Estimated 742,700
Dzongkha (Bhutanese)
State religion is Vajrayana Buddhism, which is followed by an estimated two-thirds of the population; an estimated one-third of the population is followers of Hinduism
  • Bhutan is considered one of the world’s most isolated countries and the government strictly regulates foreign influences, including tourism, to preserve the country’s Buddhist culture
  • Agriculture provides the main livelihood for more than 80% of the population

Conflict and Crisis History

From the 1890’s forward, people from Nepal were brought by government contractors to settle in southern Bhutan, to clear the forest and establish rich terraced farmlands providing the main food supplies for the country.  Lhotshampa means “southerners” in Bhutanese and refers to the heterogeneous ethnic Nepalese population in Bhutan.  In the mid 1980s the Bhutanese government begins revoking citizenship of these Nepali-speaking citizens.  In the early 1990s Southern Bhutanese (Nepali-speaking) began to flee the country; many are forced into signing “voluntary migration forms”.

Refugee History

  • The exodus of tens of thousands of people via India into Nepal created a humanitarian crisis.  At the end of the main exodus nearly 110,000 refugees are in the 7 refugee camps in eastern Nepal
  • U.S. began accepting refugees in 2008; as of July 2011, 34,129 refugees from Bhutan had been resettled in the U.S. with 72,000 still remaining in the refugee camps.
  • Of the 34,129 in the U.S., nearly 1,600 of these refugees have settled in North Carolina.
  • “They (Nepali-speaking Bhutanese people) were expelled in a little-noticed but very real ethnic cleansing exercise,” said Terry Rusch, director of refugee admissions for the U.S. Department of State. (June 2010)