and the Tibetan refugee camp in Boudha.

None of them were found to have been registered as bona fide Tibetan refugees. Also, the documents two of them were carrying, said to be issued by the TRC, were fake, Lama said.

The incident, he said, tarnished the image of Tibetans living a life in exile in Nepal and other countries.

The community is now asking Nepal's communist government to resume issuing identity cards to Tibetan refugees living in Nepal.

In 1998, Nepal last issued the IDs, stopping the distribution subsequently under Beijing's instructions. China refuses to accept the existence of Tibetan refugees, saying they are illegal immigrants who should be punished strictly as per the law of the land.
There are over 20,000 Tibetan refugees living in Nepal and the halt in the issuance of IDs have left hundreds in the lurch.

Hospitals could refuse to register the birth of children, banks refuse to let them open accounts and government schools refuse to admit refugee children. In addition, the government doesn't allow them to work or run businesses, creating unemployment and waste of human resources.

Human rights activists have condemned Nepal's double standard towards refugees. While it allowed Bhutanese refugees to be resettled in western countries, it has however blocked the bid by the US to offer Tibetan refugees a new life in American cities after China opposed the move.

"We request the government of Nepal to clearly address all refugee issues in a uniform manner in the new Constitution," Thiley said. "To make necessary laws so that refugees can run businesses on the basis of IDs and can establish non-political, non-profit social organisations."

Though Thiley said his organisation was a non-political body concerned only with protecting the human rights of Tibetan refugees and that it was not against any person, society or state, Beijing however regards it as a political entity and has been pressuring Nepal to close it down.


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