The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Thursday, January 15, 2009


Jan 15th 2009 | GOLDHAP AND THIMPHU The Economist

Going west rather than home

“I HOPED the king might ask us to come back. But it’s been 19 years and we still haven’t been called back,” Vidhyapati Luitel laments. Toothless and wheezing, the 79-year-old solemnly holds up his Bhutanese citizenship card. He and his family also have title deeds for land they owned in Gelephu in southern Bhutan, where his father migrated in 1919.

Now, though, home is a small bamboo hut in Goldhap, one of seven camps where over 100,000 Nepali-speakers have been living since—they say—fleeing or being ejected from Bhutan after 1990. There had just been big demonstrations, and some violent acts of terror, by members of the ethnic-Nepali minority. This followed new laws which deprived many of them of citizenship, strictly imposed the national Tibetan-related culture and ended the teaching of Nepali in schools.

Mr Luitel says soldiers started knocking on doors at midnight and asking who had demonstrated. He says that he had not, but it made no difference. “They took some young and old people to the river bank,” he says. “They made us get down and beat us hard with a stick. Later they told us to leave the country and go to Nepal.” Others say they were imprisoned, tortured and only released on condition that they sign documents promising to leave Bhutan.

Such accounts are dismissed by the government in the Bhutanese capital, Thimphu, a pleasant town of clean streets and bracing mountain air. A minister, Yeshey Zimba, says the allegations of violence are untruthful propaganda. “That is not in the nature of the government nor the people of Bhutan to do such things.” Indeed, the then king did on several occasions ask ethnic Nepalis not to leave. But most testimony says officials and soldiers ignored this. The government maintains, though, that most of those who left were illegal immigrants. Mr Zimba says many Nepali-speakers entered the tiny country, then “felt comfortable” and so stayed. “But they are not Bhutanese.” Many Nepali-speakers remain among the population; some are government ministers.

Bhutan admits that some of those who left are its citizens but says the number is small. That assertion seems doubtful in the camps, where elderly people abound and the idea of Bhutan as home seems deep-held. But two recent developments appear to be dimming the refugees’ hope of returning. One is the growth of new far-left militant groups in the camps. Festering in Khudanabari camp, one young man says that northern Bhutanese have been resettled on land abandoned by those who fled. He praises a bombing campaign launched to overthrow the Bhutanese government. The emergence of such militancy has caused alarm in Bhutan.

Moreover, in the past year refugees have started leaving the camps to live in the West, a process instigated by America. Helped by the International Organisation for Migration, over 6,000 have left, and more are on their way. They know they will probably never see Bhutan again. At the airstrip nearest to the camps, two busloads arrive for a flight. Many, especially the elderly, look apprehensive. In Goldhap camp, Mr Luitel’s wife says she is too old to move to America but has few illusions about returning to her birthplace. “There might be a new king in Bhutan but I guess they will not take us back,” she says.

Monday, January 12, 2009



Man detained for eight months on suspicion, allegedly denied food and water, handcuffed throughout, and punched on ribcage says he has nothing against the police

Man detained for eight months on suspicion, allegedly denied food and water, handcuffed throughout, and punched on ribcage says he has nothing against the police

Jan 11, 2009-Thimphu: A week after the parliament discussed humane treatment of prisoners, a man who languished eight months in police lockup on suspicion charges is opening up about his plight.

Gyeltshen, a mechanic at the National Resource Development Corporation Ltd. in Thimphu, who was on a visit to his wife’s village at Ladrong in Lhuentse, was arrested on April 22 last year as the police suspected he stole religious artifacts from a private lhakhang nearby.

To make him confess to the crime, Gyeltshen said he was not given food or water for about a week though the recently passed Prison Act states every prisoner should be provided three square meals a day.

When he thought he would die of thirst and could not get a drop of water Gyeltshen knew he had no other way.

“I drank my urine,” he said.

“I don’t know what the police procedures are for detaining and punishing the suspects, but, what is done is done,” said the father of six who has almost resigned to the pain and humiliation he went through for a crime he did not commit.

