May 20, 2016

Our Growing Opportunity

Last week, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest had ordered the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) to 'temporarily' suspend the import of beans and cauliflowers. Laboratory tests had confirmed that these vegetables contain pesticide beyond permitted 'limit'. 

This is heartening for many Bhutanese farmers. This is truly our opportunity to grow and feed Bhutanese with vegetables grown and nurtured on Bhutanese soil. It is an opportunity to go bigger into farming and turn farming into a financially lucrative venture for our rural farmers, who still continue to grow crops for self-consumption. 

Otherwise, it is difficult for our farmers to compete with literally cheap vegetables that are imported from across the border, where they are grown in much much bigger quantity. Our farmers do not stand a chance at all to compete in the market. Thus, they end up growing only what's enough for their own families - the rest go waste, most of the time. Same thing with dairy and poultry products. Bhutanese farmers should be able to cater enough dairy products to  Bhutanese consumers. Some day soon, we should stop importing cheaper products. I am unsure how healthy these products are, but today, Bhutanese in the urban centers continue to consume imported dairy products. 

We are already self-sufficient in eggs. And we should now explore markets beyond Bhutan for our poultry products. Same thing with our dairy products. 

This is the right time that we seriously think about growing more vegetables enough for all consumers. That way we can stop importing vegetables. I think that is possible. 

Of course, again, sometimes we tend to go wild. Our authorities need to control the prices of these products and make them affordable to everyone. 

Strike the iron while it is hot, they say; we must make use of this import suspension order as a basis to stop importing vegetables from across the border and strive for self-sufficiency in vegetables and other food items - one product at a time. 

Note: Pictures from Kuensel: May 20, 2016

May 12, 2016

Panbang Boys

A group of eleven passionate Panbang boys came together in 2012 and formed the first community-based ecotourism company. They call it the River Guides of Panbang. They are river guides. They work in a group and are so good at what they do. They are highly enterprising people in Panbang known for their commitment to their mission.

One of their aims is to work for the "preservation of the rich biodiversity under the corridor of Royal Manas National Park" while creating eco-tourism in the locality. They own two rubber boats and provide tourists an unforgettable experience of floating on the mighty Manas river.

In March 2016, when I was there, the Group was busy building a line of eco-camps, away from Panbang town. The camp is built with the financial support from Bhutan Foundation on one of the members' private land. These camps are built using wood and bamboo, sourced locally. While they may appear like rows of village houses, roofed traditionally using leaves, they would be fitted with latest amenities, I was told. It has been many months since and it would certainly be a great pleasure to see how they have turned up after everything was complete. We were also told that Bhutan Foundation would be conducting their Board meeting at the camp.

The camp will attract many visitors to the place and also provide unique experiences of staying in a remote village but also enjoy modern facilities and float down the Manas with the trained 'river guides'. The eco-camp will also be a wonderful place to conduct workshops, conferences and retreats during winter months.

Some of the members are my former classmates and schoolmates. I have great respect for these people for literally venturing into an untraversed water and having succeeded in capturing the market. Today, the place attracts hundreds of Indian tourists, bird watchers, adventurers, photographers.

Panbang is a small town in Zhemgang under Ngangla Gewog and is now becoming the center of major economic activity. Before the coming of Gomphu-Panbang National Highway, one had to travel through India to reach the town from bordering places like Gelephu, Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar and Nganglam in Pema Gatshel.

Panbang today has a lower secondary school and a middle secondary school, a BHU (Basic Health Unit), RNR (Renewable Natural Resource) Center, branches of Bank of Bhutan and Bhutan Development Bank. 

Note: River Guides pictures by RGP while the eco-camp pictures are from my personal collection

Apr 21, 2016

Farmers' Gateway to Information

On March 25, 2016, READ Bhutan inaugurated its first community radio in Pema Gatshel Dzongkhag. KYD (Khotakpa Yalang and Denchi) Community Radio 91.1FM can be heard in some 9 villages. KYD unofficially also stands for Khotakpa Youth Development! (Shh... that's what I made up.) 

