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Updated: 2 hours 21 min ago

Samtengang students in need of Accountancy teacher

Fri, 09/09/2022 - 11:16

Dechen Dolkar 

Students of classes 11 and 12 in Samtengang Central School are left without an accountancy teacher after their midterm break.

There are 71 students in the commerce stream including 38 students in Class XII. The school was upgraded to a higher secondary school in 2020.

One commerce teacher was teaching the accountancy subject till midterm this year.

Kuensel learnt that after the midterm the commerce students were left idle without the teacher during the accountancy period.

After the midterm break, a teacher who was teaching accountancy could not continue since the teacher has to teach commerce, business entrepreneurs and accountancy subjects in class XI and XII.

Last year, the result of class XII in accountancy for the school was very poor. It was learnt that out of 30 students in the school only one could pass the board exam in accountancy.

Last week, the class XII commerce students submitted a letter to the school administration requesting an accountancy teacher signed by 28 students.

The letter states that since they don’t have an accountancy teacher, they are lagging behind in the subject and worried that they may not be able to cover the syllabus on time.



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Principal Ganga Ram Gurung said that they have forwarded the letter to the dzongkhag. They have requested accountancy teachers from the beginning of the year to the dzongkhag and to the ministry as well.

The principal said that they were told that there is a shortage of accountancy teachers at the national level.

The principal said that one commerce teacher has been teaching commerce, business entrepreneurship and accountancy subjects to the students till the midterm.    

“We also have a teacher shortage in geography and English subjects but the school is managing with the existing teachers,” the Principal said.

The teacher, Pema Lhamo, who was teaching the accountancy subject, said that she was allocated five subjects which was too much for her.

She also claimed that she has to teach the same class four to five times a day, which will be monotonous for the students.

She said that she used to teach commerce for class XII repeaters after school.



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“I would get only one to two free periods in a day which is not enough to prepare a lesson plan. I reach home by 7.30pm and it is very tiring for me,” she said.

She said that after the midterm, she withdrew from teaching the accountancy subject since she also has to run the business entrepreneur club.

The school opened a printing press for business entrepreneurs that was funded by the labour ministry.

She said that she cannot focus on accountancy, which requires more lesson plan preparation. “I don’t want to compromise the quality of education for the students.”

She also said that her expertise is in commerce and not in accountancy.

She claims that some activities are given to students during the accountancy period.

She also said that she could cover only four chapters in accountancy before the mid-term exams.

The deputy chief dzongkhag education officer (DEO), of Wangduphodrang, Karma Tshering, said that the dzongkhag is recruiting substitute teachers and selected teachers will be placed by mid of this month in the schools.



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He said that the dzongkhag will be recruiting 11 substitute teachers and placing them in different schools in the dzongkhag.

“Still the dzongkhag has a teacher shortage of 15 as per the assessments,” deputy chief DEO said.

The deputy chief DEO said that however, the Samtengang central school has excess teachers if they go by teacher-student ratio. “The only shortage is in accountancy subject.”

The teachers are required to teach a minimum of 18 hours a week.

Clean wage system likely to be discussed in Winter Parliament 

Thu, 09/08/2022 - 12:09

Dechen Dolkar 

The finance ministry (MoF) and Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) are working to replace the current pay and allowances system with a clean wage system.

According to the RCSC annual report 2021-22, under a clean wage system, civil servants will get a pay package without hidden benefits.

The existing system of pay and allowances is complex, with more than 25 different allowances paid to civil servants.

The report states that these allowances are taxable, non-taxable, as well as discretionary in nature. “This creates an administrative burden; compromises transparency and accountability of public expenditures; encourages corrupt practices; and increases the overhead cost of the civil service.”

Furthermore, it states that the current pay’s narrow salary band does not provide the bandwidth to support a robust performance management system.

According to the RCSC, the proposal is to first move towards payment based on a clean wage system which is budget-neutral in the initial years and in the near future introduce performance-based incentives that support a well-functioning civil service.



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The intention of this reform initiative is to ensure that civil servants who execute the most significant function of implementing development programs are paid equally for their work.

“Overall, the reform intends to increase the average remuneration, allowance, and benefits through savings as a result of right-sizing and reorganisations,” the report states.

The report states that it is still a work in progress and the MoF is leading the workstream.

However, it was learnt the clean wage system will be instituted only after forming the pay commission. So far the government has not formed a pay commission for the clean wage system.

It was also learnt that it will be tabled during the Winter Parliament session which is held normally in November.



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PIT, BIT and CIT up 18 percent

Thu, 09/08/2022 - 12:08

Thukten Zangpo 

Income taxes contribution grew by over 18 percent in 2021 compared to the previous income year.

The total revenue collected as personal income tax (PIT), corporate income tax (CIT), and business income tax (BIT) in the income year amounted to Nu 11.46 billion (B).

It saw an increase of Nu 1.77B compared to the previous year. In the income year 2020 and 2019, the revenue collected was Nu 9. 69B and Nu 10.94B respectively.

PIT contributed to Nu 1.72B, an increase of 26 percent equivalent to Nu 355.83 million (M) in the income year. PIT’s contribution in 2020 and 2019 accounted for Nu 1.37B and Nu 2.29B respectively.



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According to a finance ministry official, the increase was because of growth in the rental declarations, an increase in income and a reduction in interest deduction from 50 percent interest waiver.

