Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Bhutan : Peradeniya University in Sri Lanka to take Bhutanese students to study medicine

March 30: The Peradeniya University in Sri Lanka will take between five to 10 Bhutanese students every year to study medicine. An agreement to this effect was signed by the Education Minister Lyonpo Thakhur Singh Powdyel while he was in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo to attend the first meeting of SAARC Education Ministers this week.

The agreement will be implemented for five years initially.

While in Colombo, Lyonpo Thakur Singh Powdyel also had bilateral meetings with his SAARC counterparts and discussed possibilities of collaboration in areas like Fine Arts for Bhutanese students in Bangladesh.

The Education Minister said similar MoUs will be signed with the University of Kelaniya and the University of Colombo. The delegation also met Bhutanese students in Colombo and Thailand.


Sunday, 22 March 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty grants audience to 69 needy students and 19 class toppers from schools under Lhuentse Dzongkhag

March 20:His Majesty granted audience to 69 needy students and 19 class toppers from schools under Lhuentse Dzongkhag on Friday. His Majesty granted an annual education allowance to the needy students to support their education. Speaking to the students, His Majesty told them to strive for excellence.

His Majesty also met with 37 destitute individuals from various parts of Lhuentse. His Majesty will grant a monthly stipend to support them most of whom are senior citizens.

His Majesty also met with 36 shopkeepers of Phaling and Gorgan and granted land and timber kidu to them. His Majesty reminded the shopkeepers of their crucial role in the economic development of the nation. His Majesty also granted audience to Lams and Trulkus of Lhuentse dzongkhag.

This morning, His Majesty visited Lhuentse Dzong. His Majesty was offered Ku-sung-Thu-gi mandrel by Dzongkhag official and the Rabday.

They also offered Khadar to His Majesty the King.


Friday, 20 March 2009

Bhutan : Kangyur to be translated into English

Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigme Y Thinley on March 17 extended his appreciation to Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche for the translation project as relevant to the youth and people of Bhutan who have come through the modern education system.

Translating the Words of the Buddha Conference is being hosted by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and the Khyentse Foundation at Deer Park Institute in India. It brings together the leading Tibetan-English translators, scholars and lamas to translate the entire Buddhist canon including 108 volume of Kangyur – the Buddha’s direct teachings, into English.

Translating those teachings from Sanskrit to Tibetan 1,000 years ago took nearly 100 years under Tibetan royal patronage. The gathering also intends to generate collaboration among translators required to realise this vision in the west.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche said, “My main reason for convening this conference is that I believe it’s entirely possible that the survival of the Buddha dharma could depend on it being translated into other languages. I also believe that by translating and making available the Tibetan Buddhist texts to modern people, a vast swathe of Buddhist civilization and culture may be saved from global annihilation.”

In his keynote address at the conference, Rinpoche said that translating the Kangyur was a massive and extremely daunting task, and while it was not the sole purpose of the conference, it could not be ignored.

He also said that there were other equally daunting tasks. For example, revising and updating existing translations into current, everyday language. “It’s an unnerving prospect, I know, but the sacred texts must always be available in a form the present generation can understand,” Rinpoche said. The conference is held in the Indian village of Bir.

The 50 translators attending the historic Translators Conference led by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in Bir this week will meet with the Dalai Lama tomorrow in Dharamsala. They will brief His Holiness about the progress of the conference which discussed translating the 108 volume Kangyur into English to ensure the future of Buddhist culture and Buddha’s direct teachings for centuries to come.



Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Bhutan : Land compensation to be revised

18 March, 2009 - The government’s compensation rates for land and houses acquired for developmental work will soon be revised upwards by as much as 1000 percent for some rural lands, according to a document acquired by Kuensel.

For now, the cabinet has agreed to the revision in principle only, following a report by the property assessment and valuation agency (PAVA) report on the issue. The previous government rates were seen as being too low.

Landowners in cities like Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Gelephu, Samtse and Damphu will see some increase in the compensation rates.

In the case of rural landholders, compensation rates will apply to chuzhing (paddy), kamzhing (dry), and cash crops land. There is, however, no revision for sokshing (shrub) and tsamdro (pasture), as they fall under the government, according to the Land Act 2007.

The rural land compensation rates will be different for each of the 20 dzongkhags, based on a formula, where estimated income from the land for the next 20 years, its market value, and the value assigned to land by financial institutions will be factored in. The closer the land is to a municipal boundary, the higher the compensation.

The compensation rates earlier were Nu 350 per decimal for chuzhing and Nu 200 per decimal for kamzhing across the country. The proposed average value for rural land in all dzongkhags, except Thimphu, according to the document, range from about Nu 2000 to Nu 8000.

