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དུས་མཐུན་བཟོ་ཡོད: 6 min 16 sec གི་ཧེ་མ།

TCB: Service providers should compete

ཉིམ།, 07/23/2022 - 16:51

Dechen Dolkar

Tour operators will have to compete through the quality of services, programmes and facilities while providing itineraries to the tourists.

There are more than 3,500 licensed tour operators in the country today.

According to the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), tourists have the option to visit Bhutan through packaged tour operators or by booking the tours themselves.

The media spokesperson of the TCB, Damcho Rinzin, said tourists can apply for the visa themselves and have to pay SDF for the number of nights they will be staying in Bhutan.

“Tourists have the option to choose the hotel on the first night since they need to be picked up from the airport. Then it is up to the tourist where he or she wants to go,” Damcho Rinzin said.

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Damchoe Rinzin said that now the tour operators have more advantages because they can offer and charge for exclusive services to the tourists. “Tour operators have to specialise in their services.”

The Ministry of Economic Affairs will issue operators’ licence based on a certification given by TCB.

This means the so-called briefcase operators will be replaced by serious players who will be encouraged to upgrade standards of service, according to the TCB.

The council said that the concept of a luxury hotel would be redefined as TCB lays new guidelines for an authentic Bhutanese experience. This means conditions and services are of high value with transparent service policies and well-defined Bhutanese standards.

Accommodation for guests will be certified based on their readiness in terms of the services and facilities; guests must stay in certified hotels (previously known as “3 Star” and above).

Damcho Rinzin said that there is a farmhouse in Punanka called Dumra offering exclusive services for tourists.

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He said that the farmhouse serves only locally produced vegetables. The farmhouse never uses plastic. “There are some tourists who want to stay in such farmhouses.”

Guides will also be provided professional training and be re-certified or be upgraded and certified as guides.

There are more than 3,000 guides in the country. Guests can also choose guides through travel operators, hotels, or personal relations/contacts.

Damcho Rinzin said that tourists will have to use guides.

According to the TCB, regulations are also being drawn up for all transport, restaurant, and the handicraft industry that are directly or indirectly involved in the tourism business.

Bhutan’s new approach is aimed at elevating the travel experience in Bhutan through fair and healthy competition. It is hoped that service providers will be encouraged to continue upgrading their quality.

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Tours to Bhutan confirmed before 20th June 2022 are permitted to operate at old rates. As of July 19, TCB has received nearly 500 applicants from tourists who could not visit Bhutan after March 6, 2020.

TCB will, however, assess the evidence of genuine applications. Tour operators are given until the deadline of July 28 2022 to submit applications and until December 31, 2023, for tourists to visit Bhutan.

The TCB states that regulations will be strictly monitored and enforced in collaboration with tourism stakeholders.

The sex trade dilemma

ཉིམ།, 07/23/2022 - 16:50

Prostitution is illegal in the country. Yet we have about 400 confirmed sex workers. It is posing a new dilemma. It is not about the sex trade anymore, but about crime against those in the trade and the lack of protection because they are victims of a crime they committed.

In short, when the sex trade is criminalised, women both young and old are exposed to both exploitation and violence. The report on violence against sex workers is three years old, but the concerns are genuine and relevant. More women could have gone into the trade and more could have been subjected to violence, abuse, harassment or blackmail since then.

Following the report, there are calls for legalising the sex trade. There are an increasing number of women caught up in the trade and there are many coming into conflict with law. Above all, we cannot give them protection from being exploited from all sides.

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Prostitution is an incredibly dangerous profession. Sexual assault, physical abuse and forced drug addiction and even death is common in this trade. For the women in the trade, it is often difficult to get help, as indicated by the report. They are criminals for prostituting. 

The sex trade is undesirable from all angles. There is health risk, religious and social inhibitions and as a country propagating happiness, it’s about loss of image if we let our women sell their body to make a living. There are implications of making it a profession for the underprivileged or the unemployed. But the reality is it cannot be stopped either.

A lot has changed since sex trade became an issue, especially at the border towns where those involved (women) were mostly from across the border. Today we are talking about our own girls and women -including students getting trapped in the trade. 

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It is a serious issue that needs attention and discourse to find solutions. 

The debate about legalising the flesh trade is as old as the industry. There are both pros and cons. Licensing the sex trade, it is claimed, will protect women,  improve safety and prevent the spread of diseases. Doing so, some argue, will increase trafficking of women and children into the industry.

It is not a new debate. Developed countries have studied and tested it for decades. Some made it legal, others decriminalised and some criminalised it. Many point to the fact that whenever or wherever sex was criminalised, sex workers have been moved to places where they are more exposed to different kinds of risks: assault, fraud, control, and lack of freedom.

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The debate here, we surmise is one-sided. It is not so much about the concern for the health and safety of women.  The main reason is that prostitution is viewed as amoral because it involves women, maybe men too now, selling their bodies for money.

Perhaps a way out of the dilemma would be to decriminalise prostitution. It would mean removing criminal penalties and encouraging women to report violence or abuse against them to authorities. Criminalising drives the business underground, away from safety and protection.

It would be hard for a small close-knit society to see brothels in our towns. That is unacceptable. But when we cannot control and pretend that we are clean, it begets problems. Above all, what we have to understand is that prostitution is not a choice. If we can make their lives better by decriminalising their job, if we can help them by providing alternatives, we would be helping those in the trade. 

Threatening children with incarceration is a regressive policy

ཉིམ།, 07/23/2022 - 16:50

It is unfortunate that the State machinery, which is supposed to educate, nurture and reform our children is becoming an authority of threat and enforcement. When education is the foundation for life, the notification from the Ministry of Education threatening the incarceration states otherwise. 

No state agency has the authority to arrest any person, let alone children, without following due process of law. Any arrest not authorised by law will be unlawful, procedural arbitrary and unconstitutional. The authority to grant or reject bail only rests with the court not police. No law enforcement including police has authority to operate at whims and fancies. 

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His Majesty said: “the future is neither unseen nor unknown. It is what we make of it. Our children’s tomorrow has to be created by us today.” What kind of children’s tomorrow are we creating by incarcerating them today? Articles 37 and 40 of the Convention on Rights of a Child which Bhutan ratified states “the children in conflict with the law have the right to treatment that promotes their sense of dignity and worth, takes into account their age and aims at their reintegration into society, a closed facility should be a measure of last resort.”  

The Child Care and Protection Act of Bhutan 2011 reiterates the obligations under the CRC and our Constitution. The core mandate of the State under this Act is to “provide care, protection, guidance, counselling, treatment, development, rehabilitation, adjudication and disposition of matters relating to children in conflict with the law in the most favourable manner and the best interest of the child.” The law also prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, imprisonment, or deprivation of liberty and arrest must be the last resort and shortest time. The law further mandates the entire society not just schools and parents “to ensure the harmonious development of the child and even if a child commits an offence,” diversion, reformative, social-reintegration and restorative must be the solution. 

