Rioting in England and youth here

Watching the London Riots unfold and take over the whole of UK is appalling. I watch the TV with disbelief, as people burn buildings and cars, young men and women -some hooded, others not caring that they could be identified, run out of shops with whatever they can loot, stealing and destroying property that belongs to someone in their own neighbourhood, perhaps someone they know.
Some boys steal play stations from an electronics store, two women are seen stealing nappies and baby feed, one of the rioters says, “see, this got us noticed.”
“How can they do this to their own people?” I wonder. But we have been seeing increasing youth crimes here, too. Kids in Thimphu committing urban crimes- vandalizing the IT Park, mugging people, breaking into homes and burgling, stealing mobile phones and other high end goods and reselling them, using drugs, drinking, fighting in gangs…
I know young boys- and girls, barely 10 or 11, smoke pot. I remember a group of kids who used to smoke pot at the bottom of a building stairs in their school uniform, and when one of the building residents phoned their principal to complain, the principal asked him to give him their names and classes.
I see young girls belonging to gangs, drinking beer, sitting at bars, carrying knives.
A 16 year old boy I spoke to once, who had been to rehab for alcohol abuse, told me about the number of gang fights they had. The reason he went to rehab was because he was discovered beaten and unconscious by the police. He stole car tyres and sometimes even from homes- people are still looking for him, and he is afraid if he runs into them he will get beaten.
Lam Shenphen, who works with a lot of these kids, talked about how they have nothing to do, which is why they hang around in gangs, roaming the streets late at night, and get into trouble.
Would these kids want a different life? A life in which they don’t have to fear that they will get beaten, in which they discover something they are good at and enjoy praise or appreciation, a life in which there are some people who care about them? I don’t know, maybe they don’t realize it is a better life, but the kid who went to rehab for alcoholism said something to me that makes me think everyone wants something like that.
He was talking about his Alcoholics Anonymous group that met once a week- and checked up on him whenever he was absent. “I like it, when they look for me. They are my friends,” he said. In his old life, no one cared where he was any time of the day.
Back to rioters in UK. I think it is appalling that a lot of people come together to commit acts of crime, not caring for other people’s lives or property. I always used to think that people are essentially good, a few are criminals, which is why we have some crime, but the majority of us, 6 billion people in the world, are if not heroes, not criminals either. This kind of mass crime comes as a blow, and my two questions are what makes them do this, and what can be done to redress this.
This is all for today- this post is already too long to ramble on, but I will add a few continuing posts on several factors I think contribute to the problem, and what can be done.

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NC members are political

I caught a small bit of the NA proceedings yesterday and saw an MP comment that NC members do not deserve money for constituency visits because ‘NC members are apolitical’.
Now, because I did not watch the entire proceedings where the members of the National Assembly deliberated on the role of NC and NA, I will not comment on the need for such a budget or who has a right to veto financial bills or make changes- these are long standing arguments that need another post and a lot of thought.
But I am surprised that the NA members consider only themselves ‘political’ and think that the NC members, and the local leaders, who have been elected in almost the same manner, are not.
I don’t know on what basis the NA members make this difference. If they are going by the constitution, then I must say I think they have misread it.
The constitution says that National Council elects will not belong to or affiliate with any political party. I do not see the word ‘apolitical’ used.
Now politics is not limited to political parties. There are different types of politicians. there are people who belong to political parties, and there are individual politicians, and in my understanding, in Bhutan we have both. We have parties, and it is vital that politicians in other decision making bodies, such as the local government and the National Council, do not belong to or affiliate themselves with any party, because this could severely hamper the democratic process and render the entire setup useless.
But NC members who have been elected by the people of their constituencies, and local leaders who have done the same are politicians as well.
They have been chosen by the people in the hope that they will, in a position of power, make decisions that benefit the public who have voted for them. They too have contested in elections with rival candidates, and have worked to convince the public that they are the right person to sit in the decision making bodies representing the people. And they too are answerable to the people who have voted for them. This makes them as ‘political’ as any NA member.

