Sunday, 18 March 2012

Bhutan - His Majesty grants audience to scholarship students

Mar 16 2012

His Majesty the King and Gyaltsuen granted audience to about 184 undergraduate scholarship students at the Royal Banquet Hall this morning.

These students will be pursuing higher studies in various universities outside the country. His Majesty congratulated the students for their achievement and prayed for their success.

In an informal discussion with the students, His Majesty said that they should be proud and be good ambassadors of a strong, peaceful and special Nation. His Majesty also spoke at length about values and the importance of becoming good human beings.

His Majesty also added that “learning how to lose is the first principle in life, and failure is the prerequisite to success”.

Refreshments were also served to the students.

Meanwhile, His Majesty the King granted an audience to the Joint Secretary, North of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Akhilesh Mishra. While in the country, the Joint Secretary met with the senior government officials to discuss the issues related to bilateral affairs.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Bhutan - Their Majesties join Japanese community to mark Japan tsunami anniversary

His Majesty the King and the Gyaltshuen joined the Japanese community in Thimphu today to mark the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami which struck Japan last year.

Their Majesties offered butter lamps and prayers for the victims at Changgangkha Monastery.
Over a hundred Japanese community led by the Resident Representative, Tomoki Nitta, also joined Their Majesties in offering the prayers and butter lamps.
Later, His Majesty and the Gyaltshuen interacted with the Japanese and expressed condolences.

Some of the Japanese said they are extremely touched by their Majesties taking out time to be with them and offer prayers and butter lamps for the victims.

Some of them said that this will also strengthen a relationship between the two nations and also at the people to people level.

The Prime Minister, Jigmi Y Thinley, and Finance Minister were also present at the ceremony.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Bhutan - Pemagatshel dzong construction pushed to June

Denchi The construction of the new Pemagatsel dzong at Denchi, an hour drive from Pemagatshel town, has been pushed back to mid year from February end as the department of culture is still receiving request for proposal (RFP) from consultants for the design of the new dzong.

Pematagshel is one among the five dzongs in the country that will either be renovated or reconstructed within the current plan.

The Chukha dzong construction team comprising 35 workers including five carpenters are expected to be mobilised to Pemagatsel along with the new project manager who was recently appointed by the prime minister.

The head of division, conservation of heritage sites, Nagtsho Dorji said a lot of time was consumed in taking over the 116 acre land in Denchi which was only completed at the end of last year.

“We had to compensate the private land owners whose land we acquired for the dzong,” she said.

She said that getting skilled workers to build Pemagatshel dzong would not be a problem as most other projects were wrapping up and workers their could be diverted to Pemagatshel.

“But our biggest concern is how getting un-skilled workers,” Nagtsho Dorji said. “But we can start construction with fewer workers.”

There are five on-going projects around the country under the department of culture.

Basic infrastructural plan in Denchi is on-going like the dzongkhag water treatment plant set up, internal road connection and the approach road widening which the dzongkhag is overseeing.

The new dzongkhag administration at Denchi is expected to be more spacious and will have within the 116 acre area the district hospital, financial institutions, farmers market, recreational park, bus terminal, truck parking and sewerage treatment plant among others.

The construction of Pematagsel dzong is to be done as a spill over project in which Nu 100M is to be utilised within the current plan of the Nu 250M. It is a GoI funded project.

By Nirmala Pokhrel, Samdrupjongkhar

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Bhutan - Alcohol and Bhutanese culture

Alcohol is bad but it is alright in Bhutanese society. It is normal for Bhutanese to drink, some at a very young age. Alcohol is something which is becoming more and more a part of Bhutanese culture.

According to specialists, alcohol does act at a suppressant to negative emotions at first. It, however, changes after a while and is a leading cause of depression. Alcohol is a big problem when it comes to physical health.

The government spends over Nu. 30 million every year for referrals to treat alcohol related patients.