The urban land rates for towns like Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Gelephu, Samtse and Damphu (Tsirang) will only see marginal increases. The rates will be based on land usage, though location will still play a key role. Earlier, it was based on the commercial and residential designation. Thimphu, for example, will now have around 27 different rates, based on land usage and location.

The urban core area rate in Thimphu, as per the proposed revision, would be Nu 1383.80 per square foot for the most prime location, compare to the earlier compensation of Nu 1,083. However, compensation for urban lands in 17 other dzongkhags, except Thimphu, Samtse and Tsirang, has decreased slightly.

For buildings and structures, there’s higher compensation with a reduced rate of deprecation on the estimated value of the house. Earlier, permanent structures were calculated with a decreasing value of 3.5 percent per year after construction, with a lifespan of 70 years, after which only 8.26 percent of the estimated value was given as scrap value. However, in the new system, there will be no deprecation calculated for structures for the first five years. The shelf life has been proposed at 75 years, with an after-life value calculated at 30 percent.

In another reform, traditional Bhutanese mud and wood houses of rural areas have been shifted from semi permanent to permanent category.

The proposed revised rates are expected to address socio-economic inequality, create a land market, prevent speculation, and also open credit options for owners. The aim of the proposed rates is also to address compensation issues, which are likely to emerge because of planned development activities, including mega hydro projects.

By Tenzing Lamsang


Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Bhutan : The five-day monks of Punakha dromchoe

16 March, 2009 - A highlight of the 15-day annual Punakha drubchen, popularly called as Punakha dromchoe, is the last five days, when gups (local leaders) may be seen wearing monk’s robes.

While laymen adorned in maroon robes is an attraction for local spectators, there is an important symbolism behind the change in their garb. According to the Zhung Dratshang’s tshugla lopen, Samten Dorji, the eight gups of the Wang tshochen-gey (eight great clans of the Wang area, comprising the present-day dzongkhags of Thimphu, Wangdi and Punakha) are the representatives of the Zhabdrung, who fought a fierce war with the Tsang Desi of Tibet in the 17th century.

“The gups were then called dums and in charge of the pazaps (warriors), together with the zimpons or commanders,” said the lopon. He said that, during the Zhabdrung’s time, most of his representatives were monks, as it was a dual system of government in Bhutan then. “So, they wear robes and abide by monastic rules during the last five days,” he said.

The Punakha dromchoe showcases the battle scene and peace pact, wherein Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel duped the Tibetan force by throwing the replica of the sacred Rangjung Kharsa Paney, the cause of the war, into the river on the last day. Today, battle scenes are re-enacted during the annual dromchoe by gups and pazaps from the eight gewogs. This festival does not have as many mask dances as others, but it is unique for re-enacting the final victory of the Bhutanese over the Tibetan invaders.

Today, during the dromchoe, gups keep control over pazaps and maintain discipline. Pazaps were powerful in ancient times and today are arrogant and try to dominate the public, said a gup. The gups keep an eye on them and scrutinise their every action.

Kabji gup, Tshering Tobjay said that, if the pazaps are not supervised, they tend to quarrel with the public, referring to a case in 2000, when a group of pazaps beat up a man, leaving him with serious injuries.

The monk-gups may not get as much merit as an ordinary monk, but most of them believe that being a monk, even briefly, will remove sins they have committed. Most of them say that being monk is a privileged opportunity to earn merit.

But, for Thimphu chang gup, Kanjur, following the monk path is spiritually nourishing, morally gratifying, and mentally rewarding. He said it could lead to “a good life” in the next generation.

Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel introduced the pazap festival in 1646 to honour the two deities for their role in protecting the country from Tibetan invasions. Dromchoe is a festival dedicated to Pal-Yeshay Goenpo and Palden Lhamo, the guardian deities of Bhutan and its religion, after Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel’s victory over Tibetan invaders.

By Tenzin Namgyel


Monday, 16 March 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty grants kidu to 433 people in Chusa village of Minjey Geog in Lhuentse

March 15:His Majesty today issued Kasho, granting kidu to 433 people in Chusa village under Minjey Geog in Lhuentse.

His Majesty issued the Kidu Kasho to those who have excess land, people who had khimsa on government land and to those who were landless. His Majesty scrutinized every kidu cases in detail before issuing the Kasho to the most deserving ones.

Addressing a gathering of more than one thousand people, His Majesty said the main purpose of his visit is to see to the land kidu of the people. His Majesty said he is also here to see the living condition of the people in the villages and how their children are going to schools.