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State funding for political parties?

Although this issue has been on my mind for a while now, I thought it was irrelevant once the National Council rejected NA’s amendments to the Election Act that would allow state funding for political parties.
But in his state of the nation report in the parliament, the Prime Minister spent a good amount of time arguing for it, indicating that the issue is far from closed as far as the DPT government is concerned. So I am publishing my point of view on the matter here.
In an earlier post, I wrote why I think party system does not make sense in Bhutan- although our constitution clearly defines our democratic system to have political parties.
With regard to state funding as suggested by the ruling party, I feel that any amendment to the election act would be wrong.
It would be wrong because as far as I see it, although I am no law student, the constitution seems pretty clear in the matter- state funding as suggested by the ruling party is not mentioned in the constitution, which has provision for a certain type of state funding already- the state is to fund a certain amount required for campaigning during elections. Any addition to that would be violation of the constitution. So unless the constitution itself is amended to include other types of state funding, to introduce it in other legislation would be illegal.
It would also set a negative precedence of willfully dodging the most important of all laws in the country. Any new law or policy introduced in the country must be undisputable in its adherence to the constitution, and finding a loophole in the law, especially when a large number of people, including, notably, the chief justice of Bhutan disagree, would be dangerous.
So, first and foremost, amending the election act to allow state funding to run political parties after elections would be illegal.
Secondly, such a system would take away a lot of money from the state, and allowing the government to decide how much money should be allowed, instead of the election commission (as suggested in the amendments by the National Assembly) would be, once again, a violation of the constitution and also obviously wrong.
Thirdly, when it comes to state funding itself, I am not convinced that Bhutan needs it now. In many countries state funding may be the right way to go about the whole democratic process, but every country is unique. As of now Bhutan does not have very rich individuals willing to donate extraordinary amounts of money to a party, thereby risking the possibility of ‘controlled’ parties which would make choosing candidates and policy decisions based on the interests of those parties.
And, in a largely illiterate society, with still a number of people living in poverty, there is a risk that state funds would be used to buy votes, directly and indirectly- a risk similar to that perceived when Constituency Development Grant was allowed.
I may be mistaken here, and this could stem from my lack of experience in politics, but I feel that a Bhutanese political party should not require a lot of money to exist- and that if it is unable to sustain itself on the money that it raises from member donations, it falls upon the party itself to cut costs.
Spending a lot of money for the sole purpose of running political parties in a donor dependent country like Bhutan, which still has a long way to go in terms of economic development seems wrong. Simply put, that money could be utilized to benefit the people elsewhere. And for a GNH society that we aspire to be, the interests of the people should come before the existence of political parties.
In Bhutan the state already pays for election campaigns, and the argument that without state funding the two existing parties will die seems flawed. There must be other ways to raise money, or resolve this issue, and asking the state for a bailout seems like the easy way out.
The democratic system, government, and the political parties were formed in this country to serve the people. Overlooking the people and focusing on the survival of the means is counterproductive to that goal.

