No judgements have been passed on cases involving possession of Spasmo Proxyvon Plus (SP+) since last month.
SP+ is a generic form of the Spasmo Proxyvon (SP), a prescription drug used to relieve pain.
This, according to sources, is because some defendants have argued that SP+ is not categorised as a controlled substance in the Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substances Abuse Act of Bhutan (NDPSSA) 2015.
A Thimphu dzongkhag court official said that because SP+ is not included in the NDPSSA 2015, there are chances people may be acquitted like the ketamine cases in 2013, if there are no clear directives.
Ketamine was listed as a controlled drug in Bhutan only after a woman was caught smuggling the drug at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand in 2013.
Police, as a law enforcement agency and the Office of Attorney General (OAG) as the prosecuting agency have justified that although SP+ is specifically not categorised as a controlled drug, it should be considered a controlled substance since it has elements of SP.
“If our intention is to make Bhutan drug free and control and prevent drug abuse, SP+ should be treated like any other drugs,” OAG’s prosecutor, Phuntsho Namgay said.
OAG officials have been prosecuting those in illegal possession of SP+ since 2015. They say that they can do so based on section 139 of the NDPSSA 2015, which states a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances if he or she possesses, imports, exports, stores, sells, purchases, transports, distributes or supplies any substances under schedule one to four of the Act regardless of the degree of purity.
OAG and police officials explained that the main content of the SP drug is dextropropoxyphene, whereas the main content of SP+ is tramadol. However, all other elements in both SP and SP+ are the same, and the two drugs have the same effect on the user.
The deputy chief of police for crime, Colonel Dorji Wangchuk, said SP+ is not different from SP since it is abused as a psychotropic substance and the police consider it just another controlled substance for the safety of the public.
Both police and the OAG do not maintain separate records for SP+ cases. The OAG prosecuted more than 390 cases involving controlled drugs in 2016.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, in the recent Meet the Press session said there are about 11,000 drugs abusers in the country.
Meanwhile, it has been learnt that a case involving a man from Mongar, who was arrested with more than 1,125 capsules of SP+ in mid 2016, is in the Supreme Court.
The accussed, who was charged for a third degree felony, had two convictions against him and Mongar dzongkhag court enhanced the charge to second degree felony and convicted him to nine years and six months in prison.
The accused, who is in Chamgang prison, appealed to the High Court on the grounds that SP+ is not in the scheduled list of controlled substances and thereby requested the court to acquit him.
The High Court upheld the Mongar dzongkhag court’s verdict.
The accused appealed to the Supreme Court and court officials said they are waiting for Supreme Court’s judgment on the case, which will be used as a precedent.
A judge of the Thimphu dzongkhag court said they are waiting for the Supreme Court to issue directives on how to rule on cases involving SP+.
With the adoption of the Thimphu Declaration on autism and neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs), the three-day international conference on autism and NDDs ended in Thimphu, yesterday.
Health minister Tandin Wangchuk said that another milestone has been achieved in advancing the global agenda of autism with the adoption of the declaration.
The declaration, a combination of inputs from various stakeholders will welcome the WHO South-East Asia (SEA) regional strategy on autism spectrum disorders (ASB).
The regional strategy is based on the four strategic areas defined in the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013 – 2020. It has 31 objectives, based on the declarations and resolutions on autism and NDDs as well as the four overarching strategic areas of the action plan. The objectives are to provide member states with clear working targets to holistically address the lifespan needs of persons with ASDs.
The second declaration is to call upon governments to integrate the needs of those with autism and other NDDs in health, education, social services and socioeconomic development policy, planning and implementation, as well as other national efforts in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The declaration also calls upon governments at all levels to work together with civil society including academia, professionals, non-governmental organisations, private sectors and the media to address autism and NDDs, and effectively implement the Thimphu Declaration.
The stakeholders will collectively enhance whole-of-society and whole-of-government efforts to strengthen national capacity, to provide services and take measures to remove associated stigma and promote social inclusiveness for individuals and families with ASD and NDDs.
The declaration reaffirms the South-East Asian countries’ commitment to strengthen information systems and research and promote knowledge and experience sharing, within and across countries, particularly on best practices with a focus on the lifespan needs of those with autism and NDDs.
It also invites United Nations agencies, development partners and international organisations to facilitate cooperation, collaboration and support countries in the implementation of the declaration, in accordance with the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
A committee of members representing all the stakeholders finalised the declaration.
The president with Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan (KGUMSB), Dr KP Tshering said that the declaration is the fruit of the conference.
“This is what we have to cherish and everyone should pledge the conviction and commitment to transmit the declaration into an action plan and policies of the various governments to make lives of people with autism and NDDs more meaningful in society,” he said.
Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said he is confident that the declaration will entice and encourage stakeholders including government agencies and UN organisations to fervently fight for the rights of individuals and families living with disabilities.
The health ministry commits to take forward the declaration to ensure better services and support system for autism and NDDs, he said. “For this, I seek support from WHO and partners,” Lyonpo added.
“All in all, whatever efforts we make, including this conference, should ultimately result into better life and happiness for persons with disabilities and their loved ones,” Lyonpo said.
Chairperson with the national advisory committee for autism and NDDs, Bangladesh and WHO champion for autism in SEA, Saima Hossain, said she hopes that by coming together and sharing thoughts, the participants have changed lots of minds. “Because that is what we really need for our community, for all of us who hold the issue of disability and the needs of the vulnerable people close to our hearts,” she said. “We need to come together, work together and change people’s minds.”
She said that it’s easier to think of the details like the services and programmes but it’s much harder to change how people think. “But that is the challenge, if there is anything that you have taken away from this conference, that is what I would like you to do and invite you all to become a champion.”
The health ministry, Bhutan and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Bangladesh hosted the conference with technical support from Shuchona Foundation, ABS, and the World Health Organisation South-East Asia Regional Office.
After being closed for almost four years, the domestic airport at Yonphula in Trashigang is expected to reopen by May this year.
According to the Department of Air Transport, the airport will be completed by the end of this month.
