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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 27 min 30 sec ago

Mongar Dzong reconstruction may not be included in 13 Plan: Home Minister

Thu, 11/24/2022 - 12:01

Nima Wangdi

At the question hour in the National Assembly on Tuesday, Home Minister Ugyen Dorji said that the reconstruction of Mongar Dzong may not be included in the 13th Plan.

This was in response to the MP for Mongar, Karma Lhamo, who asked whether the reconstruction of Mongar Dzong would be included in the 13th Plan.

“We need to decide on which dzong reconstructions to be prioritised in the next plan,” Lyonpo said.

Jurmi Wangchuk, MP for Drujeygang-Tseza, asked Lyonpo whether Jurugang and Namzhigang in Dagana could be made a separate gewog. The two Chiwogs are 100 kilometres from the gewog centre. He said the chiwogs could also be clubbed with Gesarling Gewog, which is closer to the chiwogs.

Lyonpo said that there are similar cases in the country like Dorokha in Samtse, for example. “Parliament in the future could discuss and consider.”

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Lyonpo said that the ministry conducted a thorough study on the delimitation of gewogs involving all the relevant agencies. “I have asked taskforce to relook into the matter and submit the report again.”

MP for Khamdang-Ramjar, Karma Gyeltshen, asked Lyonpo whether the mule track from Gongza to Jangphutse, Thangdrang, Manam, and Chhemkhar villages under Toedtsho Gewog could be widened, as the road construction is not allowed due to security reasons.

Lyonpo, in a written response, said that the mule track from Gewog Centre (Khini) to Jangphutse was completed in 2020. “The government also spent about Nu 2M to construct the Nanglagang bridge to Thangdrang mule track which was completed in 2021.”

Lyonpo said the construction of farm roads that are close to the international border points is not encouraged in view of security sensitivity. “The proposed construction of Khamdang-Menlha and Thragom-Melongkhar farm roads are also on hold for the same reason.”

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New digitalised mining system in the country

Thu, 11/24/2022 - 12:00

YK Poudel 

As a part of an initiative to provide a comprehensive online system to transform public services into e-services in Bhutan, the Department of Geology and Mines (DGM) launched Mines Administration System (MAS) in Thimphu yesterday.

According to Minister of Economic Affairs, Loknath Sharma, such an integrated online platform would enable a transparent and accountable system for the public.

“We must educate our people on how to use the system effectively so that the mandate of the system developed is met. The system should be made robust and user-friendly for the public with all procedures into an integrated web-based system,” Lyonpo said.

DGM Director Phuntsho Namgyal, said that MAS would possibly bring about a better understanding of geology, mineral resources and their management and enhance strict compliance monitoring of mines and quarries in the country.

“The MAS shall streamline the overall application procedures for mining. It shall provide a single window to lodge applications, track the status, provide status reports to the applicants, and seek sectoral clearances from different stakeholders among others,” he said.

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The officiating chief engineer of DMS, Chabilal Dhital, said the two-phase MAS was developed as a part of ICT initiatives of the 12 five-year plan. “Phase I was mineral information and revenue modules funded by World Bank, and phase II – mines leasing and compliance monitoring modules through government’s support.”

The system provides end-to-end online application processes, compliance and monitoring of mining and related activities and online application processes for mining and drilling services.

The system worth Nu 3.43 million was initiated in 2019.

Lyonpo also launched the “Geoscience and Mining Journal of Bhutan – series 03.”

Specialist and chair of the journal series, Dr Dowchu Drukpa, said that the journal covers a wide range of topics within the facet of geoscience and mining. “The journal could be used as one-stop information on geoscience and mining as well as the framework for awareness of DGM.”

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Crimes, society, and policing

Thu, 11/24/2022 - 11:59

When 10 detainees made out easily out of the detention centre in Thimphu recently, the police got the curse, deservedly. When the police nabbed them all in a week’s time, the police deserve our praise.

But doubts and questions will remain; it is better that we have doubts and questions. How did the detainees get hold of a hacksaw blade with which they could reportedly escape from the toilet window, for example?

The RBP are in the midst of a serious campaign to bring down incidences of crime in the country, particularly youth-related offences.  At one point in time, the RBP even came to the press saying that henceforth there will be a visible reeducation in crimes involving young people in the country.

And here we are, thrown wide open to our basic security problems. RBP officials have come on record that while the focus has shifted positively on curbing youth-related crimes, not just in the capital but also in remote villages far away from Thimphu, our security systems in detention and lock-up centres are falling.

It has been a nightmare for the RBP these past few months. Such a systematic failure must be brought to the anvil. Whoever is responsible must be brought to the task. Policing is about trust. When people lose trust in the policing system, we have given it a fecund ground for crimes to proliferate.

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When detainees and inmates make past our “tall, sturdy, and high” walls, accountability should be fixed top down. In other countries, a CEO resigns voluntarily for a few seconds of power blackout although the problem could have been largely mechanical in nature.