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My friend the dairy farmer

Youngten Lempen Tharchen, or Tharchen, to his friends, is a graduate from Sherubtse College, Kanglung, a former journalist, and a dairy farmer in Dagana.
Always resourceful, Tharchen is intelligent and would have done well at the civil service exams, but instead he chose to avail an interest-free loan from Loden Foundation and set up a small dairy farm in his village in Dagana.
He has six cows, a bull, a small patch of family land on which he built a shed, and family members who help him with the work. He has already started selling some products, and he may not exactly be rolling in the money now, but he is far from giving up.
In fact, Tharchen has some admirable goals- he dreams of making the farm bigger and involving all the farmers in his area to form some sort of cooperative, and increase supply of local dairy products as much as possible.
He has come up against a lot of very interesting issues in the course of his work, and I suggested that he start his own blog to write about them and his farm- I am sure a lot of people will find it interesting and inspiring.
Tharchen’s choice is inspiring to me- he has paved a new road for himself off the beaten track, away from what people expect a young intelligent graduate to do, and proved to us that there is no boundary young people like us need to stick to when it comes to work. He has also followed a dream he has nursed for a while and gone for it.
His goals also inspire me. He wishes to help the people in his community improve their lives by increasing their income, and has taken the first step towards that goal- setting up a dairy farm in his village and talking to the people in his community.
It would be wonderful to see a community benefit each other by working as a cooperative and producing enough milk to supply atleast a part of the country. This is better for the economy of the country, we will not have to depend so much on import, and our farmers will be making a better living. AND he is helping address the unemployment problem in his own small way by being self-employed, and later by employing more people to work with him.
Tharchen also aims to make his products organic- another plus. The possibilities are unlimited- he can work with tourism and actually help the government make good their aim of starting off agro tourism, selling to tourists the opportunity to live in a rural household. He can, and wants to, start off small community projects involving children.
He has started off something promising and full of opportunities, and I wish him all the best. And I also hope that soon there will be a blog from the man himself, writing about dairy farming and life in Dagana.
Most of all, I hope his story inspires you as much as it inspires me.

Revision- 11 July 2011: Tharchen started blogging, his first post is about how he became a dairy farmer.


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On bad laws

Whenever we come across a problem like drug use or unemployment, for instance, we automatically mutter that ‘they’ should make a law to solve it.
But having observed laws being made nationally and internationally, I am increasingly convinced that laws do little to solve problems.
And I think the reason laws are useless is because the people who make the laws go with the assumption that the law, once framed and approved by authorities, will be abided unquestioningly by the people.
Take the Kyoto Protocol, ratified by parliaments of the signatory countries, proving that things won’t happen just because a piece of paper says people must do this. Irrespective of the fact that the paper was signed and accepted by the very people who later refused to follow it.
Lawmakers think they have an answer to the problem, though. If anyone breaks the law, there is always punishment. But this only complicates the whole thing. How do you punish an entire country, for instance, for not keeping their Kyoto promises? How do you make sure that you catch people who are breaking the law? Because those who break the law are ingenious, and know how to escape undetected. And how do you know that you have the right to punish someone who didn’t do something that you said they should, or did something you said they shouldn’t? And most importantly, even if you are convinced that they are to be punished, how do you know what punishment they deserve?
I am also convinced that people who make laws do not think it through, and not just in Bhutan. It is hard to anticipate all possible outcomes, and sometimes you only realize the validity of a provision in the law in retrospect. But the beauty of mistakes is that it can be undone once you realize where you have gone wrong.
The Tobacco Control Act is an example of a law gone all wrong, and I do not need to explain why- smarter minds have detailed the many flaws with it. It is still referred to as a debate, but honestly there is no solid argument for the law, and the arguments against it are overwhelming, and convincing.
So why is the law not being changed?
Honestly, I don’t know. There is no excuse that any MP can offer for not wanting to amend the law, and yet, it seems unlikely in this session of the parliament. And yet the voices speaking against it are dismissed as ‘smokers and drug addicts’.
Drugs. The word conjures up images of pathetic, helpless people, crime and violence, mafia and black market, smuggling and broken homes.
Today I read an article about considering legalizing some drugs, relaxing punishments, because people are beginning to realize that the world is ‘losing its war on drugs’.
You may balk at this, shouldn’t we be fighting drugs? They destroy lives and families, after all.
But the point is, with both international drug control and Bhutanese tobacco control, that we are not really fighting either drugs or tobacco. Or even if we are, we are going about the wrong way in doing it.
I do not deny, for one minute, that tobacco is bad for you. It may kill you, it smells bad, you can’t play sports or exercise to the best of your abilities, it is just a lot of money spent on puffs of smoke that could be used elsewhere for something useful. And we should do the best we can to fight it.
The question is how.
We are the Buddhist country that came up with GNH. Can we really do no better than put people behind bars for smoking? Something that genuinely helps the people the “Act” intends to, and treats them with compassion.
You must know the serenity prayer, the one most rehab centers use to help their inmates…
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
I think it’s time our lawmakers got more introspective, and prove their dedication to the service of the people and the nation, by having the serenity to accept the things that they cannot change, like people’s habits, the courage to change the things they can, like bad laws, and most of all, the wisdom to know the difference.