To recoup tax, the finance ministry on December 4 last year, notified that all real property owners have to declare the annual rental income correctly while filing PIT.

The number of rental income filers increased from 4,026 in 2020 to 4,318 in 2021. It saw an improvement in revenue from rental income to Nu 3.97M, an increase of Nu 0.54M from the income year 2020.

Similarly, the CIT contributed Nu 8.75B in the income year 2021. It saw an increase of 21 percent or by Nu 1.51B from the previous income year.

“The increase was because of improved performance by ferrosilicon companies, State Mining Corporation Limited, Druk Holding and Investments (DHI), Tashi Infocomm, Bhutan National Bank Limited, and Bank of Bhutan Limited,” according to the ministry.



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The DHI group contributed Nu 7.3B as a tax contribution to the government in 2021. This was an increase of 30 percent in tax contributions from 2020. In 2020, the DHI group contributed Nu 5.6B to the government.

However, the BIT recorded a decline of 92.52M or 9 percent compared to the previous income year at Nu 986.02M.

An official from the ministry said that the decline could be because of the downturn in the economic activities last year that affected businesses across the country.

As of June 13 this year, there were 58, 347 who filed for PIT, 35, 859 for BIT and 351 for CIT. Similarly, there were 7,178 non-filers in PIT, 1,107 in BIT, and 66 in CIT.

The finance ministry stated that the number of returns not filed for the income year 2021 was computed based on the actual returns filed for the income year 2020.

The non-filer or late filer numbers might not remain the same because many taxpayers who filed tax returns for 2020 to claim refunds were actually not required to file due to changes in the basic exemption threshold from Nu 200,000 to Nu 300,000, the ministry stated.



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Additionally, some taxpayers especially in the tourism sector suffered a loss of income.

Sharing some of the challenges, an official said that the collection of taxes from estimated taxpayers continues to pose a challenge to the ministry since they do not maintain proper records and tax liability is not ascertained scientifically. “Often the basis used for determining the tax liability is criticised.”

He added that the taxpayers poorly declare the income by resorting to income suppression or overstatement of expenses.

“Completing the tax assessment or audit within the prescribed time limit remains one of the challenges to the department,” he said.

An official also said that there is a need for integration between the department of revenue and customs IT system and other systems to source information in time to facilitate prompt service delivery.

To recoup additional domestic revenue, the ministry plans to review the operational strategy and strengthen the enforcement to ensure that taxes are collected fairly, efficiently and equitably, and defaulters are penalised invariably.



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An official from the finance ministry said, “As the country continues to brave the challenges ushered by the pandemic, we hope that the general public will take pride in paying their taxes diligently and contribute to nation building.”

Sarpang residents pay municipal taxes without benefits 

Thu, 09/08/2022 - 12:07

Choki Wangmo | Sarpang

With the introduction of the National Land Commission Secretariat’s (NLCS) Bhutan Online Land Tax Payment System (BOLTS), residents of developing municipal towns in Shechamthang, Gadenchoeling, and Sarpang Taar in Sarpang say tax filing has become confusing.

They said that without the facilities or amenities of a municipal town, they have to pay municipal taxes, which are comparatively higher than the rural land taxes they used to pay.

The local government leaders of Gakiling and Shompangkha gewogs, at the dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) recently, requested that the BOLTS for these towns be turned off until the township development works are complete.

Gakiling Gup Nim Dorji said that as these towns do not have access to facilities of a municipal area, residents were exempted from paying municipal tax according to the decisions taken in a past DT.

“The gewog administration collected the rural taxes. As the taxes collected by the gewog administration wasn’t reflected in the BOLTS, many residents had to pay fines,” he said.

Shompangkha Mangmi Ashman Rai said that the public was not able to pay the municipal land tax as they don’t have income from the municipal land.



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Individuals with plots in the municipal area had to pay as high as Nu 3,000 for a 15 decimal land.  Some reportedly paid Nu 24,000 for an acre of land in the municipal area. The rural land tax is Nu 12 per acre.

Until 2019, the taxes were collected by the gewog administration.

A resident of Sarpang Taar, Phurba Dorji, said that there was no clear demarcation between Sarpang Taar and Shechamthang towns. The towns are 3km apart.

“While filing our taxes, we are juggling between the gewog administration and the municipal office,” he said, adding that they were not reaping the benefits of a municipal town.  “It is confusing.”

Shechamthang town, the commercial hub of Sarpang dzongkhag falls under Gakiling gewog.

For the past 15 years, residents of Sarpang Taar (dzong area), supposed to be a residential area, did not get approvals to construct houses, affecting the development in the area.

“Residents were not given new business licenses even. For the public to pay municipal taxes, they have to earn from their plots,” Ashman Rai said.



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Currently, Sarpang Taar has 55 business license holders.

The decision from the DT instructed that as these towns had no municipal facilities, the residents should pay the rural land tax. Dzongkhag’s land record officer was asked to submit an application to the NLCS to clear the lapses caused by the BOLTS.

Despite the notable development progress at the new township at Shechamthang, identified as a dzongkhag’s commercial hub, people have shared concerns regarding the commercial viability at the new location.

While the technical design for the new town, which is provisioned for 25 years, began in 2010, relocation began following the July 2016 flash flood in Sarpang that destroyed most of the Sarpang market then.

Business operators say there are no customers mainly because the new town is located far away from the primary settlement, which is at Taar.