We won’t be surprised if the guards at the detention or prison doors were in the wrong but it would be absolutely shocking if senior officers are not held accountable.

Any improvement in the country’s policing system is welcome, but the system of policing should be grounded in public trust.

When the media knew that 10 detainees had made out of a toilet window, it was hard for the media to get in touch with RBP. When RBP nabbed the escapees, the media were called immediately for coverage.

While we protect our own faces, we may be losing crucial time to address some of the problems that can be solved effectively and efficiently. When criminals are at large, we are putting our communities in danger.

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However, the fact that the RBP could nab the escapees within 24 hours is amazing and truly deserving of our praise.

Construction of power substation in Panbang could take at least three years

Thu, 11/24/2022 - 11:58

Dechen Dolkar 

The construction of the power sub-station in Panbang would cost around Nu 350 million, according to the minister for economic affairs, Loknath Sharma.

During the question hour session at National Assembly on November 22, MP for Bardo-Trong, Gyambo Tshering, said that the people of Zhemgang requested the government to consider establishing a power sub-station in Panbang to resolve power shortages and frequent power outages in the dzongkhag. The MP said that the dzongkhag requested the same from the ministry in 2021 and but the issue persists.

Responding to the question, Lyonpo said that he received a letter a week before through the MP.

Lyonpo said that in Zhemgang, there are around 5,055 consumers and Panbang has around 600. In total, they consume about 1 mega watt of energy.

“To construct a substation would cost around Nu 350M. Technically, it is possible to construct, but if we look at it financially, it is not possible to construct soon,” Lyonpo said.

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Lyonpo said that for now, to resolve the power shortage, feeder automation for power distribution is being carried out. So far, 28 feeder automations have been completed, he said.

Lyonpo said that the ministry is also trying to shorten the line and is carrying out re-alignment from the Panbang-Nganglam highway, which will be completed by June next year. 

The Opposition Leader, Dorji Wangdi, said that the main challenge is that due to dense forests, officials are having difficulties restoring the power outages, especially during summer.

Panbang is also identified as a satellite town and BPC is ready to construct a substation if the ministry approves and feels that it is necessary to construct. “Even land has been identified for construction.”

Abrupt change from here unrelated to the topic…see how you can connect the two parts 

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MP for Draagteng-Langthil, Gyem Dorji, questioned the economic affairs minister on business licence renewal fees of Kuenga Rabten restaurants in Trongsa which was increased from Nu 3,000 to Nu 7,000. 

The MP said that the people are paying satellite town rate fees already. However, the town, he said, is not given facilities such as streetlights, drainage system, and roads. 

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma responded that before the amendment of rules and regulations, fees were imposed in four categorised town—A, B, C, and others. Fee renewal charges range from Nu 15,000, Nu 10,000, Nu 5,000, and Nu 3,000. The “other” refers to restaurants in rural areas. 

Lyonpo said that with the new rules and regulations fees are imposed in three categories. Town A, B, and others. Town B and C were merged.

Lyonpo said that Kuenga Rabten cannot be considered a remote area. “The fee earlier was Nu 10,000; now it is Nu 7,000…If people are not happy, the government will look into the matter.”

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MP for Khar-Yurung, Tshering Chhoden, said that with the current increase in taxation and civil service pay structure reform, the prices of commodities are expected to increase. 

The MP questioned the minister about measures being put in place to control market prices.

Lyonpo said that salary was not increased for civil servants; instead, their allowance and benefits are merged with monthly income. “This will increase their purchasing power.”

Lyonpo mentioned that in the month of September the inflation rate was 6.05 percent. The good thing was that compared with last year, the prices have not increased much on food items. 

The inflation rate on food items was 4.24 percent. 

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“To curb inflation, the government has decided to keep zero tax on essential items,” Lyonpo said.

He urged people to buy only the essential items to curb inflation.

Phuentsholing ready for the Mega Night

Thu, 11/24/2022 - 11:58

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Phuentsholing is ready to rock and roll with preparations for the Mega Night show completed.

The show will start tomorrow and conclude on November 29.

It is the country’s first mega live music event involving 19 local bands. The programme will start at 9pm every day at the PSA ground and go on until 3am.

Several changes have been made to make the event more attractive. The entry fee, which was initially Nu 500 per individual, is now reduced to Nu 300.

There will be food, drinks, merchandise shopping, DJ night, among others. A total of 48 stalls have been raised, out of which 44 have been occupied. Four are still empty. Of the total stalls, there are 23 bars, 15 fast food restaurants, and three merchandise shops. Western (continental) fast food and café will also be there.

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Stall fees for bars have been reduced to Nu 7,000 per day from Nu 10,000. For other stalls, it is Nu 5,000.

Phuentsholing thromde office also confirmed that entry tickets will also be considered for a lucky draw with various gift hampers. A lucky winner will be sponsored a roundtrip to Bangkok. There will also be 10 t-pads at stake for lucky winners.

