The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
Click over the map to know the differences

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Unnoticed Bhutan Sites

1. Bhutanese in USA:

2. Bhutanese American Comminity Center:

3. The Association of Bhutanese in America:

4. Bhutanese Refugees:

5. Bhutanese Refugees:

6. Bhutanese Refugees in Nepal:

7. Chahari dabali :

8. Bhutannews on line:

9. South Asia. de :

10. APFA news:

11. Bhutan News service:

Traditional Bhutanese sports out the window?: Bhutan Observer

21 February 2009

Langthab or bullfight at a National Day celebration
The onslaught of modern sports has pushed traditional Bhutanese sports into the background. Sonam
Rinchen reports.

Tomorrow, if you find sheray paray as strange a term as kangril is today, don’t be surprised. Names of some traditional Bhutanese sports are already out of the vocabulary of younger generation. It is happening especially among urbanites.

According to Pema, an elderly Thimphu resident, not long ago, Bhutanese were more into traditional sports such as jigdum, sheray paray, pungdo, khuru, degor, langthab, keshay and soksom during special occasions and losar. Not any more.

“Few people know about sheray paray today,” said Dawa, 68, who looks after an apple orchard in Thimphu. “When I was young and herding cattle in the forests of Mongar, I used to challenge my friends in bouts of sheray paray.” He added that whoever won would become the leader of cowboys. Sheray paray is an exclusively men’s game where one person grips his opponent’s wrist while the opponent tries to shake off the grip. If the gripper manages to hold on, he wins. But if he is shaken off, he loses the game.

Langthab or bullfight is a game of brute strength where two opponents challenge head-on and butt each other to submission. Kinzang Dorji, 48, a farmer from Tsakaling in Mongar, said langthab was popular when he was a child. He added that, the game required a stone-like skull. “We would challenge our friends until we feel giddy,” he said. Soksom is a javelin-like game where a long, slender bamboo spear is thrown at a target placed at a distance. “I heard of soksom but I never saw anyone playing it,” said Ngawang Yeshey, a class X student of Dechenchholing Middle Secondary School in Thimphu. He added that he thought that the one who could throw the spear the farthest won the game.

Another traditional sport losing out to modern sports is jigdum. In it, about a footlong sharp-ended piece of wood is thrown at a target. There are two types of jigdum – one played with straight piece of wood and the other played with a two-pronged piece of wood.

Dorji, a private employee in Thimphu, who comes from a remote village in Mongar, said that jigdum and soksom are traditionally considered to be the sport of cowboys. “Since they were the only entertainment for them, the sports became popular among cowboys,” he said.

Mindu Dorji, a middleaged private employee, said, “In my school days in Sha, Wangdue, we used to play jigdum and soksom since we didn’t have other sports facilities.”

Playing degor involves throwing a pair of pancakelike flat stone at a target about 18 to 20 metres apart. The target is a small stick driven into the ground. If the distance between the target and the stone can be covered by thumb and middle finger of an outstretched palm, one gets a point.

Khuru is a dart game played with targets set 20 metres apart. It is one of the few traditional sports seen played in urban areas during festivals.

khuru and degor are generally associated with monks in dratshangs. Tashi Tshering, a Thimphu-based businessman, said that today, these games are rarely played by students.

Pungdo or shot put is also among the dying traditional sports.

Archery is still vibrant but changing. With people preferring modern equipment to traditional, home-made equipment, the sport is becoming more modern and less Bhutanese.

In most of the traditional Bhutanese sports, women take part as cheerleaders, mockers and singers. While modern games encourage more woman participation, some of them such as video games, are not healthy.

Meanwhile, while our youth watch choreographed wrestling matches on television, the traditional keshay is relegated to special occasions.


Some dying traditional
Bhutanese sports

-Sheray paray

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

IOM resettles 10,000 Bhutanese

Date: 17 Feb 2009

IOM's resettlement programme for Bhutanese refugees from camps in eastern Nepal, which started in January 2008, has now assisted over 10,000 people.

The refugees, known as Lhotsampas, have been resettled in the United States (9,032), Australia (520), New Zealand (186), Denmark (140), Norway (109), the Netherlands (55), Canada (33) and Sweden (3).