Spread across an area of 223 acres above the Sarpang checkpoint, Shechamthang local area plan (LAP) is divided into 522 plots.



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SEAR to accelerate NCD prevention and control

Thu, 09/08/2022 - 12:06

Nima Wangdi

The member countries of the South-East Asia Region (SEAR) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed the implementation roadmap of the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCD) in the region 2022-2030 at the third day of the ongoing 75th session of the regional committee meeting in Paro yesterday.

The regional NCD implementation roadmap 2022–2030 provides strategic directions to accelerate the national NCD response through the primary health care and universal health coverage routes to improve access, coverage and quality of NCD prevention and control interventions for the achievement of the 2025 and 2030 NCD targets.

Oral health in South-East Asia 2022–2030 and the action plan for integrated people-centered eye care in South-East Asia 2022–2030 were also endorsed.

The action plan for oral health in South-East Asia 2022–2030 provides guidance for the member countries to develop impactful national actions to improve oral health through aligned approaches within the ambit of universal health coverage.

The regional action plan for integrated people-centred eye care in South-East Asia 2022–2030 aims to provide “equitable access to high-quality, comprehensive eye health services to achieve universal eye health by 2030” and accelerate progress towards achieving the global targets of refractive error and cataract surgery and two regional targets for diabetic retinopathy and trachoma elimination.



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Regional Director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said that the region must build on the progress made in the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases. “Though trends are in the right direction, we need to accelerate efforts to achieve global, regional, and national goals.”

NCDs, including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes account for almost two-thirds of all deaths in the region according to the press release from the WHO. “Nearly half of these deaths occurred prematurely between the ages of 30 and 69 years in 2021.”

Oral diseases are among the most common NCDs in the region with cases of untreated dental caries, severe periodontal diseases and edentulism. The region reportedly has the highest oral cancer incidences and mortality rates among all WHO regions.

The resolution calls for strengthening policy and legislative frameworks, as well as advancing primary health care, universal health coverage, human resources, accountability and quality of national health information systems, and the crucial role of data and information systems at all levels to promote accountability.

“Decisive leadership and political commitment can provide the policy and legislative frameworks needed to integrate high-quality, comprehensive oral health and eye health services in primary health care to achieve the targets,” Dr Singh said.



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WHO committed to providing adequate technical support to member countries for the implementation of the three plans, including strengthening the related monitoring and evaluation systems, and collaboration with partners and stakeholders for aligned and effective implementation of the strategic action plans.

About 300 delegates from the member countries, including the health ministers, are participating in the session.

This is the 3rd regional committee that Bhutan is hosting. The venue of the regional committee meeting is rotated among the 11 member countries of South-East Asia on an annual basis with the convening held in New Delhi, the headquarters of SEARO, once every five years.

The 75th Regional Committee that started on September 4 will end on September 9.

Bridge over Nagpola to come up soon

Thu, 09/08/2022 - 12:05

Neten Dorji | Trashiyangtse

The news of imminent launch of bridge over Nagpola river in Bumdeling is being received well by the people of Tarphel and Ngalimang in Trashi Yangtse.

Unreliable bridge over the river, particularly during monsoon, fills the people with dread.

Residents have been using a temporary wooden bridge which the gewog administration constructed after the river washed away the concrete bridge two years ago.

“Access to the market and transporting construction materials is also a big challenge,” said a villager, Shacha Dorji.

The bridge connects the two chiwogs with the rest of the gewog.

Despite being connected with the farm road, Sonam Tshomo, a villager, said they still have to carry things to the other side of the stream. “Having the road doesn’t serve its purpose without a bridge. We are in need of a bridge.”



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About 80 households in Tarphel and 29 in Ngalimang will benefit by the new bridge.

Another villager, Phuntsho, said that without a proper bridge, the village remains cut off from other villages, especially during summer. “It has been more than one year since the completion of abutments and wing walls. But we do not know what has happened in the middle.”

An official from dzongkhag said that the bridge could be launched soon after the materials arrive.

“We are going to use parts of the old Doksum bailey bridge. We are looking at completing the construction by December this year,” said a dzongkhag official.



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Blacktopping of Silambi GC road delayed 

Thu, 09/08/2022 - 12:04

Tshering Namgyal

The people of Silambi, one of the remotest gewogs in Mongar, are waiting for the blacktopping of the gewog centre (GC) road to be completed.

A long stretch of the 100km GC road remains to be blacktopped. It is one of the longest GC roads in the dzongkhag.  

“We hardly see the contractor at the site. Having the road blacktopped will reduce the transportation cost and ease the travel between the dzongkhag headquarters and the gewog,” one of the residents, Sonam from Nagor, said.

Officials in the gewog said the work had been delayed by months.

The gewog’s gup, Dorji Wangchuk, said the contractor had not finished the work in more than two years.

“There has been no significant progress although the gewog administration has informed the contractor and the dzongkhag administration about the delay.”

The GC road takes its diversion from Menchugang, a few kilometres from Lingmethang towards Yongkola on the Mongar-Bumthang highway.



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The Granular Sub-Base (GSB) and the blacktopping work on the 65km road from Menchugang to the gewog centre at Nagor have been divided into five packages and awarded to two contractors.

Works worth over Nu 100 million (M) on the 28km stretch of the road from Thambrang to the gewog centre were awarded to Somson Construction Pvt. Limited in February 2021.  The works were completed on time in June this year.

