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Updated: 1 hour 19 min ago

The Royal Government received Nu 2

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 15:08

The Royal Government received Nu 2 billion from the Government of India for the Punatshangchhu-I Hydroelectric Project Authority, yesterday. Economic affairs minister Lekey Dorji accepted the cheque from Indian ambassador Jaideep Sarkar. (Photo courtesy: The Indian embassy’s Facebook page)

Her Majesty the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck conducts ground breaking ceremony of the Gawaling Southern Centre

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 17:09

Her Majesty the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck conducted the ground breaking ceremony of the Gawaling Southern Centre in Phuentsholing. The centre will cater to the six southern dzongkhags and provide the same services available at its centre located in Thimphu which includes counselling, legal aid, ECCD, medical treatment, livelihood skills training and micro financing.

S/J Thromde forms a housing dispute committee

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 17:08

The Samdrupjongkhar Thromde is yet to issue a written notice, ordering a house owner, who evicted a tenant unlawfully and violated the Tenancy Act of Bhutan 2015, to pay a penalty.

This is because the thromde’s dispute settlement committee’s chairman and deputy chairman are out of station to finalise the decision.

The committee had, however, informed the decision to the house owner and tenant who lodged the complaint verbally.

The committee imposed a fine of Nu 8,250 last Friday on a house owner after one of the tenants lodged a complaint with the committee for unlawful eviction as per the Act. The fine as per the Act is equivalent to one month’s rental charges.

The thromde’s legal officer, Tshering Chophel, assured that the decision would remain the same and it will not change because the committee found the complaint, which was lodged sometime in November 2016, was genuine.

This was the first case the thromde received after it established the dispute committee last year as per the Act. The committee is still reviewing one more case.

But there are increasing numbers of such verbal allegations from tenants against house owners for not following Tenancy Act and hiking house rents exorbitantly every year, while the Act spells out that an owner can revise  rent by only 10 percent every two years.

Tshering Chophel said tenants should inform the dispute committee if house owners are not abiding by the provisions of the Act but they hardly receive any written complaints, which is a must to review and investigate.

He said that as per chapter five of the Act, the house owner can evict the tenant if the tenant has not paid rent for two preceding months or if the tenant refuses to vacate after the expiry or termination of tenancy or doesn’t comply with the terms and conditions among many other reasons. “The owner should serve the eviction notice before three months.”

Tshering Chophel added that as per the Act, both the house owner and tenant should make sure a copy of the agreement, which is a must, should be submitted to the thromde. “But nobody follows this rule or they are not aware.”

He said that if they have an agreement, it would be easier for the tenant to complain and also for the committee to look into the issue.

The legal officer said that in the recent case, the tenant has not violated any provisions of the Act and had not even violated the agreement, which is why the committee decided to impose a fine as per Act. “There was no specific reason apart from seemingly a personal grudge, which cannot justify the reason to ask a tenant to vacate the house.”

The case has, however, besides raising awareness on the Act, raised many eyebrows.

Samdrupjongkhar residents Kuensel spoke to said they now know about the committee that looks after such grievances and know whom to approach if they face similar problems.

But with a housing crunch in a place like Samdrupjongkhar, the existence of the Tenancy Act is a mere paper tiger.

Many tenants who spoke to Kuensel, on condition of anonymity, said despite knowing what is in the Act, they don’t dare to complain since they do not have any options.

Tenants rather choose high house rents rather than be evicted.

One of the tenants working in a private office said his house owner had increased the rent by almost 50 percent yet she could not complain to anyone.

Many fear that if they complain, the owner might ask them to vacate the apartment, and that they would not be able to find another place given their reputation.

The private employee said many take advantage of the housing crunch because if tenants complain, they immediately ask tenants to leave, as there are many looking for houses.

Most residents said the thromde should conduct surprise checks on every house to make sure the Act is being followed and the committee should be proactive instead of waiting for people to complain.

Another private employee, Nidup Gyeltshen, said it was time the thromde should implement a local area plan as soon as possible and allow other land owners to construct houses, which is at present restricted, to solve the housing crunch.

Most of the house owners said they are aware about the Tenancy Act and they have been strictly following it while a few shared they increase the rent because other owners complain when they don’t.

The house owners claimed tenants refuse to pay rent citing those owners who have not increased.

Yangchen C Rinzin | Samdrupjongkhar

Members seek re-election of HDSB board members

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 17:07

The committee of Bhutanese pundits and dzongkhag chapters of the Hindu Dharma Samudaya of Bhutan (HDSB) have called for re-election of all its board members.

The HDSB’s annual general meeting (AGM) was held on March 26 at Tarayana Centre, Thimphu where the organisers announced and endorsed four new board members.

The newly elected board members are Rabilal Pokhrel, Deepen Giri, Menuka Pradhan and Krishna Mukhia.

A day after the AGM, a petition signed by presidents of dzongkhag chapters, pundits and prominent members of the HDSB was submitted to the president of HDSB.

The complainants say the organisers conducted the selection of the new board members without abiding by the Religious Organisations Act of Bhutan and the HDSB’s Articles of Association (AoA). The new members were picked without an election although there was no consensus on their endorsement.

Members of the community are happy that the meeting’s agenda covered most of the issues. “However, we strongly disagree and are unhappy with the proceeding of the nomination and election of the new board members with clapping of hands by the emcee, which is not in line with the Religious Organisations Act of Bhutan,” the letter stated.