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The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime even developed” an integrated strategy to assist the Member States with juvenile justice reform, emphasising the importance of prevention and rehabilitation. UNODC stated that the “focus of criminal justice responses should be shifted from imposing punishment and isolation to investing in longer-term strategies for crime prevention, rehabilitation, restorative justice, and social reintegration, with an emphasis on the most vulnerable. A study by the UN found that at least 410,000 children were detained in prisons and 1 million children were held in police custody every year. As a result, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child revised their guidance recommending the absolute minimum age of criminal responsibility from 12 to 14 years of age.

The studies showed that 70 to 80 percent of incarcerated juveniles got rearrested within three years and incarceration is ineffective in reducing recidivism and may maintain, or even increase, levels of engagement in antisocial behaviour and criminal activity.”   If children are caught drunk or found in nightclubs or fighting under the influence of alcohol, the government should be prosecuted for making these gateway drugs-alcohol and tobacco easily accessible and affordable? Liabilities must start with the government, society, law enforcement agencies, and legislature for failing to create a conducive environment for our children. The recent notification from the MoE will damage the country’s image on child justice and undermine decades of reforms we have initiated for our children. 

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.

LGBTQI+ communities face barriers to accessing health services

ཉིམ།, 07/23/2022 - 16:49

Dechen Dolkar

Key populations (KPs) in Bhutan face stigma and discrimination while availing health services, according to an advocacy strategy plan report Save the Children conducted.

KPs are men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers, transgender people, people who use drugs, and people living with HIV.

According to the report conducted in 2020, stigma and discrimination prevent key and vulnerable populations in Bhutan from availing vital health services, thereby increasing the risk of HIV transmission. “Stigma and discrimination are increasingly recognised as major obstacles to achieving the goal of ending HIV and AIDS epidemic. STIs such as syphilis and gonorrhoea are common among them.”

Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) communities also do not visit hospitals due to fear of confidentiality breaches regarding their sexual orientation.

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The report stated that attitudes of health workers also fuel stigma among LGBTQI+  as most of them are not sensitised on gender expression.

A member of LGBTQI+  told interviewers that they do not avail x-ray services due to self-stigma as they have to expose their bodies.

Members said they visit health information and service centre (HISCs) as they are familiar with the officials, but comprehensive health services are not available at HISCs.

The report cited examples where LGBTQI+ members told interviewers that doctors are insensitive towards them and some told them they deserve to be infected.

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“I was suffering from severe depression and went for treatment where I was treated like a mad person,” a member told interviewers.

The report claimed key populations also face legal discrimination against because of their sexual orientation or behaviour, thereby hindering their regular access to health and other social services.

It stated LGBTQI+ experience stigma and discrimination from various segments of society, mainly because of their low educational attainment and lack of employment.

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According to the Bhutan key population size estimation report 2020, there are around 1,670 MSM, 74 transgender women and 292 transgender men in the country.

The assessment was conducted by Save the Children in collaboration with National AIDS Control Programme under Ministry of Health and the key populations organisations to reduce stigma and discrimination among the key populations.

Ponies belonging to Lunaps cannot graze in Phobjikha and Gangtey gewogs anymore

ཉིམ།, 07/23/2022 - 16:48

Chhimi Dema

Highlanders from Lunana gewog in Gasa will no longer allow their ponies to graze freely in Phobjikha and Gangtey gewogs of Wangduephodrang.

Local leaders of the three gewogs met in May this year to discuss the problems caused by ponies belonging to Lunaps. The ponies are kept in lower valleys in winter considering the cold weather and inaccessibility to Lunana.

The ponies, without anyone to look after or take care, caused lots of problems in Gangtey and Phobjikha.

In recent times, villagers of Phobjikha and Gangtey lost their crops and fodder to the free-roaming ponies.

Residents of the two gewogs said the ponies dent vehicles with their hoofs, break fences, bite calves and sheep, and block roads.

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Gantey gup Kinley Gyeltshen said they do not know the owners of the ponies and cannot get repayment for the damages.

With issues of free-roaming dogs in the gewog, feeble ponies become prey of the packs. Wild animals often hunt ponies, leaving the carcasses.

However, the main concern is the loss of grazing lands in the villages.

Gup Kinley Gyeltshen explained ponies tend to rip the grasses during grazing and this could threaten the growth of grasses. “People worry that their animals may not have grasses to gaze in coming years if the ponies continued to come in strings.”

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Lunaps have driven their ponies to Lunana from Phobjikha and Gangtey gewogs in June this year.

Meanwhile, the local leaders, during the meeting, also agreed to keep their animals in their gewogs henceforth.

“We discussed that Gangtey and Phobjikha will not allow ponies to graze in the gewogs. Undertakings were signed with the pony owners and local leaders,” Kinley Gyeltshen said.

He added that the ponies from other gewogs would be under their custody.

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Lunana Gup, Kaka, said that Lunaps, in the winters, do not have a place to keep the animal.

He said as discussed with the Gangtey and Phobjikha gewog administrations, people were informed to get their ponies from the gewogs.

When asked where the ponies will be kept this winter, Gup Kaka said that the administration is looking for other alternatives.

“An option is to pay fees to the gewog to keep our animals,” he said.

  The ponies are used to take rations before Lunana becomes inaccessible in the winter months.

There are about 500 ponies in the gewog. Some ponies are taken to Goenshari as well.

“It is not our intention to encroach on their gazing areas,” Gup Kaka said. 

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 Gup Kinley Gyeltshen said that agencies such as the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority and the agriculture ministry should monitor the transportation of the animals.

“At times, the regulations are just on paper,” he said.  “Proper monitoring would be beneficial to us.”

Currently, ponies from Matalungchu village in Thoedtsho, Wangdue are seen in Gangtey and Phojikha.

With the ongoing rice cultivation, Thoedtsho gewog was given until August to keep ponies in the two gewogs.

“We’ve come a long way”

ཉིམ།, 07/23/2022 - 16:47

Chief Executive Officer of Samuh, Nyema Zam talks to Kuensel Editor Tshering Palden about the company’s challenges and successes as it turns one today

On July 23, Samuh turns one year old. What are some of the good things you remember?

It’s been a year since we launched our OTT platform both on websites and mobile apps. And the best thing is when I share this with people they tell me that they feel Samuh has been around for a long time. For a one-year-old platform, it means that we have been able to build a strong and well-known brand. From getting shocked looks from people when I told them I am from Samuh (Cloud in Dzongkha) to people now saying ‘I am on Samuh’,  we have come a long way.

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How much has Samuh changed in the past 12 months in terms of 

projects, employment and viewership?

The growth has been phenomenal. The Samuh family has grown to 90000 registered users across 107 countries clocking in an average of 500K weekly views on the platform. In terms of projects, we have produced 140 original content so far. Our content production model is designed to be industry intensive and that has played a critical role in creating a diverse range of content and given us an opportunity to engage over 600 people in the creative sector in our projects so far. We have also started working with singers, musicians and music studios in creating original music and that has resulted in increasing engagement of young people in the music industry. In terms of the in-house team, our team has grown to 27 regular staff and 12 contract team. We have a very young and dynamic team under the average age of 24. 

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Being a new startup in this industry, what were some of the challenges you faced along the way? 