However, the 37km stretch of the road from the take-off point to Thambrang, which was awarded to Jangchub Builders at Nu 135 million, is yet to be completed. The works were supposed to be completed on August 1, 2021 as per the terms of the contract.

The dzongkhag had initially extended the contract period by nine months to May 2022. The contract was further extended to December 2022.

However, the blacktopping of the 4km road from the Menchugang junction to Tsenzabi village under Saling gewog has been completed.

The site engineer, Pema Leki, said the blacktopping of the road was started recently but that it could not be continued due to machine failures. “The work will be resumed soon.”



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He said the GC road could also be used to bypass the Gyalpoizhing-Nganglam highway, which suffers frequent blocks during the monsoon.

The GC road is connected to the Gongdue gewog centre via the Weringla drungkhag administration office, which is connected to the Gyalpozhing-Nganglam highway at Yangbari.

Gup Dorji Wangchuk said the gewog had plans to improve the 9km stretch between Nagor and Werringla with GSB in the second phase of the government’s GSB initiative.

He said the 18km stretch between Werringla and Gongdue gewog centre at Daksa would also be improved.

The construction of the Silambi GC road began in 2007.



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Injured Bhutanese player in stable condition 

Thu, 09/08/2022 - 12:04

Thinley Namgay 

A national women’s football player, who was injured during the opening match on September 6 against host Nepal in the ongoing SAFF Women Championship 2022 has been discharged from the hospital yesterday.

The 21-year-old defender from Gelephu Football Academy toppled during the game in heavy rain and suffered a neck sprain in the second half at the Dashrath Stadium in Kathmandu.

She was immediately referred to the Blue Cross Diagnostic Centre in Nepal. She was moved to the emergency unit following a headache.

Bhutanese football officials in Nepal said the defender didn’t vomit, lose consciousness or have any abnormal movement. A computed tomography (CT) scan showed that her condition was normal.

“Her condition is stable with mild neck pain,” an official said, adding that the defender would be kept under observation and attend light training.

Bhutan will play the second game tomorrow against Sri Lanka. Officials didn’t confirm whether the injured defender will be a part of the squad to face Sri Lanka.



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Officials said that the Nepalese officials have provided timely support and had given preference to the defender and visited frequently to check on her condition.

Meanwhile, Bhutanese officials in Nepal said that Kathmandu Bhutanese Society and ICIMOD officials were supporting the girls during the game.

Bhutan lost to Nepal 4-0. The water-logged ground made it difficult for both teams to enjoy a good game.

Under the head coach Kyung Suk Hong from South Korea, Bhutan’s national women’s football team has been undergoing intensive training since August 25  in Nepal.

Seven countries are participating in the sixth SAFF Women’s Championship.



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Tackling NCD

Thu, 09/08/2022 - 12:03

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a serious and growing problem in Bhutan. It is perhaps the biggest killer in the country.

The endorsement of the implementation roadmap for the prevention and control of NCDs in the region 2022–2030 by the member countries of the on-going 75th session of the regional committee meeting of WHO South-East Asia Region (SEAR) in Paro is thus a significant milestone.

The roadmap 2022–2030 provides strategic directions to speed up the national NCD response through primary healthcare and universal health coverage to improve access, coverage and quality of NCD prevention and control interventions.

Regional Director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said that the region must build on the progress made thus far in the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases. “Though trends are in the right direction, we need to accelerate efforts to achieve global, regional, and national goals.

This is the reality that the member countries must face boldly. Non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes account for almost two-thirds of all deaths in the region according to the WHO.

We hear doctors pleading not to overlook the dangers of NCDs, both in terms of human suffering and referral costs. Our lifestyles have changed dramatically over the years.



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What the records from the region tell us is that nearly half of these deaths occur prematurely between the ages of 30 and 69 years. We also know that oral diseases are among the most common NCDs in the region with cases of untreated dental caries, severe periodontal diseases and edentulism.

The region has the highest oral cancer incidences and mortality rates among all WHO regions. The main issue is that most of these diseases can be prevented. That’s why the endorsement of the implementation roadmap for the prevention and control of NCDs in the region 2022–2030 is significant.

The resolution calls for strengthening policy and legislative frameworks, as well as advancing primary health care, universal health coverage, human resources, accountability and quality of national health information systems, and the crucial role of data and information systems at all levels to promote accountability.

We must achieve these goals as early as possible.

As Dr Singh said: “Decisive leadership and political commitment can provide the policy and legislative frameworks needed to integrate high-quality, comprehensive” programmes.



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His Majesty on a Royal tour in the South

Thu, 09/08/2022 - 12:02

His Majesty The King, accompanied by Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen and Their Royal Highnesses Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel and Gyalsey Ugyen Wangchuck, are in Phuentsholing on a Royal Tour of the southern dzongkhags. 

Their Majesties visited Gaeddu College of Business Studies on September 7 en route to Phuentsholing. Yesterday morning, His Majesty visited the College of Science and Technology. 

In audiences to the students and faculty of the colleges, His Majesty said that the way forward for our colleges is to make the students world-ready-  that they are competitive in the global market, for a more prosperous future. While work is ongoing to create opportunities and a conducive environment in which our students can excel, His Majesty emphasised that they too must work hard to enhance and diversify their own skills and credentials. 

In Phuentsholing, His Majesty granted an audience to the dzongkhag and thromde officials and visited parts of Phuentsholing, including the Allay check-post at Pasakha. 



