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More to Bhutan than meets the eye

Dear Editor:

Recently a good deal of attention has been given to the democratization of Bhutan (Aspen Times Weekly, March 23). The much-beloved king gave up his powers voluntarily. It is such a charming country ” at least the part that the average visitor sees ” that it is easy to overlook aspects that are less than charming.

There are really two Bhutans. On the high plateau it is a Buddhist country with its own language derived from Tibetan and its own dress code. But the narrow strip that borders India on the south is very different. Visitors as a rule don’t get to see this because they fly in and out of the only airport in the country at Paro on the plateau. This part of the country is Hindu, or at least it was before some 100,000 people, largely Nepalis, were driven out in the 1990s. I am not sure of the present composition because these refugees are still in camps in Nepal. Some were offered Bhutanese citizenship but only on the basis of accepting all the dress codes and the like of the north.



One hopes that the present democratic regime will address the problem of these refugees, some of whom had family connections in the country that went back decades.

Jeremy Bernstein




Aspen

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