As a pioneer in the market, the challenges were many. The biggest challenge was the high cost of the internet and the lack of digital payment gateways that support the OTT model. The other challenge was finding good screenwriters, actors and directors. This meant we had to spend additional time, effort and resources in developing the creative eco-system. The other challenge was also low levels of IP and copyright awareness among the Bhutanese users. However, I do feel the challenges have also helped us to grow stronger, and smarter and adopt innovative approaches to content creation, problem-solving and resource management.


Let’s talk about the big award. Why do you think Gangnam Girls won it? 

The UK Asian Film Festival’s best debut feature film award for Gangnam Girls was totally unexpected. We were thrilled to know our film was selected as a closing film of the prestigious film festival. So the award literally took us over the moon. Personally, I felt the film won the award because firstly the film revolved around friendship which is a universal theme and audiences were able to relate themselves to the characters in the films. Secondly, the director of the film Charmi balanced art and commercial filmmaking beautifully and thirdly it was the honest portrayal of stories and life which is often not seen in most commercial films, that seemed to connect with most audiences. 

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Netflix is losing subscribers by millions. How do you see the 

future for Samuh? 

Netflix was a pioneer when it introduced a digital streaming service in 2007 in the United States. Since then the company has grown into a global brand and its success has been replicated by many companies around the world. With many global players in the OTT space targeting the same markets, Netflix after holding the number one spot for over 15 years has probably finally reached its peak. Hereafter, it would be all about subscriber retention and reducing the churn rate. 

For Samuh, we have just begun. We have another 5 years or more before we reach the peak in the Bhutanese market. Given our first mover advantage, current growth rate, our growing content catalogue, and the growing Bhutanese 4G and Internet market size we are confident that Samuh and the Bhutanese creative sector are going to see over 200 percent growth rate within the next three years. 

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Some critics say there is a lack of Bhutanese tradition and culture in the online/ entertainment content these days. What do you say?

The so-called critics could be judging the content based on one or two titles and not taking into account the entire content library. At Samuh, one of the guiding principles of content creation is that our content must promote Bhutanese stories, culture, values and language while entertaining and appealing to a broad section of the audience. We produce a wide range of content with different audience segments in mind. 

Bhutanese children are growing up, watching foreign content now easily accessible on YouTube and various foreign television channels. The evident outcome of this is that even three-year-old kids can speak fluent English while they struggle with Dzongkha. Hence, we place great importance on creating local content that will gradually encourage our children who are hooked to foreign content to watch Bhutanese content. We believe this is critical because our films and stories are an integral part of our cultural narrative. To this end, we have been investing a lot in creating kid’s content, which is made in our national language. Our programming for kids is strategically designed to encourage children to learn about our culture, values, language, and folk stories, among others. 

Another audience segment we cater to is the youth segment who never watched local content because they did not find it appealing to their taste. This audience segment was hooked to Korean and other foreign content. For them, our effort is to provide a Bhutanese alternative that appeals to this generation. And this has been critical in getting young Bhutanese to watch their first local series and films. In a country that’s bombarded with over 70 foreign channels on TV and access to millions of foreign content online, getting them to begin watching local films and series is the first step to promoting our language, culture and traditions. 

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Anything else you would like to add?

As we celebrate our first anniversary, we reflect on our journey which hasn’t been easy but it has been very very fulfilling. And we have so much to be thankful for. Samuh as the pioneer and the premiere OTT platform in the country today could never have achieved so much in our first year of launch without the blessings we have received from His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen. We are also grateful to the government for introducing the National Credit guarantee scheme and our finance partner Bank of Bhutan. 

We remain forever indebted to our users from across the world for their love and support for Bhutanese content. We would also like to thank our production partners and collaborators for believing in Samuh, trusting our gruelling and demanding content development process and giving their all to bring our content ideas to life. 

And lastly to everyone who is pursuing a dream in the creative space, never give up. The creative space has just started to grow in Bhutan and you will be able to find your place in it, as long as you are passionate and hardworking.

Remembering the True Patriot

ཉིམ།, 07/23/2022 - 16:46

On the 50th death anniversary of His Late Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck

“I wish to address this Assembly today briefly on the subject of the passing away of my late father His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who was the parent of our country’s welfare and our most beloved and precious ruler.” This was His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s opening statement for the 37th session of the National Assembly of Bhutan. 

At the time, His Majesty was 17 years old. Two months ago, on 21 July 1972, He had lost his father.  While His Late Majesty lay in state in the Garden Palace from 23 July to 20 October, an emergency session of the National Assembly had been convened. 

In His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s address on 10 September, He said that to the great misfortune of the country, his late father had fallen seriously ill some time ago and had to fly to the capital of Kenya to Nairobi, to receive medical treatment. 

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His Majesty said that despite the medical attention and religious ceremonies performed by the Central Monastic Body for his recovery, His Majesty passed away peacefully in Nairobi at 10:20 p.m. (7:50 p.m. BST) on 21 July 1972.  His Majesty said that terrible grief had come to all of us as if night had fallen during the light of the day. “Speaking for myself also, the personal sorrow on the decease of my own father is indeed very great.”

Addressing the emergency autumn session of the National Assembly, His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo said that, “just as we having being born will all have to die, it should be remembered that my father has only succumbed to the transient nature of world existence. Our grief is also somewhat lessened when we recall that during the period of His Majesty’s lifetime, besides serving him well and with full loyalty, none of us acted other than in accordance with his wishes. Now, there is no benefit to be gained by abiding in our grief and I am sure it would be much better if, instead, you all prayed for his departed soul.”

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Reminding the august house, His Majesty said that during His Late Majesty’s reign all his actions were qualified by his desire to benefit the nation. It is as a result of this that Bhutan, from being a remote and isolated country, had now entered into the main stream of world affairs. He said that all were aware of His Late Majesty’s extraordinary vision and foresight.  


Nowadays reverently referred to as Drukgyal Zhigpa or the Great Fourth, He informed the Assembly about the cremation rites for His Late Majesty. He said that while Thimphu was the fitting place for the cremation,  when His Late Majesty was sick in Phuentsholing the year before, He had told his son that, “since all his forebears had been cremated at the temple of Kurjey Lhakhang in Bumthang, he himself would be very pleased if the same could be done for him.” 

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Drukgyal Zhigpa said that the preparations for His Late Majesty’s cremation ceremonies at Kurjey Lhakhang were made in accordance with His will. 

Quoting the Speaker of the National Assembly in the book, “The Hero with a Thousand Eyes,” Dasho Karma Ura said that while His Late Majesty was in Trongsa to attend the 15 May investiture ceremony of the Trongsa Penlop, he fell ill. 

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Royal Family members, pleaded with His Majesty to go to Switzerland for treatment, and although he was not keen he acceded to his Royal Mother’s wish. His Majesty believed in the Bhutanese saying, “One should die where one was born.” 

After spending three nights in Thimphu, the royal entourage consisting of the Royal Mother, Trongsa Penlop and other senior officers drove to Phuentsholing and then caught a flight to Bombay (Mumbai) from Hasimara.  

Recounting the four-hour flight to Nairobi, Zimpon Sangay Tenzin said that his Boss was not well and slept for most part of the journey. All these details have been recorded in the book, “One Hundred Years of Development.” The author Damchu Lhendup quotes the Zimpon and writes about how after landing in Nairobi on 14 July, His Late Majesty conveyed his final wish to the Crown Prince. “The touching advice given to the young Crown Prince reduced everyone present to tears.” 