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His Majesty also visited the Pedestrian Terminal at the Phuentsholing gate, which is scheduled to open on September 23. The Terminal, managed by the Department of Immigration, will serve to ensure a safe, well-organized and comfortable passage into and out of Bhutan.

In the evening, Their Majesties and His Royal Highness Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel visited Phuentsholing town and met with the people, who had gathered to meet Their Majesties. 

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering is accompanying Their Majesties on the Royal Tour.

Lyonpo Dago Tshering conferred the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star

Wed, 09/07/2022 - 11:09

Rinzin Wangchuk 

The Government of Japan conferred the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star to former Home Minister Dago Tshering in Thimphu yesterday.

Japan’s Ambassador to Bhutan, Satoshi Suzuki, delivered the 2021 Spring Decorations to Lyonpo, the first Bhutanese recipient of the award, in a simple ceremony at the Druk Hotel. The award was announced last year, however, the ceremony was deferred due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lyonpo Dago Tshering, former Ambassador of Bhutan to Japan, was recognised for his contributions to strengthening the relationship and friendship between Japan and Bhutan. Lyonpo Dago Tshering served as the Minister of Home Affairs from 1991 to 1998.  During that period, he also served as a Commissioner of Cultural Affairs.

Lyonpo not only provided support in receiving high-level visits from Japan as Minister of Home Affairs, but also played an important role in promoting cultural cooperation between Japan and Bhutan as a  Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, such as supporting Japanese researchers in Bhutanese organisations and promoting cooperation between National Museum of Ethnology, Japan, and National Museum of Bhutan.

Lyonpo is also recognised for boosting the high-level visits and cultural exchanges between the two countries during his tenure as the ambassador to India and Japan between 1999 and 2008. The first visit to Japan by a Bhutanese Prime Minister took place successfully then.



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He also visited various cities in Japan and cultivated relationships with Japan-Bhutan friendship organisations.  His efforts significantly promoted mutual understanding between the two countries.

The Order of the Rising Sun is awarded by the Emperor of Japan to individuals, both Japanese and foreign nationals, in recognition of their meritorious service and distinguished achievements.

Lyonpo Dago Tshering graduated from Bombay University, India, in 1961. He first joined the government as an Assistant in the Ministry of Development and then worked as the Secretary in the same ministry until 1970.

In 1971, he was transferred to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and posted as the First Secretary in the Royal Bhutan Misson in New Delhi, India. In 1973, he was transferred to the Permanent Mission of Bhutan to the UN in New York as a Counsellor. On November 1, 1974, Lyonpo Dago Tshering was promoted as the Permanent Representative of Bhutan to the United Nations.

In January 1980, he was transferred to the Royal Bhutan Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, as the first resident Ambassador. After four years in Bangladesh, Lyonpo Dago Tshering was again appointed as the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in May 1984. He was transferred to the Home Ministry in October 1985, as the Deputy Home Minister.



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SEAR commits to universal access to people-centred mental health care and services

Wed, 09/07/2022 - 11:08

Nima Wangdi 

WHO South-East Asia Region (SEAR) member countries adopted the Paro Declaration which commits to universal access to people-centred mental health care and services.

The Paro Declaration was adopted at the ministerial roundtable meeting on addressing mental health through primary care and community engagement on the second day of the ongoing 75th Session of the WHO South-East Asia Regional Committee Session.

Regional Director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said there is no health without mental health. “Increasing investments in mental health, including for preventive and promotive services at the primary care level, reduces treatment costs and increases productivity, employment, and quality of life.”

The declaration urges member countries to develop and implement multi-sectoral policies across the life-course to address mental health risks and reduce treatment gaps exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Singh said that the member states should ensure that mental health services reach all those in need, close to where they live, without financial hardship.

As part of the Declaration, member countries agreed to develop country-specific targets to achieve universal primary care-oriented mental health services and mainstream mental health in policy, planning, implementation, and evaluation.



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The Paro Declaration also calls for increased funding for community-based mental health networks and continuous supply of medicines and rehabilitation, including occupational therapy. It also calls for strengthening of data gathering and reporting, implementation research and performance monitoring, to ensure context-sensitive improvement of mental health systems.

It is estimated that around one in seven people live with a mental health condition in the region. The personal and economic distress and disruptions that Covid-19 caused have widened the gaps in addressing mental health challenges, which include scarcity of human resources, low investment, stigma, inadequate prevention and promotion programmes, paucity of data, and lack of services in primary care.

The Declaration calls for ensuring an effective and comprehensive response to mental health needs by establishing evidence-based and rights-oriented community mental health networks.

Member countries committed to prioritising fiscal space for health and universal health coverage, securing adequate investment for mental health services at the primary and secondary level, and mobilising required additional resources in partnership with local and international stakeholders.

Members also committed to expanding the specialised and non-specialised mental health workforce by identifying new cadres of healthcare personnel who are trained, equipped, and skilled for the delivery of mental health services at the primary care level.

It was agreed that member countries will lead the multi-sectoral mental health response by guiding and harmonising the social, education, development and economic sectors to address determinants of mental health, such as poverty, lack of education, social isolation, emergencies and impact of climate change, and set country-specific targets to achieve universal primary care-oriented mental health services.



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Press release from WHO stated that several member countries in the region have already taken action to strengthen policies, plans, laws, and services to improve the mental health of populations.

