Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Bhutan : Seminar to commemorate 20 years of Thai-Bhutan friendship

April 28: The Royal Thai Embassy in Dhaka, the Royal Thai Consulate in Thimphu and the Royal Government of Bhutan organized a seminar to commemorate 20 years of friendship between Bhutan and Thailand today.

Her Royal Highness Ashi Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck was the chief guest at the seminar.

Bhutan and Thailand established bilateral relations in 1989. Since then, the people of Bhutan and Thailand have enjoyed close friendship. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of this friendship, Bhutan and Thailand organized a seminar on Gross National Happiness and self sufficiency economy.

In the opening speech, the Thai Ambassador to Bhutan Mr. Chalermpol Thanchitt highlighted the similarities between Bhutan and Thailand including the deep reverence the people have for their Monarchs and the love and devotion of the Monarchs for their people.

The Foreign Affairs Minister Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering said His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s philosophy of Gross National Happiness and the concept of self sufficiency economy propounded by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej are testimonies of the great wisdom of the two Monarchs.

He said the development cooperation between the two Kingdoms have made significant contributions in human resource, education, medicine and tourism over the last 20 years.

The Former Thai Foreign Minister Dr. Tej Bunnag gave a talk on the development activities instituted by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadeji of Thailand

The director of the centre for Bhutan studies Dasho Karma Ura made a presentation on Gross National Happiness. The seminar also saw discussions on bilateral development cooperation between the two countries.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Bhutan : Chapcha Dokhakay Goenpa to get new monastic school

April 27: Under the patronage of Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck, a new monastic school will be established in Chapcha Dokhakay Goenpa.

The expenses for the new monastic school are being borne entirely by Her Majesty.

Come this June, the Chapcha Dokhakay Goenpa will be the seed of learning for 30 monks. Yesterday, Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck awarded Tashi Khadhar to 13 monks who have enrolled for studies at the monastic school. Most of the 13 novice monks are students of schools in Chapcha.

As part of yesterday’s initiation ceremony, the Venerable Yangbi Lopen Chimi conducted Zhudrey Phuensum Tshogpa.

Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother also interacted with the novice monks and their parents. Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother was accompanied by Her Royal Highness Ashi Pema Lhaden Wangchuck.

All the expenses of the monastic school of Chapcha Dokhakay Goenpa will be born by Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother. While the Goenpa has a Lam appointed by the Zhung Dratshang, it will soon get a teacher for the new monastic school from the Zhung Dratshang.

The Chapcha Dokhakay Goenpa was constructed in the 8th century by Chozin Thinley. The Lhakhang was extended by Ap Changlo- an elderly resident of Chapcha.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty graces RBA Raising Day

April 25: His Majesty the King graced the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) Raising Day Celebrations at the Tencholing Military Training Centre in Wangduephodrang yesterday.

His Majesty was accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck and Her Royal Highness Ashi Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck.

His Majesty was escorted to the celebration ground in traditional Chibdrel procession where His Majesty received a guard of honour from Royal Body Guards, Royal Bhutan Army and Royal Bhutan Police. This was followed by His Majesty’s address to the gathering of the armed force personnel, their family and thousands of people.

As part of the celebrations, the armed forces and the students presented a cultural programme.

The programme ended with Tashi Labey.

His Majesty also hosted a lunch for the armed force personnel and the public. People also offered Tashi khadhar to His Majesty the king.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Bhutan : RCSC announces grade promotion for 10 senior government officials

April 22: The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) has announced grade promotion for 10 senior government officials.

The Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture Sherub Gyeltshen and the Finance Secretary Lam Dorji have been promoted to Executive Level 1 A.

The Secretary General of the National Council Tshewang Norbu, and the Attorney General Rinzin Penjor have been promoted to Executive Level 1 C.

The Director General of the Department of Culture Dorji Tshering and the Director General of the National Environment Commission Sonam Yanglay have been promoted to Executive Level 2 A.

The Director of the National Housing Development Corporation Phuntsho Wangdi and the Executive Director of the Construction Development Board Wangdi Gyeltshen have been promoted to Executive Level 3 A. The promotions for these officers come into effect from July last year.

The Executive Director of the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority Karma Dorji and the Executive Secretary of Phuenstholing City Corporation Kinzang Norbu have been promoted to Executive Level 3 A from January 2009.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty the King grants audience to the outgoing Indian Ambassador to Bhutan

April 21: His Majesty the King granted audience to the outgoing Ambassador of India to Bhutan Mr. Sudhir Vyas at the Tashichhodzong this morning.

Ambassador Sudhir Vyas was appointed as the Ambassador of India to Bhutan in July 2005. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1977.

During a long and prestigious career, he served as India’s Ambassador to the Cairo, Algiers, Nepal, to the UN in New York, Dar-es-Salaam, Islamabad, and Abu Dhabi. He also served as under secretary and joint secretary north in the Ministry of External Affairs.

