Bhutan and Human Rights: Tainted human rights records backfiring on Bhutan

Look and Gaze, Jan, 12, 2010: With Bhutan’s image getting increasingly smeared internationally for its tainted human rights records, a US-based travel and tourism research organization has de-listed the country from the top-ten ethical destinations.

In its top-ten ethical destinations, Ethical Traveler, a research branch of the Earth Island Institute based in San Francisco, said the nationalistic kingdom (Bhutan) is plagued by human rights issues. Bhutan’s treatment to its Nepali origin citizens has been identified as one of the major human rights violations by the state.

 “Travelers are often surprised that Bhutan is not one of our Top Ethical Destinations,” said Ethical Traveler’s 2009 report. “Despite its sublime natural beauty and extraordinary commitment to preserving the environment, the highly nationalistic kingdom is still plagued by human rights issues. These concerns include the fate of more than 100,000 Bhutanese of Nepalese descent, who were expelled from country in the early 1990s and still live in refugee camps along the Bhutan/West Bengal/Nepal border.”

Every year Ethical Traveler conducts a study of the world's developing nations focusing on three general categories -- environmental protection, social welfare, and human rights – and comes up with its top ten ethical countries.

For each of these categories, the Ethical Traveler looks at information of past and present so that its report captures not only the current state of a country, but its forward path. Travelers, the research organization believes, are serious about preserving their natural assets, promoting mindful travel, and building an economy in which local communities reap the benefits of tourist revenue. “Travel to these countries encourages such efforts, and inspires neighboring countries to support these values as well,” the report observes.

The report is largely based on the information provided by human rights watchdogs working in respective countries like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders.

 “Every country has human rights issues-but it was important for us to see efforts being made towards improving known situations and the preservation of basic human rights for all,” said the organization.

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