The police chief, Colonel Kipchu Namgyel, said, under section 165 of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code the police make arrests with or without warrant based on circumstances. “There are no limitations for time period on detention; usually it is up to 90 days but based on the circumstances, it can go on for more days.”

Gyeltshen lives in Thimphu while his wife lives in Phuentsholing with their six children.

The 35-year-old, whose five children in Phuentsholing had to leave school because he was in the cell, says he has nothing against the police.

He just wants the lhakhang caretaker who told the police that he suspected him in the theft to be charged. Gyeltshen has filed a case at the Lhuentse Court against the caretaker.

Between May 15 and 22 last year, Gyeltshen said he was handcuffed from the back, and a stick was placed horizontally from arm to arm. The stick was then tied to the ceiling. “I received four slaps and six blows on my left ribcage from the police,” said Gyeltshen.

On May 23, Gyeltshen’s wife was also arrested suspecting her as an accomplice. While under detention, the wife had to work as a laborer for the construction of police quarters.

However, Colonel Kipchu Namgyel said the police don’t manhandle the public. “If anyone proves that he/she was tortured by the police then I will take it up legally,” he said.

After the stolen artifacts were recovered in December last year, Gyeltshen and his family were released on December 22 after the police found no substantial evidence against him.

With no money in hand, and increasing debts including house rent, Gyeltshen returned to Thimphu, still bearing the handcuff marks on his wrists.

The Prison Bill states that someone under trial can be handcuffed while being transferred from one place to another as he can become violent, pose risks of injury to self and others, or abscond.

Colonel Kipchu Namgyel said suspects involved in crimes against national security and for stealing religious artifacts are handcuffed for security reasons.

What is worrying Gyeltshen now is not his honor or the time he had to spend in prison. He is concerned whether the school where his five children studied will take them back as they have lost classes for months.

Asked about the Lhuentse officer in-charge who arrested Gyeltshen, the police chief said he is on training outside the country.

“He is a smart and judicious officer,” said Colonel Kipchu Namgyel.

International Red Cross society delegation in Bhutan

A high level delegation from the International Committee of Red Cross is in Bhutan on a nine-day official visit. The visit coincides with the time when the national assembly is in process of passing the prison related bills. Yesterday, the delegation called on the Foreign Minister Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering and the Home Secretary. The delegation will also meet the Prime Minister before leaving Bhutan. A news release from the Home and Cultural Affairs Ministry says the delegation is here to determine the material and psychological conditions of detention and treatment of the detainees.

In the mean while, prisoners from Lodrai prison are temporarily shifted to local schools, which have remained closed, says a recently released man in Lodrai. This must have been done to prevent the prisoners from meeting the ICRC delegates who are expected to visit Lodrai prison. While ICRC visits Chemgang and lodrai prisons from time to time, most of the prisoners charged with antinational activities are kept in Bhangtar, Yongphula and other prisons, where ICRC do not visit.

The ICRC has been visiting Bhutan since 1993 when it signed an agreement with the Bhutanese government to study the condition of prisons and detention centers and to meet prisoners. The ICRC has been conducting workshops and seminars for police and officials of home ministry. It includes implementation of international humanitarian law with specific focus on 1949 Geneva and 1997 Ottawa Conventions.

The treatment in prisons can be felt from the news:

Poorest village and GNH

12 January 2009
A two-day walk from the roadhead at Gorgan, Ungar in Mentso Gewog is the remotest and poorest village in Lhuentse.

According to the Lhuentse Dzongda, Mentso and Jari Gewogs are the only two gewogs in the dzongkhag without a farm road. The 482 people in Ungar are spread over 52 houses that have no electricity.

There is no BHU, no RNR extension centre, no drinking water supply, no market.

But all that may change. A team lead by the GNH Commission Secretary visited Ungar on December 31, 2008, to study ground realities and devise ways to improve the economic well-being of the villagers.

