Wednesday, 26 March 2008

National Assembly election results declared

March 25: Druk Phuensusm Tshogpa has won the country’s first National Assembly election with a landslide victory. The party won 44 of the 47 seats in the National Assembly. The People’s Democratic Party won three seats.

The Election Commission formally declared the results of the National Assembly election at a press conference this morning. Druk Phuensum Tshogpa having won the majority of the seats in the National Assembly, 44 of the 47 seats, was declared the ruling party. The People’s Democratic Party has won three seats. It was declared the opposition party.

The Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said except for a few minor lapses and problems, the National Assembly election went smoothly. He said more than 79 percent of the voters turned up to take part in the country’s first National Assembly election. 253,012 voters turned up to exercise their franchise. Of that 17,119 voted by using postal ballots.

Dasho Kunzang Wangdi also read out the names of the 47 candidates who have been elected as members of the National Assembly. The Chief Election Commissioner attributed the success of the parliamentary election to the voters who turned out in large numbers to vote and the hard work of election officials, security personnel, and presiding and polling officers.

Dasho Kunzang Wangdi offered gratitude to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo for His Majesty’s visionary leadership and the precious gift of democracy and His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck for being a constant source of inspiration and motivation and His Holiness the Je Khenpo and the monastic body for their prayers and blessings for the success of the election.

The Chief Election Commissioner also expressed his gratitude to the Indian Government for providing electronic voting machines, helicopter service to airlift election officials and materials to Lunana and ensuring security along the border.

The National Assembly election was observed by 52 National Observers and 42 International Observers. 124 media personnel from 71 international broadcast and print media agencies covered the election.

The government of India has congratulated the Royal Government of Bhutan on the successful conduct of the National Assembly election yesterday.

In a news release, the government of India described yesterday’s election as a great moment in Bhutan’s history. It says His Majesty’s personal guidance, meticulous planning and constant support through out the election process have contributed to the success of the election.

It also attributed the success of the election to the determination of the people of Bhutan to fulfill His Majesty’s vision of Bhutan’s transition to a constitutional democratic monarchy.

The news release says the government of India remains committed to providing all possible assistance to the Royal Government of Bhutan during its period of transition.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

A landslide for Druk Phuensum Tshogpa

24 March, 2008 - The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, led by Jigmi Y Thinley, secured a landslide victory in Bhutan’s historic National Assembly elections today winning 44 of the 47 seats to the National Assembly.

The DPT won all the seats in the eastern, central and southern constituencies. The People’s Democratic Party’s Damcho Dorji, Rinzin Dorji and Tshering Togay won in Gasa, Chukha and Haa.

The PDP president, Sangay Ngedup, lost in his constituency, Kabji-Talo under Punakha, to DPT’s Tshering Penjore.

Former health minister, Dr Jigmi Singay and several other candidates considered to be sure winners all lost by substantive margins.

DPT’s five former ministers, referred to as “old wine in new bottles” during the election campaign, came through comfortably.

The results of the elections surprised many Bhutanese people who had expected a closer contest between the two parties.

According to the election commission of Bhutan, the voter turnout was close to 80 percent of the 318,465 registered voters.

Monday, 24 March 2008

97,921 cast vote in first two hours of polling

24 March, 2008 - Of the 318,465 voters on the electoral roll, 97,921 had cast their votes by around 11 am this morning in the National Assembly election according to officials of the election commission of Bhutan.

Polling began at 9 am in 865 polling stations across the country.

The highest voter turnout so far, in percentage, was at Lingmukha-Toewang Constituency under Punakha dzongkhag where 64.34 percent of the registered voters had cast their votes by 11 am. DPT’s Namgay Wangchuk and PDP’s Dr Tandin Dorji are contesting from this constituency, which has 5,320 registered voters.

In terms of number of people who voted, the highest was at Bongo-Chapcha Constituency under Chukha dzongkhag with 4,603 votes cast by 11 am. PDP’s Kinzang Dorji and DPT’s Ugay Tshering are contesting from this constituency, which has 10,443 registered voters.