Phuentsholing Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said the preparation was completed yesterday evening and ready for rehearsals.

“This event is purely organised to boost the local economy of Phuentsholing. It is also a pilot project to make Phuentsholing an entertainment hub,” he said, adding that the event is looking at attracting regional tourists.

“Considering the business situation in Phuentsholing, it is a scope for people to see different businesses.”

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As the FIFA World Cup has begun, a huge screen will also be there for football enthusiasts.

“There will be dance, music and football too,” a resident said, adding that the event will be an entirely unique experience. “I am looking forward to it.”

Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said that every possible means of advertisement and marketing has been carried out.

“Thromde has tried to reach the farthest,” he said. “Media across the border have also been engaged.”

Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said mStudio is involved in marketing the event. However, the bands and artists themselves have been advertising and marketing through social media platforms, he added.

The event, a pilot project, is aimed at making Phuentsholing an entertainment hub, according to Phuentsholing Thromde. It is also targeted to boost the morale of local residents, given the prolonged lockdowns during the pandemic – and provide a platform to socialise without any cultural and social barriers.

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Phuentsholing is chosen for this event to bring back the liveliness of the city and help revive the town’s local economy. It is also because of favourable weather conditions suitable to host such events which will help in activating the nightlife of the city.

If this event is a successful and remarkable one, Phuentsholing Thromde will host it annually.

His Majesty confers dhar to the NLC secretary and two Dzongdags

Thu, 11/24/2022 - 11:57

His Majesty The King granted dhar to appoint the new Secretary of the National Land Commission, as well as the dzongdag of Pemagatshel and Thimphu dzongkhags. 

The new Secretary of the National Land Commission is Tshering Gyaltshen Penjor, who was previously serving as Ambassador at the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Brussels. 

The new Dzongdag of Pemagatshel is Tashi Dawa, who was serving as Director of the Road Safety and Transport Authority. 

Phub Dorji, who was the Chief Executive Officer of Bhutan Development Bank Limited, was appointed Thimphu dzongdag.

New UNDP head presents credentials to Foreign Minister

Thu, 11/24/2022 - 11:50

Jigmi Wangdi

The new Resident Representative of UNDP Bhutan, Mohammad Younus presented his credentials to the Foreign Minister Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji at the Gyalyong Tshokhang yesterday.

Prior to his appointment as the Resident Representative of UNDP, Younus was the Senior Crisis Country Advisor at UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific in New York, USA. He has also served as the Chief or Head of the South and West Asia Cluster, based at the UNDP Regional Hub for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand from 2017 to 2022.

Younus’s other assignments include Deputy Chief of the South and West Asia Division, New York from 2011 to 2016, Programme Advisor, UNDP Regional Bureau for the Arab States from 2006 to 2010 and Programme Advisor, UNDP Bureau of Crisis Prevention and Recovery from 2001 to 2006.

After the presentation of credentials, the UNDP Resident Representative made a courtesy call to the foreign minister and discussed various development issues and the partnership between the government and UNDP.

Younus succeeds Ms Azusa Kubota as the UNDP Bhutan Resident Representative.

UNDP has been supporting Bhutan since 1973 and has had a resident presence in the country since 1979.

Central Monk Body leaves for winter residence

Thu, 11/24/2022 - 11:48

The Dorji Lopon and the monks of the Central Monastic Body left Thimphu for their winter residence in Punakha yesterday.

In keeping with tradition, the Central Monastic Body will reside for the next six months in Pungthang Dewa Chhenpoi Phodrang. They will return to Thimphu on the first day of the fourth Bhutanese month. Thousands of residents along the Thimphu-Punakha highway received blessings from the Zhabdrung’s sacred relics. 

The tradition of migrating between summer and winter residences was first introduced by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the 17th century.

NA adopts Property Tax Bill

Wed, 11/23/2022 - 11:42

0.1 percent tax on the taxable value of land and building

Thukten Zangpo 

Following lengthy deliberations on the exemptions and concessions on land and building taxes, National Assembly yesterday adopted the Property Tax Bill of Bhutan 2022 with 42 Yes votes.  Three of the 45 members present abstained from voting.

The House adopted to retain the 0.1 percent tax on the taxable value of land and building, as proposed in the Bill.

Similarly, a 15 percent vacant land surcharge tax on the total amount of land tax for 10 thromdes was passed.    

A vacant land surcharge tax is applicable if no development is carried out on the land within two years from the date on which all of the urban services have been made available.

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As members raised concerns about the unequal Property Assessment and Valuation Agency (PAVA) rate in some areas, Deputy Chairperson of the Legislative Committee, Karma Lhamo said that the PAVA on land valuation and compensation rate can be reviewed after the Bill is passed.

Drametse-Ngatshang MP, Ugyen Wangdi submitted to have a proper consultation with the local government while categorising the land under the PAVA rate.