“A comprehensive situation analysis of the villages has to be conducted before coming up with possible interventions to reduce poverty in the area,” said Secretary Karma Tshiteem.

Speaking at a focal group discussion after a three-day detailed household survey, the Secretary said that Ungar was not as poor as nine other villages the GNH Commission had surveyed earlier.

“The climate in Ungar suits any type of crop (druna gu) and the land is fertile,” he said.

He explained that the Rural Economy Advancement Programme (REAP) helped people generate income in such remote societies that had not been reached by mainstream development.

He said this would allow for sustainable and long-term interventions with the villagers gradually claiming ownership of projects.

The study team saw that most of the people had twostoried houses with CGI sheets roofs, ate three meals (kharang, red rice or both mixed) a day and raised domestic animals. Most of the houses were poor in hygiene and did not have toilets or ventilated cooking stoves.

Every Ungar household used a considerable portion of the main crops grown, maize and rice, to brew about 300 litres of ara every year. No one worked in the fields after the harvest. No one wove cloth.

Almost all the 52 households were in debt to either banks or local money lenders, having borrowed money when they had to share the cost of roofing with the Thrumsengla National Park.

The GNH Commission team found that, on average, the villagers faced food shortage for four months every year. Crop attacks by wild animals were common as the village fell in the boundaries of the national park. No compensation had been made as yet by the government for the crops destroyed.

Ugyen Tshering, a farmer, said on each year about 60 acres of crops were lost to wild animals.

To make matters worse, land holdings in Ungar were too small so crop yield was also meagre, according to Metso Gup Tshering Dorji. Some people owned less than 13 decimals of land while many of the paddy fields were owned by people in Bumthang.

“This is one of the reasons why people in Ungar are poor,” he said. “There are many people living in chronic poverty in other parts of the gewog also.”

Metso Gewog is, however, rich in non-wood forest products. Amla, fern, walnut, ola choto, dambroo, fetche, wild berries and many species of mushroom grow in the wild.

The study team felt that the people could harness these products to improve their economic well-being.

Villagers at the public discussion pointed out that there was no market for such nonwood forest products because there was no road. Dendup from Tsongthormi said mushroom grew abundantly in the wild but needed some technology for drying before being transported to the market.

Mushroom farming was seen as a potential intervention. More than 10 villagers will give it a try if it is found to be a viable way of generating rural income.

Sonam Dorji, a farmer and a focal person in the discussion, said mushroom cultivation was an option to consider till the road came to the village. He said carrying a basket full of mushroom to Lhuentse or the roadpoint yielded more profit than a horse load of potatoes.

However, warns Dzongkhag Agriculture Officer Sangay Dorji, it is important to explore the market before introducing any project in the villages. In the possible eventuality that a market could not be found, the community would be disillusioned by the government.

The Dzongda said that the dzongkhag will help subsidise transportation if people are willing to take up government initiated projects in their villages. Mushrooms had a good market in the country and abroad, he said.

By Rabi C. Dahal

What's decentralised

Consider this: each minister would enjoy entitlements and benefits totaling about Nu 9,942,000 during the 10th Five Year Plan period. This is at current pay scales. (See my conservative estimates towards the end).

Now consider this: 40 gewogs would each get capital funds amounting to less than Nu 9,942,000 each during the 10th Five Year Plan period. This is according to what has been budgeted in the draft 10th Five Year Plan. Three of them (Soe, Samrang and Khatoe) would not even get Nu 3 million each for the entire 10th Plan period – in other words, each of these gewogs would get less than one-third of what a minister would earn.

Then consider this: each minister would enjoy entitlements and benefits totaling about Nu 13,842,000 during the 10th Five Year Plan period if the Pay Commission’s proposal is accepted.

And consider this: 70 gewogs would get less than Nu 13,842,000 during the entire 10th Five Year Plan period. That means that 70 of the 205 gewogs would get less money each for capital works during the 10th Plan than what a minister would earn during the same period.

True: Education, health and rural electrification are not included in the gewog budgets. And true, the dzongkahgs and central ministries would have additional programs that would benefit gewogs.