More than 105,000 Lhotsampas, who are of ethnic Nepali origin, fled to seven camps in the Jhapa and Morang regions of Nepal 17 years ago following Bhutan's decision to revoke their citizenship and to expel them.

Subsequent negotiations to allow them to return to Bhutan failed and in September 2007 the Nepalese government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with IOM to carry out resettlement activities in Damak, the Nepali town closest to the camps.

The activities include the processing of cases referred to resettlement countries by UNHCR, as well as the medical screening, cultural orientation and travel arrangements of refugees accepted for resettlement.

IOM opened a sub-office in Damak in December 2007 and now employs over 200 local staff operating in Damak and all seven Lhotshampas camps.

"IOM would like to express gratitude to the government of Nepal and to our partners at UNHCR for their continuous support of the resettlement programme," says the head of the IOM Damak sub-office David Derthick.

"In 2008 more than 8,000 Bhutanese refugees left the camps. We hope to more than double that number to between 16,000 and 18,000 in 2009," he added.

For more information contact: Ann Strandoo at IOM Damak.
Email: Tel: +9779851108084.

Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM)

Dalai Lama tells Bhutanese students to study Tibetan Buddhism: B K Upmanyu

Dalai Lama inaugurates Tibetan center for higher studies in Bangalore
Feb 17th, 2009 at 12:12 pm | By B K Upmanyu |

Dharamshala: The centre for higher studies for the Tibetan college students established by the Tibetan Childeran Village near the south Indian city of Bangalore, was today inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as “The Dalai Lama Institute for Higher Education”.

The college, located on Mysore road, some 27 kms from Bangalore city, will initially house about 500 students and eventually increase to 3000 depending on the availability of funding.
With a prime mission to inspire Tibetan students to learn Tibetan language and culture, the college will provide a broad spectrum of study curriculum, including science, arts, counselling, computer and information technology.
The college will provide the necessary environment where Tibetan youth would not only receive opportunity to learn the various academic subjects, as in any other college in the world, but they will learn Tibetan language and culture.
The college started its first academic session with the teachers’ training course in August 2008 with 71 students and 13 staff members.
Dr G Parameshwar, former minister of state for higher education and Mr Kunga Dorjee, chief representative for Tibetan settlements in south India and other officials associated with educational institutions were present at the ceremony marking the unveiling of new name for the college.
Around 3000 people, including Tibetans from the nearby Tibetan settlements and some 300 students from Bhutan studying in Bangalore attended the function.
In his address, His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed his gratitude to the state government for its support in facilitating the establishment of Tibetan settlements, important centres for learning Tibetan religion and culture in south India.
His Holiness told the Bhutanese students to study Tibetan Buddhism, emphasising that the teachings of Buddha (Kangyur and Tengyur) form the basis of the spiritual learning for both Tibetans and Bhutanese.
Lauding the Tibetan Children’s Village for its effort in establishing the pioneer institute of higher education, Dr Parameshwar expressed his hope that the same college academic curriculum will be carried on by the Tibetan educational institutions in future Tibet.
Dr Parameshwar donated a sum of Rs 5 lakh to the institution. He presented certificates to the first batch of 17 students who completed their teacher training course.
On behalf of the administration, Mr. Ngawang Dorjee, principle of the college, extended his gratitude to all the donors for their invaluable contributions.

Source: Northern Voices online

Sunday, February 15, 2009

65 months: left for his freedom

Countdown for the release of jailed journalist Shantiram Acharya

Date of Arrest: January 16, 2007.

Total time : 90 months
Served: 25 months
Remaining: 65 months

Date of release: July 17, 2014.

Bhutan court verdicts journalist to seven and half years to prison

A budding journalist Shanti Ram Acharya, was arrested by the royal Bhutan police on the charge of taking photographs of a police outpost from a distance and on various suspects related to the actions which he had never done. The unfortunate boy was sentenced to seven and half years to prison.