The community radio was established with funding from Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC) Bhutan and in partnership with Ministry of Information and Communications.

Speaking at the launch, Lyonpo D.N Dhungyel said that the community radio will provide an excellent platform for people to participate in social discourse. “The Community Radio will provide opportunities for people to discuss social issues,” he said. “It will also provide an enhanced access to educational information and resources.”

The Minister urged the people to use the station meaningfully to benefit the community fully. 
The Country Director of READ Bhutan, Ms. Karma Lhazom said that the main objective of setting up a community radio is to inform rural farmers. “The Community Radio will promote civic participation, enhance education, provide access to useful information and build an informed community,” she said. “It will also increase local awareness on democratic values and principles and connect the far flung villages of Pema Gatshel valley, which are otherwise fairly isolated from each other.”
The Country representative of SDC Bhutan Mr. Mathias Meier said that concept of community radio is “a radio of the people, for the people and by the people” and that, he said, “is the real essence of democracy.”
Villagers are really excited. 41-year-old, Khotakpa Tshogpa, Bopo Drukpa said that the community radio will bring about immense benefit. “The radio station will both inform and entertain us,” he said. “My work as a tshogpa will become much easier now as we would be able to use radio to inform people about various meetings and disseminate other important messages immediately; I am really happy.”
Namgay Wangdi, 37, another villager said the community will reap a lot of benefits from the newly established community radio. “Ours is a very remote village. I see the radio airing important agriculture and health-related information. Because it is coming from a local and our own station it will be helpful to us.”
Situated in Southeast Bhutan, Khotakpa is a remote farming community cultivating maize, rice and oranges. READ Bhutan opened a READ Center in the community in March 2014 in partnership with Druk Satair Corporation. 

Mar 31, 2016

Travelling In

It is such a shame that I could not update my blog for over a month now. I would not want to bid March 2016 goodbye without a single blog entry on my blog. That's why although I am travelling right now, I am stopping to post something so that I have something for March 2016 on my record. 

Travelling to far off places in Bhutan have been a fruitful and enriching experience. Most of us wish to travel abroad and see different cultures and tradition, and people's way of life. 

But sadly, there are so many things that we need to see and experience here in the country. There are places that offer so much and we have so much to learn. That's why I think we need to also start travelling and seeing our own places. That's why we need to start visiting packages even for the natives. 

Today, we only sell our country to the foreigners. It is high time that we introduce our own country to our people. That's why we need not visit foreign countries every time to learn something. Although I am not totalling ruling out that we would get a lot of new experiences and exposures from abroad it is given.

The idea is to travel inside the country. I think it is important before we travel outside. We must appreciate what we have before we go visit some foreign places. 

Some good news, though -  I was told that a group of young Bhutanese entrepreneurs are venturing into providing pilgrimage services to our people inside the country. Bhutan has a lot of sacred places and sites to visit. And having a company that takes our people to visit all these sacred sites is heartening truly. (I am going to explore more about that company in my next post.) 

Over the past week that I have been travelling I have seen and experienced so much. I would love to post some pictures soon. 

P.S - a brief post in want of time.

Feb 29, 2016

Ban or Sham?

The following is a column I have contributed in Business Bhutan (Saturday 27 February 2016 issue). Thank you, Ms. Peky Samal, the news editor of Business Bhutan for the apt title: 

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forest had issued a circular requesting all government and other agencies to avoid serving meat during the workshops and conferences. The Ministry’s rationale was that the Year of Monkey is the birth year of Guru Rinpoche and it also coincides with the meat bans in the country. It is a welcome move.   

In Bhutan, every year the first and fourth months of Bhutanese calendar, the sale of meat is banned.

I think the content of the circular should stand even beyond Guru Rinpoche’s birth year. Since we are putting a strict ban on the sale of meat during the holy months, it should not be available in the first place. But sadly, some hotels continue to serve their customers meat. But should we allow this to happen? It is said, that a month prior to the ban, demand for meat skyrockets. That says it all. Should we allow hoteliers to store meat to be used during the ban? Doesn’t it defeat the whole purpose of the ban?  