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A coupleof reposts on Information and BICMA

Information Please
I was reading Bhutan Today the other day and the front page carried some article about Bhutan’s UN Security Council hopes. I think this is an important bit of news because it is a significant indicator of our growth as a nation that is looking to be more active in world politics. There was something about it last Saturday in Business Bhutan, but of course when we have 8 newspapers in the country we will expect to read the same topics hopefully with more information and a different take, or as the newspeople say, ‘angle’ to it.
The article in Bhutan Today made me cringe a  little because in the first paragraph it quoted a Nepal newspaper as it’s source on the information regarding what the Bhutan officials were doing abroad.
I see so much wrong in this. Firstly it doesn’t look good for the paper to have to source information about our own country from papers based outside. Second I have learnt in my stint as a reporter that a lot of the stuff we find online are not reliable, second sources are always a big risk. I don’t blame the reporter, much, anyway. A journalist’s job is to look for the news on their own, but since this reporter was not with the said officials at that time, I can see how he would have a hard time reporting. Add to that the fact that our people in the government are not exactly accessible, especially when abroad. I understand that they are busy with the conference.
But I also wish they would understand that whatever is being said on behalf of the country in international forum is important news back home and it is their duty to see to it that the right information reaches the papers back home so that they do not have to resort to trawling the internet and seeking second hand information from foreign publications. The journalists should attempt to contact the right people but these people should also be forthcoming about the developments, especially since it is important that the country hears whats going on from our own representatives.


This is old news, the whole BICMA regulations or guidelines or whatever they are calling it, on films. There have already been a lot of smart responses, but I’d like to add some views of my own.
I don’t know how strictly they are going to enforce the ‘guidelines’, but I don’t see any point in making guidelines if they are not to be implemented- that’s just a waste of time and resources. I read somewhere about the new set of guidelines being just that- guidelines, which will not necessarily have to be followed- pointless, so maybe I misunderstood.
If these are to be enforced, though, I see problems. If BICMA’s goal is to promote culture and language in the country, I would advise them to let the movies be. Our movies in general are not that great, even the filmmakers admit that. Mostly they are borrowed bollywood themes with a convoluted storyline and song sequences. But the producers and directors argue that this is the kind of movies that people want, and if that is the case, I say fair enough. Quality could be improved with awards, which could also include culture and language (oh, that’s already there).
In my view, the more dzongkha movies we have, the more popular they are, the more popular the songs are, the more people learn the language.An example is the new ‘Sharchokpa Zamin’ which is full of western outfits, but was a huge hit. The songs were so popular even people who are not into dzongkha songs were humming them. That’s good I say. Let the filmmakers do their thing, let them do what they think will make their films popular, because popular dzongkha movies will draw in those people who are not into dzongkha, and they will learn.
Besides that, of course movies should be allowed to portray life as it is, not what BICMA thinks is appropriate.
What about violence, nudity, profanity, and the like, then, and the impact such content will have on our young impressionable minds? Well, there is an answer to that, and it is called film ratings. If BICMA really wants to lookout for young impressionable minds, they can start rating films based on their content and allotting age appropriate ratings. Then the theatres can ensure that the young people are not watching what they should not. An attempt to completely block such content from this section of the population is impossible- there is the internet and TV full of unregulated content. All we can hope for is that the adults take responsibility and monitor the children’s intake of media in whatever form.
And for adults, well, is the BICMA trying to protect the adults from violent and sexual content in media? Honestly?

