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Bhutan Bodo & Ulfa Conflict
Talks with the militants (September 2003)
Bhutanese Media News
November 2003: Talks with the militants

The government has held one more round of talks with leaders of the Indian militant group, the ULFA, and is scheduled to hold another round in the near future. The venue and dates of both rounds of talks were unspecified to the press.

The prime minister, Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley, said that the government had asked the ULFA leadership to close down their camps and remove their cadres from Bhutanese soil. In accordance with the National Assembly's decision, the ULFA leaders were asked to close down the main camp that served as their central headquarters.

"I sincerely hope that their top leadership will come for the next round of talks as assured by their representatives," said Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley. He added that the leaders of the Bodo group, the NDFB, were also expected to meet with the government. "Over the past six years Bhutan has shown extreme tolerance and patience," the prime minister said. "We have done this because of the good relations between the people of Assam and Bhutan. If it comes to military action, we appeal to the people of Assam to understand that all possible means for a peaceful solution had been exhausted."

Illegal Camps

The ministry of foreign affairs briefed the members of the international community on the problem. A briefing note stated that the ULFA militants had eight camps with about 1,560 militants, the NDFB had nine camps with about 740 militants, and the Kamtapuri Liberation Organisation (KLO) had three camps with 430 militants.

Outlining the implications of the presence of the militants

Outlining the implications of the presence of the militants, the foreign minister, Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk, described it as the most serious threat in the kingdom's history. Bhutan's peace and stability compromised and unprovoked attacks against Bhutanese property and people had made it unsafe for Bhutanese to travel through Assam. If the problem remained unresolved, it could undermine the traditionally close and friendly relations that Bhutan had always enjoyed with India.

The foreign minister also briefed the international community on the actions taken by the government, at great cost, to safeguard the security of the country. These included negotiations with the militant leaders over the past six years, numerous security related preparations in case of armed conflict, arrangements for displaced people, and the security of the international and diplomatic community.

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