Our meat ban should go beyond any regulations or restrictions for it is not every time that we have such bans. Two months in a year! I think it is a rare occasion to spread our compassion to many animals that have to give up their lives to feed us all. I really feel that we should go strong with our commitments. Again, we are not asking everyone to turn vegetarians, are we? But at least during the holy months, can we be put a small brake on our uncontrolled appetites?

Most Bhutanese eat meat at home, but during conference lunches more meat items find their ways on our platter. So, the Ministry’s circular is a big relief.

Last month, a group of hoteliers in Bumthang came together and agreed that they will not serve their customers meat during the holy months. It is truly remarkable for businessmen to agree on something like that. Can we convince some more hoteliers in other parts of the country to do the same? They did not wait for the Ministry to issue a circular.

That’s a simple logic, says my high school niece. If hotels, provided all agree to serve only vegetables during the holy months, then their customers would not complain about the meatless menu. But the problem comes when meat is not served in a particular hotel while it is freely available in some other hotels. That’s why I think we must seek the support of the business establishments to put in place effective meat bans in the country.

We applaud the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest for its bold and noble initiative. It is one way of promoting compassionate society. 

Jan 26, 2016

Bhutan's Second Thromde Election and its e-Waste

Photo Courtesy: Kuensel
As it had announced earlier, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) successfully conducted the Second Thromde elections in Thimphu, Phuentsholing and Gelephu on January 25, 2016. Two Thromdes of Gelephu and Phuentsholing elected new thrompons while Thimphu managed to retain their first. 

Unlike in the past not many candidates contested this election. As a result voting had to be carried out by asking people to press either "Yes" or "No" on Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). Moreover, voter turnout trend is unsatisfactory.  

Many representatives were fruitfully elected this time. However, two lone candidates in Phuentsholing Thromde election were voted out. Tirtha Maya Mongar of Pekarzhing Demkhong secured 62 'yeses' and 64 'no' votes. Likewise, Rinchending constituency's Tshogpa candidate Tshering Wangdi had received support from only 19 voters while 36 were against him. I feel sorry for the two candidates. Such a pity that their voters fielded no candidates against them and yet voted them "No". Or did the voters accidentally press the wrong buttons on the EVMs? 

From Election Commission of Bhutan Notification
It is a sheer waste. I call it e-waste. It is a waste that results from elections that have gone wrong. It is a waste of human resources for it takes more than money to conduct these elections. It is a waste of people's time and energy. Business houses have to be closed to allow free and fair elections. It means losses to these establishments. 

According to the ECB "Elections in the vacant Demkhongs shall be undertaken in [the] due course of time." I am curious - can the two candidates recontest in the re-elections? What if they not only contest in the reelection but win the elections? It will be interesting to wait and watch!  

So, how do we avoid such e-wastes? This is because we are going to have many elections in future where we would be unable to elect the required representatives. If people do not support a candidate, it is only proper that they field in a candidate that they would support and vote in. Isn't it a crazy idea to go to the polling station and vote "No"? That's an exercise in vain and defeats the whole purpose of going there.

Jan 21, 2016

From feathers to cellophane tapes

Picture by Kuenga Dendup
In Bhutan archery is more than a game. It is a rich cultural heritage. And for that matter archery was never even a hobby. For our forefathers, archery was not something that they could play every day or on weekends. But they could afford to shoot only a few times in a year during special occasions such as losar (New Year), where Bhutanese men would come out in big numbers to play. 

In our rural villages, farmers gather to shoot arrows only during these festive days. Even now. That's when one village would comepete with its neighboring villages and young men compete against the senior archers.   
Picture by Kuenga Dendup

However, in towns today, we have people playing archery almost everyday. And some archery ranges are always occupied. That's astounding. Sometimes, I marvel how these men could go on shooting day after day and also be able to feed their families. That makes me think that some of our men are playing archery full time. But that's a topic for another blog post. 