His Majesty said he had committed to look into the land issues affecting the Bhutanese people. His Majesty said it will firstly benefit the people and their children. His Majesty said Bhutan will remain stronger as a country if the citizens are capable and happy.

His Majesty then granted audience to each and every household present at the meeting. His Majesty discussed the findings of the National Cadastral Survey, talked to them and issued kasho, granting kidu to the deserving ones. For many, it was the happiest moment in their lives as His Majesty solved one of the most pressing issues confronting them.

According to the findings of the National Cadastral Survey, 443 thram holders under six chiwogs in Menjey geog are affected. There are more than 500 thram holders and around 300 households in the geog.

As per the survey data, the total land excess payment amounts to more than eight million ngultrums. Twelve thram holders from the geog have paid about two hundred ad fifty thousand ngultrums as payment for excess land to the government.

Talking to BBS the Kidu recipients said they are extremely grateful to His Majesty for granting land Kidu and solving the issue affecting the lives. They said as subsistence farmers they cannot afford to pay for excess land. They said they will always pray for His Majesty’s long life and peace and prosperity of the country.

Although the meeting was meant for the people of Menjey Geog, people had traveled from other geogs to offer Thridar to His Majesty. For them, especially those coming from from remote places, it was a rare opportunity to offer thridar and receive the coronation coins from His Majesty the King.


Friday, 13 March 2009

His Majesty grants land kidu

His Majesty the King granted land kidu to 887 farmers out of 963 farmers from Tsenkhar Gewog in Lhuentse yesterday.

Meeting individually with the kidu recipients, His Majesty said that, if their excess land was bonafide, they would not have to pay for it. People cultivating land without thram were also granted the kidu to register the land in their name.

His Majesty told the villagers that land was a major concern of the people and granting its kidu was the King’s main responsibility.

Issuing the kidu kasho to the farmers, His Majesty cited three reasons for granting land kidu to the people. First, land will make the people economically independent. “If our people can live a happy and prosperous life, we will have a strong nation,” His Majesty said. Second, unless it has a detrimental effect on the environment, it is useful to give the land to the people rather than keeping it barren. More importantly, His Majesty said that, as the King, it was his responsibility to help the people out of their problems.

His Majesty also granted kidu of khimsa (residential plot). The people, who have their houses on land not registered in their thram, were granted kidu to register the land in their thram.

In Tsenkhar Gewog, over 1400 acres of land was granted as kidu to the farmers. Besides, His Majesty exempted the excess land payment worth Nu 15.69 million.

Tshering Dorji, one of the kidu recipients from Lajay, had two acres of excess land. Apart from granting him land kidu, His Majesty waived payment for his excess land. “I was totally depressed when I was told to pay Nu 13,400 for two acres of excess land. Now that His Majesty has granted the kidu, I have no words to describe my happiness,” said Tshering Dorji.

His Majesty also granted as kidu the excess land the people surrendered to the government in 2001 but still cultivated. Besides, the plots occupied by dratshang, rabdey, community lhakhang and private lhakhang without thram were also granted as kidu.

“People are overjoyed. It is happening for the first time in the kingdom’s history,” said Tshering Tenzin, the member of parliament from Menbi-Tsenkhar constituency.

Jangchub Dorji from Tsenkhar, who received 10 acres of excess land as kidu, joined his palms in a gesture of prostration and said, “Thank you, Gyalpo Rinpoche, you are truly our King.”

His Majesty informed the people that all the land-related problems would be properly sorted out in all 20 dzongkhags within the next two to three years.

His Majesty commanded in the 86th session of the National Assembly in 2006 that he would resolve all the national land-related issues personally.

The land kidu came to Lhuentse after the recent cadastral re-survey commanded by His Majesty the King. The survey, which started in June last year, was completed last December.

In the next few days, His Majesty is expected to visit all the gewogs and villages in Lhuentse.

His Majesty is accompanied by His Royal Highness Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck and Her Royal Highness Ashi Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck.

by Tempa Wangdi


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty the King arrives in Trongsa enroute to Lhuentse and Monggar

March 9: His Majesty the King has arrived in Trongsa enroute to Lhuentse and Monggar. His Majesty is accompanied by His Royal Highess Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck and Her Royal Highness Ashi Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck.

Upon arrival in Trongsa, His Majesty was received by dzongkhag officials, rabdey monks, grassroots leaders and the public.

His Majesty left on a tour of Lhuentse and Monggar this morning.

As the Royal entourage departed from Thimphu, His Majesty was seen off by Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck, the Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley, Cabinet Ministers, the Chief Justice Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, the National Assembly Speaker Jigme Tshultim, and the Chairperson of the National Council Namgay Penjore.