Also true: people in the gewogs would be mainly concerned about money that they would have real control over. That is the funds that have been budgeted for their respective gewogs. And there may be 70 gewogs, each having access to less money than what one minister may earn.


(A) Current entitlements and benefits of ministers (including PM, Chief Justice, Speaker, Chairman of NC and Opposition Leader):

1. Salary: Nu 78,000
2. Housing: Nu 23,400 (30% of salary)
3. Telephone: Nu 5000
4. Electricity and water: say Nu 3000 (actual)
5. Discretionary grant: Nu 8,300 (Nu 100,000 a year)
6. Prado: say Nu 33,000 (new Prado costs Nu 2,000,000. Assuming ministers keep it after five years, monthly benefit is 2,000,000/5/12 = Nu 33,000)
7. Fuel: say Nu 10,000
8. Driver: Nu 5,000

Total benefit = Nu 165,700 per month or Nu 1,988,400 per year or Nu 9,942,000 for five years

(B) Entitlements and benefits proposed by Pay Commission for ministers (including Chief Justice, Speaker, Chairman of NC and Opposition Leader; PM would get more):

1. Salary: Nu 130,000
2. Housing: Nu 26,000 (20% of salary)
3. Telephone: Nu 5000
4. Electricity and water: say Nu 3000 (actual)
5. Discretionary grant: Nu 16,700 (Nu 200,000 a year)
6. Prado: say Nu 33,000 (new Prado costs Nu 2,000,000. Assuming ministers keep it after five years, monthly benefit is 2,000,000/5/12 = Nu 33,000)
7. Fuel: say Nu 10,000
8. Driver: Nu 7,000

Total benefit = Nu 230,700 per month or Nu 2,768,400 per year or Nu 13,842,000 for five years
Posted by Tshering Tobgay

Friday, January 2, 2009

JANUARY 1 2009




BREAKING NEWS 1 January, 2009 - Four Bhutanese foresters were killed and two injured on December 30 in Sarpang after their tractor was blown up by an improvised explosive device planted on the road about four km west of Singay village in Sarpang.

The six foresters were going from Sarpang to their camp in Phibsoo when the device exploded at about 3.00pm. The attackers then fired at them killing four on the spot and burned their bodies using the tractor tyres.
One forester escaped, with two bullet wounds, to Singay village and informed the police. Another injured forester hid in the jungle until he was rescued by a search team at 10:00 pm. Both are being treated at the Gelephu hospital.

The militants took away two SLR rifles with 40 rounds and a motorola handset used by forest personnel.

A police spokesman said that militants of the Communist Party of Bhutan, based in Nepal, were believed to be responsible for the crime.

BBS adds:
December 31: Four foresters were brutally attacked and killed in an explosion near Singye village in Sarpang yesterday. The four died on the spot while two others escaped with serious injuries. They are being treated at the Gelephu hospital.

The blast took place near Singey village at around 3:10 pm. The six forestry personals were returning to their camp in Phibsoo from Sarpang after vegetable shopping.

Police say the tractor they were traveling was blown off by an improvised explosive device planted on the road. After the explosion the foresters were shot by the militants.

Police officials say after the explosion the dead bodies were dragged near the tractor and set on fire using the tractor’s tyre.

The incident was informed to the Police by one of the injured forester who escaped with bullet wounds. The other injured who remained hidden in the jungle was later rescued by a search team at around 10 pm.

A news release from the police says the attack could have been the work of the Communist Party of Bhutan based in Nepal. The militants also took away two SLR rifles with 40 rounds and a Motorola hand set carried by the forestry personnel.

MPs pay condolences to victims of the blast

Meanwhile, Members of the National Assembly today expressed condolences to the family members and victims of the bomb blast in Sarpang yesterday. Four foresters were killed on the spot while two others were seriously injured.

The Minister of Works and Human Settlement and Agriculture Minister said following the command of His Majesty the King necessary help have been given to the family members.