The Act prescribes that the members of the board of directors should “elect from among themselves a chairperson, a secretary and a treasurer”.

The president, however, refused to accept the appeal letter. HDSB’s senior vice president, Achyut Bhandari, claimed the letter was withdrawn and that there were no issues left. “The AGM was conducted very democratically,” he said.

It is expected that the issue will be taken to a higher authority if the HDSB does not address their concerns.

Also, the organisers did not take consent of the floor for continuation of the existing board members, which according to the appeal letter, is not in confirmation of the general norms and AoA.

The Act, local chapters say, guides the HDSB to appoint religious personnel with backgrounds in religious education and no adverse records.

“But the HDSB board conducted the election hurriedly without the proper consent of the pundits and representatives of dzongkhag chapters, and the floor, which is against the norms of HDSB’s AoA approved by Chhoedey Lhentshog,” the letter stated.

“We would like to appeal to you to kindly look into this matter as per the norms and guidelines of the religious Act and AoA, and announce the date for re-election of all board members, as most of the current members have completed their terms,” the letter stated.

The letter also stated that the committee of pundits and local chapters do not have “trust and faith in the present board”. The letter stated that if the president fails to call for a re-election of board members, they would be compelled to take the matter to a higher authority.

A social worker, BP Bhattarai, said: “The HDSB board directors have the capacity and tendency to bulldoze and never listen to others’ pleas and suggestions.”

BP Bhattarai said: “With such developments in the central committee of HDSB, the working class people who mostly live to meet their ends, have over the years started forming their own groups and division.”

He added that the people would have been fortunate if HDSB central committee members were pundits with knowledge of villagers and adhere to the government’s policy and give the people the right guidance as expected.

BP Bhattarai said that HDSB from its inception was run by retired dashos, parliamentarians and senior members of the lhotsampa communities despite the religious organisation’s guidelines, which say that religious organisations should be run by religious persons having religious background and without any adverse record in the government as well as in private or social life.

“All other 93 religious organisations are run by lamas and anims, but the HDSB is run by retired high ranking civilians, although the Hindu community has more than 30 learned pundits with sastris and people with acharya and doctorate degrees,” he said.

“Such learned religious people with their deep and wide understanding on the world’s oldest and tested religion practice can successfully run HDSB with wisdom, solidarity and give people their enlightened leadership,” he said.

BP Bhattarai said that board members should be “elected and not selected”. The new members were picked without the consent of the HDSB members present at the meeting, he added.

MB Subba

New recurring schemes to encourage saving

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 17:06

The new recurring scheme of the Bank of Bhutan (BoB) will allow its customers to make multiple deposits (subject to total deposit of Nu 20,000 per month) of varying amounts in a month.

In order to encourage savings in the country, BoB launched two new deposit schemes – the Flexi Recurring Deposit (FRD) and Simple Recurring Deposit (SRD) – yesterday in Thimphu.

The FRD scheme allows customers to deposit variable amounts on any date and time in the month using the mobile application mBoB. Depositors opting for the flexi RD scheme can choose to deposit a minimum of Nu 100 per month to a maximum of Nu. 20,000 with tenures ranging from one year to 20 years.

Under this scheme, depositors also have the option to skip an installment without having to pay any penalty.  An official from the bank said that the FRD is a unique product available only with the bank and encourages customers to save any amount they can spare unlike the regular RD accounts that has a fixed installment amount to be deposited every month.

The interest rates offered for Flexi RD are slightly lower than the existing RD rates.

The second RD scheme, Simple Recurring Deposit has done away with the restriction of a maximum of Nu 10,000 per month in the exiting RD product and offers the freedom to deposit any amount as monthly installment. However, the monthly deposit should be made only once and is not flexible.

The minimum deposit for SRD is Nu 100 and the interest tenure ranges from one year to maximum of 20 years. Interest rates have remained similar to the existing RD product.

Bank officials said that the SRD is a product that should encourage people with large disposable incomes to opt for a larger fixed installment (over Nu 10,000) per month.

“With the waiver of PIT (Personal Income Tax) on fixed/term deposits introduced by the government, this new product should be popular with people who would like to make larger recurring deposits,” said the official.

Also the bank launched its new website and a new version of the mBoB mobile application. The website has a new look with easy and spontaneous navigation screens.  A provision to request a callback is also installed in case any clarification or further information is required.

The revamped mBoB app has a customer-friendly user interface. According to bank officials the changes in the screens and navigation options were developed based on feedback in order to improve the overall experience for users through simplified steps in the new app.

“Users will immediately notice that the improvement in the new mBoB app and it is not only limited to the look and feel but also in the great improvement in the overall usability of the app,” said an official.

The bank will continue to support the older version of the app until 28 April after which it will cease to function.  Users can download the new app from Google Playstore or Apple Store as well as for Windows and Blackberry phones.

BoB CEO, Pema N Nadik, said that the launch of the new deposit products is in line with the drive to encourage savings initiated by the government and the Royal Monetary Authority. “Together with growth in credit, growth in savings is equally important for the economic development of the country and as the nation’s oldest and largest bank, BoB is committed to contribute to this effort.”

He added that the bank takes feedback and suggestions from its clients  seriously and will always strive to meet and exceed customer expectations.

Currently there are more than 50,000 customers who have registered for the mBoB app.

Younten Tshedup 

Beware fake news

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 17:05

Many, including journalists, recently fell for an old, by internet standards, prank or “click bait” on the internet.

