Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions
Bhutan is a democratic, constitutional monarchy with a population of approximately 700,000. The country completed its transition from a hereditary monarchy to a constitutional monarchy with a parliament over the last three years. In December 2007 elections for the upper house of parliament (the National Council) took place. In March 2008 citizens elected the lower house, or National Assembly. In July 2008 the parliament formally adopted the constitution. The civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces. The transition to a parliamentary democracy improved the human rights record considerably in 2008; however, there were continued limitations on the freedom of religion and some discrimination against the ethnic Nepalese minority.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. government is striving to expand its informal relations with the country as there are no formal diplomatic relations. U.S. priorities include supporting the country's nascent democracy and finding a durable solution to the issue of the 103,000 Bhutanese refugees currently residing in camps in Nepal.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
U.S. and Bhutanese government officials regularly discuss the country's 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 through educational exchange programs. In 2008 the U.S. Government negotiated the placement in the country of an American Fulbright scholar, who will teach for one semester beginning in June 2009.
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 and anticorruption commissions.
U.S. officials discuss human rights and religious freedom issues during their meetings with the government.