Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Bhutan : His Majesty the King grants audience to new IMTRAT Commandant

December 29: His Majesty the King granted an audience to the new Commandant of IMTRAT at the Tashichhodzong this morning.

Major General Gyan Bhushan took office as the new IMTRAT Commandant from December 22.

Prior to his new appointment, the General Officer was working as the JC Wing Commander of MHOW in Madhya Pradesh, India.

Major General Gyan Bhushan has an M.Phil in Defense Studies and Management and is an alumnus of the National Defense College.

Major General Gyan Bhushan is also a recipient of the Vishist Seva and the Ati Vishist Seva medals.


Sunday, 28 December 2008

Bhutan : National interest above all else

27 December, 2008 - Although they represented different constituencies and dzongkhags, parliamentarians must deliberate on all issues with the goal of safeguarding the interests of the people in all 20 dzongkhags and the nation, His Majesty the King advised the opening session of parliament on December 24. “In the end, we are one small family,” His Majesty said.

His Majesty said that he was pleased to see the politicians and all the other players in the Bhutanese political system carrying out their responsibilities. Despite the challenge of instituting a new democracy, His Majesty said that the country was filled with a sense of quiet assurance and such a confident start was a source of optimism.

“It is also a reminder that, in order for democracy to fulfill our objective of further strengthening our nation, we must realise first that there is much work to be done,” His Majesty said. “And then, we must carry out this work with dedication and in the right spirit.”

In an opening ceremony, that was steeped in tradition, His Majesty the King was received by members of the National Assembly and the National Council and escorted to the Assembly Hall in a chipdrel procession. The session was inaugurated with the marchang and zhugdrel ceremonies.

The prime minister and members of the parliament pledged to fulfil the aspirations of His Majesty the King. Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley said that whatever success the new government had achieved thus far had been inspired by the guidance of His Majesty the King.

Highlighting events of a year, dominated by nationwide celebrations, the prime minister said that the Ta Dzong museum in Trongsa, which was dedicated to the Wangchuck dynasty, the Changlimithang national stadium, Tendrel Thang, Centennial park, the expanded Dechenphu complex, and renovation of the National Memorial Chhorten complex were some of the important monuments that would commemorate this historic year.

He added that the government would not measure success in terms of the strength of the party but in terms of the success of democracy.

The National Assembly Speaker, Tshogpoen Jigme Tshultim, said that some of the issues prioritised in the 10th Plan will include the reduction of unemployment and poverty alleviation; construction of roads in all the gewog centres, supply of electricity to rural Bhutan, and setting up of one-stop centres were other important goals.

Responding to the opposition leader’s call for the government to present broader policy issues, the speaker said that issues were important and would be discussed when the 10th Plan is tabled.

By Passang Norbu


Friday, 26 December 2008

Bhutan : 109-year-old man receives Centenary Citizen award

December 26: Recognized as the oldest person alive in Bhutan, Agay Lethro, a 109-year-old man in Sarpang received the Centenary Citizen award from the Citizens' Initiative for Coronation and Centenary Celebrations (CICCC).

The award includes a cash prize of Nu 25,000 and a certificate.

Like many senior citizens of Bhutan, Agay Lethro is a kidu recipient of His Majesty the King. His award was received by the Office of the Gyapoi Zimpon on his behalf on December 17.

The Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon handed over the award to the Sarpang Dzongkhag and the Sarpang Dzongda Sangay Thinley delivered it to Agay Lethro at his residence in Jigmechoeling yesterday. The Sarpang Dzongda was accompanied by Dzongkhag officials and representatives of the Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon.

In a voice shaking with emotion, Agay Lethro thanked His Majesty the King for the award.

Agay Lethro lives with his paternal grand son, Tenzin Wangdi- as he has no child of his own. He weaves bamboo baskets, local hats made from bamboo and other products.

Despite his age, Agay Lethro keeps himself busy in the kitchen garden.

Agay Lethro is the eldest of seven children. As a young man he married a woman from Berti village in Zhemgang. Unfortunately they did not have any children. His wife passed away at the age of 70.

Agay Lethro vividly remembers how he traveled on foot to Thimphu where he worked on the construction of the Tashichhodzong and the construction of Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway.

When asked about the secret to his longevity, Agay Lethro said as a young man he never touched alcohol or tobacco. That and a physically active life have allowed him to live a long health life.


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Bhutan : Move over steel, tourism’s sick too

24 December, 2008 - The sick steel industry’s hope of help from the government is set to face a serious setback with tourist operators asking for a similar aid. The operator’s contention: the financial calamity has hurt their business too.

If the government is ready to shore up the steel industry, then it’s only fair that it provide the same support to tourism, according to the association of Bhutanese tour operators (ABTO), which is planning to approach the government this week.

ABTO’s general secretary Sonam Dorji said that, already, more than 1,500 tourists have cancelled their trip to Bhutan in 2009 following the international credit crunch. More bad new may be in store. In 2007, during the initial period of recession, only 250 operators out of 400 got business.

“Even the ones coming in do not or will not stay long,” said Sonam Dorji.

The United Nations world tourism organisation has also come out with a very bleak forecast, said Sonam Dorji. It said that the credit crisis will injure Asia’s tourism more than any others, because of its distance from source, the western countries.

Besides being beneficial to communities and service industries, such as hotels, tourism employs 3,000 regular staff and about 2,500 every tourist season. In 2008, it generated US$ 40 million in royalty to the government.

ABTO is requesting “interim measures,” such as deferment of the planned tariff revision in 2009 from US$ 200 to US$ 250 till things normalise, and concession on the royalty amount and Druk Air tickets. It also wants hotels to keep a lid on their annual tariff increase.

Observers, however, think ABTO’s plan may face difficulties. Tourism is not an intensive investment business, not for the operators anyway. At any rate, said the observer, it is a more superior revenue-generating business than most, not only for the government, but also for the operators themselves, from comparably less investment.

“Our tourism industry have had it good for a long time, they should be able to ride this storm, which too will pass,” said an observer, who did not want to be named.

What about steel?
Which is not to say that there is general consensus among the officials, or even the public, that the sick steel industries should be rescued.

The Nu 1.3B steel factories in Pasakha, following the international financial crisis that led to a dip in demand for steel in the Indian market, approached the government recently for aid. They asked for additional working capital, interest rate of their loans to be reduced, interest and principal of their loans to be deferred for one year, and power and lease rates to be frozen till they recovered.

Stakeholders economic affairs ministry, finance ministry, Bhutan power corporation limited (BPC), the national environment commission (NEC), and the country’s two banks are studying the situation.

The private steel industries in Pasakha, which sell their products to India, reap the benefits of the difference in tax and cost of power, which are lower in Bhutan. BPC charges Nu 1.51 per unit to the industries, and a higher Nu 2 per unit to India.

Steel industries are power intensive. BPC has built a substation with a capacity of 189 MVA near Pasakha solely for the industries there. There are nine (operational) industries, out of which five are steel. Lhaki steel is sanctioned 20 MW of power.

“We’ve spent Nu 540 million for the substation, I don’t think we can further approve the steel industries’ proposal,” said a power official.

If BPC sold the 189 MVA of power, it would earn not less than Nu 3 million every year. From the total power sanctioned to the industries, only 40 MVA is known to be used, the rest is not withdrawn, say BPC officials. BPC recently fined five Pasakha industries Nu 11 million for not drawing power. Lhaki Steel was charged Nu 3.24 million.

Pasakha industries were also fined for exceeding the pollution standard set by NEC. The steel industry is also a heavy polluter. Besides emitting sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, they also contaminate water with slag (thick sootlike material), say NEC officials.