In this prank, an online newspaper (that looks legitimate unless you dig deeper) carries an article about US President Donald Trump suddenly making an unexpected U-turn on his campaign promises and has granted all Bhutanese citizens visa-free travel to the USA. On top of that, Bhutanese would be able to reside there for up to 180 days.

This is not the first time President Trump has rewarded Bhutanese. A few months ago, he held up a declaration on which he, again, promised visa-free travel to the USA for Bhutanese for being “good Buddhists”.

To anyone familiar with internet pranks, such “too good to be true” are simply phishing or click bait. You come up with a statement or headline so catchy that you get the user to click the link to find out more. Usually the baiter just wants you to visit their site and bait you to click more links so that he/she/it makes money off another third party.

A quick search of the internet would also show that it wasn’t only Bhutanese that were granted visa-free travel to the US. The headlines are the same, just the country is changed. It’s fake news.

However, in this recent case, some Bhutanese even contacted government and US embassy officials to confirm the news. The line is getting harder to distinguish between fake news and real news.

And if even journalists are finding it hard to tell the difference, this is a dangerous development and this is where the media must raise their own awareness, because we’ve to play a stronger role. We need to react faster to such fake news and debunk them as they appear. Today, the fake news about the visas is relatively harmless. However, there could be a day when those with more sinister motives exploit this platform and cause more serious damage.

We’re already susceptible to fake news and conspiracy theories and scams, especially information we want to hear like better chances with visas. For instance, the police are currently holding a suspect who is alleged to have duped a number of people by promising them US work visas given so-and-so contact here and there. Many were parted from their money. This is in spite of the several stories all media houses have run on the same kind of visa scams.

If not already, media literacy teachers need to teach their students how to distinguish between real and fake news, and what questions to ask themselves or what checks they can make on their own to identify fake news and scams.

National flower, Blue Poppy is a new species

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 17:03

It has been discovered that the national flower, the Blue Poppy is a new species to science with the discovery of two more new species of the Mecanopsis : Mecanopsis elongata and Mecanopsis merakensis.

Mecanopsis elongata is also endemic to Bhutan.

The national flower has been renamed as Mecanopsis gakyidiana from Mecanopsis grandis before. The blue poppy now has been upgraded to a species. Earlier, the national flower was misidentified as a subspecies to Mecanopsis grandis.

The Maconopsis gakyidiana was named after the country’s guiding development philosophy Gross National Happiness. Gakyid stands for “Happiness” and diana is the nomenclature term for the flower.

National Biodiversity Centre (NBC) senior biodiversity officer, Choki Gyeltshen said that the common name for the national flower in both English and Dzongkha however remains unchanged. The name of Mecanopsis gakyidiana is still Blue Poppy in English and Tshengenmeto in Dzongkha.

NBC’s curator of herbarium, Rinchen Yangzom said the scientific name has been changed because the national flower is not Meconopsis grandis.  It has been found that Meconopsis grandis is not found in Bhutan.

“We don’t have grandis anymore, they are found only in Nepal,” she said.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests stated on its website that Meconopsis gakyidiana was found to be different from the typical Meconopsis grandis in several important characters such as plant life form, leaf arrangement, leaf colour, shape of the flower and colour of the petal. “Thereby warranting a separate identity of species rank,” it is stated.

The researchers also found that the Mecanopsis gakyidiana is found only in Merak and Sakteng in Bhutan. “Mecanopsis, which are similar in colour and are found in Paro, Haa and Bumthang are not Mecanopsis gakyidiana, which people misunderstand with the national flower,” Rinchen Yangzom said.

Currently, the national flower is also recorded in western Arunachal Pradesn in India and Tibet.

Of the two new species of Meconopsis, one bearing the scientific name, Mecanopsis merakensis is found in Merak and Sakteng. Meconopsis elongata is found in Paro and Haa.

With the discovery of Mecanopsis gakyidiana, Mecanopsis elongata and Mecanopsis merakensis, Bhutan now has 15 Mecanopsis species. Three of the Mecanopsis species, Mecanopsis bhutanica, Mecanopsis superba and Mecanopsis elongata are endemic to Bhutan.

In December last year, the Mecanopsis research works of photographer and amateur botanist from Chiba, Japan, T Yoshida, Rinchen Yangzom and DG Long from UK were published in “Sibbaldia”, a journal of botanic gardens and horticulture based in the United Kingdom.

Tempa Wangdi

Minor arrested for lhakhang vandalism

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 17:02

Police in Wangdue have arrested a 13-year-old boy and an 18-year-old man for allegedly vandalising a lhakhang in Khotokha in Rubesa recently.

According to Kuensel sources, the incident occurred on March 12 and the lhakhang’s caretaker reported the crime to the police the next day.

Official sources said the two were arrested and have confessed to the crime to the police. The two were alleged to have destroyed a Guru statue in the lhakhang and also stolen several Buddhist statues.

Meanwhile, Wangdue police have also apprehended a 33-year-old man from Uma, Wangdue for allegedly murdering a 23-year old man from Drabchekha village in Gaselo on the night of March 3.

It was learnt that the two are cousins and both were under the influence of alcohol when the incident took place.

Police sources also said that when the incident was reported to police, they were informed that it was an accidental death. However, an investigation revealed that the 23-year-old man was murdered. “The incident occurred when the two went out to drink and on their way back, a fight broke out between the two.”

Police said the accused confessed but claimed that he hit the deceased with a stone in self-defense, as the deceased tried to hit him first.

The accused was arrested on March 4 and police said the case would be forwarded to the Office of Attorney General (OAG).