Following the audience, His Majesty also hosted a lunch for the Indian Ambassador.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Bhutan : Chapter of animal cruelty closed

20 April, 2009 - The 1.15-acre mesh-wire fenced Memelakha dog pound enclosure, which was overcrowded with dogs just a few months ago, is now empty and silent.

After two years of chaos, the dog pound was emptied off the last batch of impounded dogs on Wednesday. A total of 80 impounded dogs were shifted to the Serbithang dog shelter.

“This chapter of animal cruelty has been closed,” said Jangsa Animal Trust volunteer, Sonam Norzin, who was hopeful that dog pounds in other parts of the country would close down as well. “The dogs transferred to Serbithang will be neutered and treated as quickly as possible.”

It was recently said that dog pounding was not the best solution to the stray dog population. What was needed, experts said, was to catch, sterilise and release the dogs back into their respective areas. The sick and the old would be kept in the Serbithang dog shelter.

The Humane Society International (HSI) – an international non-profit organisation for the welfare of animals - which has been carrying out the ‘pilot dog sterilisation programme’ in Thimphu for the last three months, has sterilized, vaccinated and released about 1300 stray dogs in Thimphu alone. They have extended their stay in the country by about two months and may go to other parts of the country to replicate their strategies.

Volunteers from Jangsa feel that veterinarians from across Bhutan should work together and neuter their stray dogs, rather than wait for the HIS team to carry out the neutering process in their region.

Meanwhile, the Serbithang dog shelter is said to be better equipped, with ample space for dogs to move about and sufficient amount of sunlight, as opposed to the Memelakha dog pound, which was on a steep slope and without enough sunlight, according to Jangsa volunteer Tshering Dema.

“The design for building the Serbithang shelter into a permanent structure, funded largely by the Brigitte Bardot foundation (for the welfare and protection of animals), has already been made and its construction is underway,” she added.

Thimphu city corporation has not decided on the use of the now empty Memelakha landfill. However, during a consultative meeting between the department of livestock and HSI, it was suggested that it could be used as animal shelters for animals that are severely injured and need medical care.

By Kunzang Choki

Friday, 17 April 2009

Bhutan : A forum to exchange and share knowledge

16 April, 2009 - Thimphu resident Buthri, 75, left for Nepal on April 5, three days before the annual Drukpa council (ADC) in Kathmandu began, because she heard that the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa Rinpoche - the reincarnation of Drogon Tsangpa Gyare (founder of the Drukpa lineage) and recognised and revered as the spiritual head of today’s Drukpa lineage - would be there.

On 8 April, before the sun rose, the old lady with her walking stick rushed to the Druk Amitabha mountain (where the ADC was being held), some 50 km from Kathmandu. There, along with thousands of worshippers and followers, Buthri waited for her Rinpoche in the scorching sun. His Holiness came to her with a smile. She folded her fingers and closed her eyes. She was so overwhelmed that tears streamed down her face.

There were thousands of devotees from Vietnam, America, Europe, Tibet and Ladakh (about10,000 in total), who had come for the ADC, initiated by His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa Rinpoche and planned to be now a yearly event. The ADC, the first of its kind in Drukpa history, gathered some 50 Drukpa masters from across the world to discuss promoting and making Drukpa teachings relevant to people in the modern world.

The chairman of ADC, His Eminence the 9th Kyabje Khamtrul Rinpoche, said that, in the absence of such meetings, the wisdom that the Drukpa masters of Bhutan have will remain in Bhutan only, and similarly the knowledge and wisdom that different masters have will remain within themselves. “This kind of forum will give an opportunity to exchange and share their knowledge with each other. The followers of the dharma will also get a chance to meet, listen and get wisdom from their masters.”

He added that the duty of any dharma holder was to provide chances to all living beings to listen to their teachings and put them into practice. “Generally any objective of the Buddha’s follower is to benefit others. There are various ways of doing that, such as giving happiness through special teachings like ADC or through social activities such as helping the poor”.

Devotees were more than happy. Nima Namgyel from Ladakh said there was no more significant occasion in his lifetime. “I’ve seen the live Buddha of compassion (referring to His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa Rinpoche),” said Nima. Most of the people said that it was the ADC that got people from all walks of life, from different countries, to see His Holiness and receive blessings from him, whom they regard as a living god.

Sonam from Bhutan said she wanted to be a true practitioner after listening to the teachings of the denpazhi (four noble truth) by His Holiness. The weeklong ADC will end today.

By Tenzin Namgyel

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Bhutan : Full steam ahead despite global meltdown

13 April, 2009 - There was a lot planned for infrastructure development in the 10th Plan and the present global financial crisis is not likely to affect its implementation, said the prime minister at a meeting with the Bhutanese media on Thursday in Thimphu. He also appealed to the private sector to play a more proactive role in the progress of the country.