RCM also promulgated several important resolutions related to mental health, which include alcohol consumption control policy options; non-communicable diseases; mental health and neurological disorders; comprehensive and coordinated efforts for the management of autism spectrum disorders and developmental disabilities; and the SEA Regional Action Plan to implement the Global Strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.

WHO, according to a press release, will continue to support countries in strengthening and reorienting primary care for mental health through task-sharing; capacity-building; psychosocial support during emergencies; establishing a regional knowledge and training hub for coordinating evidence and data generation; prioritizing areas of research and facilitating the exchange of experiences, based on identified needs.

Court convicts RTP official for sexual harassment 

Wed, 09/07/2022 - 11:07

Thinley Namgay    

Thimphu Dzongkhag Court on September 5 sentenced 53-year-old Kesang Wangchuk from Thimphu to 10 months in prison for sexually harassing his subordinate.

However, the prison term is compoundable which means he can pay in lieu of his prison term.  The court also ordered the convicts to pay Nu 45,000 as compensation.

Kesang Wangchuk is an officer at Royal Tutorial Project (RTP)  in Thimphu and the victim, 22, was a contract employee in the same office.

The incident happened on September 7 last year towards evening when the victim was in the office alone.

Kesang Wangchuk, the project supervisor, called her into his office and told her that if she couldn’t fulfil his sexual desire, she would lose her job as he has the authority to extend the contract period.   He then sexually harassed her.

One of the victim’s friends saw her weeping and she revealed the incident to the friend.  Court judgment also stated that the Kesang Wangchuk had on many occasions sexually harassed her. “He also sent her many inappropriate messages.”



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The victim appealed to the police on September 13 last year.  Police prosecuted the case and the legal representative of the police appealed to the court to imprison the defendant between one to 12 months.

The medical report mentioned that the victim suffered adjustment disorder with dysphoric mood and disturbed sleep.

The project supervisor was the one who helped victim to get a job at RTP. The victim was only around six months into the job when the incident happened.

One of the employees of the RTP confessed to the police that the officer touched the victim inappropriately on one occasion while they were arranging the office items.

Two days after the incident, Kesang Wangchuk went to the victim’s house with a cake. There were also recordings of a phone conversation between the victim and the defendant that took place on September 8.

Kesang Wangchuk and his two male co-workers tried to change the case scenario. However, what they presented to the police was not matching.



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His two friends on September 9 told police that they were in the office on September 7 and the victim cried and went out of the office after Kesang Wangchuk criticised the poem she wrote.     On October 4, his two friends said that they were not in the office on September 7 and the victim cried and went out of the office on July 3.

Kesang Wangchuk on September 7 submitted to the police: “On Tuesday, 7th September, I had to comment adversely on some written work she had produced for the office.  Her reaction to the criticism was to burst into tears and rush out of the office. At the time two other staff were present in the office, Ugyen Norlha and Jamyang Rinchen.”

On September 17, he reported to the police: “When making my original statement to the police, in the stress of the situation, I regret that there was confusion regarding the two occasions on 3rd September and on 7th September, when she  burst into tears on receiving criticism of some work she had done for the RTP.”

“I wrongly stated that on 7th September there were two or three staff in the RTP office when she left my office in tears,” he said to the police.

The judgment said that Kesang Wangchuk being an officer had failed in his responsibility and couldn’t maintain the code of conduct of the office.



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157 youths involved in drug cases in seven months 

Wed, 09/07/2022 - 11:05

Chhimi Dema 

Thimphu Police saw 139 youths involved in drug-related cases between January and July this year. Thimphu recorded the highest youth involvement compared to other dzongkhags.

A total of 157 young people were arrested in the country.

According to the deputy police chief, Colonel Passang Dorji, there is a drug network in the country with Bhutanese dealers across the borders and supplying drugs within. “In attempts of earning fast money, they are damaging our youth.”

The police, he said, are working to track the drug suppliers in the country.

The police recently found that some dealers were mixing drugs together and selling them labelling them as Brown Sugar (an adulterated form of heroin) or cocaine.

“This drug will have a detrimental impact on the health of the consumer or it could lead to their death because it is a mix of psychotropic drugs,” Colonel Passang Dorji said.

He said that as law enforcers, the police arrest and charge-sheet the persons involved. “And this is not the solution to bring tranquillity to the country. Other agencies should play their role and bring out solutions to solve these issues.”



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Records with the police show that 1,707 crimes were reported in the country until July 2022.

A total of 2,819 cases were reported in 2021, and 3,080 cases in 2020.

Colonel Passang Dorji said that crime cases with youth involvement are increasing.

“We are highly concerned about their engagement in unproductive activities bringing disharmony in the communities,” the colonel said. “We are strategising control programmes such as patrolling and monitoring as per the development of crimes.”

He said that most youth issues arise at nights when the dance clubs are open in the city.

He said that youth fight among themselves for trivial reasons such as staring or pushing leading to battery, assaults, and even stabbing cases.



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Police records show that 170 youths were involved in crime until July this year across the country.

The highest number of cases was recorded in Thimphu with 125 cases followed by Sarpang with 24 cases.

The number of youths involved in crime increased by 126 cases between 2020 and 2021.

According to the deputy chief of police, apart from picking fights among themselves, the police receive complaints of youth shouting, damaging public proprieties, and hitting parked vehicles, among others.