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue

Residents of Dophuchen asked to vacate town

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 17:00

About 10 timeworn mud houses make up Dophuchen (Dorokha) town of Samtse. Inside one of these old mud houses, Aum Kadom peels doma.

Originally from Haa, she is now settled in Dophuchen. “We have been in this town for a long time now,” she said, adding that all her children grew up in Dophuchen.

However, Aum Kadom is not happy with the town’s development which has stalled.

Over the years life in Dophuchen has drastically transformed with road connectivity. But the town, that is also the centre for the dungkhag, has seen little development. The town also is the location of the dungkhag and gewog offices, other government agencies and financial services.

People are keen to replace the mud houses with new concrete ones. But their hands are tied.

The land on which the town stands belongs to Dorokha Middle Secondary School (DMSS), which is a central school today. The school’s management has served the community with two notices to vacate the land.

Initially the land was under Dophuchen dungkhag but in 2012, the 4.43 acre plot was placed under the school’s thram.

DMSS principal Pema Chogyal said that when the school was upgraded to a middle school in 2008,  no government land was available and the dungkhag decided to place the town’s land under the school’s thram. As per government requirements, a middle school requires more than 20 acres of land.

Appointee town secretary, Tshering Wangdi, who has lived in the town for more than 35 years said that the land was transferred to the school without informing the town’s residents. “This land went to the school without our knowledge,” he said.

The town secretary said alternative land must be provided for town development. “This is not fair,” Tshering Wangdi said. People have lived in this town since the 1950s, he added, explaining the town area was once called Bazaar Dara and marked as a thromsa. Some of its residents even paid taxes.

A shopkeeper, Dil Maya Rai, who has lived in the town for decades said she is hopeful the government will allow them to remain in the town. She also hopes that they will be allowed to construct buildings for commercial purposes.

Dil Maya Rai lives in a mud house constructed in the 1970s. She said the structure has weakened since then and that it is unsafe today.

Another town resident, Buddha Lepcha, a restaurant owner said that nobody had consulted with them when the land was merged with the school’s. He added that officials in the area are helpless as the decision to merge the land was made by other officials during a different time.

Buddha Lepcha said that people used to pay taxes before. He pointed out that the town’s residents are not resisting the notice to vacate the land but that at least an alternative land where they can resettle should be provided.

A villager in Dophuchen, Devi Charan Chapagai, 64, said that the present town is the central point for Dophuchen dungkhag, which consists of three gewogs.

“I would like to see this town develop,” he said, adding that it is the best place to develop a town as Dophuchen lacks space.

DMSS principal Pema Chogyal said he is unaware of how the dungkhag office then processed the transfer and if the town’s residents were consulted. But it is school’s land now.

While residents claim that the land was registered as a throm area, the principal said that the land was provided as dungkhag land.

Pema Chogyal said that he has written to the dzongkhag to look into the matter.

At present construction is ongoing for a new central school at Dogap village in Dophuchen. Once completed, the current central school will be downgraded to a lower school.

Dophuchen’s residents said that the land owned by the school could then be returned to the town to allow for development. The town’s secretary Tshering Wangdi said that the school would not need so much land. “If the new central school was supposed to get constructed in this town, we would not interfere,” he said. “But why would a lower school need such a huge chunk of land.”

Meanwhile, Aum Kadom, lives in constant fear that the old house she runs a business in today might collapse if a strong earthquake occurs. “But life has to go on,” she said, as she continued peeling doma.

Rajesh Rai | Dophuchen

Her Majesty the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck in Chukha

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 17:15

Her Majesty the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck with school students of Chukha dzongkhag. Her Majesty, who is the UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, is currently undertaking a high-level advocacy tour of Chukha until March 29. Her Majesty began the tour on March 20 and is raising awareness on public health and social issues.

Global money week begins

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 17:06

As global money week begins, the central Bank has set its footing to maximise financial literacy outreach targeting more than 10,000 students, extending to vocational institutes, monastic schools, the defense sector, the rural populace, disadvantaged sections of society and senior citizens.

Two websites, a Financial Inclusion and Literacy website and one on the Bhutan Economic Forum for Innovative Transformation (BEFIT) was launched yesterday. The BEFIT is an international financial inclusion summit scheduled in May.

The FinSave Gift card, a discount coupon was also introduced. While opening a bank account or availing credit, select financial institutions, micro-financial institutions and NGOs would be providing the clients with a FinSave card.

The FinSave card basically provides card holders with an opportunity to avail discounts in identified business stores thrice until the end of June this year. This is expected to enhance disposable income of people and thus promote a saving culture.

The Royal Monetary Authority’s governor, Dasho Penjore said that financial inclusion is an extensive exercise to extend financial services to everybody. He said that the financial institutions are coming up with initiatives to augment a saving culture among the people.

The RMA in coordination with all financial institutions, micro finance institutions, NGOs, government sector and other stakeholders will be hosting a series of events between March 27 and April 2 to celebrate Global Money Week 2017.

BoB, BNB and BDBL will also be launching the Nu 100 rural saving account in Lhuentse and Tangmachu on April 1, among others.

Savings and budgeting, monetisation, functions of financial institutions, access to finance for entrepreneur progression, digital financing, making an informed financial decision and financial literacy are some of the topics for discussion to be held this week.

Staff reporter

Man cons people using social media

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 17:06

Police are waiting for more victims to file complaints against a 26-year-old man from Trashiyangtse who is currently detained for larceny by deception after he allegedly promised US working visas to five people.