As His Majesty was recovering, the plan was to go to Zurich for treatment where he had asked Her Majesty Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck and the eldest princess to join him. However, His Majesty suffered a fatal heart attack and on 21 July passed away at the age of 44 at the Hotel Fairmont The Norfolk. 

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According to Kuensel of  18 August 1972, on the night that His Majesty passed away, after the Royal Mother and Trongsa Penlop sent the sad news to Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Princesses, the Trongsa Penlop phoned  the Prime Minister of India to inform her of the sad news.

With the help of the Indian High Commission in Kenya, on 22 July the royal cortege flew to Bombay where the Indian Foreign Secretary, and other top brass received them.  HRH Ashi Dechan Wangmo Wangchuck, senior Bhutanese and Indian officers and the Consul General of Nepal received the royal cortege in Calcutta’s Dum Dum airport and paid homage.  The Indian Air Force finally flew the royal cortege to Hasimara airport near the Bhutan border.

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In Phuentsholing, Her Majesty the Queen and the two youngest princess and other members of the royal family received the royal cortege. At the request of Her Majesty, Dudjom Rinpoche offered prayers and performed the phowa or the ritual of transference of consciousness in Kharbandi goenpa.   

Great Blow

When the news of the untimely death of His Majesty reached Bhutan, the people felt like they were struck by a thunderbolt. It left the country deeply shocked and saddened and was described like as if the midday sun had set. 

People from all walks of life lined up along the highway to pay their last respects. In Thimphu, people received the body with incense in hand and tears in their eyes. When the jeep driven by the royal chauffeur with a white scarf spread on the King’s empty seat, slowly passed by, it was an emotional moment for many people.

His Late Majesty’s body was kept in state in the Lingkana Palace from 23 July to 20 October 1972. His Holiness the Je Khenpo and more than 500 monks from the Central Monastic Body along with His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the 16th Karmapa, Rabdeys of Tango, Tharpaling and Nyimalung received the royal coffin and offered special prayers. 

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In preparation for the final rites, His Majesty the Fourth Druk renovated and whitewashed Kurjey Lhakhang in Bumthang. On 20 October, royal family members and senior officers, started the final journey to Bumthang with a night halt at Wangduephodrang and Trongsa along the way. 

Many revered Buddhist masters jointly presided over the final cremation rites. In keeping with the royal tradition, on 28 October 1972, the royal mortal remains were consigned to flames before the hallowed shrine of Guru Rinpoche on the fore court of the Kurjey Lhakhang. This was the culmination of all the prayers ceremonies and rites leading to the final performance of the sacred duty of a son, family and nation to the Late King.  

On 21 July 1972, when His Late Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck passed away in Nairobi, Bhutan not only lost the parent of our country’s wellbeing but also its greatest patriot.  His Late Majesty devoted his entire life to improving the welfare of his people, ensuring the progress and prosperity of his kingdom and enhancing the security and safeguarding the sovereignty of the country.

In his 20 years on the golden throne, through radical reforms, He removed many of the social and economic evils,  which gave meaning and dignity to lives of the common people.

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Besides going down in our history as the Father of Modern Bhutan, His Late Majesty is remembered as an affectionate and generous man who led an extremely simple life. He had a deep and abiding faith in religion, never indulging in pettiness in his thoughts or actions. He had insatiable curiosity and was an avid reader.  Knowledgeable on wide range of subjects, he made himself relevant to all ages. 

In Kurjey, after India’s Prime Minister, paid homage to our Late King, Indira Gandhi said that in the passing away of His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Bhutan lost the father of the Nation, India a staunch friend, and the world a lover of peace and universal brotherhood. During his 20 year’s reign he heralded Bhutan into the modern era, and giving her a new sense of unity and purpose. He heralded her entry into the U.N.  But Mrs Gandhi said that the richest legacy of His Late Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck is his worthy son and successor, in whose hands now rest the destiny of Bhutan.  She said that, “His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck is the young King of a young kingdom and yet both have maturity and wisdom that go back to centuries. That is why, in our strife-stricken world, Bhutan continues to be a fountain of peace.”

Contributed by 

Tshering Tashi

Snake and boar rivers of Phobjikha

ཉིམ།, 07/23/2022 - 16:45

Chhimi Dema

Two rivers, Gaychhu and Nakeychhu, glide through the middle of Phobjikha.

And the two rivers have stories to tell.

The legend of the rivers and the event that transpired from them is believed to be the reason why paddy does not grow in Gangtey and Phobjikha gewogs.

Long ago, before people began settling in Phobjikha, a snake and a boar challenged each other to dig channels for the rivers to flow.

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The snake came from the ridges of Sangtana in Gangtey and the boar from Balam in Phobji gewog towards what is now called Pakchi Zam.

Twisting and turning, the snake meandered through the valley. But the boar ran straight and completed the race first.

And so, the locals believe that since the boar won the race, paddy is not grown in the valley today.

Snake river


Boar river

Nakeychhu (Black River) is the channel dug by the snake that glides through the valley in front of the Tramtshethang today. The Gaychhu (White River), dug by the pig, flows between Nimphey and Tawa villages.

Another version of the legend is that the boar came straight from the Moel village and reached Khewang Lhakhang first. In this version, the snake-dug river is called Khenchhu and the boar-dug river is called Machhu.

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Today the rivers are critical in maintaining the habitat for the revered Black-necked cranes.

There is yet another version of the story.  Paddy does not grow in the two gewogs because dawn broke before the two mountains could meet.

The Dazigang on the Dangsa village and the ridge on Yuesa village planned to meet before sunlight and bring feasible conditions to grow paddy.

The mountains could not meet and the conditions to grow paddy failed.

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Agriculture officials say that the altitude of Phobjikha (3,000m)  and cold weather are not suitable for paddy cultivation.

“Even if it’s grown, the yield will not be of high economic value compared to potatoes.”

Bhutan is Home to 7% of the World’s Bird Species

ཉིམ།, 07/23/2022 - 16:42

The world birding community considers Bhutan as one of the prime birding destinations in the world. 

The Guinness Book of World Records 2012 features an extremely rare bird photographed in Bhutan – that of the White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis). It is listed as the rarest of the Heron species. The bird, whose global population is estimated between 50 to 200 individuals, is so rare that Professor Peter Frederic PhD, a world-renowned heron expert at the University of Florida, USA had never seen it before, until his coming to Bhutan in 2006. Since then, for a number of years, he visited Bhutan every year and has greatly contributed to the study of the bird’s biology and ecology, spear-headed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN), few years back.

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Although the presence of this bird is reported in a number of other countries such as Burma, China and India, Bhutan is the only country where it can be seen without much difficulty. As of this year, 21 individuals have been enumerated in Bhutan. Most significantly, Bhutan is the only country where the birds can be sighted easily – along the Punakha Phochu/Mochu Rivers and around the Berti/Mangdechu areas in Zhemgang. It is for this reason that American diplomat and one of the world’s top birders – Mr. Peter G. Kaestner (ranked #3 in the world at 9,685 bird species sighted as of July 2022), choose to come to Bhutan, in April, 2009, to sight two of his life birds – the White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis) and the Fulvous Parrotbill (Paradoxornis fulvifrons).

