South Asia

Published: Saturday 31 March 2007

Refugees clash For the first time in 16 years, a violent confrontation took place in the third week of February between Bhutanese refugees and villagers in Pathari, 600 km east of Nepal's capital Kathmandu. The clash happened when the latter tried to stop the Bhutanese refugees from taking wood from a forest near the Sanischare refugee camp. One refugee was killed and several others injured during the clash. Following this, the villagers called for an indefinite strike and demanded the authorities close the camp and refugees no longer "encroach" on their forests. More than 16,000 Bhutanese refugees live in the Sanischare camp.

Since 1990, Bhutanese citizens of Nepalese origin (known as Lhotsampas in Bhutan) have been evicted from their homes by the Bhutanese government, which introduced a new law stripping them of citizenship and civil rights because of their Nepalese ancestry.More than 106,000 refugees have since been sheltered at seven camps in eastern Nepal. So far, several rounds of talks between the governments of Nepal and Bhutan have failed to resolve the issue. With the recent violence, the refugees now demand they should be repatriated to Bhutan or resettled in a third country.

Trishaws banned Sri Lankan environmental minister, Champika Ranawaka, has announced that the registration of two-stroke petrol engine trishaws (three-wheelers) will be terminated from June 1, 2008. The minister's statement came amidst agitation by trishaw drivers and owners who say that their livelihoods will be affected by the government decision.

According to some trishaw owners, demand for second-hand two-stroke trishaws has gone down following the announcement since banks and leasing companies are hesitating to give loans for them. The ministry, however, says the decision will not affect already imported trishaws, because the government has revoked an earlier decision to ban import of spare parts for two-stroke trishaws from 2011. Meanwhile, the attorney-general has informed the Supreme Court that the decision to ban the import of two-stroke three-wheelers will be revised.

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