Today, urban archers play on heavy and expensive imported equipment. These equipment are used as hunting tools in the west. Here, they are highly valued possesions. Sometimes the type of shooting equipment also determines the archers' social status. 
Picture by Kuenga Dendup

Today, in the national competitions, the authorities would not allow archers to use modified traditional equipment to take part in the tounament. They insisted that we must follow our tradition. But do we realize that imported equipment is gradually killing our traditional bows and arrows? Bhutanese archers have modified the tranditional bows in the shape and form of their imported cousins and use modern bowstrings, which are durable compared to our traditional neetle-fibre bowstrings.

Picture by Kuenga Dendup
Traditionally, feathers are sourced from beautiful birds that dwell in the high altitude regions. These birds are endangered species and we need to protect them. And with our environmental conservation policy that prohibits from killing these birds it is only proper that we resort to better substitutes. In fact some innovative archers had discovered that cellophane tapes make the best susbstitute. Necessity, indeed, is the mother of invention! 

All cultural practices must evolve and develop. Same logic applies to our national sport. That's why I feel modified bows and arrows should be allowed in national archery tournaments and even encouraged. What is heartening is now Bhutan Archery Federation is training our young people with the modified recurve bows. Welcome news! 
Picture by Bhutan Archery Federation

Dec 31, 2015

Farewell 2015 and Happy New Year

In a few hours' time, we will be in 2016. That is like in a blink. And as we bid goodbye to 2015 I would like to say thank-you to everyone, who visited my blog. I am really sorry that I could not really continue to blog. But I hope 2016 provides me more time to blog. Happy New Year to all. I hope to see you all in good health and peace of mind. Goo luck.

In the following, I would like to share the interview I gave to The Business Bhutan. I would like to thank the News Editor, Ms. Peky Samal for kindly thinking of me when she actually wanted to write about the increasing blogging trends in the country. I share it here not because I have propounded great things; rather I share it here because I don't have anything worthy to share with you to close the last chapter of 2015.

      What is your blog’s name?
I call my blog: Penstar with a subtitle … for the Pen is mightier than the Sword (

When did you start your blog?
I had started this blog sometime in 2009 although I had some other blogs while at college. Simultaneously, I was also blogging in a few popular blogging sites such as and Nopkin.

What do you blog about?
Initially, I would post some of my short stories or poems, but things gradually changed. I started thinking about social issues – issues that affect me and society at large. I continue to blog about issues that I strongly feel about.

How many followers do you have?
I think I might have a few followers and readers who go through my blog entries. They are the real inspiration behind and I feel bad when I am unable to blog quite often. I owe big to these people.

What motivated you start blogging?
Actually, it started as a very private thing – this whole blog thing. But as I got to hear from more people, I thought of writing about pertinent social issues. I would be satisfied even if one person thinks or sees the issues the way I see it after he/she goes through it. So, the biggest motivation is the social good.

What do you aim to achieve through your blog? Long-term and short-term goals.
Personally, I do not aim to achieve anything by blogging. But of course I will be a much happier man if someone out there goes through it and stir his reactions both for and against. To reach out to more and more Bhutanese around the country would be my only goal – be it short or long term. I think small.

Who is your blog’s target audience?
I would like to reach mostly people of my age group or younger Bhutanese, who would see and respond to the things around them in the manner I do. And I also would like to reach out to the people in many big offices to hear out many of the unpleasant things that are happening in many places. This is with a hope that with responsive authorities in the concerned agencies or offices, some good things would come by.

Which blog post(s) of yours has got the most hits by far? How many? Or which is your most popular blog post?
There is one about Miss Bhutan Beauty Pageant. It is about Miss Bhutan candidates being interviewed in English and judged. I argue that we could have them speak in Dzongkha, national language of Bhutan or any other dialects, instead of making them speak English. This, I argue, is targeted at elite/urbanite Bhutanese. But we have the nation watching the show, which is completely being held in English. For those who did not understand Dzongkha, we could have had someone translating it. That was what I thought back then. And I think that was by far the most read blog entry on my blog; maybe it had some keywords related to beauty, Miss Bhutan, etc. Subsequently, the same blog entry was published as a column in Business Bhutan.