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Satyr Tragopan (Photo: Yeshey Dorji )


Ward’s Trogon Photo: (Chencho Wangdi)

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Among Bhutan’s famous birds are the Satyr Tragopan (Tragopan satyra), which ranks as the 10th most colorful bird in the world.

Another bird that is the delight of most of the birders who visit Bhutan is the unusually Ibisbill (Ibidorhyncha struthersii) – ranked as the 21st most beautiful bird of the world.

The world birding community considers Bhutan as one of the prime birding destinations in the world. Besides the White-bellied Herons, Bhutan is home to a large number of other globally endangered bird species, such as the Ward’s Trogon (Harpactes wardi), Beautiful Nuthatch (Sitta formosa), Rufous-necked Hornbill (Buceros hydrocorax), Pallas’s Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus), Blyth’s Tragopan (Tragopan blythii), Chestnut-breasted Partridge (Arborophila mandellii), Himalayan Monal (Lophophorus impejanus), Wood Snipe (Gallinago nemoricola) etc., to name a few.

The diversity of Bhutan’s avifauna is stunning. At 783 bird species as of 2022, Bhutan is home to approximately 7% of total global bird species. The country’s wide altitudinal range produces suitable climactic conditions that help support Bhutan’s enviable biodiversity. However, its conservation is the result of the progressive environmental policies of Bhutan’s successive monarchs and the people who, being mainly Buddhists, revere and respect all natural elements. Bhutan is perhaps the only country in the world that has made a constitutional commitment to maintain a forest cover of 60% for all times. It is no wonder then that Bhutan has been the recipient of prestigious international awards such as the UNEP’s Champion of the Earth Award as well as the coveted J. Paul Getty Conservation Award. More recently, His Majesty the 4th Druk Gyalpo was awarded the Blue Planet Prize for his contribution to the protection and conservation of the environment.

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Bhutan has gained prominence on the world stage as the country that propounded the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH). While it may take a while for world leaders and economists and planners to adjust to the paradigm shift, a few thousand birders around the world have been finding their Gross Personal Happiness (GPH) at a short stretch of forest in Eastern Bhutan that offers an unmatched variety of avifauna. Birders around the world have declared that short stretch of broad-leaved forest between Sengore and Yongkola in Mongar Dzongkhag as the “Birding Capital of the World.”

For some inexplicable reason the bird-rich areas of Chhukha Dzongkhag has so far been off-limits for the global bird watching community. But efforts are now underway to open up the area for birding. If this happens, Chhukha will become the next birding capital of the world simply because the diversity of birdlife in these areas is second to none. The added advantage with Chhukha is its proximity to Paro international airport – which translates into shorter duration needed to spend birding in Bhutan – a sure-shot crowd-puller for the passion-driven birdwatchers of the world.

Yeshey Dorji is a professional photographer and author of several books on birds in Bhutan. He is passionate about birdwatching, trekking, fishing and humanitarian services. He blogs at yesheydorji.blogspot.com. 

This series is sponsored by Ecotourism Project “Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation into the Tourism Sector in Bhutan” funded by GEF-UNDP through the Tourism Council of Bhutan, RGoB.

India, Bhutan decide to close Kholongchhu Joint-Venture 

ཉིམ།, 07/23/2022 - 16:40

Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma shares the outcome of his four-day visit to New Delhi (July 18 to 21) to Kuensel Reporter Dechen Dolkar

What issues were  discussed during the meeting?

The main agenda was to attend the 16th Authority meeting of Puna-II HEP. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, face-to-face authority meetings couldn’t be held for more than two and half years. As such, there were several pending project-related issues to be discussed and decisions to be made, so as to enable the project management to push the project forward. Further project authority meetings are to happen twice a year at alternate venues between Thimphu and Delhi.

Since the chairman of the authority is the Minister for Economic Affairs, the minister requested bilateral meetings with ministers in India through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, both as an issue-based as well as courtesy. Indian parliament was going on and all ministers were busy, still then the call on was accepted and meetings were arranged.

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What were the outcomes of the meeting?

With regard to the Puna-II HEP Authority meeting, among other several agenda items, the Authority members could deliberate on the cost to completion and commissioning dates of different units of the project.

As the delegation continued in Delhi, the Government of India (GoI) considered the export of sugar to Bhutanese industries and even wheat export will be out sooner.

Similarly, the restrictions on coal import from India and areca nut export to India were other issues favourably taken up. In most of the trade, import/export issues two governments shared issues and understanding reached to smoothen ground issues.

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What did the meeting decide on the PHPA-I 

barrage and Kholongchhu Hydropower projects?

The GoI has entrusted an independent committee to review the barrage detailed project report (DPR) for PHPA-I, and has requested the government of Bhutan to provide time till the independent committee submits their finding. The GoI impressed that their decision will be based on the outcome of the independent committee. It is also agreed that the pending decision on PHPA-1 is costly and overrun to both sides, thus, efforts will be made to conclude including the Authority meeting for PHPA-1 by a month’s time.

The Bhutanese delegation impressed on the need to firm up the decision on the barrage option since the current dam site is not feasible. To this effect, the GoI side informed that the DPR is still with the Center Water Commission (CWC) and an Independent Committee is being instituted to review the DPR. The GoI side maintained that only after completion of review and receipt of the report from the committee, would then be possible for the two Governments to sit together and discuss a way ahead.

Regarding KHEL, both the parties agreed to work towards closing the Joint Venture (JV) company and to initiate a discussion on the way forward for the project. It is decided to close the current JV model as quickly as possible which the government will convey to DGPC and GoI will convey to SJVNL.

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Any other comments?

Hydropower cooperation, changing energy situations, market factors, and the modalities of the cooperation were mostly discussed during this visit. The centre point was hydropower cooperation, its future and the engagement of the two countries.

The power secretary of the GoI is expected to visit Bhutan to take these discussions further at the secretary level.

The visit was successful as we could meet with four counterpart ministers, and discuss our mutual cooperation and understanding. They were as always very supportive and understanding.

Inflation shoots to 6.54 percent in June

སྤེན།, 07/22/2022 - 11:16

Non-food items’  contribution to inflation drops by 9 percent

Thukten Zangpo 

The country’s inflation rate rose to 6.54 percent in the last 12 months as of June this year.

This is according to National Statistics Bureau’s latest consumer price index (CPI), released yesterday.

Inflation is the pace at which prices of goods and services are rising over a period of given time.

For example, if a packet of milk costs Nu 100 and the price rises by Nu 5 compared with a year earlier, then the milk’s inflation rate is 5 percent.

The inflation rate in June returned above 6 percent after four months. It is higher than the Royal Monetary Authority’s upper threshold of 6 percent.

The prices of non-food items remain the main contributor, at 62 percent to inflation as of June. It saw a drop from 71 percent from the previous month.

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Non-food items contributed 60 percent of the inflation in 2021 because of the rising global fuel price. In 2020, food prices contributed to 90 percent of the overall inflation because of global food supply chain disruptions.

However, the food prices climbed to 5.13 percent in June from 3.52 percent in May. The contribution to inflation also increased to 38 percent from 29 percent.   

