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Trekking in search of the Yeti, kayaking down the Mochhu, tours round majestic Dzongs where monks still practice a strain of Buddhism unchanged in thousands of years - Bhutan, 'the Land of the Thunder Dragon', holds many attractions for the modern traveller. Luxurious health spas and designer package adventure trips have lured celebrities such as Cameron Diaz, Eva Mendes, the Duchess of York and Stephen Spielberg and made it a fashionable and exclusive holiday destination. Yet many of Bhutan's 9000 annual visitors are most likely unaware that all is not quite idyllic in Shangri-la.
What King Jigme Singye Wangchuck's government fails to mention in their publicity is that Bhutan is the largest single generator of refugees per capita in the world. One sixth of its population, an ethnic minority with Nepali origins, who until the early 1990s resided in the south of the kingdom, have been forcibly expelled from the land they had occupied for more than a century. A mass expulsion culminated in 110,000 southern Bhutanese residing in refugee camps in south-east Nepal. They are still there today.
PhotoVoice, the international non-profit organization specializing in participatory photography, has been working with the refugees in their camps since 1998. By providing young people with cameras and photographic training, they have sought to empower this marginalized people and provided them with a platform upon which they are able to tell their side of the story.
Fourteen years since their expulsion from Bhutan, their situation remains the same; the refugees want to go home but they live in a perpetual limbo.
For more information go to:
bhutannewsonline.com homepage.eircom.net/~paulbeara photovoice.org