Mr. Acharya 20, was five when the Bhutan government coerced his parents to sign a called Voluntary migration form, as the part of the sinister design of the drukpa regime to reduce the political opponent from the south in early 1990s. He grew up in the refugee camp with other refugee kids. That was his life. The education in the camp ends after middle high school. He pulled himself ahead. He completed higher secondary from local college and admitted himself to Mechi Campus /college in the BA course taking English and economics as his major. This was his turning point. He was in a different situation, with the local Nepali students who were curious to share the stories of a refugee student from Bhutan. These have changed his mind. As in any people, more so in the youth, it is a dire feeling to be in and to see one's birth place. Similar situation changed his course of imagination. He started walking to wards his birth place, to see it, meet the family members and relatives, back in village who had separated due to the movement.

Unfortunately, it coincided with a bad time. Weeks ago, there were serial bomb blasts in the border towns of Bhutan, the clueless defense and intelligence system were alert and looking for some one to crown the blame and regain their reputation. They caught Acharya on his way to his village. The police put all possible blames on this boy and declared successful in catching a bomb implanter.

After eight week long police treatment in the army barrack, Mr Acharya was produced before court on March 16, 2007. He was charged for taking Photographs of a police out post.
The common people and the people in the government who are made to believe that Mr Shatiram had an ill intension and all the blasts were carried out by this pilgrim, are requested to think from a different perspective. The people must accept that it is a reverent feeling to visit and see one’s birth place and meet the relatives. It must be a source of inspiration for the people, that after 15 years of inhumane life in the camp he still had the respect and longing for the country. Every head must bow before such passion.

If he was to be punished, it must have been for trespassing through forbidden land, nothing more than that. Looking at the court verdict, there are serious questions that arise. The government must make provision for his studies. He can be assisted to join correspondent classes and given permission to attend exams.

As the court could not find any evidence of Mr Acharya’s involvement in the criminal activities, beyond suspicion, he must be treated as the political prisoner.

AAG. Pema Rinzin defended the state against Mr Shantiram.

Pema Rinzin
Mr. Pema Rinzin (in the photo), is a senior Assistant Attorney General working in the Office of the Attorney General. Mr Rinzin was also a member of the team that worked on the accession of Bhutan to the WTO. He has a B.A. (Hons) Degree from Delhi University, an LLB from Bombay University in India and an LLM from the National University of Singapore. He served as a member of Advisory center for WTO law, ACWL,for two years starting from 2007. Upon completing his secondment in 2008, Mr. Rinzin returned to his position in the Office of the Attorney General.
After winning the case, Pema Rinzin apologized to Shantiram and said, “I am sorry to you but I had to do it”.

The court case of Shanti Ram was handled by:

Drangpon Tshetar Namgyal and drangpon Tshering Wangchuck.


Shanti Ram Acharya was arrested by the RBA duties at the Tashilakha Outpost, while he was found taking photograph of the RBA out-post with a digital camera. By undergoing militant training, conspiring, preparing, planning and aiding terrorists to carry out subversive and terrorist activities against the Tsa-Wa-Sum, Shanti Ram Acharya has violated Sections 125, 127, 329 of the Penal Code of Bhutan, 2004.

Police report says: he was not in possession of camera or any photo taking devices.

According to Penal Code of Bhutan 2004, the said articles read as below;

Aiding and abetting
125. A defendant shall be guilty of offence of aiding and abetting a crime, if the defendant engages in a conduct designed to accommodate oe help another person in the commission of a crime.

Criminal conspiracy
127 A defendant shall be guilty of criminal conspiracy to commit a crime, if the defendant agrees with another person or persons that they or one or more of them will engage in a conduct that constitutes a crime.

329 A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of the terrorism, if the defendant:
a. with intent to subvert the state, uses, assists, recruits or trains another person to use a bomb, dynamite, firearms or other lethal weapons for terrorists activities;
b. Participates in financing,, planning, or preparation of terrorists acts or in supporting terrorist acts directly; or
c. Engages in a violent act or insurrection against Bhutan that is designed primarily to generate fear in a community or a substantial section of the society.

Mr Acharya was accused of taking photographs of the outpost, but the police could not find a camera or any photo capturing devices in his possession.