Personally, my own favorite happens to be one about morning talks to my three-month-old daughter. While it addresses a three-month toddler, the content of the blog talks about many social issues such as corruption, old parents having to take care of their children’s children in urban Bhutan, people’s misconduct and socially dreaded diseases, marriages/divorces among many others. The same was also published as another column by the same paper.

Do you think that bloggers can change the way people think/view certain issues?
Personally, I am not sure how much or to what extent people’s views on certain issues change after they go through a certain bloggers’ posts. But I think as this platform becomes more popular I think bloggers will certainly play a big role in changing people’s perception about social issues. At some point the current Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bhutan addressed bloggers as the “thought leaders”.  I wish Bhutanese bloggers get to enjoy that privilege. Especially, once the bloggers become popular, I see them promoting various brands or endorsing many good places to eat in town. I also wish our bloggers get to meet and interact with policy makers to discuss issues in their appropriate fields. 

Which blogger do you admire most? Why?
On top of being a great fan of PaSsu Diary, I also closely follow Aue Yeshi Dorji’s blog. I really admire the way he researches his issues and comes up with many sensible arguments. His simple and clear language amazes me. He is one inspiring Bhutanese blogger and a professional photographer.  

Any changes you would want to make in your blog? How do you want to grow as a blogger?
Although I periodically try to change the way my blog looks I do not intend to change much with the way I run it. I will also continue to blog about issues that are closer to my heart. And as a blogger some day in future I would like to see if there are some things that are worthwhile to go to the press – many years late. That will provide me opportunity to reflect on many things that I had experienced, seen and heard.  

Are you a member of the community of Bhutanese bloggers? How do you think this community will help Bhutanese bloggers like you?
Yes. I am a founding member of Community of Bhutanese Bloggers (CBB) and currently serve in the working committee. This platform is aimed at bringing Bhutanese bloggers together and offer solidarity to fellow Bhutanese bloggers. CBB also conducts Bloggers Meets, Conferences and annual dinners for the fellow Bhutanese and interested people at large. I really think that CBB will introduce many young bloggers to the already established and more popular bloggers. To have that kind of platform is heartening. And most importantly meeting a fellow blogger is great experience many bloggers will always treasure. CBB connects many such ardent bloggers – the joy is boundless.

Any last words?
Our record shows there are more than 400 blogs in the country. But I think there are more bloggers than that – in fact much more. There are people who maintain blogs privately like their secret journals. We would like to urge many more, especially the youth to start blogging or continue to blog. I wish every teacher blogs, too, that way we would inspire many youths to do the same. Unlike the other form of writings, blogging has a charm in that whatever we blog, it is out there for the whole world to read and comment within a matter of seconds.

Writing society is also the one that reads.

Nov 19, 2015

The Dragon King - a Tribute

The following is another tribute that I had the honor to contribute and offer to our beloved K4 and was published by Business Bhutan in their special edition on November 11, 2015. 

Art by Chimi R Namgyal
The moment my mother stepped out her feet, the whole family mood would change. I remember how, as a young boy, I felt so low, restless and completely dejected when she had to go some places leaving us behind. Our house would be empty and cold. And as she disappeared away from us, behind the hills, I would amble home, crying.

That was exactly the kind of atmosphere that the nation had as people retired for the night of December 9, 2006. His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo had just abdicated the Golden Throne and handed over His Royal duties to the then Crown Prince and the Fifth Hereditary Monarch His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck at Tashichodzong in the presence of the Council of Ministers. For a moment, the whole nation went silent unable to believe what they were seeing or hearing. The citizens felt empty and low. No one was prepared for the sudden news and it literally shook and shocked the nation. Some elder citizens could not contain their tears. That hangover lasted for a long time. 