Revenue and customs officials say Pasakha industries do not have to pay corporate income tax and business tax for three years. They are also exempted from duty on import of raw materials.

“With various incentives provided, there is now no space for any fiscal measures,” say a customs official.

Record maintained by the employment department show that the five private steel industries employed 186 nationals and 296 non-nationals. The figures were given by the industries and not confirmed.

Meanwhile, Lhaki steels managing director, Tashi Wangdi, in a letter to Kuensel wrote: “The failure of the manufacturing companies in Bhutan will have a negative impact on BPC, financial institutions, present and potential employment opportunities, indirect employment derived from direct employment opportunities and trading sector in Bhutan who supplies to manufacturing sector.”

By Passang Norbu


Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Japanese support for immunization programme in Bhutan

December 22: The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Ministry of Health signed a technical cooperation support for the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in Bhutan today.

The agreement was signed this morning by the Health Secretary Dasho Dr. Gado Tshering, the Resident Representative of JICA Tetsuo Yabe and Head of Development Cooperation Division of the GNH Commission, Thinley Namgyel.

The three-year project will see Japanese assistance in supply of vaccines and vaccine storage equipment called cold chain equipment. Under the project Japanese technical advisers will also train Bhutanese health workers.

The Health Secretary expressed gratitude to JICA for its assistance to Bhutan including support in the Health sector. Japan’s support to the immunization programme in Bhutan started in 1995.


Monday, 22 December 2008

Bhutan : Six honoured for service to nation

20 December, 2008 - “As King it is my duty to recognise people, who have served their fellow countrymen and nation in an exceptional way. It does not matter who you are, whether you are from rural or urban Bhutan or from the private sector or government. In the end all that matters is your love and service for our people and country. It is my hope that, henceforth, every one of you will strive to merit these awards.”

For six Bhutanese citizens, December 17, 2008 turned out to be an unforgettable day. In a surprise announcement, during the royal National Day address, His Majesty the King awarded the Druk Wangyal medal to the prime minister, Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y. Thinley, and the chief justice, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye.

“Jigmi Thinley and Sonam Tobgye, throughout their careers, have been motivated by service to the nation, regardless of what responsibilities they held,” His Majesty said. “They have excelled in carrying out their duties in each position and their devotion to the country is exemplary. Even today, under a new democratic system, they continue to serve the nation in important positions, that they have earned through their own merit.”

Lyonchhoen Jigmi Thinley said that he was greatly honoured and humbled. “If I have pleased His Majesty and the government, it is because of the opportunities I’ve been bestowed by them,” he said. “I accept this not only as His Majesty’s recognition of my services but also collectively on behalf of my colleagues, the new government. I recognise this honour as His Majesty’s expectations, the kind of service that he expects from every government employee. Therefore, I think it’s also with expectations of similar service hereafter.”

Chief Justice Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye said that it was a legitimate aspiration for every person to work for recognition but the Druk Wangyal “elated, inspired, and humbled” him. “It is my lifetime achievement that His Majesty most graciously recognised and my family will always cherish this honour,” he said. “I had many doubts and difficulties and His Majesty through this medal redeemed my doubts and encouraged me to do more. It is my belief that the royal government of Bhutan is not deaf and blind, particularly His Majesty will always see through his compassionate eyes the services rendered by every person in the country, regardless of his or her status, background or place.”

His Majesty awarded four Druk Thuksey medals.

Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, Chief Election Commissioner, received the Druk Thuksey for his “personal integrity and hard work and for the combined effort of the officials of the Election Commission of Bhutan, various government agencies, local government and the armed forces in preparing for and conducting successful general elections at the start of democracy.”

Neten Zangmo, Chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Commission was granted the Druk Thuksey for “carrying out her duties as head of the Anti-Corruption Commission without fear or favour.” His Majesty said that, at this phase in the growth of democracy, the ACC must work to prevent the spread of one of the biggest threats to Bhutan’s success. His Majesty pledged his own wholehearted support to the ACC. Neten Zangmo will receive the Red Scarf from His Majesty.

Dasho Pema Wangchuk, International Boundaries Secretary, was awarded the Druk Thuksey for his “long, consistent and fruitful service during the reign of two kings with sincerity, dedication and humility.”

Dasho Pema Wangchen, Secretary to the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, received the Druk Thuksey for his “commitment and dedication with which he had served a special King as he led the nation over 34 years.”

Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said the medal reaffirmed that the election commission had lived up to the expectations of the Fourth King in conducting the elections successfully. “We are honored by the faith and trust of His Majesty the fifth King on the officials to conduct the future elections more professionally.”

“I consider myself very lucky because my humble contributions to the nation were appreciated on such a great day, when we were celebrating 100 years of monarchy and people were rejoicing the coronation of the Fifth King,” he said. “It was an appreciation for past effort but, with this medal, there’s a challenge ahead of me and my colleagues to fulfill the expectations of His Majesty for future elections.”

Dasho Pema Wangchuk, who received the Red Scarf from the third Druk Gyalpo, said that, when His Majesty commended his consistent service, it was the biggest compliment for him. “I nearly cried.”

“The medal means a lot to me,” he said, “because it’s a reward for my 36 years of service with the royal government, that is, 10 years with the late Majesty, 34 years with the fourth Druk Gyalpo, and now two years with the fifth Druk Gyalpo. “I always gave my best, serving with a clear conscience, as the King is always for the people.”

Dasho Pema Wangchen, the secretary of fourth Druk Gyalpo, joined the royal service in 1970. “The honour bestowed upon me by the Druk Gyalpo on the Centenary National Day was totally unexpected and took me by surprise,” he said. “I was deeply overwhelmed when my name was announced and I was commanded by His Majesty the King to come to the podium to receive the medal in front of the nation. I consider myself very fortunate for the privilege I have had to serve such a great King.”

For Neten Zangmo, it was a “very, very, big, big, big, big surprise!”. “It symbolised the beginning of the end of corruption,” she told Kuensel. “This is a very strong message that His Majesty is sending to every Bhutanese, to every corner of this country - that corruption has to be fought resolutely and that corruption cannot be tolerated.”

“The medal is a great motivation and inspiration for ACC and myself. We’ll continue to work harder … As far as we are concerned, we’ll fight corruption no matter whoever is in it.” Referring to the retroactive law used against various ACC cases, she said: “Why is that an issue when big people are involved and not when small people are involved?”

Her message to politicians and bureaucrats: “Stop talking and start practising. Even when a new government has come up, it’s business as usual and things aren’t changing at all, as they should. The culture of indifference persists.”

His Majesty said that, while awards went to individuals, it did not mean that the rest had not served their country. He said that, in fact, the people of Bhutan were united in their love of country and such awards were meant precisely to preserve this unique strength of Bhutan.



Friday, 19 December 2008

Bhutan : Bhutan celebrates Centenary National Day

December 18: A blessed Kingdom with a fortunate people ruled by enlightened monarchs, under the leadership of a caring and compassionate Druk Gyalpo who inspires his people, Bhutan celebrated the historic Centenary National Day yesterday.

With His Majesty at the celebrations in Changlimethang, the people of Thimphu and nearby areas came in their Tshechu best to soak in the celebrations of a historic day. The celebration was broadcast LIVE on BBS TV and Radio.

His Majesty the King and the statue of Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck were escorted to the celebration ground in an elaborate chipdrel procession. The sky was without a whisper of clouds as the December sun brought warmth to an auspicious and historic day. His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Their Majesties the Queen Mothers and the members of the royal family, cabinet ministers, representatives of the clergy, the armed forces, parliamentarians, students and the international community joined the celebrations. After His Majesty’s arrival at the celebrations ground, the national flag was hoisted and a guard of honour was presented.