Almost 45 percent of the second layer of blacktopping has also been completed. Airport manager, Tshueltrim Drakpa, said that the remaining 55 percent of the blacktopping will be completed in a week’s time provided the weather conditions are favourable.
“If the works are completed as scheduled, we can have our inaugural flight at the airport within the first week of May,” said Tshueltrim Drakpa.
Harsh weather conditions remain one of the biggest challenges hindering the completion of work at the airport. The supervising engineer at the airport, Kailash Chhetri, said that a minimum of seven degree Celsius is required for blacktopping the runway. “The weather hare is unpredictable. One moment we have sunshine and the next we see clouds circling the area with heavy downpour.”
The average temperature at the location is five degree Celsius however in winter the temperature drops to as low as two degree Celsius and sometimes even below zero, said Tshueltrim Drakpa. “Precipitation also hampers the blacktopping works.”
Located at an altitude of 2,539 metres above sea level, Yonphula domestic airport was closed in 2013 for renovation, improvement of safety and compliance with international standards.
Due to some technical issues, the airport, which was supposed to be completed by October last year, was further delayed. Heavy rainfall at the location also added to the delay.
To meet international standards, the runway was extended by about 90 metres. Kailash Chhetri said that runway surface towards the south end was lowered by about 15 metres. Towards the north end the surface was raised by about eight metres.
Tshueltrim Drakpa said that the certification of the runway will be done by the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority after completion of the project.
Of the four airports in the country, Yonphula domestic airport is the only airport that will allow only one-way take-offs and landings. The flights will enter and leave the airport from the north.
The runway is 1,460 metres in length.
Younten Tshedup | Kanglung
Truckers are refusing to transport cement following a downward revision in the carrying rate
Following a reduction in the transportation rate, about 300 truckers have refused to transport Dungsam Cement Corporation Ltd’s (DCCL) Dragon Cement from Nganglam to hydropower project sites in Punakha and Trongsa since April 16.
The truckers have decided to load the cement from the DCCL plant only if the agents pay them the same rate they were paid last year. Negotiations are ongoing.
Almost all the trucks are idle and parked near the factory. Their drivers await a positive response from the agents.
The issue rose after the corporation revised the rate, which is revised every year. However, the rate was reduced by Nu 50 per metric tonne for different destinations this year.
This, according to the truckers, is the third time a rate has been reduced instead of being increased. The truckers said that the transporters have always made the truckers bear losses and this time they decided to refuse to accept the rate.
The truckers said that the transporters should bear the loss this year, since they have already borne it twice.
The transporters have already agreed to the revised rate with DCCL. While they attempting to negotiate a 50-50 sharing of the loss, the truckers declined the proposal.
The truckers questioned how the rate was reduced when the cost of fuel and maintenance escalates every year.
One of the truckers, Samten Wangchuk, said that if the revised rate for transporting cement from Nganglam to the Mangdechu hydropower dam site was Nu 2,300 per metric tonne, the transporters would pay them only Nu 2,125 instead of Nu 2,150 like last year.
“The revised rate has no impact on their commission while it is difficult for us,” he said. “This is why most of the truckers have to over load to earn a little bit extra to make ends meet. But this time we’ll not carry cement unless they agree with our request.”
Another trucker, Tshering Wangdi said the truckers were already running into losses with the previous rate because they have to repay loans, support families and pay fines, among others. He added that even if DCCL had reduced the rate because their initial rate was high or because they are running at a loss, it is still not fair to place the burden on the truckers.
“They should question their own finance people and should have foreseen such an issue. Who is going to bear our loss or where are we supposed to share our grievances?,” he said.
Many expressed that they are not consulted or called when such decisions are made.
Meanwhile, most of the transporters in Nganglam said that they appealed twice to the corporation to reconsider the revised rate, which did not come through and to save the business they had to accept the rate.
One of the transporters, Jigme, said they do agree that earlier the loss was borne only by the truckers and that this time they decided to bear the loss equally so that they can continue working with DCCL and to recover their investments.
“But the truckers found it unfair and refused to load the cement until we bear the entire loss,” he said. However, he added that a few truckers agreed to transport the cement.
If borne equally the truckers would be facing a loss of about Nu 300 per trip a month. The truckers make almost eight trips on average every month.
Another transporter, Langa, said they have to meet various costs like taxes, loans and staff salaries, which is why they cannot bear the entire loss. He added they are still in negotiations with the truckers to find alternatives.
Langa was able to transport cement using only 10 trucks instead of the 25 trucks he used daily earlier.
The transporters are expecting to resolve the issue soon. There are 10 transporters in Nganglam on contract with the company.
However, the dispute between the truckers and transporters is crippling DCCL and dispatch of cement, according to its deputy managing director (DMD) Karma Gayleg.
He said the issue arose exactly at the time when demand for cement from the Punatsangchhu project increased for major concreting work that has just begun. The project requires about 5,000 metric tonnes of cement.
The company has been receiving inquiries for not providing the required cement. The same issue also occurred last year and in 2015 as well but Karma Gayleg said it had not been as serious as the current problem.
He said that the management decides on the rate revision and it is a part of cutting costs.
“We’re observing and waiting for them to solve the issue but if it prolongs then we cannot wait longer because continuing supply is important,” he said. “We need to supply the cement demanded or we may have to opt for other alternatives.”
Some of the alternatives planned are supplying cement through Indian railway racks, which is cheaper than road transportation or hiring Indian transporters, among others.
Karma Gayleg said the company cannot consider the revised rate.
Yangchen C Rinzin | Nganglam
Signs that a child has special needs first appear early on. The international conference on autism and neurodevelopmental disorders, while highlighting the efforts being made, revealed that there is much more to be done at this developmental stage of a child’s life.
Experts say that there is an urgent need for awareness, especially among parents, health and education professionals so that causes that impair personal, social, academic, or occupational functioning could be diagnosed early and treatments provided at the right time.