But deep inside we all knew this was coming. His Majesty the Fourth King declared at the National Day celebrations on December 17, 2005, that he was abdicating the Throne and that the nation would conduct parliamentary elections in 2008. But what we did not know was that it was coming that soon. 

The news soon reached far and wide. The world praised His Majesty’s noble vision and his farsighted motive. When elsewhere leaders hungered for more powers, here was a King, who chose to renounce his power and instead give it back to the people. 

His Majesty had always been a democrat at heart. In order to decentralize and devolve power to the people, His Majesty established Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdus (DYT) in 1981 and Gewog Yargay Tshogchung (GYT) in 1991. The decentralization initiative provided the local leaders the opportunities to plan and implement their own development agenda in consultation with the people, who are the ultimate beneficiary of the developmental programs. People were given the power to choose their leaders to represent them. 

And more significantly in 1998 His Majesty declared, “The time has come to promote even greater people’s participation in the decision-making process. Our country must be ensured to always have a system of government which enjoys the mandate of the people and also has an inbuilt mechanism of checks and balance to safeguard our national interest and security,” and selflessly handed over his executive powers to the elected Council of Ministers. On September 4, 2001, His Majesty initiated the drafting of written Constitution for Bhutan. 

His Majesty said, “It is my duty, as the King, to strengthen the nation so that the people and the nation becomes more prosperous and secure than before. During the past years of my reign, I have made constant efforts to empower the people by delegating authority, resources and responsibility to them. Reforms on decentralization and devolution of power have been quiet but continuous.” 

Accordingly in 2005, Bhutan released the Draft Constitution to the people for review and comments. His Majesty personally held consultations with the people and listened to their views and recommendations. And in most places citizens requested His Majesty to defer democratization process itself. 

During the 2005 National Day, His Majesty said, “During my consultations on the Constitution in different Dzongkhags, the main concern of our people is that it is too early to introduce parliamentary democracy in Bhutan.” But His Majesty was fully convinced that the time was ripe and that Bhutanese people have had their share of experience in democratic processes and principles. “After 26 years of the process of decentralization and devolution of powers to the people, I have every confidence that people will be able to choose the best political party that can provide good governance and serve the interest of the nation.” 

One of the strong apprehensions people shared was Article 2, Section 6 of the Draft Constitution, which stated, “Upon reaching the age of sixty-five years, the Druk Gyalpo shall step down and hand over the Throne to the Crown Prince or Crown Princess, provided the Royal Heir has come of age.” People everywhere appealed His Majesty to remove the section and expressed their concerns, but the King insisted on its importance. That’s why today the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan retains the clause. His Majesty set a great precedent by resigning at the age of 51. His Majesty was a true democrat. 

We live in a unique nation that is blessed by the visionary and farsighted leaders. As envisioned by our Beloved His Majesty Druk Gyal Zhipa, Bhutan adopted its written Constitution in 2008 and welcomed the democratically elected government. History of democracy is often mired in great bloodshed and violence, but democracy assumed a new meaning in the Kingdom of Bhutan. Here it comes at a time when the nation was enjoying profound peace and dawns as a priceless gift from the Golden Throne. 

When the fourth Druk Gyalpo personally led the forces during the military flush out in the south, a renowned lama remarked, “There were stories from the past of the mythical King Gesar or the Buddhist King Ashoka, who fought battles, but in the modern time the Bhutanese King proved it.” That was a day in 2003, which would always remain etched in the minds and hearts of every Bhutanese. We can never thank His Majesty enough for voluntarily putting his own life at risk so that we have a safer future. 

My cousin Sherab, a monk, believes, “Our kings are the emanation of Bodhisattvas and are by no means ordinary beings. For Bhutanese, our king is a symbol of our collective merits.” I can’t agree more with him. Our kings are the embodiment of true compassion in whose hearts dwell the welfare and security of the Bhutanese people. 