His Majesty is traveling to Lhuentse and Monggar to sit with the members of each household and discuss the findings of the cadastral re-survey and possible solutions to the problems facing the people. The cadastral re-survey has been completed in Lhuentse and some geogs of Monggar.

His Majesty will also grant Kidu to students, landless farmers, and the old and disabled. His Majesty will grant audience to students who have excelled in their studies in the past year and meet dzongkhag, community and local officials and leaders.


Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Bhutan : The low priority library

09 March, 2009 - A few steps away from the massive and modern Taj Tashi hotel, across the noisy six-lane upper Norzin Lam, lies an aged one-storied building. Its significance and, at the same time, unfortunate obscurity, becomes apparent after reading what’s written on a small sign that hangs over its door: “Jigme Dorje Wangchuck Public Library, 1979”.

While larger modern buildings, that house snooker rooms and bars, video game parlors, video rental stores, dance clubs and other social entertainment venues sprout all around it, Bhutan’s sole public lending library continues to languish in the same building it has occupied since 1985.

The building, smaller than any single floor of the Taj Tashi, has five rooms accessible to the public. None of these rooms are large enough to fit even five rows of shelves. Books are stacked on shelves that line the walls creating an even more confined area. A middle shelf placed in the centre of the main area causes visitors to uncomfortably squeeze past each other while browsing for books. Looking for a book on a bottom shelf becomes virtually impossible because either a chair or the next row of shelves is in the way.

“The present building is not suitable for an institution, that not only serves the public’s need for information and knowledge, but is also an essential instrument in getting Bhutanese, particularly the youth to enjoy reading,” said its chief librarian for 28 years, Tshewang Zam. “We need more youth to pick up reading habits instead of roaming the streets.”

The library has a total collection of 12,189 books, a number that could have been over 20,000, according to library assistant, Tshering Phuntsho.

“Yearly we have to buy new books and we have to make space for them.” He said old books had to be removed from the library’s collection. Damaged books that were beyond repair were withdrawn and either sold to the public, donated to schools, or simply dumped as trash. For the year 2009 until February, 187 books have already been withdrawn to make space for newer books. These books have been trashed.

There are other difficulties. It cannot accommodate enough members. Library records show its membership has increased to about 1500 today from 370 members in 2005. Assistant librarian Tshering Phuntsho said that the majority were students.

Yet, the library has only 4 tables and 15 chairs and two benches available for visitors. Assistant librarian Chandra Gurung, who has worked at the library for the past 15 years, said, “Sometimes we arrange mats on the floor for them to sit and study.” She also said students use the non-fiction section, a tiny room that is also a store for boxes filled with damaged books, when all four tables in the reading area are occupied.

Asked whether the library management had submitted requests to Thimphu city corporation (TCC) for relocation to a bigger building, Chandra Gurung said they have been waiting for the past 7 years. “We’ve submitted proposals to the city corporation several times but, apparently, because of a lack of budget, there’s nothing we can do but wait.”

TCC executive secretary, Phuntsho Gyeltshen, said, “There are plans but the city doesn’t have the resources.” Asked whether a specific building had been identified since the library’s first proposal for relocation in 2002, and how much longer till the library was relocated, he declined any further comments, saying he had no definite information on the matter.

Meanwhile, the library continues to operate in its cramped accommodations. It provides free community services, such as a bi-annual reading challenge and weekly reading, art, origami and singing activities for children. “During these events, we have to take the tables and chairs out of the building to fit more people inside,” said Tshering Phuntsho. “It’s not a comfortable place for children to read.” He also said that sometimes children passing by looked in and seemed interested in the activities being conducted, but they find no space and leave.

These free community services are organized jointly with the Friends of the Library (FOL), a group of volunteers involved in supporting reading activities. A founding member of the group, Siok Sian Pek-Dorji, said, “We’d conducted a media impact study in 2003 and it confirmed our suspicions that reading was decreasing. At the same time, membership at the library was dropping, the budget had just been slashed and so we thought we’d better show some support.” She also said it was important to promote a reading culture amongst the youth so that they are able to write and express themselves.

Kesang Yuden, a businesswoman and parent, who brings her son to the library every day after school, said she would definitely be happier to see a bigger and better equipped library. She said, “I want my son to be more into reading and expanding his knowledge.”

“It’s a shame for a prospering city like Thimphu to have neglected the public library,” said renowned Bhutanese author, Kunzang Choden, and a founding member of FOL. “The absence of a good public library is an indication that our society has failed to nurture our youth with meaningful leisure and lifelong learning.”