The prevalence of any disability in Bhutanese children in at least one functional domain was found to be 21 percent among children of 2-9 years with cognitive disability to be the highest. Between 2012 and 2016, the developmental clinic at JDWNRH has attended to 139 children with neurodevelopmental disorder.
These figures may not tell us the whys and hows of the disability’s prevalence but it suggest that there could be more children growing with neurological disorders across the country who could be missing out on the interventions provided in the capital and on a chance to grow into productive citizens.
For a country that has been commended for its healthcare services, initiating a study to provide answers to understand disorders that affect the country’s most vulnerable, its children, should be a priority.
Bhutan already has support from the highest levels in addressing autism and neurological disorders. Measures are taken to remove stigma and promote social inclusiveness. The special significance of Thimphu declaration yesterday was that we made commitments to integrate the needs of people with special needs.
The health ministry must take the lead to strengthen these efforts, expand its services to the regional and district hospitals, and call on the society to work with civil society organisations to help raise awareness.
The ministry has done well in creating awareness on lifestyle diseases and other ailments that affect the wellbeing of the people. We can do more, especially for children with special needs.
For Bhutan, its children are more than mere statistics. Meeting the needs of its differently-abled children need special attention.
… in the last eight months
Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) officials in Gelephu have, in the last eight months, seized 1.8 metric tonnes (MT) of illegally imported chilies.
During the same period, 500kgs of beans and 400kgs of cauliflowers were also seized. People were also penalised for trying to import the restricted vegetables.
The BAFRA officials collected a penalty of Nu 96,640 since the government banned the import of chillies, beans and cauliflowers in July last year.
Thursday is an important day for BAFRA officials in Gelephu. It is market day at the border town of Dadgiri. People from as far as Bumthang and Trongsa travel to buy goods at wholesale rates from this market. And it is also on Thursday that people import a lot of banned items.
BAFRA officials, therefore, conduct thorough inspections on the Gelephu-Tsirang highway, Gelephu-Trongsa highway and at the border gate.
Last Thursday, at least 38kgs of chillies were seized.
The price of chillies in Dadgiri is Nu 20 per kilogramme, whereas vegetable vendors sell the same product at Nu 60 per kilogramme in Gelephu town and Nu 100 in Tsirang. Chillies imported from Kolkata and distributed by the Youth Business Corporative (YBC) to vegetable vendors in all 20 dzongkhags is available at Nu 80 a kilogramme.
Sr regulatory and quarantine inspector of BAFRA, Tenzin, said that the chillies brought from the bordering towns of Jaigaon and Dadgiri have high pesticide residue content. Those imported from Kolkata are pesticide-free.
“Chillies from Kolkata show negative while testing for pesticide content, whereas chillies from Falakata show more than permissible limit of pesticide content,” he said.
He added that even before the government began importing chillies from Kolkata, officials from BAFRA were sent to Kolkata to conduct tests. When the consignment reaches the border gate in Phuentsholing, pesticide tests are conducted.
In the last two weeks alone 31MT of chillies were imported. Another 12MT is on the way. YBC distributes the imported chillies to vegetable vendors across the country.
Vendors now need to produce an authentication receipt when transporting chillies from one dzongkhag to another. If an authentication receipt is not produced, the consignment is seized and a penalty levied.
Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang
Phub Dorji quit drugs to become a chef
Phub Dorji never imagined that he would work at a five star resort in Phuket, Thailand and maintain a decent standard of living.
The 29-year-old from Zhemgang was heavily dependent on abusing controlled substances that he suffered from withdrawal when he missed his doses. “When I was addicted to drugs, I never imagined that my life would take me here,” Phub said.
As a child growing up in Thimphu, Phub was exposed to drugs early. He started smoking when he was 13. He then began sniffing dendrite, smoking marijuana and popping pills. Later, he got addicted to hard drugs. “I stole money from home to pay for my new habit,” he said.
He was expelled from primary school when he was in the fifth standard for abusing drugs, two years after he turned to drugs.
“My family was not aware about it until I was caught sniffing dendrite during a school fete day and expelled,” he said.
The second eldest of four children however continued his studies in a school in Paro where his sister worked as a teacher, only to be expelled again.
“My sister tried to help me but I continued to abuse drugs and found many friends happy to join me,” he said. “I hardly talk with my parents and they gave up on me when I continued using drugs.”
As his school life came to an abrupt end, Phub Dorji decided to join the police force. He was 16 when he was expelled from the seventh standard. “The entry age to join the police was 18 so I had to lie about my age then,” he added.
After training at Tsimaham in Chukha, he started working with the traffic police division in Thimphu. But working with the law-enforcing agency too did not stop him from using drugs. He abused drugs for five more years until his senior officer caught him. He was dismissed from the police force and imprisoned.
“The prison was a terrible place but it did not stop me from using drugs,” he said.
After his release, with no job and money, Phub Dorji began dealing drugs. “I was under the influence of drugs all the time and felt that nothing could help me quit,” he said.
In 2009, he met his wife and tried to quit drugs for the first time. “I attempted to stop using drugs, just for her,” he said. “But I failed and it got worse.” His addiction got severe after he began abusing brown sugar. He battered his wife and was arrested for domestic violence. His wife later bailed him out. “I was jailed thrice and my life was a constant struggle,” he said.
One day, as he sat atop a wall in the middle of town, somebody approached him, he said. “That somebody was Lama Shenphen Zangpo. He sat next to me and told me that I should go to a rehab centre in Siliguri, India for treatment,” he said. “This is the first time in 14 years of my addiction that I had heard of rehab centres.”
However, a day before Phub was to leave for rehabilitation, he was arrested again. “Still, all was not lost and Lama Shenphen listed me in the next group leaving for the rehab in December 2013.”
When he was about to complete his rehab treatment in Siliguri, he was asked to return home immediately. His wife was seriously ill.
“When I reached Thimphu, she was already dead and cremated,” he said. “I hadn’t seen her for a long time and I couldn’t even say goodbye or that I was sorry.”
