Lately, the country has seen an increase in the number of diplomatic passport holders which could lead to high chances of misuse of the document in the absence of stern rules and regulations in place.
One of the concerns raised is that the value of the diplomatic passport would be undermined by host countries with many individuals holding the document even when they are no more a diplomat.
Foreign Minister Rinzin Dorji at the ‘meet the press’ session yesterday said the number of diplomatic passport holders shot up from 2008 when all the Members of the Parliament and Cabinet Ministers were issued one each.
“As soon as I joined the ministry, this was found to be a major concern,” Lyonpo said. He said only some of the former MP’s and diplomats had the privilege of retaining the status as per the entitlements prescribed in the 2006 Passport Manual.
Lyonpo said there was not much of a problem in terms of issuing diplomatic passports until 2006, but the number of eligible members increased by manifold in 2008 and the issuance of diplomatic passports became a point of concern.
Lyonpo said that the 2006 Passport Manual would be looked into closely and will determine the effect of issuing too many diplomatic passports. He said that there is no end to it should the foreign ministry provide diplomatic passports to every MP and they retained it even after leaving the post.
Another factor that contributed to the issue, Lyonpo said, was owing to diplomats who continue to retain their passport upon their return from their official postings abroad. Lyonpo said those passports would be withdrawn including those diplomats who are superannuated.
“If not, being a very small society, towards a few year times down the line everybody would be eligible or would be carrying the diplomatic passport that would dilute the importance of the passport,” he added.
Holders of the diplomatic passport enjoy diplomatic immunity which includes safe passages and are considered not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under the host country’s law, although they can be extradited.
Many principles of diplomatic immunity are now considered to be a customary law and when receiving diplomats who formally represent the sovereign, the receiving head of state grants certain privileges and immunities to ensure that they may effectively carry out their duties, on the understanding that these are provided on a reciprocal basis.
However, few senior bureaucrats have the feeling that Bhutan is into the doorsill of having too many diplomats and accordingly the foreign ministry is looking for various means to scrutinize the retention of diplomatic passport and maintain the numbers of diplomatic passport holder atIndependent Board comprising members including the Joint Secretary, MoEA a rational number.
The foreign minister was responding to a question on the issue as the issue of former ministers, MPs, private business people and former bureaucrats still retaining diplomatic passports cropped up in the social media.