Find details here: Media in Bhutan

Writer-diplomat Pavan Varma is new envoy to Bhutan

New Delhi (PTI): Writer-diplomat Pavan K Varma was on Wednesday named as India's next Ambassador to Bhutan, succeeding Sudhir Vyas. Varma, who is currently the Director General of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), is expected to take up his new assignment shortly, the External Affairs Ministry said.

The 1976-batch IFS officer has served in several key positions which include Press Secretary to the President, High Commissioner to Cyprus, MEA spokesman and Joint Secretary (Africa) in the MEA. Varma also served in various capacities in Indian missions in New York and Moscow. In New York, he was with India's permanent mission to the United Nations. He also held the position of Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Group of 77 (G-77).

In Moscow, he was the Director of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre in the Indian Embassy. His tenure with ICCR has seen substantial activities of the organisation in promoting India's cultural ties with several countries.

The 1953-born officer is a graduate in History from the prestigious St Stephen's College of Delhi. He stood first in the examinations.

Ungar diary :Rabi C Dahal

14 February 2009
He spent three nights with the poorest villagers of Lhuentse. He partook of a community tshogchhang and learnt
their inside story. Rabi C Dahal reflects on how poor our poor are.

My visit to Ungar in Lhuentse was one of the best experiences of my journalistic life. The trip was refreshingly different. It was a trip with the Secretary of Gross National Happiness Commission to one of the farthest and poorest villages in Bhutan. Two days of walk carrying my 85-kilogram body mass was quite a challenge. Yet, it was awakening and refreshing, at once.

My visit to the village of poor and struggling farmers gave me an opportunity for reflection and introspection. I know that poverty is everywhere. There are poor people living in more developed dzongkhags too. Poverty may or may not strike a whole community at the same time but in every community, there are poor people, some of them desperately poor. During my visit to Ungar, I observed that the people there were only concerned about eking out a mere existence. Their concern was about food, shelter and survival. They struggled endlessly. For them, it was simply what life meant.

Coming from a similar community, I have come to realise that it is a pity that these poor people are burdened with mere reasons for survival rather than contributing to nation building as equal partners with their fellow- citizens. Their common parlance is, “We are happy as we are” while they hardly have any reason to be happy. They hold serious reservations about telling zhunglay jenmi dasho that they are unhappy. Therefore, I have reservations about the government’s statistics on their well-being. The same people, who had told the GNHC survey team that they were happy, confessed to me later that they hadn’t told the truth. I convinced them that I wasn’t a zhungi dasho but a newspaper man. Therefore, if they told me the truth, the government might help them.

Indeed, the truth is, they aren’t happy. They suffer a food shortage for at least six months in a year. Many of them are indebted to financial institutions. An old woman told me that she couldn’t pay off her debt even if she “piled life upon life”. Marauding wild animals ravage their crops every season leaving them with little of a little they grow.

Then they have to contribute zhabto lemi which sometimes include clearing tourist trails and camps at the cost of their crops.

There are no road and electricity. They cannot send their children to school for numerous reasons. The villagers, who have resigned to their fate, say that many government officials came to their village with pen and paper, asked questions, and never returned.

Travelling to the remotest and poorest village in Lhuentse (considered better than some villages in other dzongkhags) and spending three nights with the villagers – eating what they eat and sleeping their way – made me think how much Bhutan needs to do to help those people.

Committees and meetings, plans and policies, aims and objectives, budgets and expenditures, ideas and ideals – all of these are not going to help them, at least not overnight. They need real plans and concrete implementation. They don’t need volumes of GNH literature but only what it means to them.

Had the Ura-Ungar- Lhuentse road plan been approved, we would have passed through that picturesque village of Ungar but never would have noticed who live inside the houses. The houses are mostly double-storied, large and CGI sheet-roofed. One would not suspect that the poorest of the Bhutanese live inside those houses.

These decent-looking houses have no properly ventilated ovens, doors or windows. No toilets either. I was told that the people built their big houses when timbers and stones were aplenty in the village. The villagers helped one another build their houses. I learned that the people of 52 households were all related. Night-hunting was the way of courtship and a way to marriage.