This was followed by the Jibi Pao and a Marchhang Ceremony.

Thousands of Bhutanese across the Kingdom, who were watching and listening to the LIVE coverage of the celebrations on BBS TV and Radio waited to listen to His Majesty the King’s Centenary National Day address.

Addressing the nation, His Majesty the King said we have all together, as one small family, celebrated 100 years of Monarchy, the start of Democracy and His Majesty’s Coronation. His Majesty said the success of these celebrations and in fact the success of our nation over the last 100 years owes so much to the prayers and hard work of our people.

His Majesty offered His gratitude to the people of the 20 dzongkhags for the kindness and love shown by the people during His Majesty’s Coronation. Following His Majesty’s address, it was time for the student scouts from schools of the Thimphu valley to present the March Past. The staff of various ministries, agencies and corporations also performed cultural programme.

The Centenary National Day assumes profound significance as 2008 saw Bhutan celebrate the Coronation of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the Centenary of the Monarchy and the successful and peaceful transition to democracy. From far flung hamlets of rural Bhutan to the sprawling urban centres, the Centenary National Day is an opportune time for Bhutanese to pay tribute to our Monarchs, an auspicious occasion to pray for the Long Life of His Majesty the King, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and for continued peace, prosperity and happiness in the Kingdom.

At the Changlimethang ground, where Bhutanese from all walks of life came to celebrate the historic Centenary National Day, many were blessed by the privilege of an audience with His Majesty the King.

As a moving Tashi Lebay started, it was time to pause and reflect, to go back 100 years when with the coming of the Wangchuck dynasty, the sun of happiness has been shining, bringing unprecedented peace, prosperity and happiness in the Kingdom.

As 2008 comes to a close, it is with immense satisfaction and pride that we celebrate the successful transition to democracy, the Centenary of our Monarchy, the institution that binds us as a people and a nation, the Coronation of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the protector of the people, the embodiment of our hopes and aspirations and the guardian of our well being.


Monday, 15 December 2008

Bhutan : New complex of JDWNRH inaugurated

December 14: The new Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital Complex was inaugurated today by Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck.

Her Majesty was escorted to the new hospital complex in a traditional chibdrel ceremony. Her Majesty was accompanied by Her Royal Highness Ashi Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck.

Following the inaugural ceremony, Her Majesty made visited the new complex. The Health Minster Lyonpo Zangley Drukpa in his address said the new complex equipped with the state of art and latest equipments clearly manifests the level of socio-economic development that Bhutan has reached.
The Health Minister attributed Bhutan’s socio-economic development to the dynamic and enlightened leadership of our Kings.

Lyonpo also highlighted some of the challenges confronting the health sector. Acute shortage of medical professionals at all levels and inadequate budgetary provisions were pointed out as the two major constraints.

He said the ministry has taken interim measures to solve the human resource problem by recruiting doctors and specialists from outside. The 350-bed new hospital was constructed with financial assistance from the government of India.

Describing the project as a symbol of Indo-Bhutan friendship, India’s Ambassador Sudhir Vyas said the new hospital complex will enhance the country’s health care services and capacity.

The inauguration was also attended by cabinet ministers, the opposition leader, senior government officials and representatives of the international agencies.


Friday, 12 December 2008

Bhutan : His Majesty inaugurates the Trongsa Ta Dzong Museum

December 11: His Majesty the King inaugurated the Trongsa Ta Dzong Museum yesterday. The museum is dedicated to the monarchs of the kingdom.

Their Royal Highnesses Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck and Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck were also present at the inauguration.

Though it was a cold morning, His Majesty the King and their Royal Highnesses Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck and Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck walked from the Thruepang Palace to the Trongsa Ta Dzong museum.

Along the way, thousands of people waited in line burning aromatic herbs and incense, holding flowers and waving the national flag. His Majesty the King interacted with the people stopping every now and then to talk to the people or hold their hands.

From the Trongsa dzong, His Majesty the King was led to the Ta Dzong in traditional chipdrel procession. His Majesty the King and the Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley unveiled the dedication plaque at the entrance gate. Also present at the opening, Christian Mazal and Mrs Marie Christine Weinberger from the Austrian Coordination Office.

At the north tower, His Majesty the King was offered marchang and zhudrel. His Majesty the King then visited the museum galleries along with their royal highnesses, the Prime Minister, members of the parliament and other senior government officials.

The inauguration was also attended by Dzongkhag officials from Trongsa, Bumthang, Zhemgang and hundreds of people from Mangde Tsho Zhi including students.

Following the inauguration His Majesty visited the Trongsa Chhoeste Dzong. His Majesty the King also hosted a tokha for the people of Mangde-Tsho-Zhi.

Situated strategically above the Trongsa dzong, the Ta Dzong served as the watch tower for centuries. It was built by Choeje Minjur Tempa in 1652.

The museum will focus on the history of the monarchy, which had its cradle in Trongsa and the history of the Trongsa dzong.

The museum is equipped with state of the art technology and includes a media room where visitors can watch a documentary programme on the history of the monarchy.

The Ta Dzong was renovated and converted as a museum at a cost of Nu. 97 millions with funds from the Austrian government. The museum is dedicated to the coronation and centenary celebrations.

Rare and precious artifacts on display

The Ta Dzong or the Tower of Trongsa Museum was renovated as state of the art museum dedicated to the Monarchs of Bhutan. The museum has total of eleven galleries styled along the National Museum in Paro. One gallery is fully dedicated to the history of Kings of the Wangchuck dynasty.

There is also a gallery which showcases the history and the religious significance of Trongsa Chhoetse Dzong.

The 300-year-old monument will showcase some of the rare and priceless artifacts of the Kingdom. These include the statues built in the 17th century to Bhutan’s rare royal possessions.

On display were the first King’s Namza, the Raven Crown and Sword of Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyel and the 3rd King. A Radio presented by an American businessman to the 3rd King in the 1950s is also on display.

One of the galleries has the robe of Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk with his Drilbu and Dorjee from the 16th century. The museum will show case over 200 artifacts which are centuries old.

The museum has total of 11 galleries styled along the National Museum in Paro.

The Ta-Dzong has two Lhakhangs – one for the legendary Gesar of Ling and the other houses the future Buddha Maitriya.

According to the Museum curator, the Ta Dzong, will serve as the educational institution through display of artifacts and exhibitions.


Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Bhutan : A tribute in appreciation

10 December, 2008 - The serrated ridges around Trongsa form a vast rim from where hill slopes run sharply to the valley floor. The slopes are covered by a lush forest of evergreen and seasonal colours. Numerous white waterfalls streak the hillsides and drop into the Mangdue Chhu, which rushes down to the great plains of India. At the centre of this massive natural cradle sits the majestic Trongsa Dzong, crafted from a vision of Palden Lhamo.

This was where Bhutan’s Monarchy was born. For centuries the dzong was a centre of religious and political evolution and now stands as one of the greatest monuments in the land.

High above the valley, at a strategic vantage point over Trongsa Dzong, rises its watchtower, the Ta Dzong. This “tower of Trongsa” now tells the stories of the dzong and the valley that it has watched over for centuries.

His Majesty the King inaugurates the Ta Dzong today as a museum dedicated to the Wangchuck dynasty, landmarking yet another significant event as the nation celebrates 100 years of the Monarchy.

The Ta Dzong, a cylindrical stone structure rising five storeys, was built in 1652 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, a task entrusted to him by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. After more than 350 years, it has been resurrected into a classy museum, that represents a tasteful blend of tradition and modernity.

The central Utse structure is connected to two four-storey towers by multi-floor wings. A total of 11 galleries sit comfortably at split-levels over five floors to a rooftop that functions as a viewing gallery. Overall, the tower, that kept enemies at bay, exudes a feel of history as well as a sense of change.

