15th meeting of the Ministerial Joint Committee of His Majesty's Government of Nepal and the Royal Government of Bhutan on issue of refugees.
Fifteenth MINISTERIAL JOINT COMMITTEE MEETING, Thimphu, October 20-23, 2003
Joint Press Release
1. The Ministerial Joint Committee (MJC) of the Royal Government of Bhutan and His Majesty's Government of Nepal held its fifteenth meeting in Thimphu from 20-23 October 2003.
2. The Nepalese delegation was led by H.E. Dr. Bhekh B. Thapa, Ambassador-at-large, His Majesty's Government of Nepal. Mr. Madhu Raman Acharya, Foreign Secretary, and senior officials comprised the other members of the Nepalese delegation.
3. The Bhutanese delegation was led by H.E. Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Ms. Neten Zangmo, Foreign Secretary and senior officials comprised the other members of the Bhutanese delegation.
4. The leader of the Nepalese delegation expressed appreciation for the warm welcome and hospitality extended to his delegation by the Royal Government of Bhutan.
5. The Nepalese delegation called on H.E. Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinley, Prime Minister of Bhutan on 22 October 2003.
6. The two leaders expressed their firm resolve and commitment to arrive at a lasting solution to the issue of the people in the camps in Nepal through the bilateral process.
7. The two leaders commended the work done by their predecessors in developing the principles and procedures for arriving at a just and lasting solution. They also commended the very difficult work undertaken by the Joint Verification Team (JVT).
8. The MJC considered the appeals against their categorization submitted by the people of Khudunabari and finalized the categorization outcome. It was agreed that the appeals submitted by people in Category 3 will be reviewed by the JVT by the end of January 2004.
9. The two leaders noted the concerns about the treatment of family members in Category 4 - Bhutanese who have committed criminal acts. In this regard, it was agreed that the innocent family members of persons in Category 4 who do not have charges against them will not be prosecuted upon return to Bhutan.
10. It was agreed that people in Category 1, Category 2 and Category 4 who voluntarily apply to return to Bhutan will be repatriated as per the harmonized position on these categories. Likewise, His Majesty's Government of Nepal will deal with people in Category 2 who do not wish to return to Bhutan as per clause 2 (d) of Annex-I of the Agreed Minutes of the 12th MJC. The terms and procedures for repatriation/reapplication/application for Bhutan and Nepal will be as prescribed by the two countries as per their respective laws, which will be mutually respected.
11. The MJC agreed on a schedule for implementing the outcome. In this regard, the JVT will meet in Damak, Jhapa in the last week of November 2003.
12. It was agreed that the MJC will be briefed on the returnees after their return to Bhutan.
13. The MJC also selected Sanischare as the next camp for verification and directed the JVT to explore ways and means of expediting the verification process in the remaining camps.
14. The two leaders exchanged views on several areas of mutual interest to further promote and strengthen friendly relations and cooperation between the two countries. They noted with satisfaction the growing interactions between their two countries including those between the private sectors.
15. They expressed mutual satisfaction with the progress achieved during the fifteenth MJC, which was held in a very cordial and friendly atmosphere.
Thimphu, 22 October 2003