To relieve the pain, getting back to drugs was tempting for Phub but his friends at the rehab helped him handle the situation. He spent another four months in a rehab centre and has been drug-free ever since.
Lama Shenphen helped him get a job as a waiter at a restaurant in Thimphu after learning that he was interested in becoming a chef.
“I worked as a kitchen helper after working as a waiter and then as a chef intern at Hotel Taj Tashi in Thimphu for about three months,” he said. “That was when Lama Shenphen asked me if I was interested to undergo a chef training at a five star resort in Phuket, Thailand.”
After Phub completed two years of his training period, he was offered a job with the resort for a year on contract.
“I would not be here without the support of Her Royal Highness Princess Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck and Lama Shenphen,” he said. “They picked me up when the world had given up on me. If someone like me, a hard core drug addict for 14 years can quit, anyone can.”
Having lived in Bhutan for just over a year, 13-year-old Emma Chan recently visited Sikkim. This is what she saw.
Roads and landscape
When I was in Sikkim, I had to keep reminding myself that I was not in Bhutan, because the landscape often seemed so similar. Like some of the windy Bhutanese roads, roads in Sikkim can zigzag a fair bit too, and with varying road quality: smooth one minute and bumpy the next.
An explanation to this situation was offered for a particularly tricky stretch of road we travelled often to our hotel in Sikkim. Apparently, the roads were badly maintained because this was an opposition ward. If this was true, I think it is sad that politics should impact the people’s lives so negatively, with government resources and funding not being distributed according to need.
Architecture in India
Many of the colourful buildings in Sikkim are precariously perched by the sides of the road. Some of them seemed to be partially hanging off the face of a cliff and it looked like it would not take much to shake the structure off the mountainside. Even though the architecture seemed rather hazardous for an earthquake-prone zone, one thing I was impressed by was how the Sikkimese didn’t use breakable clay flowerpots. When they did decorate balconies with live flowers, they wrapped the soil (with the plant growing in it) in what looked like reinforced plastic tape. This means that if the “pot” were to fall, it would not shatter on impact or become “killer litter” if it were to tip onto a passer-by’s head.
Something else I observed was the number of monkeys. If the road to Phuentsholing has many monkey communities, then Sikkim has an infestation! They would roam around by the side of the road, dodging oncoming traffic. When we reached Rangpo, we saw a few monkeys jump up and grab a wire, which they then used to swing to a hotel balcony. I think if Bhutan wants to minimise potential damage caused by animals, they need to reinforce laws that are already there, otherwise there is going to be more illegal wildlife trade. The result will then be more wildlife-in-captivity situations, creating dilemmas faced by animal rescue organisations about whether domesticated animals can be safely released into the wild.
Too much garbage
Another problem I see in India is the amount of garbage. If one was to collect all of the garbage by the side of the road, you’d have enough to fill a convoy of garbage trucks. What scares me is that Sikkim is one of the cleaner places. You may say that Mahatma Gandhi (MG) road is very clean. Yes, it is clean, but only because of the multiple teams of cleaners constantly doing their job. If those cleaners were not there, likely, it too would be contaminated with waste. It is true that Bhutan is currently much cleaner in comparison, but if Bhutan does not take more action against littering, we may have a situation like India’s. It is good that Bhutan is developing projects such as Green Bhutan, but this is not enough. Chances are, if there are any stores selling food or drink packaged in plastic, whether you are in Bhutan, India, or any place in the world for that matter, you will find copious amounts of garbage, even in supposedly remote or rural areas.
Yet another thing I noticed was the number of vehicles on the road. After we reached Gangtok, my brother counted the number of taxis, just for fun. There were about 206 in total in a short 6km stretch, on a busy Sunday afternoon. I feel like there are more taxis than there were people to ride them. I hope Bhutan’s traffic never gets as congested.
Engine testing in Bhutan
Something I also noticed was that there were engine testing services available. I counted at least two or three garages that offered this service. I think that this is something that the Bhutanese should utilise, especially with the number of cars and trucks spewing toxic fumes in Bhutan. If we do not do something about the emissions, my fear is that this will take away part of the green plan intended for Bhutan. Maybe Bhutan has an emissions rule, but it doesn’t seem to be rigorously enforced. Hopefully the new checkpoint being built at Phuentsholing will enable this.
Health of the dogs
I think there are more strays in Thimphu than in Sikkim. However, I was shocked at the number of dogs we saw that had mange in Sikkim. I would say that there was a ratio of about 1:3 of dogs that had mange to dogs that didn’t. I’m not sure if this is partly due to genetics, or if there was just a bad infestation amongst the dogs that hasn’t cleared up.
Getting a SIM card
We managed to buy an Indian SIM card, valid for the month. As it turned out, I think the person at the store may have cheated us. We had bought the SIM card so that we could use the hotspot, and we were told that there was one gigabyte a day. I suspect the man we bought it from had already used it, so we didn’t get the promised gigabyte. I think that because we bought the SIM card at a major brand telecoms store, we were too trusting, and as tourists, we would (naturally) make an easier target for dishonest deals.
I think the storekeepers in Bhutan tend to be more honest, because everyone seems to know everyone. The shopkeepers will not want one person to tell another that they conned someone of their money, because that would tarnish their reputations.
I didn’t really get to see many of the sights of Sikkim because my dad and brother both came down with stomach flu, possibly due to local bacteria. We did, however get to visit a bookstore called Rachna Books. It reminded me a bit of Junction Bookstore here in Thimphu, just because of the layout and ambience. To make a profit, the owner of Rachna Books runs two other enterprises, a café and hotel on the same premises. He told us that because many people just come and browse, he doesn’t make as much money off the bookstore as he could. I thought his method of supporting his passion was very entrepreneurial. I wonder if sustaining business is an issue for other stores in Bhutan.
What I’ve Learnt
I think what I’ve learnt from this trip to Sikkim is that even if you do not get to do much, you should still try to find something good about every day. For me, coming to Sikkim, just like living in Bhutan, may or may not be a once in a lifetime opportunity. We truly do not know where tomorrow may take us, and no matter how solid plans may seem, they are always subject to change. What really matters is to always strive to change for the better.
