Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1

Bhutan, with a population of approximately 700,000, is transitioning from a hereditary monarchy to a democratic constitutional monarchy. The transition began in 2005 when King Jigme Singye Wangchuck announced plans for a new constitution that would devolve some power from the king to elected representatives. In 2006 the king transferred power to his son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who continued the transition. In July 2007 a majority of the Council of Ministers resigned, the National Assembly dissolved itself, and a caretaker government was created to oversee government functioning until the new constitution went into effect with a new legislature in March 2008. In December 2007 elections for the new upper house, the National Council, took place. In March 2008 parliamentary elections took place. The civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces. Although the government's human rights record improved in 2007, some problems remained. There were limitations on freedom of assembly, regulations on freedom of religion, limited political expression, and some discrimination against the ethnic Nepalese minority.

Part 2

The U.S. government is striving to expand its informal relations with Bhutan. However, there are no formal diplomatic relations between the United States and the Kingdom of Bhutan. U.S. priorities include supporting the country's embryonic democracy and finding a durable solution to the issue of the 107,000 Bhutanese refugees currently residing in camps in Nepal.

Part 3

U.S. and Bhutanese government officials regularly discuss the country's peaceful transition to democracy. In particular, U.S. officials encourage the government to improve respect for civil liberties, including freedom of assembly, and protection for minority populations, reiterating the importance of finding a lasting solution, including repatriation, local integration, and resettlement for the refugees in Nepal.

The U.S. government also works to promote democratic values, political processes, educational reforms, and judicial independence by sponsoring several citizens to travel to the United States under the International Visitor Leadership Program, Humphrey Fellowships, and Fulbright scholarships.

Part 4

The U.S. government supports the significant political reforms that have taken place since 2005, including the legalization of political parties and creation of the Election Commission. The United States provided election monitors for the December 2007 National Council elections.

U.S. officials regularly discuss human rights and religious freedom issues with the government.