Initially, police received information from a woman, a resident in Dechencholing, Thimphu about the man demanding Nu 150,000 from the woman to process a working visa to the USA.

According to the woman’s statement to police, she met the man on social media app WeChat and proceeded to converse. The suspect insisted the woman deposit the money before he gives the visa to somebody else. However, she did not give any money to the suspect.

Later, police found that the man had conned four more people, claiming to be an ex-drangpon of the Supreme Court, currently working as a private lawyer and also running a consultancy firm.

Police arrested the suspect from a hotel in Olakha, Thimphu on March 20. Later, Thimphu police learned that he is also wanted by Trashiyangtse police for larceny.

A police official said that the suspect communicated with the victims mostly through text and voice messages on WeChat. The suspect then asked the victims to add as a friend a woman named Pema Zangmo on Facebook, who he claimed was working in the USA.

The suspect convinced the victims that Pema Zangmo’s husband working in an embassy in New Delhi will help them in processing their working visas while Pema Zangmo would arrange for their jobs, lodging and all necessary arrangements in the USA.

Police later found that the suspect has been communicating with the victims as Pema Zangmo through text messages.

According to the police, the suspect admitted that Pema Zangmo, who he claimed to be his business partner in the USA, is fictitious.

The official said that Pema Zangmo’s Facebook account has been inactive after the suspect was arrested.

A 31-year-old woman from Trashigang met with the suspect through a “group chat” on WeChat where he told her that he processes working visas for the USA and if she or anyone else was interested.

Two other victims learned about the suspect from the 31-year-old woman.

On further investigation, police found that the suspect conned another man of Nu 750,000 in Thimphu. The man deposited the amount in a bank account of a hotel manager in Thimphu in nine transactions.

The man said that he met the suspect on Facebook and they never met in person.

“He was so convincing that there was no room to doubt him,” the man said. “We were supposed to leave for the USA on February 25 but couldn’t after he said that he is not well.”

The man said that the suspect did not reveal to him the total amount needed to process the visa when he asked. “He said I have to deposit Nu 50,000 as a registration fee and then he will let me know how much I have to deposit later.”

He added: “I borrowed the money from others and now I am doomed … I don’t have anything against him as long as I get my money back.”

The victims deposited a total of Nu 10.34 million in four bank accounts in the name of four different account holders in Phuentsholing, Bumthang and Thimphu.

The official said that initially it was suspected that the account holder may also be associated with the suspect.

However, according to the police, the suspect confessed that the account holders are not involved in the scam. He requested their bank account numbers to get his money transferred saying he doesn’t have one, which the police verified later.

Police also learned that the suspect gave the account number of the manager of a hotel in Thimphu that he had been staying in, to all the victims for transactions of additional money.

According to the hotel manager’s statement to police, the suspect stayed in the hotel for 16 days. He had also checked in saying that he had flown in from the USA.

A police official said that the suspect ran out of money to clear the hotel bills and that was when he asked for the manager’s bank account number claiming that his relatives in the USA will deposit a sum of Nu 583,000.

The official said that the first few transactions to the bank accounts were small amounts.

All the victims met the suspect on social media sites, WeChat and Facebook.

A 30-year-old victim said that it has been about three months that she had known the suspect through a relative.

She said that the suspect convinced her to deposit Nu 40,000 as a registration fee saying that he helped people from humble backgrounds to process working visa for USA.

Her sister arranged for the money and deposited it into the bank account that he had provided after which she met him at the Clock Tower Square in Thimphu.

She deposited Nu 20,000 in a second transaction.

“He said that Pema Zangmo and her husband will be in Bhutan and they will be meeting with us, the second batch to go to the USA,” she said. “On the day, he said he is in India and there won’t be any meetings.”

The suspect told her that the visa is ready and asked her to deposit another Nu 50,000.

“I started doubting him so I did not deposit the money,” she said. “He said that he will sell my visa to somebody else for Nu 1.5M.”

She asked Pema Zangmo and the suspect to give back her money otherwise she will report the case to the police. “They said I can report anywhere but I won’t be able to do anything.”

The suspect lives with his parents in Trashiyangtse helping his father after he completed class X in 2010.

The police official said that despite many similar cases being reported to the police, people are falling victims to such scams. Police are cautioning people to be careful and verify with the police and authorities concerned before trusting people promising jobs or visas overseas.

Dechen Tshomo

Making our roads safe

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 17:05

Bhutanese roads are increasingly becoming unsafe. This is against the backdrop of growing vehicle number, particularly in bigger towns like Thimphu and Phuentsholing. It is deeply worrying to learn that hundreds of drivers take to the roads without licence. There is so an urgent need to call to attention the dangers of such unhealthy practices on our roads.

What we must acknowledge is that Bhutanese aren’t good drivers. And what about our road sense? There isn’t even a word to describe how crazy we can be in trying to be sensible and creative. It seems like we have become experts at laying bumpers and zebra crossing wherever we feel like. And the endless digging that goes on on the roads, posing risks to both drivers and pedestrians.

Going by the available figures, between July 2015 and June 2016, 86 people died due to motor vehicle accidents. According to RSTA records for the month of January, close to 500 road users were found driving without a licence and other necessary vehicle documents. At the same time, 107 road users were fined for drink driving. Speeding, alcohol, and not wearing of seatbelts are some of the leading causes of accidents and road deaths in the country. What this clearly indicates is that we lack road discipline.