Contributed by Emma Chan
Expected to be completed in 20 months
In a little less than two years, the mini-dry port in Phuentsholing is expected to be ready for operation.
Following years of dialogue and land disputes, the project was finally awarded on April 18.
This dry port is one of the three South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) project components with the Phuentsholing thromde. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is funding the project with a grant.
Thromde officials said that the project was tendered out for Nu 135.85 million. A Japanese construction company, M/s Marushin Shitaka, has been awarded the contract.
Project coordinator with the thromde, DC Dhimal said that the mini-dry port was awarded as a “design and build” contract.
“This means that the contractor will design the port,” the coordinator said, explaining that the design would then be submitted to the thromde for approval.
Designs will be submitted in phases and once approved, construction will be approved and implemented. The designs are expected to be completed within five months, and construction is expected to begin simultaneously.
Clearing of the 5.4 acre plot of land for the dry port has begun.
Once the mini-dry port is operational, congestion at the current customs clearing space is expected to be eased as most trucks will then be diverted to the dry port. Traffic congestion in Phuentsholing town is also expected to be lessened.
With the dry port ready, a cargo area that will be able to accommodate more than 45 trucks would be in place. Sufficient space for customs clearance and other works related to import and export will also be available.
The dry port will be connected via the second gate from the Bau Bazaar area in Jaigaon, which is expected to ready soon. A bypass dubbed the Northern Bypass will also be constructed through the port.
The Northern Bypass is also a component of the SASEC project that is being implemented by the thromde.
The 2.66km bypass will connect Bau Bazaar in Jaigaon and the Phuentsholing-Thimphu Highway at a point located near the army camp. A 120m pre-stage curve-linear bridge will connect the road to the highway at the area over the Omchhu.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden is attending the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) Sector Ministers’ Meeting at Washington DC, USA from April 19 to 20, according to a press release issued by the UN in Bhutan.
Convened by UNICEF on behalf of the SWA global partnership, this high level meeting brings together ministers to agree on priority actions and share experiences to achieve the sanitation, water and hygiene related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.
More than 200 participants from over 40 countries, civil society organisations and development partners are attending the meeting. Lyonpo Dorji Choden is accompanied by officials from the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement and the Ministry of Health.
Bhutan’s three-member delegation participated in three Ministerial Dialogue discussions which were mainly focused on: Achieving safely managed sanitation services whole eliminating inequalities; maintaining progress on the SDGs in the face of risks and vulnerabilities, including climate change and disasters; and grappling with universality and financial sustainability.
Lyonpo Dorji Choden shared Bhutan’s experiences and challenges in achieving the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. Raising concerns on the need to match the softer components of WASH such as awareness with the services provided. “While it is important to educate people on hand washing, it is equally necessary to ensure that people have access to taps with running water and soap,” she said.
Lyonpo also expressed that the Sanitation and Water for All is a good platform to bring countries and development partners together to share and learn about different innovative approaches for achieving the WASH targets by 2030.
SWA is a global partnership for over 100 countries, civil organisations and development partners working together to catalyse political leadership and action, improve accountability and use scarce resources effectively.
Lyonpo also expressed that the Sanitation and Water for All is a good platform to bring countries and development partners together to share and learn about different innovative approaches for achieving the WASH targets by 2030.
SWA is a global partnership for over 100 countries, civil organizations and development partners working together to catalyse political leadership and action, improve accountability and use scarce resources effectively.
… following state visit by PM Sheikh Hasina
Wrapping up a three-day state visit, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina left the country yesterday. Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay, cabinet ministers, heads of the armed forces, and local government leaders saw her off at the Paro International Airport.
A joint statement from the two governments called the visit “highly significant as it reinforces the tradition of regular high-level exchanges between the two countries and upholds and strengthens friendship between Bhutan and Bangladesh”.
PM Sheikh Hasina received an audience with His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen. His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo also granted an audience to the visiting PM.
Their Majesties The King and Queen hosted a private dinner for PM Sheikh Hasina at Lingkana Palace, while Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay hosted a banquet in her honour.
The two PMs held discussions aimed at boosting bilateral relations and reaffirmed that relations between Bhutan and Bangladesh are friendly and reflective of a common aspiration for peace, collective prosperity and development of the region and beyond.
During the bilateral meeting, PM Sheikh Hasina recalled Bhutan’s invaluable support during Bangladesh’s Liberation War of 1971 and that Bhutan was the first country to recognise Bangladesh on December 6, 1971.
The two PMs recalled the strong historical ties of friendship and understanding that exist between Bhutan and Bangladesh, which was laid by His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo and the founder of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
“The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the excellent state of bilateral relations and reaffirmed their commitments to further consolidate the bilateral relations for the mutual benefit of the two friendly neighbouring countries,” the joint press statement states.
Many areas of cooperation including hydropower, water resources, trade and commerce, connectivity, tourism, culture, education, health, ICT, and agriculture, were discussed.
The two PMs noted the expanding bilateral trade between the two countries and acknowledged its importance in further strengthening relations.
Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay thanked PM Sheikh Hasina for taking a number of measures including the opening of land customs stations namely Tamabil-Dawki and Nakuagaon-Dalu, Gobrakura and Koroitoli-Gasuaparaand, resolving duty exemption issues on lime stone powder, gypsum and calcium carbonate exports to Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh side also offered to export more products like ready-made garments, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, jute and allied products, leather goods, toiletries, and agricultural produce to Bhutan. The Bhutanese side agreed to facilitate the entry of these products.
The two PMs expressed their hope to sign the trilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Bangladesh, Bhutan and India for cooperation in hydroelectric power on the principles of the agreed regional framework when leaders of all three countries meet.
The two PMs expressed their hope for early operationalisation of the BBIN motor vehicle agreement.
The two sides also exchanged views on cooperation in other regional and international fora including BIMSTEC, SAARC and the UN, and noted the commonality of their views and positions on all major issues and agreed to continue to work together for greater peace, prosperity and development in the region and beyond.