At the heart of the museum sits the Raven Crown worn by Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. The Crown symbolises the triumph of the Bhutanese Monarchy and the supreme protector role of the Druk Gyalpo. The third floor of the Utse is dedicated to the Wangchuck dynasty, with ceremonial and personal belongings of the Kings and Queens of Bhutan. The displays include Jigme Namgyel’s sword, Gongsar Ugyen Wanghcuck’s gho, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck’s wine flask and radio, and a full dress set of the fourth Druk Gyalpo His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

There are 224 items on display. They include a sacred image of Sung Joenma Dorji Chang (self spoken Vajradharna), a bronze statue of Pema Lingpa, made by himself, and a number of centuries-old treasures like dance and ritual costumes and objects, ancient prayer books, paintings and scrolls, and textiles.

The Ta Dzong is a living museum and the main lhakhang in the Utse is dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha (Gyaltsab Jampa), also known as the Future Buddha). A Khesar Lhakhang is dedicated to Khesar of Ling. The tower has always been a place of retreat and there are hermits in practice, including two yogis, who are in life long meditation.

Marie Christine Weinberger, the former counsellor of the Austrian development cooperation office (ACO) in Bhutan, became a familiar figure in Trongsa through the project. It was her last project before she retired and she said that her satisfaction came from being able to help create a world class museum, that would make Trongsa, and Bhutan, more valuable and attractive for visitors.

The present counsellor, Christian Mazal, said that ACO was deeply honoured that His Majesty the King himself was inaugurating the Ta Dzong Museum. He described the museum as “a new landmark in Austria-Bhutan relations”, a project that was completed after the restoration of Trongsa Dzong. The Nu 120 million project included the improvement of the foot trail across the river to the dzong along with the Bazam foot bridge. Apart from being a place of prayer for the people, he said it would play an important role in educating the people on culture and religion, and contribute to Bhutan’s economic development as a tourist attraction.

The museum, which has been designed and rebuilt under the supervision of professional architects and restorers from Austria, is a state-of-the-art monument. Veteran Bhutanese culturists say that it is a good example for Bhutanese restorers, who have to take up similar work in future.

With the inauguration ceremony, an important element of Bhutan’s past comes alive and merges with the present to provide lessons for the future.

Lyonchoen Jigmi Y Thinley said that the restoration of the unique Ta Dzong into a museum was a tribute to five successive great Kings of Bhutan’s Monarchy. “Bhutanese officials and people have always wanted to express our deep appreciation to the dynasty, that has made all of us proud to be Bhutanese,” he said. “We’re confident of continued peace and prosperity in the knowledge that the royal dynasty will always be with us.”

Expressing his appreciation to the government of Austria for helping the people of Bhutan offer this tribute to their Kings, the prime minister said that the restoration of the Ta Dzong was also a tribute to the great builders of the past, “who were our ancestors”. “It symbolises our determination to preserve and protect our cultural heritage and our unique identity. We must not just look at creating wealth but at recognising our cultural wealth and consolidating our assets.”

The Ta Dzong is the only structure, that has been restored specifically to tribute the Wangchuck dynasty as Bhutan celebrates the centenary of the Monarchy.

By Kinley Dorji & Rinzin Wangchuk


Monday, 8 December 2008

Weighing up WTO versus GNH

8 December, 2008 - Free trade, an economist once remarked, means that a great product from a small country can succeed in global competition. Free trade means that poor countries can sell their products, for instance textiles, to the rich world without facing punitive tariffs.

WTO is a living embodiment of that free trade. That the multilateral trading system, for more than half a century, has underpinned global prosperity is a given. World Bank studies maintain that because of free trade the world economy has been growing at its fastest and more countries are sharing in that growth than ever before. WTO has 153 members and represents more than 95 percent of total world trade.

But - despite the spectacular rise in living standards that has occurred as barriers between nations have fallen, and despite the resulting escape from poverty by hundreds of millions of people in those places that have joined the world economy - it is hard to convince politicians of the merits of free trade. Today, just as Bhutan is ready to join WTO, there is a queue forming in the country to denounce such an attempt. Never mind that the denouncers are emerging after nine lengthy years since the start of negotiations of Bhutan’s accession to WTO.

The argument against WTO is that it contradicts GNH - Bhutan’s unique development guide. But, aside from such one line rhetoric, no official, not even the government leading the charge, has given us anything that would lead us to believe that WTO is harmful to GNH. Egged on by a bevy of bureaucrats, some politicians are getting carried away by the thrill of saying no. We would like our politicians and so-called think tanks to explain to us why WTO is not good for Bhutan. Simply saying it’s bad is not good enough.

A paper written by Professor Mark Mancall of Stanford University - ‘Bhutan’s quadrilemma: To join or not to join the WTO’- provides some perspectives. He argues that Bhutan’s decision to join WTO strikes at the very heart of GNH. His point is this - GNH being the responsibility of the state is to create an enabling environment where citizens can seek and find happiness: thus GNH requires that the state manage the economy. WTO, on the other hand, works on a free market based economy meaning that under it the economy is independent and self-regulatory.

He adds: “GNH posits the preservation and development of the national culture as both a purpose and an instrument for the preservation of national sovereignty. Minimally controlled international trade, however, which is the immediate goal of WTO, may require allowing the importation of goods that will have a severe impact on the national culture.”

If not WTO then what?
Can’t say one can intensely disagree with Professor Mark Mancall. If that’s the case, is there a GNH-based model of economic development, that would contribute to a stronger and better Bhutanese economy as leaders and people of this country dream and speak of. Without taking advantage of free trade, it is hard to imagine that a country could have one.

Is dependence on one country for trade and the survival of one’s economy good in the long run? SAFTA is a long shot away from becoming reality. As long as India and Pakistan have problems, this body will never see the light of day. BIMSTEC lacks leadership, is slow and will take time. In any case, these deals are known to be tame agreements, knocking down barriers between countries with little to lose, but also little to gain, from freeing two-way trade in most sectors.

What is a GNH economy anyway? State controlled economy has never worked, that’s why India has opened and liberalised its economy and that’s why it’s an emerging economic giant today. State controlled economy is protectionism and is the enemy of the poor, because it puts up the price of basic consumer goods, not to mention fuel, through lack of choice in the market. Druk Air tickets are dearer and away from the reach of many precisely because of this reason.

It makes sense that the government makes not a mockery of GNH by joining WTO, if the two appear to differ in principle and in workings, but it needs to give us citizens an alternative model to a stronger, better economy - one that would liberate our economy from the narrowness of our domestic market and open it up to the broader opportunities of world commerce.

(Comments are welcome and will be printed. E-mail them to kencho@kuensel.com.bt)

By Kencho Wangdi


Wednesday, 3 December 2008

US Senator John McCain visits Bhutan

December 3: A 15 member US Congressional Delegation led by Senator John McCain arrives in the country on a three day visit today. The delegation also includes Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

A news release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the congressional delegation is interested in observing the recent political changes that have taken place in the country, the coronation of His Majesty the King and Bhutan’s pristine environment.

The delegation will receive an audience with His Majesty the King.

The delegation will also be calling on the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice. They will also be visiting places of historical and cultural interests in the Kingdom.

Senator John McCain contested the US Presidential elections in November as the Republican candidate and lost to Democrat Barack Obama.

The Foreign Ministry says the visit will contribute towards strengthening the growing linkages between Bhutan and the USA.