Meanwhile, the lowest turnout in percentage was at Shompangkha constituency in Sarpang dzongkhag where only 12.23 percent of its 9,201 voters had polled by 11 am. DPT’s N L Rai is contesting against PDP’s Pejore Rumba from Shompangkha.

In actual numbers, the lowest turnout was at Goenkhatoe-Laya constituency under Gasa dzongkhag, where 261 of its 768 voters had cast their votes by 11 am. PDP’s Damcho Dorji and DPT’s Sangay Thinley Dorji are contesting from this constituency, which has the least number of registered voters.

Election commissioner Deki Pema said that said so far voting had been peaceful and smooth in all polling stations and there were no reports of untoward incidences so far.

There were, however, a few reports of voters going to the wrong polling station, showing up without the voter photo identity card (VPIC) and three voters had showed up in the wrong constituency.
Polls will close at 5 p.m and counting of the votes will begin. The election results will be broadcast live on BBS TV and Radio from the national counting center in Thimphu. The election commission will hold a press conference at 9 pm this evening on the results received from the constituency counting centres.

The results will be formally declared tomorrow at 8 am.

Historic polls set to begin as Bhutan ends royal rule

THIMPHU (AFP) - Voting began in the small Himalayan nation of Bhutan Monday, in elections that will select the country's first ever democratic government and mark the end of absolute royal rule by the revered Wangchuk dynasty.

Voting was began at 09:00 am (0300 GMT) for 47 members for the lower house, with the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) or Bhutan United Party locked in a tight race for power.

The country's young Oxford-educated King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk made a strong pitch at the weekend for his subjects -- many of whom have been reluctant to bring in democracy -- to cast their vote judiciously.

"This election is not about choosing a winner from among two candidates or two parties. This election and the democracy that we will build are the result of the sacrifice and hard work of generations of Bhutanese people," he said.

Over 318,000 of the nation's 670,000 people were eligible to vote for the two parties, which have made similar promises to boost growth and develop roads and other infrastructure, making it a tough choice for many voters.

Polling stations were to close at 5:00 pm (1100 GMT) and the preliminary results were expected within hours, transforming Bhutan into the world's newest democracy.

Final official results would be declared on Tuesday in the country, which is sandwiched between India and China and has been called a "Himalayan Eden" because of its breathtaking mountain scenery and clean air.

"People are going to vote on the basis of the candidate's image and past performance, and also on the basis of personal ties," said Gopilal Acharya, editor of private newspaper Bhutan Times.

The kingdom's move to democracy began in 2001 when former king Jigme Singye Wangchuk handed over daily government to a council of ministers and finally stepped down in favour of his son in late 2006.

Since then, both father and son travelled tirelessly around the state to explain to its people why the nation should embrace democracy.

"The former king said, 'Today you have a good king, but what if you have a bad king tomorrow', " said Kinley Dorji, managing director of the national Kuensel newspaper. "The argument was irrefutable."

The former king was most famous for conceiving the concept of gross national happiness as yardstick to measure the isolated nation's wellbeing.

Officials said they expected more than 70 percent turnout after tepid responses in last year's mock polls to familiarise voters with the process, and recent elections for the upper house.

The political parties have put immense pressure on people to vote. So they will turn up in huge numbers," said chief election commissioner Kunzang Wangdi.

People can cast their vote only in their home towns so thousands took leave to go to their remote villages. Streets in capital Thimphu were deserted over the weekend and many shops and businesses were closed.

"Because of this vote, many people are going home after years," said Tashi Wangdi, editor-in-chief of Bhutan Observer newspaper.

Helicopters dropped election guidelines to inaccessible locations while mules carried voting apparatus to ballot stations.

Both the parties are led by two-time former prime ministers, and are heavily stacked with experienced bureaucrats.

The PDP is headed by Sangay Ngedup, who is the brother of the former king's four queens -- all sisters, and is said to enjoy wide support in rural areas.

DPT head Jigmi Thinley is described as sharp and sophisticated, and is known for his zeal for preserving of the country's culture.