Under concessions, the House adopted 90 percent tax concessions on the amount of land tax payable as wetland or chhuzhing and for highland communities.

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However, the House adopted a tax concession not exceeding 70 percent tax from 50 percent of the amount of building tax payable on the protected traditional houses in urban centres.

Karma Lhamo said that the concession is given because although the property owners want to build concrete buildings, they are mandated to keep the traditional houses.

While Bartsham-Shongphu MP Passang Dorji said that tax exemptions for protecting the traditional houses should be 100 percent or otherwise, the government should provide them with additional incentives.

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The House also deliberated on the consequences of non-payment of land lax and on appeal procedure. The House adopted that if an appellant is not satisfied with the decision of the appeal committee, the appellant may appeal to the appeal committee at the head office, or appeal board or before the court of law.

Member In-charge of the Bill, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that the members raised concerns that the increase in the property tax would have implications for the tenants and on the no equity and fairness on land categorisation.

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He added that the house owners get 100 percent deductible expenses on their tax while filing personal income tax as per the Income Tax Act of Bhutan 2001.

Lyonpo also said the ministry will include the land categorisation issues in rules and regulations under the Act.

He added that Section 57 on remission is kept if the adopted Bill needs rework and adjustments in future.

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Section 57 gives the finance ministry the authority to prescribe in the rules that the tax payable in respect of category of land or buildings for a period to be remitted wholly or in part, and prescribe the applicable conditions for remission on the joint recommendation of the ministry responsible for human settlement and the National Land Commission.

The Bill as money bill will be forwarded to the National Council for deliberation.

Door-to-door campaign on waste segregation starts in Thimphu 

Wed, 11/23/2022 - 11:41

Staff Reporter 

The Waste Management Committee started door-to-door awareness campaign on waste segregation between Dechencholing and Ngabi Rongchu in South Thimphu yesterday.

This is an activity for a clean and green Bhutan, according to officials from the committee.

A team of 26 de-suups informed residents about the importance of segregating wet and dry wastes.

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“The awareness campaign period will be used to identify those who have not carried out proper segregation of wet and dry wastes,” officials said.

After the campaign period, violators will be fined as per the Waste Prevention and Management Regulations.

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The fines for not segregating waste will be Nu 3,000 for the first offence; Nu 6,000 on the second offence; and Nu 9,000 for third-time offenders.

The awareness campaign will end on November 30.

Segregated waste makes it easier to reprocess wet waste into compost and simplifies separating the dry waste into recyclable materials.

Bhutan joins the seed-sharing initiative 

Wed, 11/23/2022 - 11:40

Chhimi Dema 

Bhutan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, India, Nepal, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam signed an agreement to foster cross-country seed-sharing and empower the region’s seed sector yesterday in Thimphu.

Called Seeds Without Borders, the agreement aims to speed up the distribution of modern, climate-resilient rice varieties across nations to help vulnerable farmers establish a secure food supply for their families and earn a higher income.

Bhutan joined the Seeds Without Borders agreement on June 13, 2018.

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Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said that Bhutan is honoured to be part of Seeds Without Borders as this agreement is instrumental in implementing the country’s programmes to achieve food and nutritional security.

“It would also help Bhutan’s food system become self-reliant, productive, diverse, resilient, and sustainable,” he said.

The agreement initiated by International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) was first signed between Bangladesh and India in 2013.

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IRRI works to abolish poverty and hunger among people and populations that depend on rice-based agri-food systems.

Director General of IRRI, Jean Balié, said that the Seeds Without Borders agreement allows farmers from member countries to access an expanded selection of high-quality seeds that have desired traits.

“By sharing and exchanging improved seeds across their borders, countries can more rapidly reap the benefits of higher productivity, higher quality and resilience across similar agroecologies,” he said.

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports show that over 90 percent of the world’s rice is produced and consumed in the Asia-Pacific Region. Countries like the Republic of Korea and Japan have started seeing declining per capita rice consumption with growing prosperity and urbanisation.

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But, nearly a fourth of the Asian population is still poor and has considerable unmet demand for rice, according to FAO. “It is in these counties that rice consumption will grow.”

Jean Balié said that Seeds Without Borders is not just about strengthening seed systems. “It is also about more effectively addressing food security, health and nutrition and climate resilience.”

According to a press release from IRRI, the Thimphu Protocol would help to improve the process of agreements under Seeds Without Borders.

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The latest agreement also intends to add roots, tuber crops, and fruit crops in addition to rice and other cereals, pulses, oil seeds, vegetables, sugarcane, and fibre crops for seed-sharing.

Fiji, The Philippines, and Vietnam joined as members with the signing of the Thimphu Protocol yesterday.

Officials from Burundi, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia participated as observer countries.

Department of Agriculture’s director, Yonten Gyamtsho, said that before the initiatives on rice research in the country, farmers were growing indigenous low-yielding rice varieties.