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October 2011 is what we are waiting for!

It is not news anymore, the whole country is now buzzing with the announcement of His Majesty to wed in October. It is happy, happy news indeed, and although we are still months away from the occasion, the excitement everyone feels is palpable.
I was in the media gallery yesterday, and had the fortune of watching His Majesty make the wonderful announcement, and hidden from view of the formal proceedings of the parliament, we were free to express our excitement, as we watched those in the hall flash grins even as they resisted  breaking out into cheers.
I was also very fortunate to have graduated from college in May 2008, which meant that I could witness the coronation celebrations in the country that year in November. It was an amazing time to be a Bhutanese, and to be in Bhutan. A lot of my friends were still abroad then, and I was truly sorry that they missed this momentous occasion.
I don’t know if people who weren’t here really understand what it was all about. Maybe it just sounds like a big national celebration- well, it was a big national celebration, but it was also much more.
It was a time for everyone in the country to step out of their homes and join a big party. Everyone was out, attending events, or simply enjoying the vehicle free streets, acknowledging everyone else, friends and strangers with smiles and solidarity. There were a record number of people in the national dress, proud and beautiful people in their finest.
It was more than the coronation of a king- It was a time for everyone to celebrate their identity, their history and legacy, and their dreams and hopes for a promising future. Maybe all those people who were part of the celebrations didn’t express their feelings in so many words, but everyone felt it.
No one was alone, everyone was part of a bigger whole, and they knew. It was a magical time, and I believe that it brought everyone closer to one another and to everything that we have- our country, our kings and our shared memories.
That is why I am excited that we have another national celebration to look forward to this year. Perhaps it will not be in the same scale as the coronation celebrations, and I know His Majesty expressed his wish that the celebrations not be grand.
But I know it will be as big as the coronations in the soul. The joy evoked in the hearts of the people will be the same, and that is what makes an event grand, not the money spent on it. It will be a good time to be in Bhutan, and I am glad that some of my friends who missed the coronation will be able to witness the Royal Wedding. They deserve to share in the memory of a national celebration that lets us appreciate who we are.

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A word on the facebook ban.

I have said in my previous posts that I am averse to bans.
The meat ban on holy months, the tobacco sale ban and even the plastic ban. There were bans on certain TV channels, which was silly, too, and I am glad it’s not there anymore. I mean I don’t exactly know if they are still there, but I see MTV on my cable so I suppose that’s not an issue anymore.
The latest ban to hit the new is the ‘Facebook ban’. Happily, this is only applicable to government offices. And therefore it doesn’t take away from a person’s rights, and I am all for it.
I like Facebook, make no mistake. I am not one of those anti Facebook crusaders who think it is a waste, created by money minded people looking to exploit the rest of the world and fill their minds with junk.
I have internet on my mobile phone, and I use it mostly to log on to Facebook. I think I may be logging on to Facebook at least 10 times a day. First thing I wake up, throughout the day, and last thing before I go to sleep. I don’t think it’s a problem. Although others may not agree with me here.
I have some 600 friends, surprisingly I know all of them. I am not interested in all of them, though, which is why my homepage shows me news feed about maybe 30 friends. My best friends live far away, and Facebook is a good way to keep tab on the small things they do, it’s almost like being there with them. I don’t meet my best friends for years at a time but we are much more connected than before Facebook came along because I know what kind of hairstyle they have, what they are going through, what they are up to…. And these things matter to me.
I haven’t replaced my connections to those who really matter to me with Facebook- I write frequently to them and I call them up- but Facebook just keeps us in the loop.
But yes, I am all for banning Facebook at workplaces. I don’t think it’s an issue worthy of debate. If I owned a company I may decide to do the same if I see my people wasting their time playing Farmville instead of working. And as an employer, the government has every right to do the same to all of its employees.
We Bhutanese have many rights, and some of them get stepped on sometimes. But getting to use Facebook at work is not one of them. So I don’t see the point in the complaints against the move.
But like the plastic ban, Facebook ban is not going to work either. Those who are addicted to it will find ways to bypass the blocks and use the site anyway. And others will move on to playing Solitaire, like they used to before Facebook came along.
What I am trying to say here is that the problem is not Facebook. It’s our attitude towards work. Especially the civil service. I am sorry to say that despite it having become a cliché, brought out in the media so many times that now it’s almost politically incorrect to say it- but a lot of Civil Servants do not work at all. They are attending funerals, at banks, off to receive their bosses, out for trainings or conferences, or at home sick. When you do catch them at their workstations, they are on the phone obviously speaking to someone not work related, or playing card games on the computer, or, yes, on Facebook.
Wasting time on Facebook is Not the problem, it is a symptom of a greater problem. And that problem needs to be looked at and sorted out, because cleaning the surface will not improve the system. We need better laws, better transparency and accountability, and a better grading and reward system for work.
Yes, these are more difficult to do than a simple Facebook ban, but then they would solve the problem, which the ban does not address. And once these things are sorted out, maybe we can allow Facebook at government offices and still not have a whole load of virtual farmers.