The Opposition leader condemned the attack and offered condolences on behalf of the Opposition Party. The members pledged their support to prevent such attacks in the future.

The National Assembly meanwhile, continued discussions on the audit report presented by the Public Accounts Committee.

“Six Bhutanese forest rangers were returning to their camp at village Phibsoo from Sarpang town after shopping when the tractor they were travelling in hit a landmine planted on the road,” a statement by the Royal Bhutan Police said.
“After the explosion, four foresters were shot by the militants and later their dead bodies were dragged near the tractor and set on fire,” the police statement said. Two forest rangers managed to survive the attack but were seriously injured.
“The attack could have been the work of the Communist Party of Bhutan based in Nepal,” the police statement said.
The Communist Party of Bhutan is largely composed of Bhutanese ethnic Nepali refugees based in Nepal and has been fighting for the restoration of democratic rights of the refugees.
The country witnessed a pro-democracy agitation in the 1990s, with a section of Nepali-speaking residents rising in revolt against the monarchy.
The crackdown that followed led thousands of Nepali-speaking people from southern Bhutan to flee to Nepal. Now, an estimated 100,000 people are sheltered in relief camps.
In 2008, Maoist guerrillas of the Communist Party of Bhutan triggered at least a dozen explosions in the otherwise peaceful nation that made a historic shift from monarchy to parliamentary democracy last year. Bhutanese security forces in May 2008 killed five Communist Party of Bhutan guerrillas and captured 17 others in an operation.–IANS

REUTERS INDIA WRITES:Communist guerrillas kill four Bhutanese forest guards
Thu Jan 1, 2009 11:09pm IST Email | Print | Share| Single Page[-] Text [+] THIMPHU, Bhutan (Reuters) - Four forest rangers were killed by a landmine planted by communist guerrillas at a Bhutanese village, police said on Thursday.

"Six Bhutanese forest rangers were returning to their camp after shopping when the tractor they were travelling in hit a landmine planted on the road," a police statement said.

The attackers fired at the rangers after the explosion on Dec. 30 at Singye village near a wildlife sanctuary, 250 km (155 miles) south of the capital Thimphu.

One forester escaped with two bullet injuries and informed the police. Another who had hidden in the jungle was rescued by a search team late in the night.

Police said the attackers, from the banned Communist Party of Bhutan based in UN-run Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal, dragged the bodies of the dead rangers into the burning tractor tyres and took two rifles with ammunition, and a walkie-talkie.

Bhutanese police and the army beefed up security along the 699-km (435 mile) unfenced border with India after the incident.

The Party has been demanding the repatriation of around 100,000 Bhutanese refugees who have been living in the camps for nearly two decades.

Tens of thousands of ethnic Nepalis in southern Bhutan fled or were expelled to Nepal in the 1990s after demanding greater democracy and respect for Nepali rights in the tiny Himalayan country. Bhutan says most of them are illegal immigrants who left of their own accord.

Bhutan's first democratically elected government, which came to power last April after a century of royal rule, says the refugee crisis will be solved very soon.

The Communist Party of Bhutan says it does not trust the government and is ready to wage a 'People's War'. They have also attacked refugees who opted for third country resettlement in Western countries including the United States.

Three bombs exploded at an office of the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) in Nepal last July, which has been processing the resettlement of around 60,000 refugees to the United States and Europe.

Bhutan's army destroyed three of the Party's camps in forests and caught 12 activists with weapons and explosives in 2008.

Underground group owns up Sarpang blast [ 2009-01-01 ]

The release issued by Karma of URFB
Kathmandu, January 1: An underground armed group called United Revolutionary Front of Bhutan (URFB) has taken the responsibility of massive explosion in Sarpang on December 30.

Unlike what the regime reported, URFB circulated a release stating that it attacked armed police force personnel at Singay village in Sarpang district and looted arms and ammunition. The government media earlier reported that those killed by the blast were all foresters.