The rice consumption of Bhutanese is increasing while the production can’t meet the production’s pace, he said.

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Currently, Bhutan’s rice self-sufficiency stands at 37 percent.

Shortage of labour, human-wildlife conflict, fragmented landholding, changing land use, and inadequate irrigation are some of the challenges that the agriculture sector faces today.

Yonten Gyamtsho said that given the challenges, the ministry is innovating the sector with farm mechanisation and sourcing high-value crops to drive the agriculture sector.

“Without the initiative, we have to develop crop varieties that fit the expectations of the farming community,” he said, adding that with this agreement it is easy to approach the member countries and request for seeds.

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Bhutan shared Yusi Kewa Maap seeds with India and received nine rice varieties from Nepal which are undergoing field testing at the research centres.

There are 27 improved rice varieties in the country today.

Measures taken to control African swine fever 

Wed, 11/23/2022 - 11:39

YK Poudel and Karma Tenzin 

With the death of 13 pigs in a backyard farm in Gayzor village, Samdrupjongkhar, the agriculture ministry (MoAF) notified farmers to be cautious of African Swine Fever (ASF) yesterday.

The case was reported to dzongkhag veterinary hospital on November 13.

Of the 15 pigs on the farm in Gayzor village, Dewathang gewog, 11 died mysteriously in a span of a week raising concerns that led to tighter surveillance on the entry of pork-related products through the International Check Post (ICP).

The remaining four pigs have been disposed of by veterinary officials fearing contamination.

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ASF is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic and wild pigs with a mortality rate of up to 100 percent. There is no vaccine or effective treatment available for ASF.

The disease is spread through contact between the pigs, contaminated pig products, feeding pigs with kitchen wastes contaminated with pork products, through the movement of contaminated personnel and farm equipment.

According to the Chief of Animal Health Division, MoAF, Dr Rinzin Pem, the ASF containment measures are being carried out in line with the National African Swine Fever Prevention and Control Plan 2021.

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“The affected farm is the only pig farm in Dewathang gewog and the field team of officials from livestock and Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority has cordoned off the affected farm,” she said.

Measures in  Samdrupjongkhar

Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer in Samdrupjongkhar, Dr Sangay Letho suspected the disease was transmitted through wild boar, which he personally saw in the area while investigating the outbreak of the AFS.

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He also pointed out other possibilities of transmission like people carrying the virus on their clothes and vehicles.

He said that the outbreak happened at an isolated location, far from the settlements, and the entire farm is cordoned off.

Police officials at the ICP have been checking incoming vehicles, twice every week, for pork and other prohibited items.

Recently, a farmer from Pemathang gewog, Samdrup Jongkhar dzongkhag was penalized for illegally importing pigs from Assam.

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Although ASF does not affect human health, it can cause catastrophic socioeconomic consequences for the pig-farming sector, according to the notification.

“We have informed the pig farmers in the dzongkhag to inform us in case of any death in their farms, besides asking concerned officials at the ICP to strictly monitor incoming vehicles,” Dr Sangay Letho said.

In all cases where “animals” or commodities have been imported illegally or moved illegally from a frontier zone, according to the Livestock Act of Bhutan (2001), the animal or the consignment shall be confiscated and disposed of as decided by the ministry without compensation.

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Anyone who commits an offence under this Act is liable for fines or punishable with imprisonment through a court process, which may extend from six months to one year, as per chapter 11, section 29 (1) of the Livestock Act of Bhutan, 2001.

The containment measures issued by the ministry on July 27 this year, including the ban on the movement and sale of pigs and pig products that are currently being put in place by the local authorities, are still in effect.

The ministry has planned to monitor the situation in high-risk areas through awareness programs and syndromic surveillance.

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The first outbreak in the country was in May 2021 in Phuentsholing, second ASF outbreak was in April this year in Samphelling gewog in Chukha.

The government has incurred more than Nu 21.2 million in control of ASF this year.

Safety first

Wed, 11/23/2022 - 11:38

Just as the Royal Bhutan Police was warning people of increasing crime, both online and offline, a group of detainees yesterday escaped from the detention centre in Thimphu prompting police to warn people of the possibility of the escapees retaliating, if encountered.

Police have reinforced their manpower at the point of exit. As of yesterday evening, they have rearrested three although Kuensel could not verify independently with the police.

The immediate reaction to the news is pointing fingers at the police with some, on social media, calling for heads to roll while others are questioning how 10 people could escape from a toilet window, all in a morning and secured with police on duty 24/7. 

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An inquiry would be called into how the lapses happened, but the concern now is the safety of the people. The detainees could be in the city or could have spread across to prevent rearrest. This poses risk. We don’t know where they are, but what we know is there are seven escapees hiding or freely mixing with the people. 