Monday, 1 December 2008

Bhutan : Royal Thimphu College to open July 2009

1 December, 2008 - By the next academic session, Bhutanese class XII graduates can look forward to study in the country’s first private college. The Royal Thimphu College is all set to open in July 2009 with more options in terms of seats and courses.

Spread over a 25-acre area in Nagbephu, about 10 km from Thimphu town, Royal Thimphu College will accommodate 300 students in the first year. The chief executive of the college, Tenzin Younten, said that the college will offer courses in computer applications, business administration, commerce and, art degrees ranging from English and environmental studies to sociology and political science.

The college is one of the constituent colleges of the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) after a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by the RUB, department of education and the promoter, Her Royal Highness Ashi Kezang Wangmo Wangchuck on May 11, 2007.

An education official said that, though RUB is expanding, it is under a lot of pressure to increase its intake with the increasing number of students graduating high school every year. He said that such private participation would definitely ease the pressure.

Tenzin Younten said that admissions for the college would start soon after the declaration of Class XII results in early 2009. The faculty recruitment for Bhutanese teachers will begin in December, while recruitment of foreign teachers will start in January. He also said that the college aims at having about 70 highly qualified and experienced national and international faculty members.

“The first phase of the construction of the college facilities is complete and we’re very much on track to open the college in July,” he said. He said that, when fully constructed, the campus would have 34 buildings, which include a library and IT centre, eight residential hostels for 500 students, football ground, multipurpose hall and other facilities. “We are planning to accommodate 900 students by 2011,” he said.

Asked about the admission fees, the chief executive said that they have submitted a range to the education ministry to consider. “We’re targeting comparable colleges in India, especially the south Indian colleges,” he said.

Tenzin Younten said that they had submitted their interest to the education ministry in 2006, followed by a detailed project proposal in February 2007.

“The physical aspect of the college is done and now we’re working on curriculum and institutional development,” he said.

By Phuntsho Choden


Thursday, 27 November 2008

Bhutan : His Majesty graces Gangtey Goenpa

26 November, 2008 - The 66-year old nun met with His Majesty the King, spoke to him, and offered thridar at the courtyard of the Gangtey Lhakhang where she was told His Majesty would visit. His Majesty accepted her thridar and in return presented to her a watch.

Kencho Wangmo said she would cherish the moment for the rest of her life. “I will always wear it and learn to guide my prayers that I’ll offer to His Majesty,” she said.

Hundreds of people from Bjena, Phobjikha and Gangtey under Wangduephodrang dzongkhag gathered to celebrate His Majesty’s Coronation on November 24, when His Majesty visited the 395-year-old restored Gangtey Sang Nga Choling monastery, the seat of the Pema Lingpa lineage, and prayed for the happiness and the well being of the people, continued peace, prosperity and security of the country, and long life of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

The monks and gomchens of Gangtey shedra and gomdey and the people received His Majesty in a traditional chipdrel procession to the lhakhang.

Led by Gangteng Trulku, monks and gomchens offered prayers of Tshepa Mey Ngidup Lawang followed by Zhugdrel Phunsum Tshogpa, and offerings of Ku Sung Thuk Mendrel and Tashi Zey Gyed to His Majesty.

His Majesty offered one thousand butter lamps at the dukhang to pay homage to Terton Pema Lingpa, the ancestor of the Wangchuck dynasty.

After the ceremony, His Majesty the King spent the rest of the day with the people and students.

Most people felt they were fortunate to offer their first thridar to His Majesty the King right after the coronation celebrations in Thimphu. “We’re fortunate because our Druk Gyalpo visited our village first after ascending the throne,” said Pema Choden, 48.

A group of 40 pilgrims from Dashang Kagyuling, a Buddhist institute based in France, who came to visit Gangtey Goenpa, was enthralled by the moment.

“We were on pilgrimage and never thought we’d see and offer thridar to the Monarch,” said Frances Cardot. “I’ll carry the memory back home.”

“I’ve never seen such a King, who smiled at everyone, shook hands with each individual and cared genuinely,” said another pilgrim, Jacqueline Juerdous.

By Rinzin Wangchuk


Sunday, 23 November 2008

Bhutan : Peaceful Dragon: Textiles Arts from the Kingdom of Bhutan begins

November 22: The ancient city of Augsburg in Germany is the venue of the Exhibition of Bhutanese textiles. Entitled “Peaceful Dragon: Textiles Arts from the Kingdom of Bhutan”, the exhibition was inaugurated yesterday by Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck.

Augsburg is a very old city in Germany and in fact was once upon a time a textile powerhouse. Today this picturesque city is the venue of the Exhibition of Bhutanese textiles titled- Peaceful Dragon: Textiles Arts from the Kingdom of Bhutan.

At the exhibition, visitors will get the chance to see fine specimen of Bhutanese textiles art ranging from the secular to the spiritual. Applique thangkas, royal namzas and intricately woven kiras that showcase the brilliance of Bhutan’s textile heritage and accessories like komas are on display at the museum.

The festival is being held at the Maximilian Museum. Artists and officials from the Textile Museum and the Royal Textile Academy came to Augsburg in advance to lay the ground for the exhibition.

The exhibition was inaugurated yesterday by Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck. Their Royal Highness the Princes Dasho Khamsum Singye Wangchuck and Princess Ashi Euphelma Choden Wangchuck will also grace the opening of the exhibition.

The exhibition’s opening will feature traditional Bhutanese ceremonies including Chipdrel and Marchhang. Clad in colorful costumes unique to Bhutan and dressed in their tshechu best, artists from the Royal Academy of Performing Arts will perform mask dances and traditional Bhutanese songs and dances.

Our reporter Tshewang Dendup says winter in Germany and Europe at large is marked by grey skies and cold weather. The Bhutanese delegation in Germany however has been receiving warm and cordial receptions from the people of Germany.

The historic events of 2008 including the Coronation of His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo which was covered by the German media has not only created awareness of Bhutan amongst the people of Germany but also generated a lot of goodwill.

The exhibition is an international celebration of the auspicious events of the Coronation of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as the Fifth Hereditary King of Bhutan, the Centenary of the Bhutanese Monarchy and the successful transition to a full fledged parliamentary democracy this year.

After its debut at the Maximilian Museum in Augsburg, the exhibition will travel to the city of Rosenheim where it will be on display from mid February to April 2009.


Friday, 21 November 2008

Bhutan : Tsirang Dzong consecrated

November 21: His Holiness the Je Khenpo consecrated the new Tsirang dzong on November 19. The Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley was the chief guest at the consecration ceremony.

The Tashi Rabney or the consecration ceremony of the new Tsirang dzong began with Sunchey at the Kunerey led by His Holiness the Je Khnepo.

The dzong is located around half a kilometer from the Damphu town. The construction of the dzong began in January 2004. It was constructed at a cost of over Nu. 147 million.

The dzong will serve as the administrative headquarter of Tsirang dzongkhag and house about 65 offices and the DYT Hall. The dzong, however, will not house the Judiciary and the Clergy.

The Project Engineer Lhabten Dorji said the dzong was actually due for completion in March this year. He said shortage of timber, skilled manpower and other construction material delayed the works. Lhabten Dorji said some 150 skilled workers were involved in the construction. Apart from daily wage workers, villagers from the 12 geogs of the Dzongkhag made labour contribution.

The courtyard of the dzong was packed with people from the 12 geogs who came for the consecration ceremony.

Some of the people said the dzong will bring all sectors under one roof. This, they said will ease the administrative burden. People said earlier when offices were located in different places it took them several days to get their work done.

Various cultural programmes were presented by the students and the people of the Dzongkhag.

The Education minister Lyonpo Thakhur Singh Powdyel, the Home and Cultural Affairs minister Lyonpo Minjur Dorji, Dzongdas, Drangpons and Lam Netens from Wangdue, Punakha and Sarpang dzongkhags also attended the consecration ceremony.