Most of the people brewed ara. The poorest of them admitted to brewing at least two litres of ara in a week from borrowed food grains.

In the morning, many of the villagers have maize flour porridge. In the evening, the poor community inundates the visitors from zhung with tshogchhang. Next morning, Dema Tshering, a frail, skinny, 80- year-old woman, comes to offer a bottle of milk and hard boiled eggs to the Secretary. I wondered when she last had a glass of milk. The day before, she told me that she was Nu 15,000 in debt to a bank. Her daughter had gone to Samtse to get some money from their relatives and never returned.

Ungar was provided drinking water supply in the mid 1990s but no repair works have been done. Although a few households tried to bring water to a common place, the difficulty is still there.

Despite all the problems and setbacks, Ungar is a memorable village. With its beautiful landscape, moderate climate, and breathtaking forests surrounding the village, it is refreshing. With its hospitable and friendly people, and gorgeous girls, it is heart-warming.

Now that I am posted to the Southern Bhutan Bureau, I could already notice some similarities between the people in Ungar and neighbouring town of Jaigoan. They use open toilets. Unlike in Ungar, pigs in Jaigoan feed on human faeces. I am yet to explore if the rumour that pigs in Jaigoan feed on dead bodies is true. Meantime, the leather jacket I wore in Ungar still smells of smoke. I need to wash it although I don’t have to use it in Phuentsholing.

Boucher in Bhutan :Tandin Wangchuk

12 February,2009-Bhutan and Nepal must work together and have discussions to work out the issues of resettlement of people in the camps of Nepal, said US assistant secretary of state for the bureau for south and central Asian affairs, Richard A Boucher, who was on a three-day visit to the country from February 9-11.

Mr Boucher said he had come to congratulate the people of Bhutan for a successful transition to democracy and also to discuss issues between the two governments in order to strengthen the existing relation. This visit was a part of his tour to the region that included Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

He said that the US would continue to resettle people from the camps in Nepal. About 12,000 to 15,000 people will be permitted to resettle in a year and about 60,000 in all.

Mr Boucher, who is visiting Bhutan for the second time after his first visit in November 2006, said that he will be visiting Nepal on his way back and would discuss the same issue with the Nepalese government.

Mr Boucher, who met the Fourth King and the prime minister yesterday, said that he had a good discussion on development issues with the prime minister. “Issues like information and technology, hydropower projects, tourism, education, the process of democracy and other issues of interest between the two nations were also discussed,” he said.

Although no formal diplomatic relations exist between the two countries, the assistant secretary said that there were a couple of elements that the two can work with. “In fact, we can do a lot together.” He also said that he wanted to know of the plans and developments in the country from his visit.

“Such high level visits will help enhance relations between Bhutan and the United States,” said a foreign ministry official.

Mr Boucher was conferred the personal rank of Career Ambassador, the highest achievement for a member of the US foreign service, in June 2008.

By Tandin Wangchuk

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tom and Jerry in Bhutan Border

Local Indian administration play cat and mouse with Bhutanese intelligence

The security personals in India (Assam, Bengal and Arunachal) know well how to play Tom and Jerry with the Bhutan's intelligence system. Time and again they frighten the Bhutanese side, offer pseudo help to reduce their tension, bargain for something else and go away with it. The central's bureaucrats and politicians are clear in their policy that the problem between Bhutan and its communist parties is Bhutan's internal matter, but the Bhutan's neighbouring states' facing militant guerrillas need the support of their counterparts in Bhutan. To get it easily, they inject various hypothesis, arouse fear and make them slave to their sinister design.

This is another fresh attempt:

Kuensel Reorts:
Cross-border nexus confirmed

4 February,2009 - Bhutan and India have agreed to further strengthen and enhance security arrangements. This comes after the Indian delegation for the recent Bhutan-India border meeting said that they had information on links between the Communist Party of Bhutan and Indian insurgent groups like ULFA and NDFB.