It is not time for blame games and some information about their suspected whereabouts could help people become more cautious. Hiding information from the media or the public will not help. Among the escapees are a rapist, a murderer, burglars and drug peddlers. It is criminals’ nature to not think twice about committing further crimes when on the run. They could think it is an escape at any cost or serve a longer jail term.

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The warning of the sheer number of escapees and that they could retaliate if encountered is frightening people. What we could do is help police nab the escapees before they cause harm to others or themselves. Quite often, out of fear people do not report suspicious persons or activities in their neighbourhood or localities. With a warning from the police, we could help the police by reporting any suspicious faces or activities. Reporting could improve if those reporting are not questioned, bothered if not harassed. 

Meanwhile, with increasing cases of burglary, it is the responsibility of property owners to secure their property and surroundings. There are ways to do it. Like police said, installing close circuit television (CCTV), and strengthening safety and security features could help prevent crime. 

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There are technologies that are effective and affordable. It is the responsibility of property owners to ensure the safety of their property and their tenants. We have anti-theft alarm systems, locks and many more to secure property and lives.  

Crimes, petty or severe, will keep happening. It is not only the police’s responsibility to prevent it. All of us can play a part. How they escaped or managed to bring in hacksaw blades to cut the iron rod of a detention centre will be investigated.  Accountability will be fixed.  

Orchid farmers in Geserling struggle with low demand

Wed, 11/23/2022 - 11:37

Plans to expand farm in the future

Choki Wangmo | Dagana

Despite high hopes, Gesarling Women’s Orchid Farm in Dagana is struggling with a small market for ornamental plants.

The farmers are looking forward to expanding the farm and growing orchids on a commercial scale, targeting markets in other dzongkhags.

The farm could only sell a few bundles of edible orchids in the locality. “We charge Nu 100 for a bundle of orchid flower; people do not buy as they are expensive,” said a member of the group Tashi Chenzom.

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Cymbidium species are currently available at the farm.

The group earned only about Nu 2,000 during the season. Although located near the Dagapela-Dalbari secondary national highway, there are not many takers.

Four varieties of edible and inedible orchids are grown in the farm.

Once the farm expands on a commercial level, women expect the business to improve. The farm is built on a private land with three shade cloth greenhouses.

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“We have applied for a lease land to the gewog administration. With expansion, production could increase and we might be able to market it across the country. Orchids have high medicinal values,” said Tashi Chenzom.

The farm started with nine members. Two left the group recently.

The members were also not trained in raising the plants. They bought the seedlings from the market and harvested additional saplings from the forest. According to farmers, there is an increased demand for saplings.

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“When we expand our farm, we will need expertise and further skills to tend to the plants,” said Indra Maya, adding that none of the women had prior experience in raising plant nurseries.

“We will need more workers in the future. Hopefully, we can take advantage of the farm’s location near the highway,” said Kiba.

Started with fund support of Nu 300,000 from the dzongkhag economic development office, the farm is supposed to provide an alternative source of income for people in the area.

Due to irrigation water shortage in winter and monsoon, farmers cannot grow crops and vegetables on a large scale.

Bhutan is home to about 500 species of orchids, out of which 14 are endemic to Bhutan.

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In recent years, many new species have been recorded across the country. It includes the discovery of the endangered Bulbophyllum trongsaense from Trongsa in September 2019.

However, some of the wild species of native orchids are threatened with over-harvesting and exploitation since they are considered a delicacy in Bhutanese cuisine.

Japan Foreign Minister visits

Wed, 11/23/2022 - 11:36

His Majesty The King granted an audience to Japan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Takei Shunsuke, at the Tashichhodzong yesterday. 

The minister, who is on a 3-day visit, also called on Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering. 

The minister shared that Japan was deeply touched by the love and prayers from Bhutan during the passing of their former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 

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He highlighted that the close ties between the two countries have been fostered by respect and trust between the peoples of the two countries. 

This is the second ministerial-level visit from Japan since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1986.

As a long-standing development partner, Japan shares close ties of friendship with Bhutan.

RBP arrest three escapees; seven at large

Wed, 11/23/2022 - 11:35

Jigmi Wangdi

Police nabbed three out of the 10 detainees who escaped from the detention centre in Thimphu in the early hours of November 22.

Two were rearrested in Thimphu and the other escapee, an Indian, was apprehended at Takti Koti on the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway.

The detainees reportedly made out from the detention centre’s toilet window. It is believed that the escapees used a hacksaw blade to cut the window bars.

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The police also arrested a man who drove them until Kamji in Chhukha. The Indian escapee who was re-arrested was among the seven who are still at large.

An investigation into the lapses that led to the escape of 10 detainees is underway.

Deputy Chief of Police, Colonel Passang Dorji, said that the officials responsible would be held accountable. “We are conducting inquiries.”

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Colonel Passang Dorji said that the police are in touch with the acquaintances and relatives of the escapees. “We are monitoring the situations.”

Any help from the public would be appreciated, Colonel Passang Dorji said. “We request the public to come forward with any information about the escapees.”

