Since 2012, 128 people have been convicted for crimes against Ku-Sung-Thuk-Ten with prison sentences ranging from life to not less than four years according to records with the Royal Bhutan Police.
As of now 24 people are under custody of which 19 are under trial and five in detention for chorten vandalism and lhakhang burglary.
Crimes against Ku-Sung-Thuk-Ten have been on the rise for obvious reasons said home minister Dawa Gyaltshen during the National Assembly’s question hour session. He was responding to a query by Drametse-Ngatshang MP, Ugyen Wangdi.
“Cat’s eye and corals can fetch a very big price in the black market,” the home minister said. “Unscrupulous people also vandalise chortens because they believe it contains other priceless items. Most of the chortens are constructed far from villages in isolated places. People usually notice the act of vandalism days later.”
He also said that the contents such as nangtens are easily disposed off in the bordering towns. “Besides chortens, miscreants have started targeting the Lhakhangs for the antique relics such old thankas, statues, see, corals and elephant tusk.”
He also said that RBP is now coming across cases where miscreants break statues in search of nangtens. “Many of the Lhakhangs are also left unguarded, which provides these opportunistic criminals to carry out their act,” he said.
The minister said people know that if caught, they can be subjected to heavy punishments and yet, they still carry out the mindless acts because of greed to become rich overnight.
“The strong Bhutanese values and respect for religion is on the wane and money is the only commodity they will respect and care for,” he said.
Meanwhile the MP said not being able to provide security cover for each-and-every chorten and Lhakhang in the country could be the reason why crime against Ku Sung Thuk Ten are rising.
He also said that they must also continue disseminating information on the laws and consequences of such crime to create effective deterrence.
The minister said installation of CCTVs has been encouraged in lhakhangs and shock sensor in all chortens that provide alerts to a mobile phone.
He said that of the 9,602 chortens in the country 6,000 have been renovated as per the request made by PM to the people while CCTVs have been installed in most lhakhangs.