The delegation has also said that there were links as well between the Gorkha Jan Mukti party of Darjeeling and the Communist Party of Bhutan. The Communist Party of Bhutan has claimed responsibility for the recent bombings and terrorist activities in Bhutan.
“During the process of discussion, the inspector general of police for north Bengal, Kundan Lal Tamta, personally cautioned us in regard to the linkages and the corroborations that the Communist Party of Bhutan are having with insurgent groups of India, especially ULFA, NDFB and others,” said Karma T Namgyal, director of the bureau of law and order (home ministry) and leader of the Bhutanese delegation to the border meeting.

“Mr K L Tamta said had he had reliable information that ULFA, NDFB and KLO have linkages with the Communist Party of Bhutan and that there are every chances that any incident could take place at any time,” said director Karma T Namgyal. The director said that, based on this information, Bhutan had to be cautious.

The Indian inspector general also informed the Bhutanese side that, since the government of Bangladesh was taking stern action against the insurgent groups taking shelter there, this nexus of groups might try to infiltrate Bhutan, especially in the Manas area.

“This statement was further supplemented by the head of the Indian delegation, the commissioner of Jalpaiguri, Mr Surendra Gupta, who said that whatever the IG had presented was a very true, big and worrying issue for them as well as for Bhutan,” said director Karma T Namgyal.

The commissioner has requested that Bhutanese government to take notice of the issue and do something about it.

“The district magistrate of Darjeeling, B L Meena, did not table the issue specifically, but he did mention to me that there is definitely some threat and linkages between the Gorkha Jan Mukti and the Bhutan Communist Party,” said director Karma T Namgyal.

Director Karma T Namgyal said that the two governments had always been exchanging information and Bhutan had been receiving information on this. He said that, since 2002, these groups have started linking up, according to information from officials from India. The issue also came up among delegation members during last year’s border meeting in Kalimpong, West Bengal.

The director said that the government would definitely be doing something and take it up in meetings with higher authorities and further enhance security measures and preparedness.

By Tenzing Lamsang

Talks decide to Strengthen Security

2 February, 2009 - The government of West Bengal state, India and Bhutan will identify vulnerable entry and exit points and provide extra vigilance in view of the infiltration by the Indian insurgent groups and the Communist Party of Bhutan.

This was decided during the 19th border districts coordination meeting held in Thimphu earlier this week. The officer in charge along the Indo-Bhutan border towns would strictly access these points and strengthen the security.

Officials from Bhutan lead by the head of the Law and Order Bureau under the home ministry, Karma T Namgyal, and seven high level officials from India lead by Jalpaiguri Division Commissioner B.L Meena attended the two-day meeting at hotel Druk.

Police Inspector General of North Bengal region, Mr Kundanlal Tamta, told Kuensel that 10,000 youth known as the Youth Communist League from the camps in Nepal has been a threat to India as well as Bhutan causing disturbance from time to time. He said that the youth were trained by Bhutan Tiger Force.

Mr Kundanlal said that the 197 kilometres long North Bengal and Bhutan border is guarded by 37 border outpost Sima Sewa Bal (SSB) working hard to stop the infiltration of militants. “We have to safe guard both the Indo-Bhutan border as well as the Indo-Nepal border,” he said.

With the new government in Bangladesh indicating non-tolerance of any militant activities in their country, the Indian government had cautioned that these militants in Bangladesh might infiltrate in to India and Bhutanese territories because of the open and porous nature of the border between the two countries. The government has agreed to put in action all possible efforts to prevent the infiltration.

Both governments also agreed to form a sub-committee comprising of dzongdas and police superintendent (SP) of Samtse and Chukha, dungpas of Lhamoizingkha and Phuentsholing, and officer in charge of Dagana police from the Bhutanese side and the North Bengal police’s Inspector General, District Magistrates and police superintendent of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri.

The committee would hold periodic meetings to view the perceptions of threat from the militants. The Bhutanese high officials assured that Bhutan would never allow Indian insurgent groups to carry out activities that are of disturbance to the Indian interest.

Both governments also decided to hand over national offenders who had crossed the border after committing crime. “The officer in charge at the border towns will have full authority to informally hand over the criminals to their respective nations,” said Mr Kundanlal adding that past formalities took time.