More than 300 police personnel have been deployed to the border areas and points of entry.     

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An RBP official said that it is difficult to predict what an “alleged” criminal is capable of doing. “Threats can’t be taken lightly.”

Police officials said that the infrastructure and facilities of detention centres need improvement.

“Our detention centres are in pathetic condition,” an official said, adding that sometimes detainees have to be crammed into a single cell together.

The escapees were detained for drug trafficking, burglary, rape, and voluntary manslaughter cases. Two are Indians.

AI and ‘psychic’ animals predict the World Cup results

Wed, 11/23/2022 - 11:35

YK Poudel    

With Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) screening every game on a giant digital screen at the volleyball court at Changlimithang, the cold winter in Thimphu does not bother the fans gathered to cheer their teams.

Many have predicted different countries to win the 22nd edition of the World Cup hosted by Qatar.

Over the years, a variety of animals have been claimed to have a highly unique ability to foretell the results of World Cup games, from prescient pandas and clairvoyant camels to one very famous oracular octopus.

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Joshua Bull, a mathematical modeller from the University of Oxford and the winner of 2020 Fantasy Football Competition, applying his modelling skills predicted that Brazil will defeat Argentina in the semi-finals, and Belgium will win over France.

As per his predictions, Brazil will be the champions of World Cup 2022 defeating Belgium with 61.3 percent win ratio.

FIFA 23, the widely popular video games franchise, has simulated all 64 games to determine the winning possibility using “HyperMotion2 Technology” and FIFA World Cup 2022 ratings has picked Argentina as the winner.

A new soothsaying celebrity emerges with each World Cup, ready to steal the show with their “skills”—with different degrees of success.

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Achilles the cat, a 2018 FIFA World Cup animal oracle, predicts the result between Brazil and Costa Rica as the fourth correct prediction.

In 2014, Gulf News created a video series of Shaheen the Camel predicting World Cup matches.

Paul the octopus, was a 2010 FIFA World Cup animal oracle. During divinations, Paul’s keepers would present him with two food-containing boxes with flags of the teams playing the upcoming match. The box from which Paul ate first would be the prediction to win the match. It predicted eight games correctly.

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The standings in the last eighthmatches played as of 1am today: Qatar 0 Ecuador 2, England 6 Iran 2, Senegal 0 Netherlands 2, USA 1 Wales 1, Argentina 1 Saudi Arabia 2, Denmark 0 and Tunisia 0, Mexico 0 Poland 0, France 4 Australia 1.

Bukayo Saka (England), Enner Valencia (Ecuador), Mehdi Taremi (Iran) Olivier Giroud (France) have scored two goals each.

Morocco and Croatia will play the ninth match of the group stage today at 4pm BST.

NA says stop communication allowance

Tue, 11/22/2022 - 12:19

… Discontinuing all communication allowance could save the govt. Nu 2M annually

Thukten Zangpo 

The National Assembly members yesterday supported discontinuing communication allowances (CA) paid to parliamentarians and heads of constitutional offices when deliberating the Pay Structure Reform Bill 2022.

The house unanimously decided to omit Sections 16 and 17 of the Bill.

As per Section 16 of the Bill, the Prime Minister is entitled to a CA on the actual expenses incurred per month.

The CA for dzongrab, dungpa, drangpon rabjam is Nu 500 per month. The principal secretary, communication specialist, personal secretary, and personal assistant of the Prime Minister are entitled to Nu 1,500 per month.

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Personal secretary, personal assistant of the Cabinet Ministers and equivalent positions allowed for CA of Nu 1,000 per month.

Section 17 of the Bill entitles prime minister, Cabinet ministers,chairperson of the National Council, speaker of the National Assembly, opposition leader, heads of constitutional offices and the attorney general (residing at Lhengye Densa), internet allowance based on the actual expenses.

The section also includes the chief justice of the Supreme Court and the chairperson of the Privy Council, a communication allowance of Nu 7,750 inclusive of internet data charges of Nu 2,750 at the residence.

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However, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering had submitted to the House to discontinue all CA and internet data charges. He said whether these allowances go for the intended purpose or not.

Based on Section 16, the Economic and Finance Committee’s chairperson and MP of Gangzur-Minjey, Kinga Penjor, also proposed to remove all CA including other public servants after Lyonchhen made the submission.

However, Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel sought the members’ votes only on Sections 16 and 17.

If the House has supported the proposal, CA ranging from as low as Nu 100 per month paid to thromde thuemi to Nu 5,000 per month to ministers could be discontinued.

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Ministers, chairperson of the National Council, speaker of the National Assembly or opposition leader are entitled to a communication allowance of Nu 5,000 per month.

Heads of constitutional offices, attorney general, drangpons, deputy speaker of NA, NC chairperson and MPs are entitled to Nu 2,000 as CA. Thrompons get Nu 1,000 as CA.