The release signed by its chief commander Karma said that the attack killed five on the spot and wounded dozens of Bhutanese army personnels. Bhutan News Service




National Council election over.
There is selection heat for National assembly
Communist party clonned: Vikalpa and birat to lead the two teams.
Gasa Dzong on fire.
Population estimate: touch 887,000 by 2030
A 17 year old Sherab Wangchuk Sherpa, student of Lhamoizingkha in Dagana was caught with three hand grenades. His friends later said, it was given by Bhutan police with reharsal and money.
UNHCR and Nepal Government distrubute Refugee identity cards.
Group Sub-Company', a Thimphu-based construction company blasted: URFB own responsibilities.
Nepal issues exit permit refugee trans-settlement begins.


Blast in Samtse, Birat demands heroism.
Bhutan receives 179 power tillers from Japan
Young Kings birthday celeberated.
80 percent of Goldhap camp burnt to ashes.

welcome to the year of the male earth rat
RBA apprehends six militants
Exhibition on Bhutan's flora and fauna and culture and tradition in Japan


Bomb blast in Phuentsholing
Bomb last in Samchi.
PDP's Gelephu candidate disqualified from contesting National Assembly elections
National assembly election. DPT wins, election.
Indian consent awaited to begin parliament.
19 new HIV cases
A new bird species, brahminy starling (Sturnus pagodarum) spoted in Bhutan, the birds species count hits 677.
PDP appeals to ECB to launch an investigation into National Assembly elections


Kanchan Tamang, Lakpa Dorje Tamang and Puspa Rai blasted themselves in siliguri.
Dipen Rai, Karna Bahadur Rai and Furva Tamang are arrested in connection of possessing explosives.
Ban on import of rice lifted
Jigme Thinley becomes first Elected PM of Bhutan.
Dorji Wangdi,Bhutan’s youngest minister and Kheng’s first
National Council elects Namgay Penjore as its chairman.
Waste Management Act to tackle waste problem in limboo. MPs need time to realize the problems.

IOM Vechile attacked.
New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) refuses Bhutanese Government's request to rename ChandraGupta Marg as 'Wangchuk Centenary Marg'.
Indian PM addresses the parliament, gives consent to continue.


NC begins discussion
IOM office in Damak hit by a bomb
MPs punished by laptop ban for playing games, updating blogs and chatting during sessions
MPS sitting fees slashed

Bomb blasts in Tendu, Sibsoo
Upper house rejects bills calling the bail out of debt crunched political parties.

1st Matsutake festival held in Bumthang
2 Bombs exploded in sanischare camp.
Nu. 96 million from Cordyceps auction in 2008
Netherlands Fellowship Programme commits Nu. 30 million to RAA
Beijing Olympics opens
Rising global food and oil prices dominate SAARC Summit
Bhutan to host SAARC Development Fund institution
PM meets Bhutanese students in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Phuentsholing grapple with garbage problem
Sarpang poultry farmers import hatchlings from Nepal


The Dragon's Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan on Friday, opened at the Rubin Museum of Art
Military training to students showed a poor performance

National Board for Certified Counselors and Affiliates (NBCC), a counseling organization in the USA confers Queen Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck with Excellence in Mental Awareness award


India makes it clear: cannot assit for airport in Gaylegphug, from where the owners were evicted.
“A King of Destiny”, a tribute to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, published
UN General Assembly in New York


Jigme Khesar Namgyal wangchuck crowned as the fifth monarch

Assam police arrests Zangpo an activist of DNC, to please and bargain with Bhutan Government
Fourth Gross National Conference, ends up in a free lunch gathering.
Tsirang Dzong consecrated
Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck and HRH Dasho Khamsum Singye Wangchuck arrives in Germany

Visva Bharati University in West Bengal, India revokes its decission to confer Bhutan's fourth king with Desikottoma award.


US Senator John McCain visits Bhutan
Newly settled boy and his grandpa hit with a car in US
PDP president Sangay Ngedup resigns owing to bankcrupsy of the party.
Notorious Dago Tshering called back and replaced by Vetsop Namgyel, an army major general, also the fourth king's ADC.

BOMB blast kills 5 in sarbang.