With increased kidnappings and recent violence MoHCA lists measures to secure Bhutan’s southern borders

India to restart escorting Bhutanese vehicles on Bhutan’s request

In view of the spate of abductions, the people in Sarpang have been living under constant fear over the last two years. In addition to it, the recent death of an Indian national in Samtse has brought even greater danger from across the border.

Responding to a question on the issue from Dremitse-Ngatshang representative Ugyen Wangdi, the Home Minister Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said that with growing cases of kidnapping and border issues, the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) has intensified day and night armed patrolling along Sarpang and Gelephu.

Further, Lyonpo said that the police has been creating random mobile check posts and picketing at vulnerable points, surveying likely kidnap targets, restricting vehicle movements between 9pm to 5 am and frisking and searching suspicious border entrants.

In addition, constant coordination and meetings with counterparts across the border is being conducted along with continuous awareness campaign. Bhutanese vehicles also travel out of Gelephu in convoys at 8 am, 11am and 2 pm.

Lyonpo said that the government has issued official Bhutanese SIMs to SSB focal officers to carry out intensive patrolling along the border.

Coming to the security Measures by the Bureau of Law and Order, Lyonpo said that BLO has been continuously applying pressure on counterparts in Delhi, Assam and West Bengal and the RGoB has called for 10th Border Districts Coordination Meetings (BDCM) with Assam from 19-21 Dec this year and with West Bengal in January, 2015.

Dzongkhag, Dungkhag and RBP have been carrying out sensitization meetings and the Nodal Officer of International Boundary, New Delhi, GOI was informed and assistance was requested through a hotline.

“GOI will restart escorting of Bhutanese vehicles on the Indian highway” Lyonpo said.

MP Ugyen Wangdi said these incidents have infused a sense of insecurity all over the south and have shown how vulnerable the entire country is to the external threats along the southern border.

He had asked the Minister if the government is taking these threats seriously and what was being done to prevent such similar problems in the future.

Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said that to ensure the safety of those people living near the border areas, the government also conducts secretary level coordination meeting regarding Bhutan-India Meeting on Border Management and Security (BIM-BMS).

Institutionalized by Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) and the Government of India GOI in 2004, as of now nine rounds of BIM-BMS were conducted and the last round was held in New Delhi in June this year.

Further Lyonpo shared that Bhutan also carries out Border Districts Coordination Meeting with West Bengal and as of now 20 rounds have happened. Separate BDCMs are also conducted with Assam and as of now nine rounds of BDCM have been held.

According to Lyonpo District Level Coordination Meetings is also being conducted on a quarterly basis at the level of the Dzongda and District Magistrate and also coordination with Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) is conducted between Dzongkhag/Dungkhag and SSB counterparts.

Meanwhile Lyonpo also shared information on the kidnappings cases which took place from 22nd October 2012. As per the records with the Home Ministry, a total of 12 Bhutanese citizens were kidnapped.

The first case of kidnapping was of a taxi driver called Benulal Sunar from Tinbandi Khola which was reported on 22 October 2012 and since then seven Bhutanese was kidnapped from Bhutan and five Bhutanese from Indian territory.

The number of kidnappings have been increasing each year with two men being kidnapped in 2012, four in 2013 and six cases being reported this year.

However, Lyonpo said that except for two drivers kidnapped on 5th September this year the rest have all been released and as of now the families of those hostages has paid a total of Nu.4.060 million as ransom for their release.

Lyonpo said that the government is still looking for the driver, Thinley Wangchuk who is still missing and the families have received the last ransom call on 18th Sep 2014.

Regarding the death of an Indian woman, Sumitra Lohar, 17 yr old maid from Chamurchi, Lyonpo shared that based on the Investigation of Police and Health they have said that the girl was found kneeling over her pillow with 500 ml dendrite bottle and was believed to have died due to suffocation after becoming high from the chemicals.

Lyonpo said that the Parents were called and the body was handed over after it was confirmed there was of no foul play and Nu. 10,000 were given on humanitarian ground to the deceased family.

On 23 November, parents along with a mob alleged that the girl had been raped and murdered in Samtse. The Mob blocked the Chamurchi-Samtse highway and started attacking Bhutanese vehicles.

About 10 Bhutanese vehicles were destroyed and two were set on fire by the mob on that day.

Immediately after the mob agitation started, Lyonpo said that border checkpoint was asked to close down and MoHCA immediately contacted the Commissioner of North Bengal for intervention. “Accordingly the commissioner immediately mobilized local authorities to control the situation,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo said that the Samtse Dzongkhag has written to the District Magistrate for compensation for Bhutanese vehicles damaged and MoHCA, Samtse Dzongkhag and RBP are in constant contact with Jalpaiguri authorities to monitor situation in Chamurchi.

Lyonpo said that the government sympathizes with the bereaved parents of Sumitra Lohar and has regrettable that such incidents took place when it was a case of clear overdose of dendrite.

However, Lyonpo said that the government is awaiting the results of postmortem and in the wake of this unfortunate incident; the government is reviewing the policy of baby sitters from across border.

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