NEPAL ARRESTS TIBETANS WHO CROSSED BORDER


2003-10-09
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Pilgrims had intended to visit Buddha's birthplace

Authorities in Nepal have arrested 11 Tibetan nationals, including three children and a woman, for illegally entering the country, RFA's Tibetan service reports.

The Tibetans crossed the border in the northwestern district of Jumla earlier in the week without travel permits. They had intended to travel to the birthplace of Buddha in Lumbini, in the southwest of Nepal, a police spokesman said.

They also wanted to continue their pilgrimage with a visit to Kathmandu, he said. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was investigating the case.

Several groups of Tibetans have been arrested for entering Nepal illegally. They are often on their way to the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, where the Tibetan exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, lives with the rest of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

In May, Nepal expelled a group of 18 Tibetans, returning them to China in the face of widespread criticism and appeals from the European Union, the UNHCR and the Tibetan government-in-exile.

The UNHCR has helped other groups travel on to India. Around 35,000 Tibetan refugees have settled in Nepal, but the kingdom is careful not to anger Beijing and has refused to let the Dalai Lama visit.

Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama told a conference in Spain that "cultural genocide" was taking place in his homeland, with a wave of ethnic Chinese migrants making Tibetans a minority in their own region.

"Some kind of cultural genocide is taking place," the Nobel Peace Prize winner said. "The culture (in danger) is very relevant to today's world."

Ethnic Chinese now outnumber Tibetans in most large towns and probably overall in the Tibet Autonomous Region, he said, cautioning reliable data on the issue are scarce.

The Dalai Lama, who has run a government-in-exile from India since fleeing Tibet following a failed uprising in 1959, says he wants greater autonomy, not independence, for the Himalayan region.

China's People's Liberation Army troops marched into Tibet in 1951. The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize three decades later for his non-violent opposition to the Chinese presence in Tibet. #####

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