South Asia

Published: Saturday 15 January 2005

Cruel punishment: The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Refugee Coordination Unit (RCU) recently stopped food distribution to 3,142 refugees in Bhutans' Jhapa refugee camps. The reason cited was violation of UNHCR rules. Nirmal Raj Khanal, head of RCU's statistics department, pointed out that the refugees had been working outside the camps without permission.

Earlier, the UNHCR had complained that the refugees were using wood for fuel, leaving the camps without permission, brewing liquor and felling trees in the nearby community forest -- activities they are not allowed to undertake under the UNHCRrules. The Bhutanese refugees, who had earlier lived as citizens of the country, were stripped off their rights by a new Citizenship Act and a subsequent census in 1988. They are currently under the UNHCR's protection.

Poacher-protector nexus: Deer poaching is continuing unabated in the Sundarbans in Bangladesh and the local people allege this is due to an unholy alliance between poachers and forest officials. Sources say a large number of spotted deer has been killed in the world's largest mangrove forest in the past two months. The Sundarbans has been declared a World Heritage site.

On December 11, 2004, forest officials recovered a slaughtered deer from a boat in the forest. A day before, local people had caught two alleged poachers and handed them over to the forest officer. But they say the poachers managed to bribe the forest officer and were released, along with their cache. Two slaughtered deer were also found on December 4, 2004. The list goes on. The local people allege that sometimes the poachers enter the forests with permission, posing as visitors.

Some local political leaders and activists and even government officials are also involved in poaching, they say. Entertaining guests with deer meat is considered prestigious in the area and the sale of deer meat is an open secret. Deer horn and hide fetch a good price in the market. Forest officers say they can't control poaching due to lack of manpower and equipment.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.