Bhutan. In February, India’s army chief, NC Vij, said that the Bhutanese army’s offensive against the Indian separatist groups in the southern part of the country, which began in December 2003, had been very successful. He stated that at least 420 of the rebels had been killed and that a large number of their weapons were seized. According to the Indian Army, which has offered Bhutan support in the fight against the separatists, there were about 3,000 rebels from mainly three groups in Bhutan when the offensive began.
In March, reports of new attacks against the guerrilla groups came. The planned return for some of the more than 100,000 Bhutanese who have been living in refugee camps in Nepal since the early 1990s did not materialize. No solution to the refugee issue was achieved. Human rights organizations have appealed to Nepal and Bhutan to seek help from the UNHCR to solve the problem, which Bhutan has refused. In April, the Nepal government promised to make an effort to involve the UNHCR and also India in the process. The promise came since Bhutanese human rights fighter Tek Nath Rizal, who lives in exile in Nepal, had launched a hunger strike.
According to CountryAAH, the total population in Bhutan is 771,619 people in 2020. King Jigme Singye Wangchuk abolished the death penalty in March. It had not been used since 1964 and was seen as a contradiction to Buddhist doctrine.
In November, Bhutan, probably the first country in the world, imposed a total ban on tobacco products. The government decision means that it is prohibited to sell and hold cigarettes and other tobacco products. Anyone who violates the ban runs the risk of fines, and shop and hotel owners also get rid of their permits. The ban does not apply to foreign visitors, but if they sell tobacco products to Bhutanese it is considered smuggling.
Bhutan and the six other countries in the South Asian cooperation organization SAARC agreed in January to form a regional free trade zone, SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area). The agreement means that the countries will gradually, until 2017, reduce the customs duties to eventually liquidate them on most goods.