The effects of alcohol are felt not only by the individual but also by society.
I also paid a visit to the Traffic Division of the Royal Bhutan Police. I wanted to find out if alcohol and accidents have a relationship, if any.

The traffic police say that driving under the influence of alcohol has been one of the main causes of injury and even death to many motorists as well as pedestrians. They brand it a criminal act. They say that there is a rise in the number of driving under the influence of alcohol cases and accidents related to it.

Go to any bar in the capital. The bartender will pour you a drink as long as you have the money. There is no age bar or time, although there is notice clearly specifying the restriction.

If you are intoxicated then there is a very high chance you will hurt yourself and end up hurting other innocent people as well.

In Thimphu alone, over 20 cases were reported to the traffic police. They say many more cases go unreported.

Alcohol abuse is a leading cause of domestic violence as well. Hundreds of families throughout Bhutan are victims of domestic violence. It not only affects adults but has a more adverse impact on children.

Although most people thought there were both positive and negative aspects of alcohol some had very strong views. One person said “alcohol is really doing a lot of damage to our society. The government should really do something about it. There are more bars than people.”

Another person said that alcohol is the cause of most problems. “You do things that make a mockery of yourself and others when you drink alcohol,” he said.

One lady said: “When we old people drink alcohol we drink a little bit since it is good for health in small amounts but the youth these days don’t have any control, they are very irresponsible drinkers.”

Respect, Empower, Nurture and Educate Women or RENEW sees many cases of domestic violence every month. Most of them are because of alcohol abuse.

Alcohol and traditional games mix well in Bhutanese society. Some people say Bhutan is the only country where alcohol and sport goes together. According to Mila Tobgay, the vice-president of the Indigenous Sports Association of Bhutan, there is law or restriction saying the archers cannot drink.

“Almost everyone drinks alcohol, but you see there isn’t a rule saying that you have to drink. We don’t have a law in our country saying that you can’t drink while playing these sports but we do have a rule saying that people aren’t allowed to drink in the field of play. They, however, drink alcohol in their respective team tents. We really can’t say anything about it without the presence of a law in place.”

Alcohol abuse is a problem but it doesn’t always have a sad ending. I attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting here in the capital. Some of its members have been sober for over 6 years now.

“This programme is designed for me, to protect me, to save me because I am the enemy of myself. Addiction is all in the head. At the meetings everyone faces similar problems. If there are about 20 people at the meeting everyone won’t have identical problems but at least two to three will have the same problems. We then share our problems and we learn a lot from each other about how to cope with these problems. It helps me and it does help everyone as well,” says R K Dorji, a recovering alcoholic.

Drinking alcohol is a culture- a culture deeply rooted in our tradition. According to World Health Organisation report, Bhutan has the highest per-capita alcohol consumption in South Asia. There are close to 5,500 bars and about 700 of them are in the capital alone. For a small society like Bhutan the number is quite high.

Bhutan - Thousands attend the Purjang of Late Dungse Rinpoche

The Purjang ceremony of Late Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche was held today coinciding with the 10th day of first Bhutanese month. Despite the cold, tens of thousands of devotees gathered at Dagophu Goenpa in Paro as early as 4 am. The Sungchoe prayers were presided over by Dudjom Yangsey, lams and lopens.

Their Majesties the Queen Mother, Tshering Yangden Wangchuck and Sangay Choden Wangchuck, members of the Royal family, the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament and senior government officials were present.

Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, a great teacher of Buddhism and a primary holder of the D├╝djom Tersar lineage, passed away on 27th December last year in California, USA. Rinpoche’s Kudung arrived in Bhutan on 1st February this year.

Dungse Rinpoche was born in 1931 in Kongpo, Tibet to His Holiness Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorji and Sangyum Kusho Tseten Yudron. He first came to Bhutan in 1958 upon the invitation of Lam Sonam Zangpo to preside over Terser Wang at Khenpa Jong in Lhuentse.