Timeline of Bhutanese Refugees and Lhotshampas

Bhutanese people of Nepali ethnic origin are known as Lhotshampa (southerners) in Bhutan as majority of them lived in southern parts of Bhutan. Nepalese people are said to be immigrated to Bhutan as early as 1620 AD. First King of Bhutan (Druk Gyalpo) Ugyen Wangchuck ruled from 1907-1926.

Huge number of ethnic Nepali people immigrated to Bhutan in late 18th and early 19th century from Nepal and India. By 1930 much of the southern Bhutan was cultivated and flourished by ethnic Nepalese that amounted to some 60,000 people. By the late 1980s, the Bhutanese government estimated 28 percent of the Bhutanese population were of Nepalese origin but unofficial estimates ran as high as 40 percent. 

But throughout 1980s and 1990s Bhutanese government expelled Nepali ethnic minorities out of the country using military seizing their land and properties, raping and torturing them. They were forced to go to Nepal as refugee. Started since 2008 many of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal are now being resettled in different parts of the world (mainly in the USA). As of 2015 August 83,053 Bhutanese refugees have been re-settled in USA already.

Still there are estimated 200,000 Lhotshampas living in Bhutan.

Screenshot of Google Map showing Bhutan, Eastern Nepal, NE India, Northern
Bangladesh and part of Tibet (China). Lhotshampa used to mostly live in
Southern Bhutan  before forcefully sent to Refugee camps of Eastern Nepal.
Pic also features: Doklam plateau, Siliguri Corridor aka Chicken neck

Timelines of Bhutan and Bhutanese Refugees:-

AD 1620: First known Nepalese ethnic people arrived in Bhutan as craftsmen from Newar community.
AD 1789: Nepal annexed Sikkim making effective international boundary with Bhutan.
AD 1814-16: Anglo-Nepal war. Sugauli Treaty signed, Nepal lost all lands east of Mechi river.
AD 1846 Sep 15: Pro-British Jung Bahadur Rana became Prime Minster of Nepal.

AD 1864: Darjeeling became the summer capital of Bengal Presidency.
AD 1864 Nov -65 Nov: British India- Bhutan war. Treaty of Sinchula was signed in 1865 Nov 11 by which Bhutan lost a lot of lands some of which were incorporated to present Darjeeling district.
AD 1882: Ugyen Wangchuck became Penlop of Trongsa, governor of Western Bhutan.
AD 1870s,1880s: Internal conflict between Pro-British Penlop of Trongsa Wangchuck and Pro-Tibet Penlop of Paro leaders in which Wangchuck got control slowly.
AD 1905 Feb 1: British-India awarded Wagchuck as KCIE for being loyal to them.

Rule of Druck Gyalpo (Wnagchuk dynasty)

AD 1907 Dec 17: Pro-British Ugyen Wangchck coronated as the first Druck Gylpo (King) of Bhutan (and lasted until his death in 1926).

Rule of Jigme Wangchuck (the 2nd King) 
1926 August 21:  Jigme Wangchuk became 2nd druk gyalpo of Bhutan and remained king until his death in 24 March 1952.
AD 1930: According to British colonial official estimation about 60,000 people of Nepalese origin were living in Bhutan at that time (which was about half of the population)

Rule of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (the 3rd King)
AD 1952 Mar 30: Jigme Dorjee Wangchuck became King and ruled until his death in 1972 Jul 24.
AD 1958: Bhutanese citizenship act implemented. amended in 1977.

Rule of Jigme Syange (the 4th King)
AD 1972: Jigme Syange Wangchuck became 4th king of Bhutan. He implemented all possible ways for ethnic cleansing of Nepalese minority.
AD 1975: Sikkim, a Kingdom between Nepal and Bhutan, where ruling Royal house was Tibetan origin but Majority of people were Nepalese origin was annexed by India.
AD 1988: First census of Bhutan was conducted.
AD 1989 Nov: Prominent Bhutanese Nepalese leader Tek Nath Rijal was abducted in eastern Nepal by Bhutanese police, then brought to Bhutan and sentenced to life inprisenment in 1993 for treason.
AD 1993 Apr 10: Nepali PM GP Koirala talked with Bhutanese King Jigme Singye Wangchuck on the sidelines of the seventh SAARC Summit, Dhaka about refugee crisis.
AD 1993 Oct 4-7: first Nepal-bhutan Ministerial Joint Committee(MJC) meeting held in Kathmandu.
AD 1994 Feb 21-24: Second MJC meeting held in Thimpu.
AD 1994 Apr 4-7: Third MJC meeting held in Kathmandu.
AD 1994 June: Forth MJC meeting held in Thimpu.
AD 1995 Feb 27-Mar 1: Fifth MJC meeting held in Kathmandu.
AD 1995 Apr 20: Sixth MJC meeting held in Thimpu.
AD 1996 Apr 4-8: Seventh MJC meeting held in Kathmandu. All 1st to 7th Bhutan showed unwillingness to verify the refugees.
AD 1996 Number of ethnic Nepalese who forcibly evicted by Bhutanese military exceed 1,00,000.
AD 1998: Bhutanese Nepali leader Tek Nath Rijal was granted pardon who then left for Nepal.
1998 July 20: Jigme Thinley appointed as Prime Minister of Bhutan. This post was abolished since 1964 (for 34 years).
AD 1999 Sep 13-16: Eighth MJC meeting held in Kathmandu .
AD 2000 May 22-25: Ninth MJC meeting held in Thimpu.
AD 2000 Dec 25-28: After years of discussion on 10th bilateral negotiation (MJC meeting) and deep international pressure Bhutan agreed on paper for the voluntary return of its people. A joint verification team (JVT) is to be form to verify refugees in order to determine their nationality status, with a view to ultimate repatriation to Bhutan.