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The world of bans

Recently, a ban on the muslim veil, burqua, came into force in France. This means that Muslim women in France can no longer wear the burqua.
My first reaction to this news, last year when the legislation was passed, was of disagreement. An average Bhutanese like me is already averse to bans in all its forms, I suppose. We have had our fill, with plastic and meat and now tobacco and perhaps, soon, alcohol.
So without a second thought, I made up my mind that this ban was wrong. Then I watched on TV a muslim woman who had this to say, “What kind of woman will want to cover her face at all times? It is hard to get by in a modern city with a thick cloth covering your face. No woman actually wants it, it is the men in their families who want them to cover their faces. This law liberates the women who want to lead normal lives but cannot, because of the dominating men in their family who force them to wear these veils. I welcome this legislation.”
Well, that’s a new way of thinking about it. I wondered if it was true- did women really not want to wear these veils, in cities like Paris, but were forced by the orthodox and dominating fathers, brothers, husbands and sons to do so? It sounded plausible to me, after all, like the woman said, why would anyone want to cover their faces at all times? If that was true, then all these women who never had the courage to fight back were now freed from wearing a veil, thanks to this law.
I was wondering about this, but still uncomfortable that this conculsion was not the right one. In my head I was drawing comparisions to the suttee system in India long back- How widows had to sit on their husband’s funeral pyre and die. That was wrong, and it was outlawed, rightly. Was this the same?
Perhaps there are women who want to be freed of wearing a veil at all times throughout their lives- and are secretly happy that now they can.
But on thinking about this for a while, I come to the conclusion that this law is still wrong. Because my leaning towards this law is based on the assumption that the women actually don’t want the veil, but are being forced into wearing it by their men. But this is an assumption. I am sure there are a lot of muslim women in France. Some may not want to wear the veil, but are being forced to by their family. Some, however inconceivable it may seem to us, may want to wear it! And if a single woman in France wants to wear a veil, she has every right to do so. Having a law that denies her this right is wrong.
We may not agree with this woman, we may think she is pushing back women’s rights and feminism, we may wonder why she would want to cover her face at all times in public. But we cannot deny that she has every right to wear whatever she wants to.
And if what the woman said was true, it is indeed sad for many women who are being opressed. We can hope that they become braver. Or perhaps the law can be tweaked to say that no one can force another to wear a veil. And hope that these women who don’t want the veil can stand up to those who opress them, when backed by the law. Because no one can tell someone else what to wear or what not to wear. Not the men, not the social circle, and not the government.
And of course this conclusion also underscores the wrong of our own bans. Ban on something personal as clothing, or smoking, is wrong.
Our legislators know this, which is why smoking, or consumption of tobacco per se is not illegal in Bhutan, they will argue. As long as you buy your cigarettes or khaini legally, you can continue with your vice. True.
But Tobacco is a habit that people cannot just shake off easily, and when it is too hard to do something legally, then people tend to turn to the illegal. Some laws encourage criminal behaviour, just by making everyday things people do a criminal activity. People have their own moral compass. And although we see a lot of crimes being committed, these are only a small percentage of the society. When a large section of the society are breaking laws, when otherwise straight people are committing crimes, then we know the problem is with the law.
Getting cigarettes or khaini legally is just too hard in Bhutan. So the people, bound to their habits, break the law. And then the punishment is just too harsh, way off balance when compared to the crime. And worse, only a small percentage of those who break the law are punished, perhaps because of the incompetence of the enforcers, perhaps because the law is so twisted it’s impossible to enforce fairly anyway.
I have heard people speak about making sacrifices for the greater good. they sympathise with those who are caught and face 3 years of jail time, but say that this law needs to be there ‘for the greater good’.
But sacrifices are never justified, unless they are voluntary. God is in the details, they say. And when the details are wrong there can never be a greater good.
All bans are wrong when they tread on your personal freedom. The ban on veils in France, and the ban on sale of tobacco in Bhutan.