Although the transport sector recorded the highest increase with 14.72 percent, contributing to 33 percent of the inflation, food and alcoholic beverages had the highest contribution with 38 percent of the overall increase.

Comparing the inflation of June this year to that of the previous month, it decreased by 0.41 percent because of a decrease in prices of food by 0.93 percent. It was mainly because of drop in prices of vegetables, fruits, and dairy products, mainly eggs.

However, prices of the non-food items saw a minimal increase of 0.02 percent.

The prices of petrol increased, while prices of diesel, liquified petroleum gas (LPG) and Kerosene decreased in June.

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The must-needed commodities like fuel, LPG, and rice have been given more weight while measuring the CPI, a slight change or fluctuation in prices could influence inflation rate.

The rising inflation has also eroded the purchasing power of the consumer.

The purchasing power of Ngultrum as measured by CPI was Nu 61 as of June compared to December 2012.  This means Nu 100 was worth only Nu 60 at December 2012 prices.

Gewog administrations cope without gaydrung

སྤེན།, 07/22/2022 - 11:15

MB Subba

Although local leaders were initially sceptical about the government’s decision to do away with the post of gaydrung, gewog administrations say that they have transitioned to a new phase without many glitches in service delivery.

While doing away with the post of gaydrung, the government in April had asked gewog administrations to redesign the overall structure of local government organisations and engage gewog administrative officers (GAOs) by redefining their roles and responsibilities.

Gewog administrations have delegated the work of the gaydrung to the mangmi, tshogpas and the gewog administration officer (GAO).

The responsibilities of a gaydrung included collection of taxes, insurance, drafting letters and manning the gewog centre office, among others.

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Samdrupjongkhar’s Langchephu gup, Guman Singh Gailal, said that services were not hampered and the responsibilities were shared among all the gewog officials. “We haven’t faced issues due to lack of a gaydrung.”

Some gewogs, though, still feel that gaydrungs are necessary.

“Gups can’t stay in the office all the time. GAOs are involved in planning activities,” a gup from Chukha said, adding that gaydrungs were required.

The dzongkhag tshogdu chairperson of Samtse, Nima Dukpa, said that there would not be an issue if local leaders are willing to share the responsibilities. “All of us at the gewogs do the work that was carried out by the gaydrung,” he said.

However, some gups said that gewogs that do not have GAOs could face problems as the workloads increase in the future.

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Officials from the department of local governance (DLG) in the previous interview had said that gewog administrations should report to the ministry if they face human resource shortages in their gewogs.

The DLG officials said that the government would ensure that service delivery is not affected.

One of the gups from Pemagatshel said that larger gewogs were facing problems in absence of gaydrungs. He added that both the gup and the mangmi did not have the required academic qualifications in some gewogs and that such gewogs would face issues.

The post was done away with although financial and executive powers were being decentralised to local governments.

Those who are sceptical about the decision say that the human resources at the local governments should be increased.

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Tsirang Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) in April requested the prime minister to retain the post, stating that gaydrungs played an important role in delivering public service.

Health workers should go to the people: PM

སྤེན།, 07/22/2022 - 11:15

Nima Wangdi | Bumthang

With specialists in place in Wangdicholing hospital in Bumthang, the disease profile should change in Bumthang and catchment areas, mainly Trongsa since it is officially clubbed with Bumthang.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said this to Wangdicholing hospital staff on July 20.

“You must be able to detect diseases early,” he said. “We have more than 90 health staff, five specialists catering to 50 per cent of the total 17,000 people of Bumthang’s population.

The Prime Minister said it should, in fact, be the best health facility set up in the world.

He said the way health officials think should change and they should go to people before they are diseased. “District health officials and other officials should take the lead and enjoy this profession by making people aware of the diseases.”

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Citing an example, he said that there should be no death from cervical cancer as it is 100 percent preventable if we work this way.

Cervical cancer can be cured at many stages before it actually kills the person, according to Lyonchhen.

He said passing many stages of the disease and losing our mothers and sisters to cervical cancer is the sheer failure of our health services. “Only countries with poor health facilities have a high number of cervical cancers.”

He said it is similar to kidney failure caused by so many unattended infections. “Health workers should change the way we think.”

Lyonchhen said that  hospital staff should know the population of each gewogs and basic health units (BHU), and the disease patterns in the BHUs. “Health staff should visit them frequently since all the four gewogs are a few hours drive away. It is one of the conveniently structured dzongkhags in the country.”

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He said if health officials go to the villages and talk to people about the disease, people will enjoy their services. “Hospital staff should also meet once a week to remain informed on the national plan and the local plans. Doctors should also not be compartmentalized, but do more.”

Lyonchhen said the services provided at the BHUs should also improve.

He said the main problem today is that people want to be paid one-day DSA the moment they travel 10 kilometres and some three specialists travelling will finish the whole DSA of the dzongkhag.

He urged the health professionals to drive to BHUs with packed lunch in a pool vehicle to see patients.

Lyonchhen will meet dzongkhag officials and the thromde today.

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Weringla drungkhag without drungpa

སྤེན།, 07/22/2022 - 11:14

Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

It’s been more than two years since Weringla drungkhag administration in Mongar has been functioning without drungpa.

The former drungpa was transferred to Wamrong.

Local leaders of two remotest gewogs in Mongar, Silambi and Gongdu, raised the issue in the recent dzongkhag tshogdu that ended on July 20.

Gongdue gup, Tshewang Tobgyel, who put the agenda, said although a new drungkhag administration office was constructed spending huge amount of public funds, it has been empty without drungpa and other staff after former staff were transferred.

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Silambi gup, Dorji Wangchuk, said drungpa plays an important role in drungkhag and makes a huge difference in efficient service delivery.

DT chairperson, Karma Sonam Wangchuk, briefed the members to see if the proposal needs to be submitted.

“The government is in the process of reforms and I think they have a reason behind not recruiting,” he said. “Moreover, all developmental activities in gewogs are handled and executed independently by the gewog from the block grant and drungpa is not necessary.”

He said situation was different before when the drungkhag was not connected with motorable roads and it was some three days walk away.

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Gup Dorji Wangchuk said Silambi gewog centre is about 120 kilometres away from the dzongkhag headquarters and takes a minimum of six hours by car when the road is good. “It remains cut off for weeks during summer and communicating with the dzongkhag is difficult.”

He claimed the drungkhag deserves human resources like other drungkhag administration even in terms of distance from the dzongkhag headquarter compared to other drungkhag administration.

Meanwhile, without much support from the DT members, the proposal was dropped.

When the DT chairperson asked the members to raise their hands in favour of submitting the request to RCSC, only eight members supported the motion.

Waste upon waste

སྤེན།, 07/22/2022 - 11:14

Bhutanese society is gradually becoming painfully aware of many unwanted developments of recent years which are not only making life more unpleasant for the people but tarnishing the image of the country. Be it a crime or ever-increasing waste. 

De-suups yesterday collected more than 95 bags of waste on a short stretch between Welcome Gate and Memelakha in Thimphu. 

Numerous measures have been put in place to curb littering but they are yet to create an impact. The drop-in centres outside the thromde are overflowing most of the time and emit a strong stench. 

