Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji being awarded the Druk Thuksey medal during the 110th National Day celebrations

The remarkable journey of Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji

Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji received the prestigious award, the Druk Thuksey Medal, in 2017 for his unwavering dedication to the nation for over 56 years. He made significant contributions to the country and left a lasting mark on its history. He was not just a dedicated civil servant but also a devoted family man.

Dasho Paljor Jigme Dorji, popularly known as Dasho Benji, who has known Lyonpo as a lifelong friend and a colleague said, “I’ve known him for all my life. Not only was he a very loyal civil servant to the King and the country, but also a loyal family man. He was very quiet as a person and an absolute good friend. It’s a huge loss for the country.”

Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji was born on 1941 in the Haa district. He graduated in Forestry from Dehradun, India in 1963 and later earned a Master’s degree in Forestry Science from the Forestry Research Institute, Dehradun in 1967, helping to further enhance his dedication to Bhutan’s natural heritage. He also studied wood technology in Zurich, Switzerland, and transport in Austria, earning the title of a “Pioneer Forester.”

Lyonpo began working as a civil servant in 1961, starting in the Department of Forests and later becoming its first Director until 1984.

Between 1983 and 1985, he worked as the Director of the Board of the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu, Nepal.

In 1984, he became the Joint Secretary of the Department of Trade, Commerce, Industry, and Mines in Bhutan. A year later, he was promoted as the Secretary of the Ministry of Trade, Industries, and Forests.

In 1986, he held the positions of Secretary for both the National Planning Commission and the Department of Agriculture.

From 1988 to 1991, he served as the Vice-chairman and Deputy Minister of the Planning Commission, and later, he became the Cabinet Minister for Planning, serving as its chairman from 1991 to 1998.

He also served as the Chairman of the National Environment Commission from 1992 to 1998. During his time leading these commissions, two important documents were created and published: “Bhutan 2020 – A Vision for Peace, Prosperity, and Happiness” in 1996 and “The Middle Path – National Environment Strategy for Bhutan.”

Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi has known and worked with the late Lyonpo for the last twenty-eight years where Lyonpo was not only his first boss, but also a great mentor.

Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi shared, “He was a highly dedicated and empathetic leader, and a truly kind and compassionate man. As a Minister for Planning in 1990s, he was a true soldier of socio-economic development under the Fourth King. His legacies are boundless and far reaching. As a person, he was a ‘true welfare man’ who could look after the welfare of his every staff. Therefore, his demise is a huge loss to the nation, as well as personally to those closely associated with him.”

In addition to his academic achievements, Lyonpo served in various important roles within the Royal Government of Bhutan and received numerous awards for his contributions to the nation.

In 2005, he became the first Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) from Bhutan, which was a significant milestone for the country and the organization.

During his tenure, he promoted cooperation among South Asian countries, enhancing trade, culture, and unity in the region.

Lyonpo’s influence extended beyond diplomacy, as he served as Bhutan’s first Resident Ambassador to Thailand, with concurrent accreditation as Ambassador to Singapore and Australia.

He played a vital role in nurturing Bhutan’s relations with other Southeast Asian countries, establishing his global impact.

In addition to his governmental and diplomatic roles, Lyonpo was also an accomplished author. His publications, “The National Forest Policy” (1974) and “The Bhutan Forest Act” (1969), laid the foundation for Bhutan’s commitment to forest conservation and sustainable management.

Lyonpo was awarded the Red Scarf in 1975, the Orange Scarf in 1991 and the Druk Thuksey on 17 December 2017.

He was appointed as the Chairman of the Privy Council by His Majesty The King in May 2008 and served until his passing.

A retired senior official recounting his time with Lyonpo said, “He was the hardest working person I ever met. If His Majesty The Fourth King was going somewhere he would be there around 2 hours before the stated time.”

Lyonpo is survived by his wife and 3 children, a son and two daughters.

Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji’s incredible journey showcases the power of an individual’s commitment to protecting the natural world for the benefit of all. His legacy is an inspiration for those who share his vision of a prosperous, peaceful, and ecologically sustainable Bhutan.

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