Kinga Penjor said that the discontinuation of CA and internet charges would save the government Nu 2 million annually.

Referring to Singapore’s pay system, Kinga Penjor said that 80 percent of the pay was fixed pay and 20 percent was variable pay. However, Bhutanese’s variable pay ranges from 9 percent to 41 percent as per the Bill, he added.

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Kinga Penjor recommended that Bhutan’s pay system be 80 percent as fixed pay in future, which will benefit those who take more post-service benefits. However, currently, he said, the country’s economy is not doing well.

The chairperson of the committee also informed the House that the committee could not study the pay structure reform and its implications on filing tax annually because of the limited time.

The deliberation will continue today.

Waste management committee collects Nu 50,600 in fines in Paro

Tue, 11/22/2022 - 12:18

Staff Reporter 

Paro Dzongkhag Administration fined 100 shopkeepers and automobile workshops for various offences related to Waste Prevention and Management Regulation 2016 yesterday. A total of Nu 50,600 was collected as fines.

The dzongkhag administration inspected Tshongdi, Bongdi and Woochu areas in Paro for adherence to the waste prevention and management regulation.

Inspection in other gewogs will continue.

The inspection and monitoring activities are recommended by the Waste Management Committee.

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Earlier this month, the Prime Minister issued an executive order to form a committee to enforce strict waste management system in the country.

The Waste Management Committee held an online meeting yesterday with dzongdags in all the dzongkhags to consolidate waste management efforts.

“The committee updated on the initiatives being undertaken in Thimphu and requested the dzongkhags to start implementing the waste management rules and regulations,” according to committee officials.

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The committee comprise officials from Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon, National Land Commission, Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, De-Suung Office, Thimphu Dzongkhag, and National Environment Commission Secretariat.

The dzongdags were also informed about the new penalties and fines.

During the meeting, the dzongdags were informed that from next year, assessment on cleanliness and waste management practices in all dzongkhags and thromdes would be carried out and the best performing dzongkhags would be recognised.

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“Accountability would be trickled down as waste management targets and KPIs will be included in the APAs, and these will be assessed at the individual level as well,” said officials.

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and APAs (Agency Performance Indicators) are management tools to ensure accountability and performance in the civil service.

NC’s economic affairs committee proposes sales tax reduction for eggs and cement

Tue, 11/22/2022 - 12:17

Dechen Dolkar 

The Economic Affairs Committee of the National Council (NC) proposed the reduction of sales tax for meat, poultry products, and cement import.

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering introduced the Tax Bill of Bhutan 2022 to the National Council yesterday.

The Committee Chairperson, MP for Paro, Ugyen Tshering, presented the committee’s recommendation to the house yesterday.

The committee proposed 10 percent sales tax reduction for poultry products. The National Assembly amended sales tax to 50 percent.

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Ugyen Tshering said that although there is no egg shortage in the country currently, in the future there could be supply disruptions in the country. “We might have to import during that time and it will be very expensive for the people with high sales tax.

The committee has proposed sales tax reduction for meat items to 10 percent. The government has proposed 20 percent sales tax.

Ugyen Tshering said that local meat prices increase because import price is very high. He said that during the lockdowns, meat shops were selling pork for Nu 700 to Nu 800 per kg.

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MP for Sarpang, Anand Rai, said that Bhutan imports parental broiler stock. If the sales tax is high, he said that it would impact the farmers and poultry business in the country.

MP for Haa, Ugyen Namgay, however, said that if the import sales tax is high it would benefit the poultry business in the country. He said that most of the poultry businesses in the country are not able to sell eggs. ”The sales tax could be between 10 to 50 percent.”

MP for Chukha, Sangay Dorji, said that the poultry business is easy to start and profitable but also very risky. “Reducing sales tax to 10 percent will impact the poultry business,” he said.

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The committee also proposed doing away with sales tax for oral applications such as nicotine gum. The government has proposed a 100 percent sales tax for oral applications.

Ugyen Tshering said that it should be made cheaper to help people quit alcohol consumption and smoking.

The committee proposed to retain the government proposal of a 15 percent sales tax on the import of cement-related products. The National Assembly amended the sales tax to 30 percent sales tax.

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Ugyen Tshering said that cement factories in the country export 70 percent of the total production.

He said that the factories have to carry out maintenance and sometimes there is shortage of raw materials rendering the factories unable to operate for around six months. “During such times, we need to import and the price will be very expensive.”

Hydro projects, he said, use imported premium cement quality and that there should be an alternative source in the future.

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MP for Trongsa, Tashi Samdrup, said that the sales tax for cement should be increased since 70 percent of the production is exported.

Eminent Member Dasho Tashi Wangyal said that if the cement price is high, construction prices will increase which will have an impact on house rents.

MP for Punakha, Lhaki Dolma, proposed doing away with the 30 percent sales tax for the local entertainment business.

The House accepted most of the amendments proposed by the Committee.