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Tobacco Crime

So the monk who was caught with some packets of BABA kahini gets three years in jail. I am waiting for the uproar. Although I don’t understand why we had to wait for a person to go through all this to make a noise about just how wrong the tobacco control act is. Why did we have to put a monk into prison, to start stopping something terrible.

Why didn’t people say something when this act was passed? The fact that we let this happen fills me with dread. What other things are we going to allow in our country?

It amazes me that people still need to hear the debate about whether the TCA is right or not, and for MPs to defend the act.

Let me tell you why this law is wrong. First of all, take the monk’s case. He was unlucky. There have been many people who have been caught with ‘illegal’ cigarettes, but who have been let off with a warning. Sonam was unlucky that whoever caught him wasn’t in the mood to give him another chance. It was also unfair that other people should get a warning and Sonam should get three years.

When I was working for the papers, I knew all the other journalists, and let me tell you, 90 percent of the journalists smoked. I don’t know how many gave up after the ban. I wouldn’t put my money on the odds of even a single person to have given up, though. I know that there are a lot of smokers in Bhutan. Almost every other person I know smokes. And they haven’t stopped smoking after the ban. And it’s too hard to get the receipt. Most of the smokers today smoke ‘illegally’, and everyone must have broken that law at least once. If the enforcers really do their job our jails will be full and there will still be more ‘criminals’ outside. Yes, if we caught all the ‘criminals’ in Bhutan, ours will be the biggest crime rate in the world, thanks to the TCA.

The laws of a country are sacred, and they are to be framed after very careful thought. Yes, we don’t want our people to smoke or consume tobacco. But is this the right way of going about it? How is it that we, the Bhutanese, who are known for GNH and Buddhism, chose the path of punishment rather than compassion and teaching? The end should not justify the means. The law should only step in when we cause harm to someone else. When a father drinks and beats his wife and children, the country should think of stepping in to improve the lives of the victims.

Our lawmakers need to look seriously at their jobs and their responsibility. Spiderman was told that with great power comes great responsibilities. I would like to remind our MPs of this. It is a great responsibility to decide the laws of the land. We chose you to shoulder this responsibility, for some reason or the other, whether you really were deserving of this responsibility or not. Please prove to yourselves and to us that we were right in choosing you.

Someone once told me that if there is a law that many of the people in the country are not following, then it must be a bad law. I think it was the Chief Justice. This law makes criminals out of people.

The court said today that the monk broke the law, and the law says that he should serve three years prison term. But this law is wrong. And it should be changed before it can do any more damage.

Surely there is a better way for us to stop people in our country from smoking. A way that is more suited to the image that Bhutan projects to the outside world.

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