The implementation of the 10th Plan has begun in earnest and the start up work for mega hydroelectric projects like Punatsangchhu was underway.

“We’re doing pretty good on the socio-economic development front despite a slow beginning,” said Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley. He said that the 10th Plan, which is almost four times the size of the 9th, would be at full steam by mid-summer. “The global meltdown shouldn’t affect us.”

The prime minister also stressed on the growth of the private sector, “especially the construction sector, which has a pervasive impact on the growth of the entire economy”. He said that the private sector could become more dynamic, innovative and play a greater role than it was doing at present, with respect to the development of the economy. “The private sector has been, over the years, the beneficiary of receiving a large infusion of highly trained, educated, skilled and experienced people from the government and they haven’t reflected and thought hard enough to think out of the box.”

“Besides supporting the private sector through government activities and the privatisation of some government businesses, the private sector will have a larger role in policy formulation on economic matters, particularly where it concerns the private sector,” said the prime minister.

A civil society commission has been established, the prime minister said.

The process of forming a non-governmental organization would be less cumbersome, he said. “Existing civil societies will be supported by the government, which would encourage and stimulate the growth of civil societies, at the national level, dzongkhag level, as well as the local level.”

By Kunzang Choki

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Bhutan : Government will soon enforce stricter rules for bar license holders in the country

April 7: The government will soon be enforcing stricter rules while issuing bar licenses in the country. According to the department of trade there are more than 6,500 bars in the country. That’s one bar for every hundred Bhutanese. Hospital record also shows a proportionate increase in the number of people suffering from alcohol related diseases.

Travel to any part of the country, be it a small village or a big town, bars are everywhere. There are 6,500 bars in the country. Bars have mushroomed over the last so many years. To ensure that bars do not proliferate, the department says it will soon enforce stricter rules for issuing bar license.

Tax and fees on bar license will be increased and the dry day and bar closing time more strictly enforced strictly. It is apparent something has to be done.

Alcohol related disease is the third major cause of death at the national referral hospital. In 2008, the hospital treated around 90 patients with alcohol related illnesses. 21 of them died. So far this year, the hospital recorded 12 deaths from diseases directly linked to alcohol.

Doctors attributed the increasing number of patients coming to receive treatment for alcohol related disease to the easy availability of alcohol.

The Army Welfare Project distillery in Gelephu produces about 500,000 cases of alcohol every year. Of that 400,000 are consumed in Bhutan. Only about 100,000 are exported. The country also imported Nu 76 million worth of alcohol in 2008.

According to psychiatrists, alcohol dependent people also suffer from mental disorders. Dr Chencho Dorji, a psychiatrist at the national referral hospital in Thimphu said the long term effects of alcohol is more severe as it affects the brain causing different kinds of mental disorders.

Apart from deaths from alcohol related diseases, drunk driving is a leading cause of accidents. Traffic records show about fifty accidents caused by drunk driving in Thimphu alone last year.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Bhutan : Paro Tshechu sees a sharp drop in the number of tourists

April 7: The Paro Tshechu, one of the most popular festivals in the kingdom, has begun. Every year it attracts thousands of tourists from across the world. But this year, because of the global economic crisis, the festival is seeing a sharp drop in number of tourists. The slump has not only affected tour operators but also hoteliers and resort owners in Paro.

Thousands of people throng the Deyangkha ground as the Paro Tshechu begins. Usually there will be as many camera totting tourists in the Tshechu ground as people from Paro, Thimphu and other neighbouring dzongkhags. This year, there aren’t as many tourists.

The Tshechu is an important occasion for the people. Apart from the religious and cultural significance, the festival is an important social occasion. For the elderly, coming to the Tshechu is an act of devotion. The young come here to socialize and generally have a nice time. It is also an occasion to flaunt the sesho ghos and kiras. The fairer sex come bedecked with jewelry.

The Paro Tshechu attracts thousands of tourists from across the world. But this year, the situation is quite different. In the Dey-yang-kha ground, there aren’t as many tourists jostling among the crowd as they try and focus their cameras on the mask dancers or the atsaras joking with the people. The sitting gallery is mostly occupied by Bhutanese.

The Dzongkhag Administration Officer Tshewang Dorji has been coordinating the festival for the last few years. He told BBS that compared to the past years, tourist arrival at the Tsechu this year is minimal.

The economic slump has also hit hotels and resorts in Paro. There are over 40 resorts and hotels in Paro. Most of them remain packed during the Tshechu season. But this year, most of the proprietors and managers have the same story to share. Most of the rooms are lying vacant.

Tour operators, hoteliers, and resort owners are all reeling from the global economic crisis. For them, the Paro Tshechu this year will not be as festive as the previous years or as lucrative.