Monday, 17 November 2008

Bhutan : Bhutanese students in Darjeeling celebrate His Majesty’s coronation

November 17: The Coronation and the Centenary celebrations have not been confined within the borders of Bhutan. The events have also been celebrated by Bhutanese working and studying abroad and well wishers and friends of Bhutan in various parts of the world, from the hill station of Darjeeling in India to The Hague in the Netherlands and Perth in Australia. The latest of these celebrations was held by Bhutanese Students Association (BSA) in Darjeeling.

The celebration on Friday was held at St. Joseph’s School, the alma mater of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. Around 350 students from six Colleges in Darjeeling and some 80 students from St. Joseph’s School took part in the celebrations.

The programme began with the signing of the National Anthem.

The Principal of St. Joseph’s School Father Kinley Tshering gave a speech highlighting the importance of the Coronation and Centenary celebrations. He said the youth of Bhutan must think of what they can do for their country. The Association members also celebrated the 53rd Birth Anniversary of His Majesty the 4th Druk Gyalpo.

Bhutanese Students Association’s President Dawa Samdrup thanked the government for providing financial support for coronation and centenary celebrations.

Bhutanese students said they are happy for being able to take part in the celebrations though they are away from home.

Coinciding with the programme, the Bhutanese Students Association organized a cultural show and hosted a lunch to welcome new students joining the school.

Currently there are around 400 Bhutanese studying in Darjeeling.


Sunday, 16 November 2008

Bhutan : His Majesty confers the Order of the Druk Gyalpo

November 16: His Majesty the King conferred the Order of the Druk Gyalpo (1st class) to His Holiness Je Thrizur Tenzin Dendup and Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck yesterday. The ceremony took place at the throne room in the Tashichhodzong.

At the throne room in the Tashichhodzong, the momentous ceremony began with a Zhugdrel Phuensum Tshogpa followed by the marchang ceremony. His Majesty then conferred the order of the Druk Gyalpo (1st class) to His Holiness Je Thrizur Tenzin Dendup and Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck at the Tashichhodzong. His Majesty also offered Tashi Khadhar to His Holiness and Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother.

The Order of the Druk Gyalpo (1st Class) is the nation’s highest honour bestowed upon an individual who has devoted a lifetime of service to the Tsa-wa-sum. His Holiness and Her Majesty are the first recipients of this honour. Present at the ceremony were the fourth Druk Gyalpo, Their Majesties the Queenmothers, Their Royal Highnesses the Princes and Princesses and members of the Royal Family.

At the age of 84, His Holiness Je Tenzin Dendup is one of the most learned and prominent Drukpa Kayju Buddhist Masters of our time. Under the command of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo His Holiness brought about major reforms in the Zhung Dratshang thereby further strengthening and consolidating the institution and instituting the first Buddhist Shedra or Higher Learning Colleges at Tango and Cheri in Thimphu.

In 1967, His Holiness became the first Lopen or master of the then newly instituted Dubdey at Tango. He became the Dorji Lopen in 1985 and a year later, His Holiness became the 68th Je Khenpo.

In 1990, His Holiness relinquished the title of Je Khenpo, bringing an end to an illustrious career that spanned over five decades. However, His Holiness continues to be the patron of Tango and Cheri Buddhist Shedra, and wields immense influence in the world’s Buddhist and larger spiritual community.

Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck was born in 1930 in Kalimpong to Raja Sonam Tobgye Dorji and Mayum Choying Wongmo Dorji. She pursued her early education in St Joseph’s Convent in Kalimpong and later studied at House of Citizenship in England.

She became Queen to His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1951 at Paro and on the November 11, 1955, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck was born.

Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother has been one of the most important patrons of the living heritage and Buddha Dharma of Bhutan. Her Majesty has been responsible for the protection and restoration of many important national treasures, the construction of new religious monuments and the support of many religious institutions and practices throughout the kingdom.

Her Majesty has also been a major patron of annual prayers and pujas conducted for the well-being and security of the King, Country and People. Her Majesty’s keen interest in preserving the unique art, architecture and cultural heritage of Bhutan and promoting research and scholarship on the kingdom are other important contributions. Her Majesty has lived a lifetime of service to three generations of Kings and their people.

His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, their Majesties the Queenmothers, their Royal Highnesses the Princes and Princesses and the members of the Royal Family offered Tashi Khadhar to His Holiness the Je Thrizur and Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother.


Tuesday, 11 November 2008


It is with immense joy that we are gathered together on this most auspicious day. In these last 100 years the dreams and aspirations of our forefathers and the vision of our Kings have been fulfilled beyond all expectations. The wise and selfless leadership of our kings, the sacrifice and hard work of generations of Bhutanese and the special bond between the People and King have given us this unique and special nation – a jewel of the earth.

Two years ago, at a time of profound change I came onto the Throne as a young King. You, my people, in the spirit of generations past, worked with me with complete faith and gave me your wholehearted cooperation and goodwill. Thus, in these two short years while we have taken gigantic steps towards strengthening our nation, we have done so in a calm, deliberate manner in complete harmony. It is with great pride that we stand as a new democracy, having successfully completed an unprecedented and historic transition.

Yet we must always remember that as our country, in these changing times finds immense new challenges and opportunities, whatever work we do, whatever goals we have – and no matter how these may change in this changing world – ultimately without peace, security and happiness we have nothing. That is the essence of the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Our most important goal is the peace and happiness of our people and the security and sovereignty of the nation.

Our generation of Bhutanese have been gifted a strong, dynamic nation by our forefathers. I am confident that as long as we are willing to work with their commitment and dedication and follow their example we can bring greater peace, happiness and prosperity to our country.

I am confident because I know the worth and character of our people. You are the true jewel of this nation. As citizens of a spiritual land you treasure the qualities of a good human being – honesty, kindness, charity, integrity, unity, respect for our culture and traditions, love for our country and for God. Throughout our history our parents have upheld these values and placed the common good above the self.

My deepest concern is that as the world changes we may lose these fundamental values on which rest our character as a nation and people. It is critical that we are able to recognize Bhutanese character irrespective of how far we look back into the past or into the future. The Bhutan we see is vastly different - unrecognizable even - when compared to the Bhutan in the time of our first King. Yet, the character of our people and the nature of our fundamental values have remained unchanged. Henceforth, as even more dramatic changes transform the world and our nation, as long as we continue to pursue the simple and timeless goal of being good human beings, and as long as we strive to build a nation that stands for everything that is good, we can ensure that our future generations for hundreds of years will live in happiness and peace.

It is not because I am King that I ask these of you. Destiny has put me here. It is with immense gratitude and humility that at this young age, I assume the sacred duty to serve a special people and country. Throughout my reign I will never rule you as a King. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother and serve you as a son. I shall give you everything and keep nothing; I shall live such a life as a good human being that you may find it worthy to serve as an example for your children; I have no personal goals other than to fulfill your hopes and aspirations. I shall always serve you, day and night, in the spirit of kindness, justice and equality. As the king of a Buddhist nation, my duty is not only to ensure your happiness today but to create the fertile ground from which you may gain the fruits of spiritual pursuit and attain good Karma.

This is how I shall serve you as King.

I cannot end without addressing our most important citizens - our youth. The future of our nation depends on the worth, capabilities and motivation of today’s youth. Therefore, I will not rest until I have given you the inspiration, knowledge and skills so that you will not only fulfill your own aspirations but be of immense worth to the nation. This is my sacred duty. A strong motivated young Bhutan guarantees a strong bright future.