AD 2001 March 26: Joint verification of refugees by Nepal and Bhutan started from Khudunabari camp.
AD 2001 Aug 20-23: 11th MJC meeting held in Thimpu.
AD 2001 Sep 9: President of Bhutanese Peoples party & Refugee leader Raj Kumar Budathoki (RK) murdered in Damak.
AD 2001 Dec 15: JVT finished verification of Khudunabari camp. 12,090 refugees from 1,935 families verified.
AD 2002 Oct: UNHCR report of total 110, 800 Bhutanese refugees (15,032 families) in the seven refugee camps of Nepal.
AD 2003 Jan 7: verified refugees launched an indefinite relay hunger strike in Khudunabari camp demanding the immediate publication of verification results, repatriation of verified refugees and commencement of verification in the remaining six camps.
AD 2003 Feb 6: 12th MJC talk held in Katmandu.
AD 2003 Mar 24-26 6: 13th MJC talk held in Thimpu.
AD 2003 May 19-22: 14th Nepal-Bhutan bilateral talk. (link)
AD 2003 Oct 20-23: 15th MJC talk held in Thimpu.
AD 2003 Dec 23: Bhutanese team of Nepal-Bhutan Joint verification team (JVT) led by Dasho Sonam Tenzing returned without doing job showing security reasons.

AD 2006 : Population in 7 camps:-Total= 106,662 (Beldangi-1:18,335, Beldangi-2:22,542, Beldangi-2 extension:11,594, Goldhap:9,513, Khudunabari:13,392, Sanischare:20,993, Timai:10,293)(link)

AD 2006 Apr 6-24: 19-days peoples movement in Nepal. This ultimately paved the way to end of monarchy in Nepal

Resettlement in USA and other countries

AD 2006 Oct: USA offered to resettle 60,000 bhutanese refugees. Refugee population at this time estimated to be 106,000.

Rule of Jigme Khesar (the 5th King)

AD 2006 Dec 9: Nepal born Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchc became 5th Druck Gyalpo (King) of Bhutan as his father abducted in his favor.

AD 2008 March 25 Tue: first group of "resettled" bhutanese refugees arrived in USA. (link)

AD 2008 March 24: National Assembly election held in Bhutan for the first time. DPT won 45 among 47 seats.
AD 2008 May 28: Nepal's constituent assembly voted to abolish the monarchy in Nepal by 560 to 4.

AD 2008 July 18: Constitution of Bhutan was promulgated. It defines Kingdom as a "constitutional monarchy". But in practice main ideology both of the parties in the parliament is "Royalism".

AD 2008: IOM and UNHCR jointly started resettlement of Bhutanese refugees to Third countries.

AD 2010 July: Bhutan prime minister Jigme Y Thinley referred to Bhutanese refugees as “illegal immigrants.”(Link)

AD 2013 May 31, July 31: Second general election held in Bhutan. Opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) won 32 out of 47 seats. Ruling Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party (DPT) won remaining 15 seats.

AD 2015 Nov 19: It was announced that over 1,00,000 refugees were already resettled in third countries among which over 84,500 were taken by US alone. Other resettled countries are Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmank, Netherland, Norway and UK. (link)

AD 2017 Feb: 108,513 refugees resettled in third country including over 92,000 in USA.(link)

See Also
  1. Timeline of Gorkhaland
  2. Timeline of Sikkim in India
  3. Timeline of unification of Nepal


Tags: Tek Nath Rijal, Gross National Happiness (GNH), GDP/GNP vs GNH, Prakash Angdembe, Desh Khojdai Jada, Desh Khojdai Janda, UNHCR, Upendra Subba, Hemanta Budathoki, Baboo Bogati, Meena Koirala, Himalayan Festival USA, Miss Bhutan USA, Prakriti Rai 2014, Numa Limbu 2015, Bimla Siwakoti 2016, Arati Ghishing 2017