Recalling the ancient cultural and people-to-people links between the two countries, both sides agreed to cooperate in the tourism sector to maximise its potential. The two sides agreed to encourage exchange of visits of representatives of the tourism industry led by senior government officials.
PM Sheikh Hasina commended the vision of His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo in instituting the Bhutan Health Trust Fund for the provision of free essential drugs and vaccines to the people of Bhutan. The Bangladesh side agreed to explore supporting the Fund.
Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay thanked the Bangladeshi government for providing opportunities for Bhutanese students to pursue higher education especially in medicine. PM Sheikh Hasina assured the continued support of Bangladesh to further enhance cooperation with Bhutan in education.
The two PMs agreed to explore cooperation in ICT, including sharing of internet redundancy and establishment of data centres. The two PMs addressed the inaugural session of the International Conference on Autism and Neuro-developmental Disorders on April 19 in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen.
Bhutan gifted a plot of land measuring 1.5 acres to Bangladesh for construction of its embassy at the diplomatic enclave at Hejo, Thimphu. PM Sheikh Hasina unveiled the foundation stone for the embassy.
In 2014, Bangladesh granted Bhutan a 321.895 sq metre plot of land in the Baridhara Diplomatic Enclave, Dhaka for the construction of the Bhutanese embassy.
Bhutan and Bangladesh signed three agreements and four Memoranda of Understanding. The agreements were for avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income, on cultural cooperation, and on allotment of land under the Hejo Samtenling Local Area Plan for construction of the Bangladeshi embassy.
An MoU on the use of inland waterways for transportation of bilateral trade and transit cargoes between the two countries was signed. This will provide connectivity with the Chittagong and Mongla ports.
MoUs were signed between the Royal University of Bhutan, Bhutan and Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development, Comilla, Bangladesh; Bhutan Standards Bureau and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, and Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority and the Department of Agricultural Extension.
PM Sheikh Hasina extended an invitation to Their Majesties The King and Queen to visit Bangladesh at a mutually convenient time. She also invited Lyonchoen to visit Bangladesh.
This is PM Sheik Hasina’s third visit to the country after she assumed power in 2009.
Bangladesh and Bhutan established diplomatic relations formally in April 1973.
Gaps in the services provided is one of the major barriers in attending to differently abled persons in the countries today, panelists at the international conference on autism and neurodevelopmental disorders pointed out.
In response to a question on major barriers in providing standard autism treatment in low and developing income countries, Indrani Basu, a special educator specialised in autism said there is still a lot of disagreements on the standard treatment for autism. She said the gap is especially wide in urban areas and district levels.
During a panel discussion on community-based models for delivering interventions to individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders and their families yesterday, Indrani Basu said that the difference in the services provided to persons with autism not only differs in urban and rural areas, but also varies in the services provided in the city.
The Head of Department of Pediatrics at the Thimphu referral hospital, Dr Mimi Lhamu said cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, intellectual disability, autism and ADHD are some of the common neurodevelopmental disorders in the country. “Learning disability and learning disorders often go undiagnosed,” she said.
She said that currently Ability Bhutan Society and Pediatric Physiotherapy unit at the national referral hospital provide services for children with ASD living in Thimphu and the challenge remains in providing similar services in other parts of the country.
“The challenges we face are lack of trained human resources in providing care for children with ASD and delay in seeking access to health care due to lack of awareness on ASD,” Dr Mimi Lhamu said.
She also pointed out that its even more difficult for illiterate parents of children with ASD and NDDs especially those living outside Thimphu as they face the challenges of travelling to the national referral hospital with the child. The pediatrics department has parents coming from all over the country.
She said that the department shares guide resources related to the ASD and NDDs with the literate parents.
Indrani Basu said that the other issue regarding the gap is that there are many who want to do something on early intervention. But, she said that when a person with autism gets older and the kind of need and support he or she has changes, the services becomes less effective.
She said that at times the only option for an autistic child is a special school but communities and cities do not have enough special schools. “Even though all these movements are crucial, schools are still not ready and don’t have enough capacity to take in children with disability, especially autism,” she said.
Bhutan also faces similar challenges. Dr Mimi said that in Bhutan, children with autism and special needs are enrolled in SEN (special educational needs) schools that are present all over the country. However, for children less than six years, there are no similar facilities to take care of children with special needs.
She also pointed out that the actual prevalence of autism in the country is not known. “Current figures would be falsely low because of lack of awareness and early diagnosis,” she said adding that there is a need to work on raising awareness among the people and health care workers on early identification and interventions for children with ASD and NDD in the country.
Her Royal Highness Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck inaugurated the newly built Punakha dzongkhag court, yesterday.
The court will provide judicial services to more than 27,000 people of Punakha dzongkhag. The two-storeyed court was constructed at a cost of Nu 46 million and funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Austrian Development Cooperation.
It is located above the Guma gewog centre on the hill facing Punakha Dzong.
Until now, the dzongkhag court in Punakha was functioning from Punakha Dzong and sharing the space with the office of the dzongkhag administration.
Officials said the building is earthquake resilient with separate detention rooms for men, women and children. Court officials said the construction of the new court is timely as it provides structural independence to the dzongkhag judicial system.
There was a requirement for a larger dzongkhag court given the increasing need for judicial services, officials said. Cases with the court increased from 1,167 in 2014 to 1,447 last year.
The Punakha dzongkhag court has been functioning since 1974.
By July this year, Trashigang town will have its first recreational area, a children’s park in the centre of the town. With the location for the park identified, site development work will begin next week.
A dispute over location has delayed the construction of the park from last year.
But senior architect with the dzongkhag municipal office, Jigme Jamtsho, said the dispute was recently resolved and the park will be constructed on a nine decimal land along the on-going flood mitigation wall in town.
Jigme Jamtsho said because of the rugged terrain in the area, only 40-50 percent of the total land available could be used for the development of the park.