The future is neither unseen nor unknown. It is what we make of it. What work we do with our two hands today will shape the future of our nation. Our children’s tomorrow has to be created by us today.

I end with a prayer for Bhutan - that the sun of peace and happiness may forever shine on our people. I also pray that while I am but King of a small Himalayan nation, I may in my time be able to do much to promote the greater wellbeing and happiness of all people in this world – of all sentient beings.


His Majesty King Jigme Khesar crowned 5th Druk Gyalpo

November 8: The sun of happiness was shining brightly all over Bhutan as His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was crowned as the Fifth Druk Gyalpo in the sacrosanct Chamber of the Golden Throne in Tashichhodzong on November 6.

The Coronation of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is a momentous historic event, rare and unique as it was His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo who Crowned His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as the Fifth Hereditary King of Bhutan.

The ceremony began early in the morning with the monks of the Zhung Dratshang performing Lhasang Tashi Raykong or incense offering to the guardian deities in the royal altar room adjacent to the chamber of the Golden Throne.

This was followed by the Pel Dechog Khorlo Dompi Soong Chhoe or the invocation of the tutelary deity at the Kuenra. Three sacred thongdroels of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas were also unfurled.

His Majesty the King was escorted from the Dechencholing palace by the Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley, the Works and Human Settlement Minister Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba and Education Minister Lyonpo Thakur Singh Powdyel to the Tashichhodzong.

At the main ceremonial gate at Dechen Zam, His Majesty was received by the Chief Justice Lyonpo Sonam Tobgay, Speaker Jigme Tshultim, opposition leader Tshering Tobgay, the Chairperson of the National Council Namgay Penjore, cabinet ministers and senior government officials. His Majesty was escorted into the Tashichhodzong in an elaborate chhipdrel procession.

At the Tashichhodzong, His Majesty was received by His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo and His Holiness the Je Khenpo. His Majesty was escorted to the dais where he stood facing the Guru Thongdroel. His Majesty was presented the dance of the heroes by the Bji Bi Pawos. Following that marchhang was offered by the Royal Chamberlain Dasho Penjore, the Minister of Home and Cultural Affairs Lyonpo Minjur Dorji and the venerable Tshugla Lopen of the Zhung Dratshang Lopen Samten Dorji.

In the throne room, His Majesty stood facing His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and His Holiness the Je Khenpo. His Holiness the Je Khenpo and the monks recited the Coronation sutras. His Holiness then proceeded to the altar, raised the Raven Crown from the altar with tashi khaddar and delivered it to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

As the coronation serda commenced both within and outside the chamber, His Majesty the King ascended the pedestal in front of the supreme Golden Throne. His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo then crowned His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as the fifth hereditary king of Bhutan. His Majesty the King then ascended the Supreme Golden Throne.

This was followed by Zhug-drel Phuensum Tshogpi and marchang ceremony.

His Majesty the King was then offered the symbols of Ku, Soong, Thuk, Yonten and Thrinley or the body, speech, mind, qualities and deeds.

His Holiness the Je Khenpo made offerings of empowerment to His Majesty the King. It began with the offering of Gyalse Na-duen or the seven precious objects of the Universal Emperor, followed by the offering of Tashi Zegye or the eight auspicious elements.

The Tashi Ngasoel ceremony in the grand chamber of the supreme golden throne concluded with the recitation of Moenlam Drubgyal and Deshey Toenpa.

The Secretary to His Majesty the King then conveyed the Crown to altar in the kuenrey.

Following this, His Majesty the 4th Druk Gyalpo, offered thridar to His Majesty the King followed by His Holiness the Je Khenpo, the President of India, Her Majesty the Royal Grand Mother, their Majesties the Queen Mothers, members of the Royal Family, the Prime Minister and the dignitaries present in the throne room.


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Bhutan : His Majesty Jigme Khesar, truly a people's King

November 3: Tens of thousands of people waited along the way burning aromatic herbs and incense sticks as His Majesty the King returned to the capital from Punakha yesterday.

Many waved the national flag. Others held Tashi Khadhar and symbolic offerings of grains and fruits in their hand. The elderly waited patiently for their monarch with their hands held together in reverence and in prayer.

The road was filled with students waving the national flags. Shop owners and residents dressed in their finery occupied every space available. Bhutanese from all walks of life came out in their holiday best.

As the royal procession returned to the capital, the people of Bhutan were in a festive mood as they paid their tribute, affirmed their loyalty and expressed their love and affection to their Druk Gyalpo.

They awaited the arrival of His Majesty Jigme Khesar with offerings of grains and fruits. Many set up shrines with portraits of His Majesty. As the fragrant smoke of the incense and the saang wafted into the clear blue November sky, the atmosphere was indeed a special one, an experience of a lifetime.

At Simtokha, His Majesty the King was received by the Works and Human Settlement Minister Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, the trainees of the Royal Institute of Management and the public.

Deeply moved by the spontaneous expression of love and affection for their monarch, His Majesty the king alighted from the vehicle and walked on foot from Simtokha all the way to the Lingkana, passing along the expressway and through the main street of the town.

Along the way, His Majesty tried to speak to as many people as possible. Some of the people who have been waiting along the way, especially the elderly moved by the historic occasion broke down with joy.

Upon arrival at the gate of the Royal Cottage in the Lingkana, His Majesty the King was received by cabinet ministers and senior government officials. His Majesty the king was then escorted in chipdrel procession to the Royal Cottage.

At the Lingkana Royal Cottage, His Majesty was presented a guard of honor by the Royal Body Guards. It was followed by a Marchang ceremony.


Bhutan : His Majesty the King receives the sacred Dhar Nye-Nga from Machen at the Puna Dewai Chenpoi Phodrang

November 3: His Majesty the King received the sacred Dhar Nye-Nga from the holy Machen at the Puna Dewai Chenpoi Phodrang on November 1.

The sacred ceremony took place at the inner sanctum of the Machen Lhakhang.

The ceremony began in the early hours with Tsepamey Sungchoed led by His Holiness the 70th Je Khenpo and performed by the Zhung Dratsahng.

The sacred Sungchoed is meant to enable His Holiness and the monks to receive His Majesty the King. The ceremony began with Chipdrel procession. Lopnes of Zhung Dratshang, the Minister of Home and Cultural Affairs, officials from Punakha Dzongkhag and community leaders lined up along the way leading to the courtyard of the PDCP Dzong to receive His Majesty.

His Majesty was escorted by the Prime Minister, Chief Justice and Cabinet ministers from the Lingka.

At the main courtyard, His Majesty was received by Dratshang Mang, Latruels, and Lam Netens. At the middle of the courtyard, His Majesty was received by the Speaker, the Chairman of the National Council and the Opposition Leader. The Chipdrel procession leads to the Machen courtyard where His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and members of the royal family were already assembled.

Here, His Majesty the King exchanged Jeldhar with His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo and His Holiness the Je Khenpo.

At the Machen courtyard, the Gyalpoi Droyner offered the Marchang. Exactly at 10 am, His Majesty the King accompanied by His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and His Holiness the Je Khenpo entered the Machen Lhakhang.

At 10:03 am, the sacred ceremony at the Machey Lhakhang began with His Majesty the King, His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo and His Holiness paying obeisance to the holy Marchen.

His Majesty the King and His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo stands before the holy marchen and His Holiness stands facing His Majesty.

His Majesty is offered Wangkurwi Throesel or purification before empowerment with virtues of Kings by His Holiness the Je Khenpo.

The Serda or the sound of religion from the ante chamber of the Machey Lakhang joined by the Serda inside the Kuenra and the roof top of the Dzong signals His Majesty receiving of sacred Dhar Nye-Nga or the sacred sachets of silk blessed by the holy marchen.