Issues with waste collection trucks irk residents who dump their household waste at night by the roadside or in streams. Residents in Phuentsholing thromde and Paro or major thromdes are frustrated with similar issues. 

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The issues are not limited to major towns. For instance, Mongar dzongkhag tshogdu discussed at length during its recent session two days ago how to resolve the issue of mounting waste issues in the gewogs. While a few gewogs have a landfill, the waste doesn’t even reach there. The amount of litter is growing by the day. 

Bhutan’s pristine environment, so pure that it was taken for granted in the past, is now being polluted. The rivers see all kinds of waste matter thrown in, including discarded oil from workshops and garages, the mountainsides are being littered with non-degradable waste like plastics and cans, and the air itself is getting heavier with more fumes.

The burden on the landfills is also worsening. One of the major problems with landfills is that the toxic liquids seep into the earth and poison the underground water and ecosystem.  

Not long ago, we blamed the littering in most spots on regional tourists. We have not had regional tourists visiting for a long time now. But we still have many areas littered with all sorts of waste. What then is the problem? 

It seems fixing small things like the timing of waste collection or offering more eco-friendly alternatives could help us in a big way. For example, locally made eco-friendly products such as plates, cups, and cloth shopping bags will reduce a lot of the waste going to landfills. We need to subsidise such products. 

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The long-term solution – we know – is education. The population must be taught the value of recycling or the proper disposal of all waste, especially the non-bio-degradable.

But an effective educational programme must be truly long-term and intensive. For a start, the short spurts of campaign activity could be replaced by full-fledged and regular instruction of all sections of the population at meetings and gatherings in both the urban and rural areas. Schools must have continuous lessons since students are the core of future society. 

At the same time, similar experiences in many Asian countries indicate that such a programme cannot be implemented without some discipline. If it is an example worth studying, Singapore could not have developed its reputation for being one of the cleanest cities in the world without the participation of a tough police force. Neither could many others.

Gewogs unite to manage waste issues

སྤེན།, 07/22/2022 - 11:13

Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

The waste management issue at the Nyamey landfill, a few kilometres below Yadi town, will now be managed jointly by Sherimung and Ngatshang gewog administrations.

The Mongar dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) saw this as the best way forward deliberating on the amounting waste issue at the landfill on July 19.

Ngatshang Gup, Ugyen Yangzom said although the landfill falls in her gewog jurisdiction, it’s found to have been used by the people of the adjoining Sherimung, Balam and Chaskhar gewogs.

Waste scattered on the road to Nyamey landfill

She proposed the DT ask a concerned authority for a waste transportation budget or the gewogs could maintain their own landfill and share transportation costs among user gewogs to manage the waste jointly.

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Balam Gup, Tshewang Dorji people from his gewog would have thrown the waste at the landfill since the gewog is about 20 kilometres away from it. He said that his gewog will manage the wastes. Chaskhar Gup, Tenzin Dorji, said his gewog initially used the landfill but has stopped now.

“We won’t be able to come all the way to the landfill to throw the waste. Residents of Yadi town throw wastes along the road junction to Chaskhar gewog and pollute the environment,” he said.

He told Kuensel that the gewog doesn’t have a permanent landfill identified, and coming up with a proper one between Chaskhar and Thangrong gewog would be a better option.

Sherimung Gup, Dorji, said, “We do not have a proper waste dumping site in the gewog and it’s convenient to use the landfill at Nyamey.”

Thangrong Gup, Chenga, said the mounting waste is becoming a big issue in the gewogs and if the landfill is for the regional gewogs, he would also render his support in extending and managing the existing landfill.

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Mongar Dzongrab, Jamyang Cheda, said wastes in the satellite town of Yadi, the major waste producer, have been managed by the gewog administration and no taxes for town infrastructures like sewerage, waste management and water have been collected from shopkeepers.

He said the town may get approval for Satellite town in future and it would be taken care of by thromde.

Other DT members raised concern about mounting waste issues in the gewogs and a sustainable landfill for a cluster of gewogs to be built.

The DT asked Ngatshang and Sherimung to draw up a guideline on the proper management strategy and implement it for the time being.

The issue came to the limelight following the recent waste management problems after the users littered along the landfill approach road and not at the landfill at Nyamey.

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19th Asian Games to commence in September next year 

སྤེན།, 07/22/2022 - 11:12

Thinley Namgay 

The 19th Asian Games will be held in Hangzhou, China from September 23 to October 8 next year.

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) on July 19 declared new dates for the competition owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The games were supposed to commence from September 10 to 25 this year.

In his official letter to the president and the member nations, OCA’s director-general, Husain Al Musallam, said that considering the pandemic, the OCA Executive Board in its meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on May 6 agreed to postpone the 19th Asian Games.

He said that the board instituted a task force which held discussions with Olympic Committee of China, the Hangzhou Asian Games Organising Committee, and other concerned stakeholders to finalise the new dates so that there is no conflict with other major international sporting events.

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The task force held its final meeting on July 17 and forwarded its recommendation to the OCA Executive Board for approval.

Bhutan will compete in aquatics, archery, athletics, boxing, judo, karate, shooting, and taekwondo categories.

In the 2018 games in Jakarta and Palembang in Indonesia, 24 Bhutanese athletes, including nine women, competed in archery, golf, boxing, and taekwondo.

Archer Karma said that athletes are undergoing training as usual and the postponement of the competition would give them more time to prepare.

Around 11,000 athletes from 45 Asian countries will contest in 61 disciplines (40 sports) in the quadrennial continental multi-sport event like the Olympics.

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Hangzhou will become the third Chinese city to host the continental competition after Beijing in 1990 and Guangzhou in 2010.

The construction of all venues and facilities for the games was completed in April.

Sex workers subjected to violence, abuse and blackmail

སྤེན།, 07/22/2022 - 11:11

It is estimated that there are about 400 sex workers in the country

Dechen Dolkar 

Many sex workers have been subjected to violence, abuse, blackmail and are harassed, because commercial sex work is criminalised in the country, prohibiting sex workers from reporting to authorities, according to a gender review report.

The report conducted in 2019 by Save the Children, but made available to media only recently stated that commercial sex is taking place in all major towns and clients threaten sex workers of reporting to police when they do not agree to their unusual demands. “Most sex workers are fearful of the law and remain hidden,” the report stated.

While there are about 400 commercial sex workers in the country, according to Bhutan key population size estimation report, 84 workers are registered with a community-based organisation working closely with them.

As per the report, there are about 100 sex workers in Thimphu , followed by 77 in Chukha and 54 in Sarpang. It also stated there are 31 in Paro, 28 in Mongar, 21 in Wangduephodrang and 21 in Samtse.

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Sources claimed it is mostly women aged between mid-20s and mid-30s working as sex workers.

Similarly, Save the Children also conducted another report on advocacy and strategy plan to reduce stigma and discrimination among key populations in Bhutan where sex workers reported that clients refused to pay and block their numbers to avoid being called.

A sex worker told interviewers that clients pretend to go to the toilet and invite their friends who then rape them.

“Police make fun of us when we are caught. They share our pictures among themselves and ask us our rates,” sex workers have told the interviewers. “Some clients threaten us to leak video clips if we don’t have sex with their friends.”