The police since the ease of Covid-19 restrictions in April, have been conducting mass patrolling in the city.

A total of 133 cases of assault, battery and stabbing cases were recorded in Thimphu between January and July this year including a stabbing case.



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Deepen’s ornamental fish farm

Wed, 09/07/2022 - 11:04

 Rajesh Rai | Samtse

A new entrepreneurial venture, ornamental fish farming, has found its way into Chengmari, Samtse.

Deepen Raj Ghalley, 31, is the man behind this commercial fish farming, the country’s first such venture.

It is a home-based business at present. Outside his house, Deepen Raj Ghalley has small ponds. Two to three aquariums with goldfish are managed inside the house.

So how did this start?

Deepen Raj Ghalley said, “It was my brother’s interest. We had an aquarium at home and it had a female goldfish. So we looked for a goldfish.”

However, after his brother left for further studies in Australia, Deepen Raj continued with his interest and decided to take it to a commercial level.

“I learned everything from YouTube.”



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Initially, Deepen Raj Ghalley was able to breed 30 goldfish. That was in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic started. During the lockdowns, he created a small pond outside his house. Soon, the number of goldfish doubled and tripled and reached 800.

That is when Deepen Raj went on to get a licence, which took him about four months. He started it commercially in January 2022.

There is an interesting logic about goldfish farming, according to Deepen Raj. If a female goldfish is white, he ensures the males are of a different colour.

“This way the (baby) fries come in different colours,” he said.

During the hotter days, the eggs hatch in three days, while it takes five to six days for the eggs to hatch in colder months. After the eggs are hatched, the fries are let into the water without oxygen supply and kept for 15 days. Then, when the fish grows about 6mm, it is shifted to the water with oxygen supply.

It is not only ornamental fish that Deepen Raj Ghalley sells. He also makes aquariums and supplies feed.



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A five-centimetre goldfish sells for Nu 300. It will take about nine months for fries to grow to this size. One aquarium costs Nu 3,000. The home-based farm has sold fish and accessories worth more than Nu 70,000 since the beginning of this year.

Deepen’s markets are in Thimphu and Phuentsholing.

“However, there are some people in Samtse who buy,” he said. “But what I like about this journey is that people are curious and they come to see the farm and the fish. I get motivated.”

Although the farm has many orders from Thimphu and Phuentsholing, summer is not the business season, Deepen Raj said, explaining that the road conditions are not good and people refrain from travelling.

It is, however, not without struggle Deepen Raj is running the farm. Financial problems are the biggest challenge. Recently, he was able to avail himself of a loan of Nu 250,000 from the Tarayana Foundation.

“We also don’t have entrepreneurial programmes in Samtse. Such programmes are Thimphu-centered,” he said, adding that there are many youths in Samtse who are trying to take up new ventures.



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Although it is a home-based business presently, the BBA graduate from Gedu College of Business Studies has bigger dreams for the future. He plans to lease land and start bigger. The farm can serve as an educational and tourist centre.

Deepen Raj Ghalley has already collaborated with three enthusiasts in Samtse. He guides and mentors them on ornamental fish farming. They have already started to breed and supply to Deepen’s farm.

“Ornamental fish farming has a bright future,” he said.

U-19 cricket team prepares for World Cup Asia Qualifiers 

Wed, 09/07/2022 - 11:03

Thinley Namgay   

Bhutanese under (U)-19 cricket team is currently training at the Gelephu cricket ground for their upcoming ICC U-19 World Cup Asia Qualifiers in Oman.

Coach Anton Trishane Nonis has been grilling the boys, who are aged between 15 and 17, since last month and will continue until September 18.

In Gelephu, besides the training, the boys will play matches against some experienced players to build confidence.

The tournament will begin on September 27 and the 17-member squad, consisting of 14 players and three officials, will leave the country a week ahead of the competition.

Bhutan, Oman, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia are in group A. Hong Kong, Qatar, Singapore and Thailand are in group B.

Bhutan will face host Oman on September 29 at the Oman Cricket Academy Ground.

Bhutan Cricket selected the current squad, 14  players, from a 50-over club tournament in Thimphu earlier this year.



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Their training had to be delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bhutan Cricket’s CEO Damber S Gurung said:  “It’s hard to judge how well the team is doing at the moment. After two and a half years of pandemic and the fact that most of the players have not played cricket.

“I would say they are doing their best to learn and prepare for the tournament.”

He said that cricket was an educational game and that it took time to improve technique. “That’s why we do not look at the result now, we want to allow our young players to learn and develop.”

Of the 14 players, most are new and only a few have played in the U-16 international tournament.

Damber S Gurung said that the main focus right now was on developing the skills of the players.

The winner of this tournament gets to play in the World Cup.  The tournament will end on October 7.



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Picture story

Wed, 09/07/2022 - 11:02

Bhutan national women’s team lost to Nepal  4-0 yesterday  in the opening match of the  SAFF Women’s Championship 2022 in Nepal. The dragon girls conceded a goal before the break  and three more goals in the second half. Seven countries are participating in the tournament. 

Picture story

Wed, 09/07/2022 - 11:01

The under (U)-20 men’s national football team is currently training in Bahrain to participate in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-20 Asian Cup Qualifiers in Bahrain which begins on September 10. The team landed in Bahrain on September 2.