Security was tightened after several small bombings blamed on communist rebels operating from Nepal over the past few months.

Tens of thousands of ethnic Nepalese fled from southern Bhutan to Nepal after a cultural campaign to encourage the use of Bhutan's national language and dress, and have been living in refugee camps.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Paro Tsechu attracts record number of tourists

March 21: The annual Paro Tshechu is attracting a record number of tourists this year. The five day annual Tshechu began on March 17 and conclude today with the unfurling of the Guru Thongdrel Chenmo.

The Paro Tshechu is one of the most popular festivals in the kingdom. It attracts a large number of tourists every year. This year, it has attracted a record number of tourists.

To cater to the increasing number of tourists, the Druk Air has introduced additional flights from March 15 to March 21 to the Nepalese capital Katmandu and Thai capital Bangkok.

At the Tshechu, Dzongkag offcials are giving the commentaries in Dzonkha as well as in English.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Trongsa Ta-dzong renovation nears completion

March 19: The renovation of the 16th century Ta-dzong or the watch tower in Trongsa is almost complete.

According to the curator, the structural renovation will complete by May this year. It will be inaugurated in June.

The Ta-dzong was used as a watch tower in the past. Now it used be converted as a museum.

Like all the other Ta-dzongs across the country, the Ta-dzong in Trongsa is located on a hillock overlooking the valley below. From here, you can see anybody approaching the dzong. It is not difficult to see why the Ta-dzong was built here.

Built in 1652 by Choeje Minjur Tenpa, the Ta-dzong was used as a watch tower to look out for approaching enemies. Over the years, with Bhutan enjoying unprecedented peace, the Ta-dzong here fell into disuse as did other Ta-dzongs in other parts of the country.

In 2006, the government decided to renovate the Ta-dzong realizing its importance in the history of Bhutan. At the moment about 100 carpenters, masons, and labourers are putting the final touches. With the renovation work complete, the Ta-dzong will be converted as a museum.

The curator, Dorji Namgay, said the displays in the museum will include among other artifacts, the Raven Crown of the first and second hereditary monarchs of Bhutan.

The museum is being built at a cost of over Nu. 100 million with financial support from the government and Austria.

Dry run for Smithsonian Folklife Festival

March 19: Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck graced the launch of the dry run for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in the capital yesterday.
The dry run is being held to prepare for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival which will be held in Washington DC in the United States from June 25 to July 6 this year. The festival will focus on the living traditions of Bhutan.
Her Majesty is the honorary chair of the leadership committee. Their Royal Highnesses Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck, and Ashi Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck also graced the occasion.
His Royal Highness Dasho Jigyel will lead the delegation to the Smithsonian Festival in Washington DC in the United Sates later this year.
The Prime Minister Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji, senior government officials, the venerable Tshenyi Lopen, and the resident representative of UNDP Mr. Nicholas Rossellini were also present at the launch.
The Director of the Department of Culture, Dorji Tshering, said the Smithsonian festival is an important opportunity to take Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage to the American people.
Her Majesty the Queen and Their Royal Highnesses visited the stalls where artisans and craftsmen display skills in the rich arts and crafts of the kingdom.
At the exhibition, visitors can relish the traditional kitchen where genuine Bhutanese cuisines are created, watch skilled artisans creating products unique to our kingdom, witness performances of mask dances, drama and folk songs, soak the tranquil setting of monastic life as monks, perform ceremonies and create sand mandalas, learn more about Bhutan’s rich and pristine environment and enjoy traditional Bhutanese sports like archery, khuru, degor and soksum.
The dry run of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival here in the capital is open to the public. Bhutan will be the centerpiece of the 42nd Smithsonian Folklife Festival which will be held in Washington DC in the United States from June 25 to July 6 this year. More than 1.5 million people are expected to attend the Smithsonian folk life festival in Washington DC.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Bhutan prepares for the Smithsonian folk life festival

March 13: Preparations are under way in the capital for the Smithsonian folk life festival which will be held in Washington D.C. in the United States. The festival will be held from June to July.