By Gyalsten K Dorji


Saturday, 7 March 2009

Bhutan : Betnovate and Dipsalic could cause permanent damage to facial skin

March 7: Many Bhutanese women use Betnovate and Dipsalic to remove pigmentation on their face. It is not advisable to use these two creams according to doctors. Dr. Tez Kumari Sharma, a dermatologist with the national referral hospital, says using them regularly can damage your skin, sometimes permanently.

Dr. Tez Kumari Sharma gets at least 20 patients everyday. Most of her patients are women who have spoiled their facial skin by applying medicines like Betnovate and Dipsalic. She said people suffering from skin problems should consult health workers first before applying pigment removal creams that are available in pharmaceutical shops.

She said Betnovate and Dipsalic creams if applied on other parts of the body may work wonders sometimes but the same medicine if applied on the tender skin of the face may spoil the face, sometimes permanently.

“These are medicines are randomly applied by young ladies to remove pigmentation following child birth. The skin of the face is very tender and applying these medicines will make the skin layer very thin, the blood vessels will start showing on the top of the skin on the face,” she said.

Pigmentation on the face is caused by excessive exposure to the sun and sometimes due to hormonal changes in the body. The pigmentation will gradually disappear. It can be prevented by using cap, sun glasses and by applying sunscreen


Bhutan : His Majesty grants audience to RCSC Chairperson and Commissioners

March 6: His Majesty the King granted an audience to the members of the newly constituted Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) at the Tashichhodzong this morning.

The members include the RCSC Chairperson Thinley Gyamtsho and Commissioners Prithiman Pradhan, Kinley Yangzom, Bachu Phub Dorji and the former Samtse Dzongda Sangay Dorji.

The appointments were made last month as per article 2 section 19 (g) and article 26 section 2 of the constitution. Article 2 section 19 (g) states that the Druk Gyalpo shall, by warrant under his hand and seal, appoint the Chairperson and members of the RCSC in accordance with section 2 of Article 26.


Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty to leave for Lhuentse and Monggar

March 4: His Majesty, attending his first National Assembly session as King in December 2006, had stated that all Bhutanese deserving of Kidu would receive it. In this regard, because land issues are the single most pervasive problem for Bhutanese of all walks of life, His Majesty stated that he would find a complete solution to such difficulties faced by the people.

The newly formed National Land Commission was advised by His Majesty in August 2007 to begin work on a comprehensive Cadastral Re-survey that would facilitate a lasting solution to land issues. This survey, begun in June 2008, has now been completed in Lhuentse Dzongkhag and parts of Monggar.

His Majesty will travel to all the geogs in Lhuentse including the remotest villages and to those geogs in Monggar where the re-survey has been completed.

During the royal visit, His Majesty will sit with the members of each household and discuss the findings of the re-survey and possible solutions to the problems facing the people.

Officials of the National Land Commission and the Dzongkhag as well as people’s representatives and local leaders will accompany His Majesty. The Dzongkhags and National Land Commission encourage all affected Thram holders and heads of households to avail of this special opportunity to resolve their problems during the royal visit.

His Majesty will also grant Kidu to students, landless farmers and the old and disabled. His Majesty will grant Audiences to students who have excelled in their studies in the past year and meet Dzongkhag, community and local officials and leaders.

His Majesty leaves for the Royal Tour at the end of this week and consultations will begin early next week.


Sunday, 1 March 2009

Bhutan : Road closure affects business between Gedu and Sorchen

March 1: One man’s loss is another man’s gain. Ask the people living in the vicinity of Gedu and Sorchen on the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway. They could not agree more. Because of the road widening works, the road between Gedu and Sorchen is closed from 6 am in the morning to 5 pm in the evening.

Shops along this stretch of road depend almost entirely on travelers. Apart from the shops, people from nearby villages make their living selling farm produce like cheese and butter, vegetables, and dried chilies to passersby. But now with the road closure, business here has screeched to a halt.

Their loss is the gain of people living along the temporary bypass road between Pasakha and Manitar. With all the vehicles passing through this stretch of road, it is boom time for people here.

About 600 vehicles pass along this road with countless number of wary passengers stopping every now and then for refreshments, buy stuff or simply stretch their tired legs.

Vendors have mushroomed along this road. Business has been good and most vendors said they earn about Nu. 500 even on their worst days. But their windfall is coming at a great cost. They have to brave the cold and live under a cloud of dust churned out by the passing vehicles.

As they say every cloud has a silver lining. And the silver lining for business people in Gedu is coming in the form of Gaeddu College of Business Studies. Soon the college will open after the long winter break and new students will be joining the college. All this will mean more business for shopkeepers, hoteliers, restaurateurs and vendors alike.