For the last few weeks a social media post posted by an anonymous user has gone viral. The post is about how two wives of two soldiers were beaten, chilli applied on their private parts and then chased from the Gelephu Army camp.
However, now the alleged two women themselves have denied the incident ever occurred in written and signed statements given by them.
According to a Royal Bhutan Army statement of clarification this has further been verified by an investigation and written statements which included 30 people and eye witnesses.
The RBA clarification says that only a verbal threat was made by Dedrim Dorji in his office and in public to apply chilli. The clarification says that even this verbal threat is not acceptable to the RBA and that appropriate action will be taken against Dedrim Dorji as per the rules.
According to the clarification a reporter from a media house first made an enquiry with the Wing Commander, Royal Bhutan Army (RBA), Wing IX Gelephu, on 23 August 2015 asking about the incident where the wives of two soldiers were “chased away from the campus after being manhandled”.
“The RBA categorically denies the manhandling or physical abuse not only of the two women, but even of their husbands who are soldiers. The RBA has established procedures and practices for reprimanding the soldiers who are guilty of disciplinary or other problems due to which it does not need to resort to physical abuse or manhandling of any of its personnel, let alone their wives,” says the statement.
As early as 2013 the behavior and conduct of the two women in question had been a major cause of concern according to the RBA.
It said that firstly, as a security organization based near the international border riddled with insurgency problems, the RBA is very cautious about its personnel or their wives coming into close and frequent contact with people from across the border since it may lead to leakage of sensitive information or other security breaches.
Second, the women and families in the Wing had repeatedly expressed their concerns through complaints against the two women citing their lifestyles which not only put themselves at risk of contracting STI but which could also expose others to it.
Further, the two women were observed to be neglecting their children while they went about their immoral and illegal activities, which was a cause of immense distress to many other wives, who were devoted mothers themselves according to the RBA.
The RBA said that to get to the bottom of the rumors it launched a thorough and detailed investigation in order to establish the facts based on which corrective measures may be taken. Statements were obtained from a total of 30 witnesses, including the two women themselves, fellow wives of other soldiers, concerned RBA officers and NCO’s (noncommissioned officers), Royal Bhutan Police officer, and three hotel owners in Gelephu.
The investigation confirmed the suspicions, which had surfaced since 2013 that the two women were not only visiting the Drayangs, but they were frequent visitors of local hotels where they indulged in illegal activities with customers that included drivers, Indian labourers and visiting Bodo tourists.
The investigation also revealed that Dedrim Dorji verbally abused the two women not only in the office but also publicly in front of the families of that Company by warning them that he would smear chilli paste on their private parts if they continued their illicit activities.
“However, the allegation of chilli paste being actually smeared on the women or of any other physical manhandling was found to be false and baseless as corroborated by numerous witness statements which refute the allegation. In fact, both the women have, in their signed statements, denied that the Dedrim resorted to any physical abuse or smearing of chilly paste,” said the RBA clarification.
Likewise, the RBA said that the allegation of the women being “chased away from the campus” was found to be false after the investigation since it was the women themselves who ran away from the camp when they were told to furnish statements regarding their conduct. It was only when the wives failed to return to the Camp that the two soldiers were made to shift to company lines, because of the severe shortage of family accommodation. Moreover, the women had been warned that their family accommodation facilities would be denied if they continued to indulge in immoral activities.
The RBA said that based on these facts established through investigation, the RBA expresses its serious concern on the conduct of the women. It says the involvement of the two soldiers’ wives in such illegal and immoral activities has brought disrepute to an organization that is not only committed to defending the security and sovereignty of the country but is proud of its traditions of chivalry and respect towards women in general. Secondly, the RBA said that their conduct has brought immense anguish to the other wives who fear the development of a derogatory image towards RBA wives even though they are devoted, both as wives and as mothers.
“Most importantly, as a direct result of their immoral and illegal activities, the women have neglected their own children, even failing to feed them on a regular basis,” says the statement. The children were usually left to fend for themselves with the elder children looking after the small ones and other soldier’s wives being driven to feeding the children out of pity.
“The RBA is deeply concerned about the severe and long-term emotional impacts on children who are subjected to such traumatic treatment by their own mothers,” says the clarification. .
“As far as the actions of Dedrim Dorji are concerned, the use of abusive language and tools brandished to threaten the women were primitive and demeaning. Regardless of the gravity of the transgressions committed by the women, such an exaggerated response was not warranted and appropriate action will be taken in accordance with the rules and regulations,” said the statement.
It says NCO’s are trained to command and control other soldiers who are also trained to be subjected to the strictest standards of military discipline, both physical and emotional. However, methods used to regulate soldierly conduct cannot and must not be applied to civilians, particularly women.
The RBA thanked the media in general and the reporter in particular for bringing the matter to RBA’s notice and also for bearing with the delay in the response. The RBA said that the delay was caused not due to the RBA’s desire to hide information of the issue but, as a responsible organization, to establish the facts through a fair and detailed investigation into the affair so that the rights of both the parties are protected and that justice is delivered in a fair and equitable manner.
“Much damage has been done to the image of the RBA through this incident, particularly on social media where online members have been quick to act as both judge and jury, but without having access to any verified fact. The RBA regrets this unfortunate tendency of social media enthusiasts to cast aspersions on any individual or organization based on hearsay and unconfirmed rumors but thanks the mainstream media for waiting to do the story until the facts have been established,” says the statement. The RBA said that responsible journalism gives credence to facts over hearsay and its confidence in the mainstream media has been enhanced through this incident.
The RBA said that the media may deal with this report in the manner that it deems fit but it sees no point in further vilification and humiliation, be it against the two women or the Dedrim. It says while the women may have neglected their children and resorted to immoral activities, they are still part of the larger family that is the RBA.
The clarification says that the incident provides the RBA with the opportunity to formulate systems and protocols that will not only prevent similar incidents in the future but will help the RBA to deal with such incidents, if they arise, in a professional, sensitive and responsible manner.