Trashigang town, which is spread over 54 hectares of land, is located in a topographically challenging area, which makes construction and development of any infrastructure in the area difficult. “With no developable land available, we have to consider every inch of land that is available to us,” he said.
Jigme Jamtsho said that given the limited accessible land in town, location for the children’s park was already identified in the Trashigang Structural Plan 2009-2029. “There is no other space where we can develop a recreational centre and facilities such as this has a requirement to be constructed within a walk able distance,” he said, adding that the park would not be a full-fledged children’s park but similar to a mini-children’s park.
Many residents in town have welcomed the news of the new park. Chimi Dema said a proper and safe area for children was required for a long time. “The new park in town will benefit all residents; we don’t have to worry about our children playing by the roadside,” she said.
Another resident, Kinley Wangmo, said that she remains worried about her five-year-old boy being hit by cars and running boulders as several construction works are on going in town. “I hope this park will ensure the safety of my kids and others once it’s is competed,” said that 45-year-old.
However, a few of the residents are also sceptical of the park’s safety measures. “They are constructing the park just by the river-embankment. What if a child falls into the tunnel,” a resident Karma Dorji said. “The municipality should put in place adequate safety features when they construct this park.”
Jigme Jamtsho assured the location is safe for children because there is no vehicular movement in the area and work on the flood-mitigation wall is completed near the location.
The children’s park is being constructed at a cost of Nu 2 million (M) of which about Nu 1.5M was spent in the procurement of the park’s equipment. Meanwhile, an open-air gym will also be constructed in the town.
Younten Tshedup | Trashigang
A 28-year-old man died on the spot when the vehicle he was travelling in veered off the road near Trongsa town yesterday. The driver of the car, who sustained a head injury, was airlifted to Thimphu yesterday morning.
The car fell about 300 metres below the road.
The deceased, who is the owner of the car, worked for Tangsibji Hydro Electric Project.
Sources said that the deceased was sitting in the front seat and he was thrown out of the car when it toppled down.
The driver and another passenger were discharged from hospital yesterday. The occupants were returning towards the town after dropping one of their cousins who lived near the place where the accident occurred.
Sources said the car stopped after hitting the roof of a house.
A resident of the house said she heard continuous honking before the car hit her house.
Five young members of the Youth in Agriculture Programme (YiAP) in Tsimasham, Chukha are an inspiration to many youth seeking employment in agriculture. The business that they began two years ago is today more stable.
Initially, the members just wanted to sell vegetables. Later, they decided to grow whatever they could sell.
Kinzang Duba, a university graduate, and a founding member of YiAP, said the project’s aim is to encourage the youth to think out of the box.
Currently, Kinzang Duba and the group’s other members are preparing their fields. YiAP has also ventured into oyster mushroom farming.
“We are more confident now of achieving the objectives and the sustainability of the business,” Kinzang Duba said. “We have been through many challenges and have learned many new things.”
YiAP has received support from the government and other agencies. It received a grant of Nu 275,000 from the labour ministry and UNDP. From the Loden Foundation the project got a Nu 490,000 interest-free loan. The dzongkhag administration of Chukha also provided the young farmers with Nu 500,000.
YiAP is cultivating a 4.5-acre private plot in Tsimasham. It has installed two green houses and has purchased a power tiller. The group has made use of private land left fallow in Bunakha. Below the Damchu bypass, the team has been able to work on an acre of land.
YiAP plans to start commercial chilli farming in Bunakha. Such projects will then be replicated in the southern dzongkhags of the country. It also aims to take up cattle rearing.
Pests spoil about 10 to 15 vegetable plants a night, said the young farmers. They have fenced their broccoli plants with PET bottles, which proved to be an effective measure.
YiAP members said that the larger dream of the project is to curb the vegetable shortage in the country by using land left fallow. They want to spread the message that sustainable agriculture can be an intervention to solve youth unemployment.
A YiAP outlet has been constructed in Tsimasham on the roadside. During the peak season, YiAP makes about Nu 90,000 a month.
Rajesh Rai | Tsimasham
Relations between Bhutan and Bangladesh are at an all time high following the state visit of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina.
The two countries have always maintained cordial relations ever since Bangladesh gained its independence. The foundation of this strong relationship was laid by His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and the founding leader of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, when Bhutan became the first country to recognise Bangladesh as an independent nation on December 6, 1971.
Bhutan’s friendship towards Bangladesh was in full display during the state visit. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina received audiences with His Majesty The King and His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo. Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina graced the inauguration of the international conference on autism.
Bhutan gifted a 1.5 acre plot to Bangladesh to construct its embassy in Thimphu.
The prime ministers of both countries reaffirmed their intention to further consolidate relations for the mutual benefit of the two states.
MoUs and agreements were signed that will enhance trade and investments between the two countries which should only lead to more linkages and strengthened relations. Undoubtedly, many traders will welcome the MoU that opens up Bangladesh’s waterways to Bhutan providing direct access to the Chittagong and Mongla sea ports.
The visit also revealed that there is also a possibility that the Trilateral Memorandum of Understanding between Bangladesh, Bhutan and India for cooperation in the field of hydroelectric power could be signed when the leaders of all three countries meet next.
The Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal motor vehicle agreement if endorsed by the joint session of Parliament could see trade and interaction between the two countries expand even further.
What is clear is that the potential for trade and interaction between Bhutan and Bangladesh is far from being reached and that both countries are moving in the same direction. There is much more to be done and many more areas of collaboration to be explored and pursued.
The people of Bhutan and Bangladesh already share a special bond and a natural friendliness towards each other. This was evident during the recent state visit when members of the Bangladeshi press and delegation observed that the atmosphere, despite being an official visit, went beyond protocol.
We can only expect relations between the two countries to continue soaring to greater heights.
A 26-year-old driver was pulled out from a burning truck on the night of April 18 near Rilangthang in Tsirang. He did not suffer any injuries.
It was around midnight when the driver noticed sparks erupting from beneath his seat. Within seconds, a fire began and the driver’s chamber was filled with smoke. The driver lost consciousness.
