Death of Bhutanese student in Japan raises questions

It has been confirmed that the cause of death of a 24-year-old Bhutanese student in Fukuoka, Japan is suicide. The student had gone missing since 4 December. His body was discovered in the morning of 5 December at a park in Fukuoka.

The incident was immediately reported to the student’s agent, Bhutan Employment Overseas (BEO), who had sent him to Japan. Two representative staff member rushed on the same day to Japan. The BEO team reached Fukuoka at 12.30 pm on 6 December. “It has been confirmed by the police out there that the case is a suicide,” said the BEO chief executive officer, Jurmey Tshewang.

He said the death certificate has already been declared in Japan where it needs to be translated in English. “The other formality to be fulfilled is that the Bhutanese representative from the Bhutan Honorary Consulate in Japan has to identify the body after which it will be handed over.” He said certain formalities also need to be undertaken with the Thai airport custom department.

Meanwhile, the concerned agencies are working on bringing the body of the deceased home. “Our main focus at the moment is to bring the body in the country,” said the foreign minister, Lyonpo (Dr) Tandin Dorji, adding that it is not known how long the procedure is going to take.

Labour minister, Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji, said that various meetings have been held on how to go about with the situation since the day the incident has been reported. “We met the parents and the relatives of the deceased and briefed them about the situation, and the formalities to be undertaken before bringing the body here.” He said the ministry is putting its effort in alliance with foreign ministry to examine the situation, provide assistance to the family of the deceased and to bring the body home.

The deceased was studying at Fukuoka Foreign Language College since October last year. The college has 33 Bhutanese students of the total 400 from several other countries. The deceased was divorced and leaves behind a three-year old daughter who is being looked after by his parents and the family of the ex-wife. The deceased’s parents are farmers from Paro.

The deceased man’s friends were the first to notice he had gone missing. Tandin Dema had gone to drop food to him. He didn’t find him in his room but instead found a note with the message written “I quit” and also asking help from his two close friends to help with his daughter.

Upon the inquiries made to the students who were close with the deceased in Japan by the BEO team, the deceased was working in a company called Fuji for about a year. He left the job in October this year after an argument with a student from Nepal.

The students had reported that the supervisor of the workplace who was also from Nepal has threatened to report the deceased to the police. Following the incident, the students noticed that the deceased was badly affected by the incident.

A student who just returned a day before in Bhutan after a year of stay in Japan through the same scheme said it was impossible to survive and cover the loans by doing just one job. While it is illegal to do part time job for more than 28 hours a week, Bhutanese students spent at least 42 hours in a week to do a job. “In order to cover the loan and fees, we have to at least do two jobs,” she said some even have to do three jobs in a day.

Another observation made was on the class attendance record, where the deceased dropped attendance drastically following the incident at his workplace. The attendance record showed that on September, the attendance was 92.3 percent which dropped to 80 percent in October and then only to 33 percent in November. Overall, it was said that his performance at school was ok and he even stood second in one speaking contest.

Financially, Jurmey Tshewang said the deceased seemed to be doing pretty well until the month of November. “According to the students, he had repaid almost half the loan in Bhutan within just one year even as the repayment duration is five years.”

Jurmey Tshewang said that his friends feel there is no apparent reason for him to commit suicide.

On 4 December, at around 8 pm, Tandin Dema one of the friend of deceased, took packed food to eat together with the deceased. No one opened the door so she yanked the door open, put the packed food in his refrigerator and waited outside.

After repeated searches, she went back to his place at around 10:20 pm and put on the light of his room to find a piece of paper on his bed along with his empty purse and phone to find the message written as ‘I quit’ on the piece of paper. And requesting her two other friends, Kinga and Tenzin the search continued till Wednesday morning until the body of the deceased was found at the park.

The friends reported that they suspected suicide since the deceased wasn’t in a normal condition and appeared depressed.

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