The Dhar Nye-Nga is received each time a royal successor to the golden throne is invested as King.

The sacred ceremony inside the Machen ended with Moenlam and Tashi or concluding prayer or dedication.

The scared Machen Lhakhang has the sacred relics of Zhanbdrung Ngawang Namgyal resting in Thudham or permanent retreat.


Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Bhutan : New buses take nature on board

27 October, 2008 - Bhutan’s endangered species like tiger, golden langur, takin, red panda and black-necked crane will now accompany city bus passengers everywhere they go.

Sounds like a safari? Only, the animals are in pictures.

The concept of plastering stickers of these animals and nature elements onto the body of each of the 12 coaster city buses is to create public awareness on wildlife conservation.

The first of its kind to be done in the country, the idea, said World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) communication officer Tashi Tshering, is to reach the public in an unusual way.

“We’re portraying the richness of Bhutan’s natural abundance and hope that the public will understand that we have to create space, conserve and share what we have with others.”

Citing examples of neighbouring countries not intervening on time, Tashi Tshering said, “They’re trying to revive what is lost but we’re trying to do it now.”

The stickers, called decals, are specially treated plastic stickers, highly ultra violet protective, and water-proof, said the designers from Dato Creatives Tenzin Dorji and Rinchen Wangdi.

The medium they used for stickers is vinyl for the body and one-way vision for the glasses. “It took us about two months and, being the first time, it was quite challenging,” said Tenzin Dorji.

WWF country representative Kinzang Namgay said that it was a powerful travelling message. “Seeing is something and hearing is another thing. We hope that people get the message.”

The city bus general manager Chewang Gomdar said that the 19-seater coaster buses will begin service within the city from October 30, while the ten existing ones will ply the outskirts of the city.

The stickers are expected to last about two years if the public do not abuse them by peeling and scratching. WWF spent about Nu 500,000 on the stickers.

“The new concept is also a small gesture from WWF for the centenary and coronation celebrations,” said Tashi Tshering. Information and communications minister Lyonpo Nandalal Rai inaugurated the coaster buses.

By Sonam Pelden


Sunday, 26 October 2008

Bhutan : Graduates’ program graced by His Majesty

“What GNH means will never change but how we achieve GNH will.”

25 October, 2008 - “We would be starting our career and ending it together. We will see each other grow old over time. But more importantly, we will see each other become wiser, more capable, more intelligent, and we will see each other serve our country well.”

Addressing the over 1,220 centennial graduates on October 22, His Majesty the King said, “If the country does well we all stand to benefit. If it doesn’t we will suffer equally. We share the same destiny.”

His Majesty reminded the graduates about national goals and asked, “Why do we want a strong economy? Why do we want to preserve our culture and tradition and to protect our environment? Why did our forefathers work so hard and achieve so much? In the end it is for lasting peace, stability, and tranquillity of our country and the unity, harmony, and well being of our people.”

His Majesty said that if there was no love and harmony between our people, if the happiness and peace that we have today is lost, then somewhere along the way we have failed.

Security, His Majesty said, means more than physical defense of the nation. “I am actually talking about the security that comes when people are united in love for their country and united in their efforts to further secure, consolidate and hand over an even stronger nation to their children,” he said.

His Majesty said the goal of building a vibrant democracy was one of his biggest and most sacred responsibilities. Gross National Happiness (GNH), His Majesty said, “is the philosophy that acts as our national conscience, always guiding us to make better and wiser decisions for our future. It reminds us to always strive and work for the happiness and well being of every single Bhutanese at all times.”

He said it was important because, for a very small country like Bhutan with an even smaller population, it was extremely vital to share a national objective.

“We simply cannot afford to work in different directions. I have no doubt that GNH will always reflect the aspirations of our people and the interest of our nation. Therefore, GNH is our common goal.”

His Majesty said what GNH means would never change but how we achieve GNH would change in the fast changing globalised world, which would present both new opportunities and challenges for Bhutan. “GNH today for us is the bridge between the fundamental values of kindness, equality and humanity and, today, the necessary pursue of economic growth.

“But remember that it is the duty of every generation to find new ways of achieving the goals of GNH,” said His Majesty.

His Majesty said that, for this generation, building a vibrant democracy founded on a strong economy would be the means through which GNH would be achieved and aspirations of the people fulfilled.

Later, His Majesty took photographs with the graduates and interacted with them during the cultural program. His Majesty also granted lunch and ate together with the graduates.

Most graduates, Kuensel spoke to, say they were humbled by His Majesty’s gesture of coming to meet and talk to them, and share a meal with them.

“Nowhere around the world will you find such a modest and approachable leader or King. I feel lucky,” said Sangay Zangmo, a lab technology graduate from Chennai.

Dechen Wangmo Jigme, an electrical engineer and MBA graduate of Texas University, USA, said that the very fact His Majesty had taken time to address the graduates, that too at a time when coronation was just two weeks away, was an indication of utmost importance given to graduates. “It was very inspiring,” she told Kuensel.

Tashi Tenzin, a Simtokha graduate, said His Majesty sitting with them in the scorching sun and dust, to watch the cultural program, was most humbling.

“I was motivated by His Majesty’s advice and guidance of working together and achieving our country’s goals together,” said Pema Lhazin, a graduate from Delhi. “His Majesty is a natural orator as well.”

A Sherubtse graduate said Bhutanese were lucky to have selfless Kings until now. “Today, we’re assured that we have a young dynamic King to lead us further ahead,” he said.

By Rinzin Wangchuk & Kesang Dema


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Bhutan : Dzongkha text-book current status? – Making the best of a botched job

20 October, 2008 - The revision of the error-filled Dzongkha textbooks for classes IV to VIII has begun but education ministry officials say that these textbooks will not be withdrawn and reprinted for schools in 2009.

Department of school education’s director, Tshewang Tandin, said that textbooks would not be recalled because the cost implication would be huge and, instead, teachers would be instructed to correct the errors. “The textbooks are being proofread and then instructions on correction will be given to respective teachers,” he said.

To introduce the new dzongkha curriculum for classes IV to VIII in schools this year, the education ministry spent about Nu 1.84 million on the printing of books alone. About 75,000 dzongkha textbooks for classes IV to VIII were printed in 2007.

The errors were recently discussed and debated when education officials met with the dzongkha subject committee in Paro last week.

“According to the subject committee members, major errors weren’t made on the textbooks,” said the director, who cited the short period of time given to officials to develop the textbook and curriculum as one reason for the errors.

The subject committee members said that dzongkha was an evolving language and dzongkha development officials were in the process of standardising the language because of which, teachers felt, the errors were made, according to the director. “The correct spelling or sentences used in the textbooks were all debatable,” he said, adding that the dzongkha development commission was now working on standardising the language through a guidebook.

However, teachers said that the new textbooks were filled with numerous mistakes. Teachers and parents pointed out various spelling and grammatical mistakes, typing errors, poor sentence structure, and wrong use of words in the textbooks.

Education officials said that, to make textbooks error free in future, the textbooks would be proofread and copy edited before producing the final version. “We’ve also decided to set the copy editors accountable if errors are found on textbooks distributed in schools,” said Tshewang Tandin.

He also said that adequate time would be given to officials to develop the curriculum and revise textbooks.

Dzongkha teachers said that they had been correcting the mistakes while teaching, but failed to spot the errors in the textbook sometimes. “It’s risky, because students, especially in the lower grades, study what’s on the textbook and don’t identify an obvious mistake. Students should be given error-free textbooks,” said Karma Wangchuk, a dzongkha teacher in Thimphu.

By Phuntsho Choden / phuntshochoden@kuensel.com.bt