The meeting also discussed identification of new entry and exit gate between Phuentsholing and Jaigaon, exchange of information on fake currency operators of the two countries, review of progress on mitigation of adverse affect of dolomite mining and, poaching/smuggling of forest products by Indian and Bhutanese collaborations and illicit felling of trees and their removal on either side.

By Passang Norbu

Combatting ‘Terrorism’ In Bhutan : T. P. Mishra

Bhutan is no stranger to armed struggles carried out by different underground outfits. Although not much predicted earlier, these days, Bhutan is experiencing a series of bomb explosions mostly in the southern parts, the region where majority of Nepali-speaking people used to dwell.

The bomb explosions in Sarpang district on December 30 last year that claimed the lives of four forest guards is the latest instance that confirms an armed struggle is already underway inside this peaceful Himalayan kingdom. Here arises a question of how prepared Bhutan is in combating the armed launch supposedly floated with political motives.

Armed launch

The December 30 incident is not the first of its kind. Birat-led Communist Party of Bhutan (CPB-MLM), one of the underground armed revolutionary outfits, planted a series of bombs on the night of February 3 last year in Samtse district which damaged the materials brought by the Druk government for the National Assembly election. To read a sentence from Birat’s press statement, it says, "This is the initiation of an ‘Armed Rural Class Struggle’ in Bhutan."

Bhutan Tigers Force (BTF), United Revolutionary Front of Bhutan (URFB) and Communist Party of Bhutan (CPB-MLM) often own up responsibilities of such explosions. The URFB, which owned up responsibility to the recent bomb attack in Sarpang district, has also warned the recent settlers occupying the lands of those Nepalis evicted in the early 1990s, to vacate the occupied plots of lands immediately.

As to whether there is any connection among these armed outfits is hard to predict, but their common minimal programme seems to launch an armed struggle against the absolute regime.

Besides, possible links between the militant organisations behind the frequent bomb blasts in Bhutan and the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) among other Indian underground outfits cannot be ruled out. A news story written by Tara Limbu of Bhutan Times entitled ‘Sarpang and Guwahati blasts linked?’ makes this clear. Therefore, India, too, will be greatly affected if the armed struggle in Bhutan continues.

On March 17, 2008, the URFB took responsibility for the bomb explosion in Pasakha which injured one Indian national. The frequent claims by these outfits that their genuine demand is to see political change in Bhutan calls on the part of the Druk government to address it.

The BTF among others is often seen actively involved in raising awareness about the armed struggle through pamphlets and posturing inside the country. The frequent hoisting of the communist flag in the southern districts is time and again publicised by the Druk media houses. These are proof that the armed struggle in Bhutan will continue unless an amicable solution is not found at the earliest possible.

The Bhutanese authority, however, alleges that all these armed groups operate from the refugee camps in Nepal. Bhutan has to understand that refugee camps in Nepal are monitored by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. Many a time Bhutanese officials have put the ‘terrorist’ tag on refugees languishing in Nepal, which is a fabricated and illogical assumption. The fact that a number of refugee youths have connections with these armed groups cannot be denied. However, it would be naïve to assume that these armed groups are solely based in the UNHCR-managed refugee camps in Nepal.

More than 60 people from the country’s southern region were apprehended by the Druk police authority last year for their alleged involvement in Maoists activities. The whereabouts of those arrested that even include some school-going children has not been made public. Here the main concern is that minors should not be punished severely. A free and fair investigation into such cases would definitely reflect Bhutan’s respect for human rights though this has never been practised inside this tiny kingdom.

Despite showing interest and flexibility towards resolving the ongoing political turmoil in the country, the Druk regime is mulling over expanding its military force. Media houses inside the country have quoted Police chief Col. Kipchu Namgyal as saying that a security squad would be formed under the ‘Special Reserve Police Force’ mentioned in the Police Bill to counter the armed attacks.

To note, volunteer groups have been formed to patrol at night. A person from each household has to send a volunteer to patrol every night. They check on schools, hospitals and other public places. This is not a fair and reliable initiation of the government to counter armed attacks.

