US embassy cable - 02KATHMANDU619

BHUTANESE REFUGEES: AMBASSADOR VISITS CAMP, TALKS NEAR DEADLOCK

Identifier: 02KATHMANDU619
Wikileaks: View 02KATHMANDU619 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Kathmandu
Created: 2002-03-29 06:35:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREF PREL EAID AORC PHUM NP Bhutanese Refugees
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KATHMANDU 000619 
 
SIPDIS 
 
GENEVA FOR RMA 
ROME FOR USMISSION 
LONDON FOR POL/RIEDEL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/28/2012 
TAGS: PREF, PREL, EAID, AORC, PHUM, NP, Bhutanese Refugees 
SUBJECT: BHUTANESE REFUGEES: AMBASSADOR VISITS CAMP, TALKS 
NEAR DEADLOCK 
 
REF: 01 KATHMANDU 2131 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Michael E. Malinowski, Reasons 1.5 (b), (d). 
 
1. (C) Ambassador visited three Bhutanese refugee camps in 
eastern Nepal March 25.  Overall, the refugees expressed 
satisfaction with conditions in the camps, but an 
undercurrent of frustration was in evidence.  The Refugee 
Affected Area Program for the region has concluded, and aid 
workers warned that tensions with locals could rise in the 
absence of additional similar programs.  Talks between Nepal 
and Bhutan have stalled, and Post advocates engaging Bhutan 
to urge a timely resolution of the refugee issue.  End 
Summary. 
 
Camp Visit 
---------- 
 
2. (U) Nearly one year to the day after the Nepal-Bhutan 
joint verification process got underway, Ambassador visited 
Bhutanese refugee camps in Morang and Jhapa districts in 
eastern Nepal on March 25.  After inspecting the camps at 
Sanischare in Morang and Beldangi I and II in Jhapa, he met 
with local authorities and with staff from UNHCR, WFP and 
their implementing partners. 
 
Conditions Remain Good, But Frustration Evident 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
3. (SBU) Overall, conditions - including hygienic, 
nutritional and educational - in the camps remain quite good, 
and refugees expressed satisfaction with the camps' 
administration.  However, John Andrew, the new head of 
UNHCR's Jhapa field office, commented that upon his arrival 
the first thing he noticed was how poorly clothed the 
youngest children were.  New children's clothing - including 
material for school uniforms - had not been provided for 
several years.  Some refugees voiced concern about the lack 
of opportunities for post-secondary education, funding for 
which has also been scarce. 
 
4. (SBU) An undercurrent of frustration was evident in talks 
with the refugees, and some aid workers feared that this 
frustration could get out of hand.  Refugee leaders have 
expressed concern about rumors in the camps that the refugees 
will have to reapply for citizenship two years after 
repatriation to Bhutan.  The leaders were also worried that 
reports that Bhutan has encouraged settlers to occupy the 
refugees' former lands would rile camp residents. 
 
Refugee Affected Area Program Ended 
----------------------------------- 
 
5. (SBU) Relations between refugees and locals remain "quite 
good," according to local officials.  They acknowledged a 
danger that the refugees - who are not supposed to work on 
the local economy and thus have a lot of time on their hands 
- were at risk of becoming involved with the Maoists.  Local 
officials, UN staff and NGO representatives all expressed 
concern that the UNHCR's Refugee Affected Area Program (RAAP) 
had concluded.  RAAPs typically run for four years, and the 
RAAP associated with the Bhutanese refugees was extended for 
a second four-year period.  Funding has now run out, and the 
program has been discontinued.  To date, relations between 
the refugees and locals have been good, but this could be 
hard to maintain in the absence of a continued program to 
build good will, one UNHCR staffer judged.  Considering the 
extreme level of poverty in the areas surrounding the refugee 
camps, additional inputs would be needed.  In future, donors 
should avoid giving the impression that such relief could 
last a long time, the UNHCR Representative in Kathmandu 
admitted. 
 
Nepal-Bhutan Talks: Deadlock Looms 
---------------------------------- 
 
6. (C) MFA Under Secretary Prahalad Prasai told us March 21 
that talks with Bhutan are in "kind of a deadlock."  When 
pressed, however, Prasai back-pedaled, insisting that a 
deadlock had not yet been reached.  Bhutan was using 
"procrastination and delay tactics," and had not yet given a 
reply to Nepal's requet to set a date for the next round of 
Ministerial talks.  Verification teams have gone back to 
their respective capitals until further notice.  (Note:  In 
Geneva, the Director of UNHCR's Asia Bureau recently met with 
Bhutan's Ambassador to discuss the status of the talks, the 
UNHCR Representative here told us.) 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
7. (C) The refugee camps are fertile ground for unrest and 
violence related either to the slowness of the joint 
verification process or to the Maoists insurgency.  In its 
talks with Nepal, Bhutan has not shown a sense of urgency 
proportional to this risk.  As we have urged before (Reftel), 
we continue to believe that we should engage Bhutan on this 
issue sooner rather than later. 
MALINOWSKI 

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