There is a need to employ more sensible and practical measures to improve road-user behaviour in the country. It is not enough that we have laws, rules and regulations. Safety measures and drink driving laws should be implemented more seriously. Wearing seatbelt must be made mandatory. Inconsiderate motorists who resolutely remain oblivious of the dangers to themselves and others due to their carelessness should be penalised. If penalty systems must be made more stringent, so be it.

Routine tests of licence holders could also help. Increased and improved legislation and enforcement seems to be the only workable options yet to make our roads safe.

PM leaves for France

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 17:04

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay will travel to Paris, France to deliver the keynote address at the first meeting of the seventh Replenishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Trust Fund on March 29, according to a foreign affairs ministry press release.

The replenishment meetings of GEF provide an opportunity for contributing participants to review GEF’s performance and evaluate progress, assess future funding needs, and agree on a financing framework.

The GEF has been an important partner for Bhutan in addressing the challenges faced in the area of environment and climate change. During the past 20 years of cooperation, the GEF, through its 19 projects (completed and ongoing), has made significant impact on Bhutan’s nature conservation and pursuit of low carbon and climate resilient development, the press release states.

A notable contribution of GEF, amongst others, is its support to the establishment of the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environment Conservation (BTFEC), which enables a sustainable funding stream to preserve Bhutan’s rich biological diversity.

This was the first GEF Trust Fund in the world and it has become a model for other countries to develop and establish conservation endowment funds to secure long-term financing to conserve natural resources and biodiversity.

The BTFEC has been recognised internationally as an example of best practices in conservation finance, and a global leader in the establishment and implementation of conservation endowment funds.

The Royal Government and GEF, in partnership with UNDP, are working on developing projects for enhancing sustainability and climate resilience of forests and agriculture, and low emission urban transport systems.

Staff reporter

Exhibition centre for made and grown in Bhutan products

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 17:04

An exhibition centre, built at a cost of Nu 6.85 million (M), that will display local products was inaugurated in Changzamtog, Thimphu, yesterday.

The centre is expected to promote construction materials, plumbing, electrical, handicraft items and agro products, that have been manufactured or grown in Bhutan, according to an economic affairs ministry press release.

It is also expected to help local producers market their goods and produce for both the local and international market.

One of the main objectives is to reduce imports of goods that are already produced locally.

The centre will invite producers and manufacturers to give talks and presentations to promote their products. Workshops and other kinds of gatherings will also be arranged at the exhibition centre.

Nu 4.6M was spent to construct the centre, while Nu 2.1M was spent on furniture, and Nu 150,000 on equipment.

Two employees have been provided by the trade department.

The centre was constructed on the instructions of Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay following a request from the business community.

Economic affairs minister Lekey Dorji inaugurated the exhibition centre

Staff reporter

The milk men of Panbang

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 17:02

It’s almost noon. Two elderly men appear on the streets of Panbang pulling a trolley on which rests a steel can.

The trolley creaks, its noise echoing down the street, alerting residents of their presence.

Daaw, Daaw, Daaw,” the two men shout summoning their customers.

For Tshethar, 58, and Tshering, 56, both from Tungudemba village, this is their daily routine selling dairy products in Panbang.

With the cans on the trolley, they go around the town and schools.

Both the men wear light green face masks, with their ghos folded down to their waists. A retired policeman, Tshethar pulls the trolley carefully while Tshering, a retired soldier, follows keeping an eye out for customers.

Tshering’s hands are full. He holds a sack of empty PET bottles, a measuring jar, funnel, stick, and a piece of cloth. They wear caps to prevent hair from falling into the containers. The stick is used for stirring the curd and the rag is for wiping the spilt curd around the can.

When people stop them, they park the trolley carefully by the roadside and open the can. The curd is stirred thoroughly and then poured into a PET bottle. The two belong to the Magdrep Nyamro Tshogpa, a dairy committee formed by retired armed forces personnel in the Panbang area.

Tshethar said it was his and his friend’s turn to go around selling daaw. Two other members will take over after a month. He said they bring about 70 litres of curd in two cans. Once they’ve sold all the curd they can, they return to their office at Sonamthang, which is about two kilometres from Panbang towards Nganglam.

A litre of curd costs Nu 25 while a litre of milk costs Nu 40.

They said the group buys milk from others who have cattle and they process it in Sonamthang. “We sell only milk and curd since we can’t recover the price of the milk if we process it into cheese,” he said.

Tshethar said the group also supplies milk to Thinleygang school on Saturdays and to Panbang school on Fridays. “We are not making any profit by doing this job,” he said, adding that is more of a social service.

Resident Yonten said the service has benefitted people who don’t rear cattle, especially civil servants like him. “We need not go all the way to Sonamthang to buy curd as they bring it to our door step,” he said.

The group was established in 2015 and there are 22 members today.

Nima Wangdi | Panbang

Japan to provide much-needed diagnostic machines

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 17:01

The health ministry will receive seven medical equipment for the national and regional referral hospitals from Japan next year to improve their diagnostic capacity and services.

The JICA Chief Representative Koji Yamada and Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) secretary Thinley Namgyel signed an agreement to improve medical equipment at the national and regional referral hospitals yesterday.

The project will provide a CT  (computerised tomography) scan machine of 64 slice capacity and a mammography machine to the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) in Thimphu. Japan will provide a CT scan machine of 16 slice capacity each to the Gelephu Central Regional Referral Hospital and Mongar Eastern Regional Referral Hospital.