Innocent civilians should not be used as shield in the name of fighting armed rebellion outfits claiming to fight the government. This sort of initiation will only encourage the armed groups towards continuing with the violent activities. Besides, it will bring a sense of enmity between the public and the armed groups, and finally ignorant civilians will fall victims.


What is the solution then? Well, the Bhutanese government should not escape from furnishing a peaceful solution through dialogue, and this is the right time. Bhutan must see what is happening in neighbouring countries - the ongoing violence in Sri Lanka, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The decade-long Maoist insurgency in Nepal could be a lesson for Bhutan should it try to solve its political problem too late.

To conclude, the armed outfits should also understand that their objective would never be met until they wash their hands off the violent activities. An armed struggle will neither benefit the Druk government nor promote the objective of the armed groups. If the rebels against the Druk regime are truly dedicated to the establishment of people’s democracy in their country then they must opt for peaceful measures.

(The author is editor of Bhutan News Service and head of the Bhutan Chapter of Bangladesh-based Third World Media Network.)

Bhutan jails reporter for over seven years

KATHMANDU: A 20-year-old exiled journalist of Nepali origin has been sentenced to jail for seven and a half years for terrorist activities by the royal government of Bhutan even as the party in question denied having any links with him.
Shantiram Acharya, who used to work for the Bhutan Reporter, a monthly newspaper brought out amidst great hardship by Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal, received the sentencing by Bhutan’s high court for being allegedly involved in subversive activities against the Druk kingdom, including participating in military training conducted by the Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxist Leninist Maoist) in Nepal, an armed underground organisation that is banned in Bhutan and believed to be operating from Nepal and India to end Bhutan’s hereditary monarchy.
According to the Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA) Bhutan, an exiled Bhutanese media group based in Kathmandu, Acharya, a Bhutanese of Nepali origin who was living in the refugee camps in eastern Nepal, was arrested in 2007 when he visited Bhutan to meet his relatives.
Acharya was kept in secret detention for almost two months and tortured by police to extract a confession, APFA said. According to the exiled media group, the Bhutan police charge sheet said he was arrested for taking photographs of an outpost of the Royal Bhutan Army.
APFA also said it believed Acharya was convicted because he could not hire an attorney to defend him as Bhutan does not have any independent attorney. Also, he had no money since he was produced in the court without the knowledge of his family members.
Though the Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxist Leninist Maoist), from whom Bhutan police said Acharya had received arms training, said it had no association with the exiled reporter, the denial was not heeded by the Bhutanese court.
Condemning the charges and the verdict by court, which APFA said was controlled by the state, the media group is asking the Bhutan government to open the case for review and let the 20-year-old hire an independent attorney.
It is also asking for the jailed journalist’s whereabouts to be made public.
In November 2008, Bhutan was catapulted into world attention as it celebrated the crowning of its fifth king, the 28-year-old Oxford-educated Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk.
The crowning was projected as another step towards democracy by the isolated Druk kingdom as the previous king, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, abdicated in favour of his son.
The change of guard is viewed with mixed feelings by over 100,000 Bhutanese of Nepali origin who have been languishing in Nepal for nearly two decades since their expulsion from Bhutan during a crackdown on ethnic communities.
While some of the refugees hope the new king will show a human face and re-open talks with Nepal for their repatriation, others however feel that the old king still continues to wield power and the abdication and drafting of the first-ever constitution are a facade to placate foreign donors who want Bhutan to respect human rights. – IANS

Source: Gulf Times

Refugee journo gets 7-yr term in Bhutan
KATHMANDU, Shanti Ram Acharya, a correspondent of The Bhutan Reporter published in exile from Nepal, has been sentenced to seven and half years jail term, said Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA), Bhutan.
According to APFA Bhutan, an organisation of Bhutanese journalists in exile, Acharya was arrested in mid-January last year while going to meet his relatives in Bhutan, and was only recently lately informed about his jail term. APFA-Bhutan said though Acharya was charged of entering Bhutan to carry out terrorist activities there, the proofs presented by police do not provide enough evidence to prove him guilty of acting against Bhutan.

Condemning the punishment, the association has also sought support from ICRC and other international human rights groups to hire an independent attorney for Acharya's defence.