The 42nd Smithsonian Folk life Festival in Washington D.C., USA will open in June and end in July.

This year the festival will focus on the living traditions of Bhutan. Here in Thimphu, a trial exhibition will open next week.

The festival in Washington D.C. is described as the largest living exhibition of all aspects of Bhutanese life and culture ever presented outside the kingdom. The festival will celebrate Bhutan's special approach towards life in the 21st century, which, as national policy, is described as the pursuit of "Gross National Happiness."

More than 100 Bhutanese artists, dancers, craftspeople, cooks, carpenters, farmers, and representatives of monastic life will travel to Washington to take part in the festival and celebrate the living traditions that define and sustain our culture.

Artisans will demonstrate Bhutan's 13 traditional arts. Weavers will showcase the diversity of complex weaving traditions that have made Bhutanese textiles some of the most coveted in the world today. Sculptors, painters, and carvers will demonstrate the skilled arts that continue to adorn monasteries and temples, as well as most Bhutanese homes. Monastic dancers will perform mask dances from the highly choreographed and symbolic sacred festivals, the tshechu.

Some 1.5 million people are expected to attend the exhibition.

Only 71 graduates turn up for 153 job vacancies

March 13: The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) has announced 153 job vacancies for graduates who appeared for the Civil Service Common Examination last year but could not qualify for the much coveted administrative and financial cadres. Only 71 graduates turned up for the allotment.

All the 71 graduates who turned up for the job allotment were given jobs. RCSC officials said their placement was based on merit ranking and subject requirements.

The graduates were also briefed by officials from the RCSC, GNH Commission and the National Land Commission Secretariat.

GNH Commission wants to enroll 128 graduates as Gewog Administrative Officers (GAO). The National Land Commission Secretariat requires 24 graduates as assistant land registrar.

Explaining the low turn out, the Deputy Chief Human Resource Officer of RCSC Dorji Tshering said many of the graduates may have found jobs in private and corporate sectors.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

March 11: His Holiness the Je Khenpo consecrated the Tashichoeling Lhakhang in Tashiling under Tangsibji gewog in Trongsa on Sunday, March 9.
The construction of the lhakhang was started in 2002 and completed last month. The main nangten of the lhakhang is a 31 feet statue of Cha tong Chen tong or Avalokiteshvara.
The Lhakhang was built at a cost of over Nu. 20 million. The construction was funded by His Holiness the Je khenpo, Lam Tshering Wangdi of Menjong Choethuen Tshogpa.
The painting of the Lhakhang was sponsored by the former National Assembly speaker Ugyen Dorji, who was also present at the consecration ceremony.
Sector heads and local people attended the consecration ceremony.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

BOC’s unspent millions

5 March, 2008 - While the rest of the world is actively engaged in the final stages of their preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, an accountant of the Bhutan Olympic Committee in Thimphu is in the process of returning to the government around Nu 5.4 million of unused Olympic funds.
“These funds were supposed to be allotted for training our athletes in various federations to help prepare for the Olympics,” admitted a frustrated Yonten Tharchen, joint secretary of BOC since 2005. “But it’s being returned because BOC has simply failed to meet even once to decide on a Olympic strategy ever since the Beijing games were announced.”
This in the face of federations and athletes clamouring for more funds to help them prepare for events like the Olympics, so that at least they stand a chance of qualifying.
According to the BOC constitution, the committee is supposed to meet twice a year to take important sporting decisions. But in the past two years, only one meeting was held.
“For events like the Olympics, meetings are supposed to be held two years in advance, where all 14 federations meet to select teams and then give the budget and training support, which never happened,” said a BOC official.

Bhutan did participate in the qualifying rounds for Archery and Taekwondo but, on the initiative of the respective federations instead of any real BOC guidance. Bhutan failed to qualify.
Bhutan’s participation in the Beijing Olympics hinges on a wild card lottery invitation in archery, as has been the case in the past, so that our two lone archers can participate.