The Tshechu will end with the unfurling of Guru Thongdrel in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Bhutan : HRH Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck marries Dasho Phub Dorji

April 5: Her Royal Highness Princess Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck was married to Dasho Phub Dorji at the Mothithang palace today.

The Tendrel ceremony of the Royal wedding today was performed by His Holiness Gyalse Trulku. His Majesty the King, His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, Her Majesty the Royal Grand Mother, Their Majesties the Queen Mothers and members of the royal family attended the ceremony.

Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck graduated from Harvard Law School with an LLM in 2007 and started work at the High Court of Bhutan. Her Royal Highness has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University in the US. Her Royal Highness interned with a highly reputed legal firm in San Francisco and returned to Bhutan to complete the Post Graduate Diploma in National Law.

Dasho Phub Dorji has a Masters degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Economics from George Washington University. He topped the 2004 civil service examinations and currently works in the Finance Ministry.

After the marriage ceremony, His Majesty the King, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Her Majesty the Royal Grand Mother, Their Majesties the Queen Mothers, other royal family members and well-wishers offered Tashi Khadhar.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Bhutan : Government owned corporations struggle to retain and recruit competent employees

April 2: The management of government owned service oriented corporations says they are struggling to retain and recruit competent employees. They are losing more experienced employees to better paying profit oriented corporations. This could affect the overall growth of their organizations and the quality of their service, they said.

The government has said they are working on the salary for corporations. But a recent Cabinet announcement has dampened the mood of the management as well as the employees in government corporations.

According to the announcement, employees of state owned enterprises are paid 15 percent more than the civil service. It says this was done at a time when there was a need to attract people to join the corporate sector but the scenario is no longer relevant. Government owned corporations disagree with most managing directors saying that they are still struggling to retain experienced, competent employees or find quality people to join their corporations.

The managing director of Bhutan Post Tseten Geltsen said they recently announced the vacancy for the post of a company secretary. Not a single candidate applied for the post. He said that’s because the salary is not attractive enough.

The management of several government owned corporations like Bhutan Development Finance Corporation, the Food Corporation of Bhutan, and Bhutan Broadcasting Service said they cannot get quality people because of the long working hours and comparatively poor salary.

The civil service, they point out, is still preferred because of job security as well as prestige, social position, and opportunities. They also enjoy several perks and privileges which are not available in corporations.

Nawang Gyeltshen, the Managing Director of Bhutan Development Finance Corporation said BDFC has lost many experienced employees to other financial institutions who pay more and provide better perks and privileges.

He said they are likely to lose some more people if the government does not look into the salary of government owned service oriented corporations.
The managing director of Bhutan Post said low salary could also lead to fraudulent practices especially in corporations like Bhutan Post where people deal with cash everyday.

The managing directors of service oriented corporations said it is still relevant to pay corporate employees 15 percent more than the civil service.
At the moment, a fresh university graduate who joins any of the service oriented government owned corporations gets between Nu 11,000-12,000. Profit making corporations pay above Nu 16,000.

General Managers and Division Heads of service oriented corporations draw between Nu 19,000-21,000. Their counterparts in profit making corporations earn more than 50,000. The Managing Directors of service oriented corporations are paid Nu 30,000-40,000. The managing directors of profit making corporations earn a maximum of Nu 130,000.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Bhutan : Penor Rinpoche passes away

2 April, 2009 - His Holiness Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche, 77, one of the most profound Buddhist spiritual teachers, passed away on March 27 in India following a chronic illness.

Rinpoche was the third Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche, the eleventh throne-holder of the Palyul lineage and a former supreme head of the Nyingma school in Mysore, India. He was born in 1932 in the Powo region of Kham in Tibet.

Ugyen Wangchuk, a Bhutanese monk in Mysore, via a telephone interview, said that all the trulkus, khenpos and sangha of Namdroling monastery were mourning the loss of a great teacher, who guided and nurtured all monks like his own children.

He said that, at present, Rinpoche’s body was in a meditative state and might be displayed for public blessing on the 10th and 15th day of the 2nd month in the lunar calendar. He also said that his followers worldwide are performing prayers. Rinpoche has thousands of devotees in India, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and in the west.

Before Rinpoche’s demise, Bhutan’s Ambassador to India, V Namgyal, represented His Majesty the King, the government and the people of Bhutan at a special prayer ceremony on March 21. Ugyen Wangchuk added that the devotees had actually arranged the ceremonial prayer for Rinpoche’s long life.

The gathering at Sogyal Rinpoche’s teaching in Thimphu on March 28 also dedicated a moment of thought for late Penor Rinpoche. Meanwhile, special prayer ceremonies are being conducted across Bhutan.

The prime minister, Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley, told media that Bhutan would always remember Penor Rinpoche as a great master and teacher. He said that Rinpoche had made special contributions to the promotion and advancement of Buddhadharma in Bhutan.

By Samten Yeshi