Mongar hospital will also receive a spirometer to measure the air capacity of lungs, and an Electrocardiogram (ECG) Holter System. Gelephu hospital will also get a general X-ray machine.

The equipment are worth Nu 319 million or Yen 551 million.

The GNHC secretary Thinley Namgyel said that the assistance will contribute towards enabling early diagnosis and treatment services for non-communicable diseases, injuries and others to be provided by the national and regional referral hospitals.

Once in place, the equipment are expected to reduce waiting and travel time, thereby improving access to medical services for the population, especially those living in the eastern and central regions of the country.

The grant aid project proposal was discussed with the government of Japan in 2015 during the 10th bilateral annual consultation.

This signing comes after Ambassador V Namgyel of Bhutan and Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu of Japan signed the Exchange of Notes under the Japanese Grant Aid project on March 3 in New Delhi, India.

In a year, of the 1,600 patients treated at the JDWNR hospital, 60 percent came for MRI and CT scan services. A CT scan machine worth Nu 48 million was installed in JDWNRH in 2006.

The health ministry is attempting to reduce the number of days for which use of CT scan is suspended in JDWNRH from 15 days a year to none and increase the number of CT scan examinations in JDWNRH from 3,782 cases a year to 5,000 by 2021.

The machines will also help to increase the number of CT examinations in the Gelehpu Central Regional Referral hospital from zero cases today to 1,500 annually by 2021.

The government of Japan provided 55 ambulances to the health ministry so far contributing towards quality and accessibility of emergency medical services.

Diplomatic relations with Japan were established on March 28, 1986. Japan contributes the second most in development aid and remains a long-term development partner of Bhutan.

Tshering Palden

Four-week international break for Thimphu football league

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 17:00

The on-going Thimphu League has been halted for almost a month now with some of the players from the nine participating clubs engaged with national team duty.

The league, which began on February 4, was paused after a month from March 5 to train the national squad for the upcoming 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in the UAE.

Officials from the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) said that the Thimphu League fixture and decision to take the month-long international break was discussed with all nine club managers prior to the commencement of the league.

The national head coach wanted at least 25 days to train the national team before the international games. This became on of the reasons for extending the Thimphu League this year by almost six months. “The decision was finalised based on the approval from all the team managers,” said an official.

However, some of the clubs are unhappy with the month-long break and said that the league should continue irrespective of international games.

Thimphu FC manager, Yiwang Pindarica, said that the league should have continued even with some of the national players from each club away on national duty.

“It would be really good if there was a rule or regulation regarding the registration of only a certain number of national team players in a club,” said Yiwang Pindarica.

Of the nine clubs competing in league, defending champions, Thimphu City FC has 11 national players on the team, the highest in the league. However, with the 11 players out for national duty, City still has 13 players (one injured) back in the country.

City general secretary said: “As far as we are concerned, all the team managers were called for a meeting prior to the fixture. It was jointly decided that we will have our league early and take a long break. So we have no complain and comments.”

Internationally the break differs with leagues. Usually the European leagues get around seven to 10 days off as international break, while the I-League (Indian League) recently had a three-week break.

The current league leaders, Transport United FC are in support of the long break. United’s general secretary, Yeshey Samdrup, said that since the decision for the break was taken after consulting with all the managers, the club has no issues.

Transport United FC has seven of its players on the national squad. “If the rule demands us to continue with the league, we would comply even if we have to forgo our key players. We go by the rule,” said Yeshey Samdrup.

Thimphu FC has four of its players on the national team.

Meanwhile, the national team will take on Oman tomorrow at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat at 9pm BST.

Younten Tshedup 

OAG reviewing land case dating back to 1970s

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 17:07

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is reviewing one of the oldest and most complicated cases the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has investigated so far.

The case involves the alleged criminal misappropriation of 11.75 acres of government land by a businessman in Chukha.

It took more than seven years for the commission to conclude that a businessman settled in Gedu, Chethey, was able to claim land in Emalakha in Bongo gewog as belonging to his mother-in-law given flawed judgments being passed by both the higher and lower courts. Both courts reportedly passed verdicts based on wrong or tampered evidence.

The investigation found that the land at Emalakha as claimed by Chethey was actually called Emalaktshen and belonged to Aum Dema, the wife of former finance minister Chogyal. Since the land was registered as tsamdro (pasture), it was taken over by the livestock department in 1982 and Nu 46,511 was paid for a wooden structure, which was constructed in 1975, as compensation to Dema’s son.

The land, which is located below the Thimphu-Phuentsholing Highway, about 115km from Thimphu, housed the Emalakha Calf Rearing Sub-Centre until 1989.

Later, the forest department took over the area and the Gedu range office developed the area by planting trees.

In 1998, the land was leased to Jai Prakash Associates by the government during the Tala Hydropower construction to establish a stone quarry, dumping site, workshop and godown.

Today, the remnants of a Jai Prakash store and workshop, including a two-storey building remain.  Chethey is alleged to have inherited the building and other structures on the plot in lieu of rent or lease charges from Jai Prakash when the company terminated its work at Tala.

The commission conducted its investigation from July 2009 to September 2016 after receiving a walk-in complaint along with documentary evidence, alleging that the High Court had passed the land dispute judgment in favour of Chethey’s wife, Choden. The complainant stated that Chethey used a description of the same location for the government land occupied by Jai Prakash.