It’s a similar story with the South Asian Federation games to be held in Dacca later this year, with another Nu 1.6 million of prepatory and participatory funds, so far unused, also being returned.
The problem in recent times has been accentuated with BOC not having a general secretary, who resigned last year in October to join politics. Similarly presidents of various federations like Athletics, Taekwondo, Table Tennis and Cricket resigned last year to join politics. Even then, these presidents have only had largely ceremonial roles, with the real job being done by the BOC general secretary.
The committee is also still unsure whether it is an NGO or an autonomous body, with no clear government signals since 2002.
“We’ve had a tough time after our general secretary left to join politics but, then again, the various federations have taken no real initiative to ask or call for a meeting,” said the president of BOC, Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji. “In fact, most of them have overused their funds, with no visible results, and so we’re careful about any fund allocation.”

Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji said that, in order to solve the longstanding problems of BOC since its formation, a comprehensive rehaul plan of BOC was in the pipeline.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

"100 years of Monarchy- A tribute to our beloved kings," released

March 1: Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck released a book titled “100 years of Monarchy-A tribute to our beloved kings,” yesterday

At a ceremony to mark the event were Her Royal Highness Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck and the Prime Minister Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji.

In the foreword to the book, Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck says 100 years ago, the wheels of our collective destiny as a people of Bhutan were turned on that auspicious day as the Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck took on reins as the first king of Bhutan.

A100 years later, our nation stands strong and united, our people enjoy peace, progress and increasing prosperity and our innate rich culture, spirituality and natural heritage flourish.

The book, a pictorial tribute to Bhutan’s beloved monarchs, captures significant events over the 100 years that have shaped the destiny of the country.

The book offers rare glimpses into the private moments in the lives of Bhutan’s monarchs, past and present. The book priced at Nu. 3,000 is jointly compiled by Rabsell Media Services and RENEW, a non-profit organization.

Part of the proceeds from the sale o the book will go to RENEW to uplift women and girls from financially disadvantaged background.

Fire season sparks off

1 March, 2008 - A 300-year-old lhakhang was razed to the ground by a forest, fire that started 11:30 on Thursday, above Satsam Chorten in Paro, and has still not been brought under control.

According to a Paro dzongkhag official, nothing could be salvaged from the Dogsum lhakhang, a private lhakhang, which was destroyed in minutes by the fire.

The lhakhang was the dengsa (seat) of Dupthob Sangay Bjorden, according to the Paro Dzongda, Namgay Wangchuk. “All the nangtens were destroyed,” he said. The owner and the caretaker left for Satsam Chorten to call for help when the fire destroyed the lhakhang.

Another fire, which started above the Taktshang Goenpa (Tiger’s Nest) also destroyed hundreds acres of forest. But no loss of property was reported.

Meanwhile, the capital city was engulfed under a thick blanket of smoke when the forest fire, that started above the Dechencholing Goenpa, at the same time as the Paro fire, could not be brought under control for almost two days. Yesterday morning, visibility was reduced to about 200 hundred metres when smoke engulfed the capital city. Hundreds of volunteers from the Royal Bhutan Army, Royal Bhutan Police, Royal Body Guards, and forestry officials are still fighting the fire.

The fire was suspected to have caused by a spark from an electrical transmission line. Fire fighters told Kuensel that the steep cliff and falling stones made it difficult to fight the fire.

Some Thimphu residents called up the media saying that the fire had engulfed the Wangditse monastery when huge billows of smoke started arising from behind. However, the fire has not as feared spread to the monastery.

Je Khenpo on first tour of the year

1 March, 2008 - In the first major religious tour of the male earth rat year, His Holiness the 70th Je Khenpo, Trulku Jigme Chhoeda, left Punakha Dzong yesterday to visit eastern and central Bhutan on a 40-day programme.

His Holiness will preside over the five-day Moenlam Chhenmo (Great Prayer ceremony) which begins tomorrow in Gelephu.

During his religious tour, His Holiness will also conduct the annual Moenlam Chhenmo in Trashiyangtse, one-week Mani Dungdrup in Trongsa and consecrate Tangbi Tashiling monastery, also in Trongsa.