The report stated that some students are also involved in sex work and they are highly hidden. “They mainly do it for pocket money and college shopping.”

The report categorised sex work as transactional, which works in entertainment venues and informal which operates from homes. Pimps arrange clients for informal sex workers.

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It also stated that sex workers are also afraid of availing of health services, they also lack condom negotiation skills and agree to have sex without condoms when clients pay more. “Sex workers also face policy barriers as abortion is illegal and they cannot send their child for adoption since they are unable to trace the father of their child.”

Sex workers do not talk to media due to social barriers and legality issue.

Sources said sex workers are not interested in advocacy and awareness, limiting knowledge on HIV and other issues due to the criminalisation, associated guilt and social judgment.

Meanwhile, reports also state the number of sex workers has increased, but most are hidden. It states some sex workers are from well-to-do family backgrounds.

It claimed socio-economic factors have forced people into sex work, but some are influenced by friends and once they are inside, it is difficult to come out since they make easy money.

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“Most sex workers are driven by financial circumstances to join the profession and continue doing it whenever they need money to keep up with the urban lifestyle,” the advocacy report stated. “Many students also engage in seasonal sex work to support their education.”

It stated most sex workers use mobile phones to connect with clients and pimps also engage in arranging clients who take a cut. “Most sex workers have low level of education.”

Picture story

སྤེན།, 07/22/2022 - 11:10

De-suup volunteers collected 95 bags of waste between the Welcome Gate and Memelakha in Thimphu yesterday (Photo: Desuung Facebook page)

Trauma and rampant drug abuse – the link

པ།, 07/21/2022 - 14:13

Hi Lam, when things began to open up after the pandemic, I started to notice  a lot of young guys looking high on the streets at night and am wondering what’s going on. Also, a few years ago, I visited the US and saw so many homeless addicts. It seems like the entire world is turning to substance abuse. Does Lam have any ideas why this is occurring and how we can prevent drug addiction from getting worse. Is rehab treatment the best solution or tougher jail sentencing? I’d be interested to know Lams’s thoughts on the matter.

SP, Thimphu

Well, many youth turn to drugs as a coping mechanism. Of course, teens like to push boundaries and so breaking rules is part of a rite of passage for many adolescents, but I’m not discussing the guys who just try drugs once or twice, but those who are compulsive users. 

Yes, drug abuse is rampant in many parts of the planet, but as the percentage of abusers varies significantly depending on the country, we can consider the situation in two countries with similar laws but vastly different drug situations – the UK and Taiwan – to offer insights into the root causes.   

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Now, in the UK drug abuse is a major problem and, like in the US, there are many addicts living on the streets. In contrast, Taiwan’s drug issues are minor and it would be very unusual to see even one homeless addict in a major city there. So, as the laws are similar, there can only be two reasons for this difference – UK babies have greater genetic propensities towards addiction than their Taiwanese counterparts, or the environment in the European country is more conducive to producing addicts than in the East Asian nation. Now, as it is impossible that UK babies are more genetically predisposed towards addiction that those in Taiwan, we can reasonably conclude that the environment is the major cause of youth turning to drugs.  

In agricultural terms, we can put it this way. If seeds from the same sack are scattered in a field, but in some areas the plants flourish, while in others they are stunted or weak, there can only be one reason for the differences – the environment. Basically, some areas have sufficient nutrition, sunlight, and moisture, while others lack these components.

Now, what is insufficient nutrition, sunlight, and moisture is terms of a child’s development? Well, according to the respected psychologist Erikson, it is lack of love and care, together with an insecure family situation. The addiction specialist Dr Gabor Mate concurs with this conclusion but goes further and specifically identifies trauma as the root of all addictions (Youtube – FightMediocrity: ‘The Best Explanation of Addiction I’ve Ever Heard – Dr. Gabor Maté’). 

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Here, trauma does not imply something startling, like being hit by a vehicle, but a sense of neglect and abandonment, along with a lack of a nurturing environment. Take a child who grows up with alcoholic parents or a hostile step-parent as an example. Now, when a young child is disturbed he will cry, and this triggers a response in the parent, who will nurse him until he calms down. However, if the parent continuously ignores the cries or, worse, shouts at the child or beats him, this bond of trust is severely damaged. Of course, an adult would note that the problem lies with the mother or father, but a baby or young child will not conclude that there is something wrong with their parents, but instead feel that something is lacking in them. As a teen, this belief will very likely translate into a sense of insecurity and a feeling that they are unworthy to be loved, which, in turn, can lead to depression, low self-esteem, and despondency. A teen faced with these issues is prone to indulge in risky behaviour and/or drug abuse. Basically, substance abuse is a coping mechanism. It is way to escape mental pain and confusion. 

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So, to return to the earlier analysis, from my personal experience, I would say that the family and community structures in the UK are far more dysfunctional than those in Taiwan, where generally three generations still live together and family and social bonds are strong. And this, I believe, is the main reason why the UK has a much greater drug problem than Taiwan. 

You asked which is more effective as a means to address drug abuse issues – jail or rehab. Well, while jail sentences may act as a deterrent for a small number of youth, I personally feel it is the least constructive option. Basically, it is a lazy way to clean up the streets and keep addicts temporarily out of sight. Furthermore, research shows that jail is not only totally ineffective in reducing the number of drug abusers, but actually exacerbates the situation. As we have noted, many youth step on the slippery slope to addiction as a means to cope with a chaotic and painful life. In this respect, they need help and support, not punishment. If they receive the latter, then they are likely to become even more disturbed, which increases the sense of hopelessness, keeping them locked in the cycle of drugs and jail. Furthermore, in rehab, an addict will develop positive friendships with others who are committed to quitting drugs, whereas in jail they will be in the company of career criminals, who will likely influence them in a negative way.  Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche has spoken on this point: “When placed on a piece of cloth, a crystal takes on the colour of that cloth, whether white, yellow, red or black. In the same way, the friends with whom you keep company the most often, whether suitable or unsuitable, will greatly influence the direction your life and practice take.”

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So, how do we prevent drug abuse from spiraling out of control? Well, we need to deal both with the symptoms and the causes. For the symptoms, rehab treatment is the most effective. Is there any proof that this is more successful than jail? Yes, two countries, Taiwan and Portugal, offer drug abusers rehab treatment instead of jail, and this policy has helped Taiwan maintain its low drug-abuse rates, while Portugal has substantially reduced its case numbers. Basically, rehab and counselling offer the best means for the addict to address their mental demons and quit drugs. Still, it is not an easy path, but with support and care, even hardcore addicts do regain their lives, and, as a result, become productive members of their families and society. 

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For the root causes, we need to consider why children lack the love and care they need to develop into healthy and well-adjusted adults. These are some questions we can perhaps ask: Are there too many unwanted pregnancies, are parents who remarry rejecting the children from their earlier marriage, are parents leaving their children to go and work or study overseas, and finally is there provision to help children who are living with alcoholic parents? While it is impossible to immediately transform entrenched family and social structures, countries can at least plant the seeds of change by  developing an education system that aims to turn out disciplined and caring adults with a sense of social responsibility, rather than ones merely suited to keep the wheels of commerce turning.