Pakistan floods is a warning

Wed, 09/07/2022 - 11:01

As far as natural disasters go, Pakistan is bearing the brunt of what is unanimously seen as a disaster induced by climate change. The recent floods had killed more than a thousand people and destroyed two million acres of crops and more than 700,000 houses. The rain has stopped and floodwaters receded. It is exposing more evidence of the impact.

Pakistan survived a heat wave just before the floods. Both are linked to climate change. The calamity confronting Pakistan, if scary, is a timely reminder of how we must prepare, adapt to and mitigate the impact of increasing climate-change-induced disasters. 

 There are a lot of similarities and lessons to draw from the recent catastrophe. Pakistan and Bhutan are both located in the great Himalayan range. If climate change is the cause of the devastation, it is an injustice to the country and its people. Pakistan contributes less than one percent of the global greenhouse gases that warms the planet. They are the eighth most vulnerable country to climate change impact.

We may take pride in being a carbon-neutral country, but from the Pakistan experience, it is evident that our action alone is not enough to stop the earth from heating up. This year, several countries on six continents felt the impact of human actions. The several severe heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and never before seen flooding on all the continents are a tell-tale sign of what is coming.

While developed countries could cope up with disasters, it is poorer countries that are feeling the heat of global warming. The cause of the flooding in Pakistan is attributed to excessive monsoon rain and melting glaciers. Our geography is no different and that is a reason to worry. 

Glaciologists say that our glaciers are more vulnerable compared to those in the Western Himalayas (glaciers in Pakistan). This is because Western Himalayan glaciers get their accumulation both from the monsoon and from westerlies in winter. The main source of nourishment for our glaciers is the monsoon rain. A slight rise in temperature, they say, can have a drastic impact on the precipitation form. If it is not snowing but raining in Lunana in summer, for instance, the glaciers will not be replenished



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Climate change is close to the heart of our planners, decision-makers and development partners. We have identified and zoned risky areas, especially for glacial outburst floods. But a lot has changed and from the recent events, it is time we relooked into policies and priorities. 

We have evidence that our glaciers in Lunana are retreating, posing risk to the fragile lakes. In the Punakha-Wangdue valley, the risk mapping is not enough. Most parts of Khuruthang and Bajo town are in the red zone, yet settlement is increasing without any adaptation or mitigation measures. A flood warning siren may send people to higher grounds, but what about the property, the national monuments like the Punakha dzong or even the Trashichhodzong in case of a massive flood? 

The blessed rainy day, which is two weeks away, is believed to mark the end of the monsoon in Bhutan. Our farmers will recall that it never rained enough this year. This July recorded some of the hottest days in years. Last year, farmers lost paddy to the late monsoon that coincided with the harvest time. The weather is becoming erratic and climate scientists are warning of extreme weather events.

We will not be spared even if it is not our doing. 



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Tour operators and TCB meet to finetune new rules and regulations

Wed, 09/07/2022 - 11:00

Dechen Dolkar 

The tour operators said that they should be allowed to facilitate the payment of the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) for tourists who choose to route through local tour operators.

The recommendation was submitted at the consultation between the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) and the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) yesterday.

According to draft tourism rules and regulations 2022, the Department of Immigration would collect SDF from the tourist when issuing the visa or permit.

During the consultation meeting, the ABTO members asked why Bhutanese tour operators can’t apply for a visa and facilitate payment of SDF for tourists who choose to route through tour operators.

“Accordingly, as it is practised, now SDF payments would be made directly from banks to DoI,” a tour operator said.

According to the new tourism policy, tourists have the option to visit Bhutan through packaged tour operators or by booking the tours themselves.

The tour operators said that since tour operators are not mandatory, offshore tour operators would operate the tour and such businesses would be rampant in the future.



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The official from TCB said that the new tourism policy would do away with the offshore agents operating tours in Bhutan. “Before, 80 percent of tours were operated by offshore agents.”

Tour operators said that it would be difficult to eradicate offshore agents if the rules and regulations were not clear.

A TCB official also said that although the tourists are not mandatory to come through the tour operator, tourists would not be allowed on their own. “They need to be guided by the service providers.” 

The draft rules state that a tourist visiting Bhutan would have to arrange visa or permit as per the immigration laws of Bhutan.

“Option should be provided to tourists whether to visit through a tour operator or individual when they pay the visa fee and SDF,” a tour operator said.

The tour operators said that they be given an opportunity to see and experience an online portal before the tourism is open on September 23.

The draft rules state that a tourist will book and arrange the tourism service only through the online booking identified by the TCB.



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The tour operators asked about the difference between SDF payment gateway with DoI and the online portal. “We want to see how an online portal functions.”

The official from TCB mentioned that tourists have the flexibility to choose the hotel and travel by any vehicle from the airport if they book the tour by themselves.

However, the tour operators asked what was the logic behind imposing a requirement of seven years old for tourist vehicles if tourists can travel by any vehicle from the airport. “The tourists may choose to travel by taxi or public bus.”

The draft rules also state that only a person between the ages of 25 and 56 years with a minimum of three years of driving experience be allowed to drive the tourist vehicle.

The tour operators said that the requirement was illogical. Even pilots in Bhutan are allowed to fly until 60 years old. They argued that any driver with a health certificate should be allowed to drive.

The tour operators also said that the business bond requirement should be applied to all the service providers not just to tour operators and hoteliers.



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TCB officials said that feedback and recommendations would be tabled during the council meeting tomorrow.

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