Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) and IMTRAT (Indian Military Training Team) are willing to hand back the Haa Dzong if the government builds all necessary buildings and other facilities elsewhere and hands it over to them, said the Home Minister Lyonpo Damcho Dorji responding to a National Council (NC) Member’s query on reclaiming the Dzong.
The Home Minister added that there needs to be a nice place to relocate them but as of now the government does not have the money to build and provide such facilities.
The query was from the Haa NC and Deputy Chairperson Tshering Dorji who said that with the Government recently opening tourism in Haa, and with Dzongs being one of the major tourist attractions, the reinstatement of Haa Dzong would be an important policy decision of the Royal Government so that the people of Haa can benefit from tourism.
The Deputy Chairperson said that other Dzongs in the country serve as centers for both civil and religious administration, preserving the historical tradition of political system (Choesid Lungyi) and even for the construction of new Dzongs it is mandatory to have both administrations.
He said, “But for Haa Dzong (Wangchuk Lho Dzong), the civil and monastic centers in Haa are separate and not located in the Dzong.” He said even in this regard it was important for the government to reinstate the Haa Dzong.
Tshering Dorji said the Dzong has been headquarters of the IMTRAT for long time. Recounting the benefits of IMTRAT he added that the IMTRAT has assisted the Royal Bhutan Army in meeting its important training needs and it is a symbol of strong bilateral relationship between India and Bhutan.
But, he said the Haa Dzong is important cultural landmark in Haa and it is integral to the people’s sense of identity and belonging.
The Home Minister said that the reinstatement of Haa Dzong is not sure and the government is looking for better ideas.
The minister said that there have been many discussions in the Parliament on this issue since 1962 when it was handed over to IMTRAT. Lyonpo said that Haa Dzong was a military center helping strengthen the sovereignty and security of the country. Lyonpo said that as a symbol of close friendship between two countries, India agreed to extend military training and other assistance to Bhutan.
In 28th session of the Parliament, it was decided that the Haa Dzong was to be temporarily used by IMTRAT, with no time to construct a new training center.
Lyonpo said, thereby Bhutan has been receiving continuous support from India Bhutan’s military has been significantly strengthened.
In 1989, as requested by people of Haa, the Utse of Haa Dzong was handed back to public and presently the Zhung Dratshang takes care of it.
Since 1989, Haa Dzong premise has been registered in the name of RBA. While, other parts of premises are training grounds for RBA troops. On this Lyonpo added that for the time being there’s no way that it can be given back to people.
Haa Dzong was built in 1895 to protect from any potential invasion from the north. In 1913, the Dzong caught fire and was severely destroyed. The new Dzong was built in 1915 a kilometer from the old site by Haa Drung Kazi Ugyen Dorjee and renamed Haa Wangchuk Lho Dzong.
In addition, Deputy Chairperson, Tshering Dorji also asked to allow the Indian tourists to travel without a need of permit which would boost tourism in Haa.
On tourism, Lyonpo said tourists visiting other Dzongkhags except for Paro and Thimphu have to avail the permit.
Lyonpo said that to make permits easily accessible, immigration offices have made a system which is easy, and convenient, and during weekends when offices are closed, one would be able to avail permit from Paro Airport or Hongtsho.
Lyonpo said without permits, where tourists go and what they do would be not known which would lead to problems.
Lyonpo also informed NC that 75% of work on renovation of Lhakhang Karpo which had started a few years ago is complete. He said the new structures around the Lhakhang can accommodate numerous Lhakhangs and the entire Haa Rabdey.