Imprisoned under Tobacco Act, Sonam Tshering says ‘one country two laws’ is a reality



The former monk says he has been forced to speak out due to misleading representation of his case by DPT leaders in the media

A name that has frequently propped up during the election debates and common forums is that of the former monk Sonam Tshering who was the first person to be imprisoned under the draconian Tobacco Control Act (TCA).

Sonam Tshering was arrested on January 24, 2011 and has spent one year and 19 days in prison, until his release in February 2012 after a Royal Kidu was granted to all those who had been arrested under the Act.

Critics have often pointed to the case as an example of a draconian law implemented under the incumbent government, and the strict jail sentencing was also compared to other cases like Gyelpozhing where former ministers got off lightly.

When questioned on the TCA, the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) has defended itself by saying that the TCA was a bill drafted by the Parliament and implemented as per the law which was later amended.

Fed up with constant references to his case and also with DPT’s talking points on the issue, Sonam Tshering has refuted several of the points that have been raised on his case.

Sonam Tshering said, “I did not want to come out in the public, but there are a lot of untrue things said about my case, particularly by DPT candidates and former ministers.”

He said, “In the RTC debate, the DPT president said that my case was dealt as per the law, but I will not agree. There was no equity and justice in my case at all under the DPT government. In fact, my case was a perfect example of one country and two laws.”

He said that even as his case was being discussed in the Parliament, he had been defamed by the former Health Minister Zangley Drukpa who had indicated that he was related to the former Opposition Leader and that he was a PDP supporter. He said similar accusations were also made by the former DPT MP Tshering Penjore.

“I would like to place on record that insinuations on me being related to the former Opposition Leader is not true. In fact, we are from different villages though in the same constituency,” said Sonam Tshering.

Sonam Tshering that there was no question of him supporting the former Opposition Leader because at the time, he was a young monk without the power to vote, and later he was behind bars.

He said that if his case was dealt as per the law then the two former DPT minister ranks found guilty in corruption case, which is a more serious offence, were let off with only a light fine.

“Like the Prime Minister offered his land back in the case of Gyelpozhing after being caught, then I should also have been allowed to hand back my tobacco and get off,” said Sonam Tshering.

“There was no equity and justice in my case, as for serious cases like drug smuggling the penalty was much lesser, where as in my case, I just bought Nu 120 worth of tobacco,” he said.

He also said he wants to participate as audience member in the upcoming common forum debate in his constituency in Sombaykha, and ask the question as to why was he punished so severely when other people got off more lightly for more serious offences.

He said, “Since DPT brought up my name so many times on defamatory grounds both in the Parliament and in debates, I would like to say that though I have no political affiliations and I am unhappy with how DPT has handled my case, and I will not be voting for them.”

Tenzing Lamsang  / Thimphu





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    Well said, sonam, n very true indeed. i full sympathize u, no words, money or any substitution can bring back ur prisoned year but this is gnh country where laws are for two sections, one for powerful n another for poor like us. I only hope that u forgive them or forget them as u cannot do anything. Just think that this is the prize u pay for being a poor person, n pray that in next life u become a relative of a minister. 

    • Dirty Polictics

      This is fact and it has been applied in many cases ( i mean two laws in the country). i appreciate Mr. Sonam for sharing his thoughts in public, since many bhutanese fear coming out in public to express our own rights and duties. i appealed lets fight for the change.

  2. I agree on this issue.

  3. Wat ever u said was very a buddhist citizen i really feel pity for u…am really shocked to hear and see all such unequity and unjusty activities happening just infront of us in our ghn country … where every one talks about equity and justice giving it more priority than anything in the country…but wat to do we(poor people) cannot to anything rather than to bear the unfair crime and penalty…so, dont think too much abt wat ever happened to u…everything happens for a reason…jst believe dat “god sees the truth but waits”

  4. This monk deserves it.

  5. Bhutan’s number one investigative journalist, why don’t you leave this spoiled monk alone.

  6. I sympathize Sonam but why on earth did you smuggle tobacco of all the substances on earth? As a monk you should have advised others not to smoke or smuggle rather than you doing. Engage in other business, not in tobacco. This is a betrayal as monks are not expected to such things and not searched usually by even the police. Because of this sin, you are paying now.

  7. Oh, did DPT or Parliament passed the Tobacco Act? I think it is parliament including DPT, PDP and NC. Once the debate is done and act is signed by His Majesty, it become endorsement of even those who has objected.

  8. Now this guy seems to be going far. He should understand that law was passed by parliament not DPT and sentence was given by court. He is just venting his personal anger.

    By the way, wasn’t he a monk bound by celestial law where smoking and chewing tobacco would drag people to severest hell. This pig fed on public money so that religious duties are fulfilled was not doing service of dharma in the first place….

  9. I also support u sonam…law of the Thunder Dragon are ment for TWO sections of society…I dont believe in dpt’s policy of equity for the people of bhutan. the have equity only when it comes to distribution of nations wealth among their greedy group. if given chance for the next 5 years, they will finish up what bhutan have achieved so far under our great monarchs… let us shift our interest of political party….and vote for CHANGE. CHANGE , CHANGE and CHANGE.

  10. Gay tey……. shop ma chap please……….. 

  11. I sympathies on your trouble taken with TCA, however I feel it was court who punished you….n judiciary is Independent…only it was in handling and charging you that OAG (an govt arm) took tough stand and thus u got sentenced.
    Whereas, there was rumours also stating Zimba’s daughter was caught with cigarate in Airport but was let off silently (how far its true is not sure).

  12. unhappy for last 5 years

    only when the media reported about Sonam Tshering, i came to know that the tobacco act was being implemented. What the former Government did was wrong and wrong because they pass acts in Parliament which is the rightful place but how many of people in Bhutan knows about whats happening in parliament, the ruling government may say that they have broadcasted in television. how many of Bhutanese people enjoy television (BBS) facilities.  it would have been justified if the government have treated everyone with equity meaning kept the act as it is because one cannot amend act as and when they wanted to best suite the law makers.
    my point is that what are the people elected representatives doing, they are provided with vehicle, fuel, and in short everything, its their responsibility to ensure that people at all levels are well informed about the acts that are going to be enforce, so that people do not commit such things which are regarded as crime after the acts are passed.  i have never saw the MP and NC briefing people on the various issues that are discussed in parliament.

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