His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck is an exemplary leader in the twenty-first-century world. Bhutan is the only nation that has seen a young king being crowned in the presence of his father. His Majesty also demonstrated his lack of greed for powers by selflessly abdicating the Golden Throne and ushering in a new era of democracy in the Land of the Thunder Dragon. 

As the nation marks the 60th Birth Anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck, I would like to join my fellow citizens in offering my humble and sincere prayers for His Majesty’s good health and unending peace and happiness in the Kingdom of Bhutan. 

May the Kingdom gain enough merit to fulfill His Majesty’s lofty vision of Gross National Happiness! 

Nov 10, 2015

Happy Birthday, Your Majesty!

Art by Ugyen Wangdi (STCBL) 
November 11 is finally here. It is that time of the year when Bhutanese people think in the same wavelength of thoughts and that time of the year when gratitude finds natural flow in all our hearts. And for people of remote Shingkhar Gewog in Zhemgang, November 11, 2015, bears special significance for their lives will never be the same again as they welcome electricity for the first time in their lives on this day. That will forever brighten their dark lives. And what a fitting and historic time to rejoice the coming of the light in the darkness! For this happiness and more, we would like to thank the selfless Monarch, who brought lights in the darkness. Thank you, Your Majesty! (Below, I share with you the tribute to His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan that I have contributed to the November-December 2015 edition of Tashi Delek, the in-flight magazine of Drukair- Royal Bhutan National Airlines.)  

His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck is the twenty-first-century leader, a true Buddhist King, and an exemplary leader. His Majesty is a special person, who finds special places in the hearts and minds of all Bhutanese. He is a king, who moved the world by renouncing his power when elsewhere people die for it and are unwilling to give up or share their powers. But Bhutanese people are fortunate because we live in the age of Bodhisattva kings for whom people's welfare and happiness are the top priorities. 

His Majesty is a monarch to whom the security and sovereignty of the nation means more than his personal safety. He is a king who understood the concept of impermanence and had carefully nurtured democracy in the country. In fact, His Majesty had gifted the people with democracy when people adamantly refused it. 

That way we are a blessed nation of blessed people. Like all Bhutanese, my chest swells with pride knowing that I was born in this magical place called Bhutan and share this great country with the fortunate fellow Bhutanese.

2003 was a testing time for Bhutan and her people. That was a painful memory. But we will never forget the King, who put his life on the line in order to safeguard ours. His Majesty the Fourth King against the wishes of all concerned citizens decided to lead the armed forces personally to the battleground and justified, “When I say that I will put my life before my men, I don’t say it because it sounds beautiful, I say it because I genuinely mean it from the core of my heart.” 

Normally, we hear and read of a country’s leader ordering the forces, but our His Majesty chose to be at the forefront. Two days prior to the military operation, His Majesty addressed his soldiers, “I will not be in the capital and give out orders. I hold the responsibility of safeguarding the security and independence of our nation. I am here today, to look after the safety and welfare of our soldiers because I worry for you from my heart, for you are like my own children. This is my true duty and responsibility.” 

Nothing captures that moment and what it all entailed better than Her Majesty Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangchuck’s rendition of living history at Dochula, which is now dotted with 108 chortens erected to commemorate Bhutan’s success in flushing out the Indian militants from the Bhutanese soil, under the leadership of His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan and to remember those soldiers, who had to give up their lives for the nation. 

The Druk Wangyel Lhakhang built under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck honours the King, who personally led the troops to the battlefield and bravely removed the insurgents. The majestically towering Lhakhang is a beautiful blend of our rich tradition and modernity. The temple is a living museum of beautiful Bhutanese architecture and craftsmanship. The colorfully painted murals for example, eternally depict scenes from that historic chapter in 2003. Her Majesty also established Dochula Druk Wangyel Tshechu in 2011 (which is now held on December 13 every year), which, in essence captures the heroic deeds of His Majesty in the defense of the Kingdom’s sovereignty. It is a fitting tribute to the invaluable deeds of His Majesty the King. 

