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Bhutanese refugees clash with Nepal police

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KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) -- For a second day, refugees from the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan clashed with Nepalese police on Monday near a refugee camp in eastern Nepal, according to the United Nations and local police.

Police said the refugees were defying a curfew on Monday and, in the ensuing clash, police killed one refugee. The curfew was imposed after a refugee was killed in police firing on Sunday.

"Fourteen armed policemen and six refugees were also injured in clashes Monday," police spokesman Sushil Bar Singh Thapa told CNN.

Sunday's violence was sparked when Bhutanese refugees at the camp disagreed over whether it is best to return to Bhutan or be resettled in the United States, according to the U.N. high commissioner for refugees office in Kathmandu.

Meanwhile, a group of Bhutanese refugees took part in a planned march to Bhutan via a 50-mile stretch of India that separates Nepal from Bhutan. The marchers were stopped at the India-Nepal border.

"Indian police attacked us when we tried to cross the border into India and about five dozen of us were injured," Devendra Poudel, a refugee told CNN on telephone from the border in eastern Nepal. "I cannot tell you the condition of those injured but many have sustained head injuries."

India had beefed up security along its border with eastern Nepal ahead of the refugees' planned march to Bhutan.

More than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees of ethnic Nepalese origin have been living in camps in eastern Nepal since 1992 after Bhutan's government evicted them because it says they are non-nationals.

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.

In April, the United States announced it had come to an agreement with Nepal's government to resettle 60,000 Bhutanese refugees. That plan has divided the refugee community living in the U.N.-run camps in Nepal.

A U.S. Embassy statement outlining the plan said, "We do not believe resettlement in the United States is the solution for every Bhutanese refugee, and only those who freely choose resettlement in the United States would be considered."

Elsewhere on Monday, Bhutan staged a second "mock election" as a final dress rehearsal for the isolated Himalayan kingdom's transition to democracy next year after a century of royal rule, news services reported.

Former king Jigme Singye Wangchuck decided to hand power to an elected government, before passing his crown to his Oxford-educated son last December, Reuters reported.

The mock poll is intended to teach voters and officials about the election process, in a country only slowly entering the modern world.

From Journalist Manesh Shrestha in Kathmandu


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