The driver’s brother who was following him in another truck immediately stopped and pulled him out of the burning truck.
Both were on their way to the Punatsangchhu project to deliver cement from Nganglam.
The destroyed truck was carrying 240 bags of cement worth about Nu 75,000. The Tsirang police was immediately called for help but the police reached the site at 9am the next morning, driver Ugyen Penjor said.
“My body trembles to think about the incident. I was lucky that I had someone following me,” he said. He added that had the police come to the site the same night with a fire engine, at least the cement could have been saved.
“Moreover I was worried the high flames from the truck might cause a forest fire,” he said. The two brothers waited until morning for firefighters and left for Punakha when it did not arrive. He added the fire could have started from a short circuit. However, the drivers pointed out that a mechanical failure may not be possible because the truck is just six months old.
The driver, a father of two, also lost Nu 8,000 in the fire. The truck was entirely destroyed and can only be sold as scrap.
Meanwhile, Tsirang police said when they reached the site next morning, the truck was still burning and the fire engine extinguished the fire. The cause of the fire is being investigated.
Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang
Court reminds defendants not to rebut on the legitimacy of the ACC prosecuting the case
The Trongsa dzongkhag court conducted the preliminary hearing on the alleged illegal land transaction case in Trongsa yesterday. The court read out the charges by the prosecutor, Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) to the 10 defendants.
There are four charges of forgery against Lhab Dorji, the then Trongsa dzongdag and the prime accused.
The ACC made three charges against him on official misconduct and a charge for execution of documents through deception.
Lhab Dorji’s wife, Karma Tshetim Dolma, is the second prime accused and faces four charges of forgery and solicitation each and an offense related to a witness.
Former Drakteng gup, Tenzin faces four forgery and three deceptive charges and a charge of solicitation.
Ugyen Tenzin, who was the then Drangpon, is also charged for forgery.
Phuntsho, who was the then Nubi gup is charged for forgery while Narayan Dengal is charged for aiding and abetting the crime and for official misconduct.
The other four accused charged for official misconduct are Kezang Nima, who was a surveyor of the National Land Commission, Wangchula and Kinleyla who served as tshogpas and Tashi Penden who was also the then Nubi gup.
The ACC, in their 60-page petition submitted to the court to return to the state, the land at Thumang where Karma Tshetim Dolma had constructed a guesthouse. The ACC requested the court to order Karma Tshetim Dema to remove the structures at her own cost.
The petition also asked the court to cancel the transfer of land to Karma Tshetim Dolma’s name from the main landowner’s and that the landowners be compensated.
The ACC submitted that the land registered in Karma Tshetim Dolma’s name also be nullified since the land was already registered under the education ministry.
The court reminded the defendants to not rebut on the legitimacy of the ACC prosecuting the case since section 128.3 is constitutional and that it also has the Supreme Court’s interpretation on this aspect.
The next hearing will be held on June 1 where the defendants will rebut the charges.
The case is related to the land acquisition by the education ministry at Taktse in Trongsa for the construction of the College of Language and Culture Studies (CLCS) sometime in the early 2000s. The case surfaced after a landowner, Gyalmo, complained to the ACC that she did not sell her land to Karma Tshetim Dolma. Gyalmo filed a case against Karma Tshetim Dolma with the Trongsa court in 2011 but was dismissed, stating that the same court adjudicated the matter before.
The ACC forwarded its findings to the OAG on July 17, 2015 after finding a prima facie of illegal transactions of land that were listed under Thram No 514 of the education ministry, allocation of land substitution and regularisations of excess lands, which are in direct relation to the land acquisitions for the establishment of CLCS.
The OAG dismissed the case, stating they did not find merit to initiate criminal proceedings. OAG stated that the alleged transactions were caused due to administrative lapses of the state authorities and the failure of few individuals who had passed away before the ACC investigation.
The ACC is prosecuting the case as per section 128.3 of the ACC Act.
Nima Wangdi | Trongsa
Even after three rounds of elections, with the last having been held on April 18, 10 local government (LG) positions remain vacant.
The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) had called for elections in 60 constituencies that had remained vacant due to lack of candidates and a by-election in Dozotoen chiwog of Thimphu’s Soe gewog. However, the posts for six gewog tshogpas, three thromde ngotshabs and one thromde tshogpa were not filled again given a lack of candidates.
The vacant constituencies are the three chiwogs of Nagar-Philooma, Damsagang Toed and Tshoduen in Samdrupjongkhar, and Phuentsholing thromde tshogpa demkhong. Gasa, Trongsa and Paro also did not get thromde ngotshab candidates.
Lingzhi gewog’s Chhuzarkha chiwog and Celing chiwog of Getena gewog of Chhukha also remain vacant.
A total of 76 candidates—13 women and 63 men—contested in the elections. Out of them, 51 candidates—8 women and 43 men – have been elected.
According to a press release from the ECB, the overall voter turnout was 30.8 percent. A total of 15,664 people were eligible to vote in Tuesday’s elections, but only 4,821 cast their ballots.
Of the total votes cast, 4,759 were cast in person on electronic voting machines (EVMs) in polling stations and 62 were through postal ballots. “No disputes were lodged and no problems were reported in any of the polling stations,” the press release from the ECB stated.
A total of 1,489 officials were deployed in the elections.
The ECB yesterday formally declared results, which confirmed the election of 46 gewog tshogpas, one thromde ngotshab and four thromde tshogpas. The election has come as a relief for Phuentsholing thromde and Lingzhi gewog of Thimphu, which were not able to take major decisions as the required quorum could not be met.
There should be at least five elected members to constitute a tshogde quorum. The Phuentsholing thromde and Lingzhi gewog were unable to call their regular tshogdes due to lack of quorums.
A tshogde is the decision-making body of a local body.
Section 580 of the Election Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2008, mandates the ECB to declare election results a day after the election. While those elected in vacant demkhongs will serve five years, those elected through by-elections will serve for the remaining years of the term.
The election petition period started from yesterday and will end at 5pm on May 3.