Although most would believe that democracy was introduced in the country only in 2008 His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck had sown a true seed of democracy in the Land of the Thunder Dragon way back in 1981. His Majesty announced the establishment of Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdu (DYT), a district development committee in each Dzongkhag that would be responsible for the formulation of development plans and coordination of activities and further His Majesty strengthened the process by taking it to the grassroots with the establishment of Gewog Yargay Tshogchung (GYT) in 1991. 

The decentralization process gave the local leaders opportunities to plan and implement their own development agenda in consultation with the people, who elected them. The community members had the power to choose their leaders to represent them at the GYT, DYT and the National Assembly. In the process, people were increasingly involved in planning their development agenda. 

As early as 2001, His Majesty initiated the drafting of written Constitution for Bhutan and the Draft Constitution was distributed to the people for review and comments in 2005. His Majesty and the Crown Prince personally consulted with the people and intently listened to their views and recommendations. This was done against the backdrop of people requesting the King to defer the democratic process itself reasoning that the nation was not ready for it. But His Majesty declared, “During my consultations on the Constitution in different Dzongkhags, the main concern of our people is that it is too early to introduce parliamentary democracy in Bhutan…. After 26 years of the process of decentralization and devolution of powers to the people, I have every confidence that people will be able to choose the best political party that can provide good governance and serve the interest of the nation.” 

His Majesty said, “It is my duty, as the King, to strengthen the nation so that the people, and the nation becomes more prosperous and secure than before. During the past years of my reign, I have made constant efforts to empower the people by delegating authority, resources and responsibility to them. Reforms on decentralization and devolution of power have been quiet but continuous.” 

But more historically, in 1998 His Majesty said that it was time to promote ‘even greater people’s participation in the decision-making process’. He declared, “Our country must be ensured to always have a system of government which enjoys the mandate of the people and also has an inbuilt mechanism of checks and balance to safeguard our national interest and security.” 

In the manner befitting a true Buddhist, His Majesty selflessly passed down all his executive powers to the newly elected Council of Ministers while he assumed as the head of the State only. His Majesty declared that he was abdicating the Throne and that we would have parliamentary elections in 2008. This benumbed a nation, but the King further surprised his citizens by abdicating the Throne in 2006. His Majesty was only 51 years old and perfectly fit to lead the nation. This can only happen in Bhutan. 

As scripted by His Majesty the Fourth King, Bhutan adopted a written Constitution in 2008 and ushered in a new era of democracy with the elected government in place. 

In his speeches to the students, His Majesty had always maintained that the young people are the future of the country and he had always attached great importance to them. 

By abdicating the Throne while still young, His Majesty gifted us the Fifth King His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, a king, who finds joy in meeting his people and talking to them; a king who is usually the first to console his people and lend them moral support when something tragic happens and a king who treasures the nation’s young people. 

Thank you, Your Majesty for gifting us a king who finds pleasure in walking the length and breadth of this country to be with his people and hear their plights, a king who finds time to share moments with the young graduates entering the job market, a king who goes out of his way to inspire our leaders with his precious wisdom, which is matured beyond his age; a king who finds time to play with his people; a king who finds pleasure in cooking meals to his subjects and sharing wonderful moments with them. Jigme Khesar is truly the People’s King!

In his 34 years of leadership, the Fourth King had transformed this unheard village-like country to a modern nation in sync with the process of modernization while also safeguarding our age-old traditions and rich cultural legacy. And more importantly, His Majesty will always be remembered for propounding to the outside world that for Bhutan, “Gross National Happiness is more important than the Gross Domestic Product”. 

As the nation comes together to celebrate the 60th Birth Anniversary of His Majesty this year, I humbly would like to pray and wish His Majesty the best of health and long and fulfilling life. On this historic moment, I offer my sincerest prayers for ever-lasting peace, happiness and steady progress for this nation. 

I would like to convey my heartiest Tashi Delek and congratulations to all the people of Bhutan for having had the fortune of serving a Bodhisattva King.

Thank You, Your Majesty! 

Happy birthday Your Majesty.