In response to a question at the monthly ‘Meet the Press,’ the Home Minister, Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said that his ministry is working on some safety guidelines and rules for archery ranges.
The Prime Minister, Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said that while archery was a national sport and in the ‘DNA’ of Bhutanese people there were safety issue and a dialogue was needed to make it safer.
The government while announcing the formulation of safety rules did not announce any particularly tough decisions on the issue, given the nationwide popularity of the sport.
The Home Minister pointed out the practical difficulties of monitoring the many archery ranges and private matches across the country. He said that while rules can be made the main problem would come in terms of their implementation.
The issue of safety around archery ranges comes in the light of the recent death of a boy from Haa who succumbed to his injuries after being shot by an arrow. There has also been growing public outrage at the increasing number of deaths, injuries and near misses from arrows flying out of archery ranges across the country.
The Home Minister said, “It has been a concern for the ministry and also for a lot of people and it has been happening for a long time and it has more or less been accepted as risks associated with archery being the national game of Bhutan.”
Lyonpo said, “We can put some safety measures in place but there is no fool proof measures to ensure that there will be no accidents as it is not something done intentionally, unless we enclose the whole archery range to prevent an errant arrow from hitting anybody else.”
The minister said that Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Association was looking into the issue to see how it can be made safer and regulated.
He said that it would be easier to regulate national tournaments but it there is ‘no way’ in which it would be possible to regulated private and evening matches as a lot of the men played archery.
He said that to the extent to prevent any fatalities and accidents the government would come up with rules and regulations and safety measures.
The Prime Minister also weighing in on the issue said that importing better parts for bow and arrows has been a long standing practice of around 30 years or more, and he said that in this light the import of compound bows was part of the archery culture.
“Is it dangerous, yes, and yes it needs attention,” said the Prime Minister commenting on the safety issues around archery.
The PM said that it was good that the Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Association was looking into the issue and he also pointed out that over the years there has been an improvement in safety with protective barriers around archery ranges.
“We cannot undermine the importance of safety in our country in all aspects of our lives and a life lost on the archery ground one life too many. We also have to understand that archery is our culture and national sport and it our collective responsibility to make playgrounds safe,” said the PM.
Lyonchhen stressed that the discussion must be taken forward as responsibly as possible and since the government is concerned the Home Ministry was already working on the issue.
The reporter then asked the Home Minister on what the government doing to stop illegal and unsafe archery ranges coming up near residential areas, and also if the police could be used to implement safety norms like preventing the use of alcohol and drugs while playing archery.
The Home Minister said, “We will take into consideration various suggestions but as I said monitoring will be difficult as for even the police there will be thousands of archer ranges and some in remote areas like Lunana.”
Lyonpo said though implementation would be challenge they would see how they could involve law enforcement to ensure that the rules are followed.
“At this point of time I am skeptical if the police can monitor all archery ranges in the country but we will have a duty to ensure that as far as possible they can monitor that the practices in archery ranges are within the safety measures,” said the minister.