During a cadastral survey in 2003, the land in question could not be formalised since the Gedu range officer refused to sign a clearance stating that the land belonged to the government. Consequently, Chethey filed a case against the agriculture ministry before the Chukha dzongkhag court on behalf of his wife, alleging that the forest department denied land clearance despite it being registered to his mother-in-law.

The court on November 24, 2008 ruled in favour of Chethey based on a false declaration submitted by Chethey. The defendant then appealed to the High Court, which upheld the lower court’s ruling on April 21, 2009.

While scrutinising the judgments ACC found both courts passed verdicts based on the court order issued for transfer of thram in Choden’s name on November 11, 2003.  Surprisingly, the investigation revealed that there were several flaws in the court ruling. For instance, November 11 is a public holiday, during which all government institutions were supposed to be closed and the judge would have attending the celebrations, instead the court passed a judgment allowing the transfer of land from Choden to Tshering Pelden.

ACC also found that even the official letter head used for the judgment was the Chukha court’s whereas the case was registered at the Phuentsholing dungkhag court. Tshering Pelden told the investigators that he didn’t attend the court hearing at all as he was outside the country pursuing his studies. He also stated that he had not authorised anyone to sign on his behalf.

However, Chethey had conceded that he signed on the behalf of both the parties worrying that the total area may exceed the permissible limit. The investigation also revealed that there was no such land registered in the name of Sonam Choden or Choden as clarified by the National Land Commission secretariat. ACC charged him on two counts of forgery.

The commission implicated Chethey on two counts of perjury for submitting a false declaration to the lower and higher courts, stating that the land at Emalakha could not be registered during the cadastral survey in 2003 as the Gedu range officer refused to give clearance. In 2002, Chethey requested the same plot as land substitute for his 50-decimal plot at Dzongtoe Lamme Dram, which he claimed was taken by a DANTAK quarry.

ACC’s investigation also found that Chethey submitted an application to Jai Prakash on February 1, 1999 informing them that the company had occupied his land without his prior consent and asked them to fix a nominal rent. He also stated that if the company is not interested in paying rent, they can leave the structures when the project winds up. After remaining silent for more than five years, Chethey submitted another application in May 2004 to the dzongkhag requesting for help to get buildings and a water supply system.

ACC implicated him on four counts of deceptive practices as he deceived the authorities including the dzongkhag administration, Jai Prakash Associates, Tala Hydropower project and the National Environment Commission with intention to enrich himself. He wrote letters causing them to believe that the land belonged to him and raised the issue of claims against the land, which in reality was government land.

He was also accused of deceiving the dzongkhag and survey officials that his land was not surveyed during the detailed survey of 1988 as the surveyors had left the survey site when he was busy with a survey in Bunakha. He claimed that till 1989, the land in question was managed by his parents and he started looking after it only in 1991-92. “This is because Chethey knew that associating with and taking responsibility would implicate him,” ACC’s report stated.

The commission also recommended the prosecutor to restitute 11.75 acres of land to the state and Chethey to rehabilitate the area as per the existing laws of the country.

The report stated that the case extending into the 1970s made investigation difficult in terms of finding documents and locating key witnesses. About 29 individuals, including 14 witnesses were summoned and 44 interrogations were carried out.

Rinzin Wangchuk

Samtse shopkeepers told to vacate stalls by April 1

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 17:06

More than 30 shopkeepers in Samtse are hopeful that the dzongkhag will not ask them to vacate their stalls. The dzongkhag has asked them to vacate their stalls by the end of this month to make space for Samtse town’s development activities.

If they vacate the stalls, most of them would not have spaces to run their garment businesses. Without their businesses running, they fear that they will not be able to repay their loans on time.

Kuensel learned that most of the shopkeepers operating at the stalls have taken loans ranging from Nu 150,000 to Nu 300,000 with the help of the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Women run the majority of the businesses.

They are worried that they would not have money to pay their suppliers in Siliguri, India.

Tashi Tshomo, a divorcee, sells clothes. “Samtse does not have many buildings and space is limited. Maybe I will start selling vegetables,” she said.

While vegetable vendors have been provided with an alternative area to sell their produce, garment shops have not been provided with one. The construction of three new buildings is almost complete in the town, but stall shopkeepers said spaces in these buildings have already been booked.

Tashi Tshomo said the commercial spaces in one of the new buildings is too expensive. Rents would be cheaper when all the buildings are constructed, she added. Meanwhile, Tashi Tshomo is supporting her eldest daughter in a private school.

Migma is another woman who runs a garment shop in one of the stalls. She is also a divorcee.

“Many of us are from humble backgrounds,” she said, explaining that they would face difficult times if there are no other spaces identified to run their businesses. There are so many people who have to repay their loans, she added. “We do not want to complain because we have been able to use the stalls free of cost.”

Shopkeepers said that they have submitted a letter explaining why they cannot move out. They have not received any response so far.

Another woman, San Maya Barailey, told Kuensel that she cried when she learned of the news. “Operating businesses in this stall is my livelihood. My husband is sick and I have children going to private schools.”

San Maya Barailey said she has no idea how to repay her loans.

The shopkeepers are planning to submit an appeal to the dzongkhag one more time.

However, some have already started packing up.

Samtse town’s BCCI representative, Ugyenla, said that his main worry is about shopkeepers who have  to repay their loans. “They are repaying on time so far. It would be difficult once they move out from here.”

Samtse’s municipal in-charge, Tenzin Dakpa, said that the stalls should be vacated by April 1. “People should find their own space for doing business,” the in-charge said.

Rajesh Rai | Samtse