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A nation pays tribute: Military action against the Assam militants
August 2004
After six weeks of vigorous debate on a variety of issues the National Assembly of Bhutan came together on August 13 to submit the solemn appreciation of the clergy, the government, and the people of Bhutan to the Druk Gyalpo for his extraordinary wisdom, dynamism and selflessness in safeguarding the sovereignty and security of the nation, the well being of the people, and ensuring the development of the country in an atmosphere of peace, stability and prosperity.
Members of the 82nd Assembly 2004 with HM the King

While every member of the Assembly had wanted to speak on the issue the agenda itself was reduced and the submissions summarised to save time.

The mood, however, was quietly emotional as the members gratefully acknowledged that, under the leadership of His Majesty the King, Bhutan had overcome the most serious threat that it had faced in its modern history. The members of the Assembly expressed their appreciation to the security troops and militia volunteers for their selfless and dedicated service in the hour of need, and to the medical teams, risoops, and civil servants who had supported the troops during the military operations.

They conveyed the appreciation of the government and people to His Holiness the Je Khenpo and the dratshang for conducting kurims and prayers for His Majesty the King, the security of the nation, and the well being of the Bhutanese people.

The Assembly paid a special tribute to the soldiers who had laid down their lives in the service of the nation. They had proved to be true sons of the Palden Drukpa.

The Assembly also expressed the appreciation of the government and people to His Royal Highness the Crown Prince for his reassuring presence in the capital. His Royal Highness had been a source of confidence for the Bhutanese people.

With the Assembly in session over the past six weeks the prime minister, Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley, had reminded the members that, one year back, the 81st session of the National Assembly had resolved that the government should make one last attempt to negotiate a peaceful solution to the problem. Subsequently the prime minister had led the delegation for talks with leaders of the ULFA, from October 28 to 31, 2003, and NDFB from November 27 to December 1, while the KLO did not even respond. Despite the repeated pleas by the government the militants said that they would not leave Bhutan until they had achieved their goal of gaining independence from India. They had pointed out that even the Indian army had not been able to curb them and warned the government that Bhutan should make a careful choice between the 2000 year-old friendship it had enjoyed with the people of Assam or the 50-year old relations with the government of India.

Given this unreasonable stand by the militants and with all other options exhausted the lhengye zhungtsho had, with deep reluctance, authorised the security troops of Bhutan to remove the militants from Bhutanese soil through military action as resolved by the National Assembly.

Once the operations were launched, the security troops had achieved amazing success under the leadership of His Majesty the King. Within days the militants were dislodged from 30 camps and 35 outposts that stretched across the southern border, from Sibsoo in the west to Daifam in the east. A total of 485 ULFA, NDFB, KLO militants were killed or captured and all captured militants were handed over to the Indian army as the government had agreed with the government of India. All women and children were handed over to civil authorities in Assam and West Bengal. On the command of His Majesty the King, prisoners and the injured were treated with the highest humanitarian consideration.

Meanwhile 11 Bhutanese soldiers had died in the operations and 35 suffered injuries. The surprisingly low casualty rate was a direct result of the brilliant leadership of His Majesty the King who had desired that there should be minimal fatalities on both sides.

The prime minister said that, while the friendship and understanding between Bhutan and the people of Assam and West Bengal would continue to grow Bhutan could not afford to be complacent because the militants might try to target Bhutanese people. Bhutan should always be on the alert, he said. Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley conveyed a special appreciation to the government of India for its continued support and friendship.

The prime minister submitted to the Assembly that His Majesty the King had, in his wisdom, compassion, and dynamism, exceeded all expectations and overcome challenges beyond all imagination to ensure the sovereignty of the nation and the well being of the people. Bhutan was proud of the fact that there could never be a Monarch like the Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

From the chimis

During the discussions Lhuntse dzongkhag pointed out that the militants had posed a grave security threat to the country. The people welcomed the peace and security that had been restored in the country.

The people of Sarpang expressed their profound gratitude to His Majesty for placing the welfare of the people and security of the nation before his personal safety.

Mongar dzongkhag expressed its appreciation for the normalcy that had been restored in the country, under the leadership of His Majesty, and also to Crown Prince Dasho Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, members of the royal family, and the Council of Ministers for maintaining the people's confidence at a time of great threat to the country.

The public of Paro dzongkhag expressed their relief that a grave security threat to the country had been overcome.

The Mangdue-tshozhi in Trongsa dzongkhag expressed their gratitude and appreciation to His Majesty for a leadership with true compassion that ensured the peace and stability of the country.

The public of Samtse dzongkhag said that it was a blessing for the country that His Majesty the King was safe. They paid tribute to the soldiers who had sacrificed their lives for the country.

The people of Dagana described the armed forces as true sons of the soil. They also expressed their gratitude for the kidu received by the members of the bereaved families in recognition of the sacrifice made by the soldiers in safeguarding the security of the nation. This had enhanced the pride of these families for the contributions made by the soldiers who lost their lives.

Punakha dzongkhag also offered its condolences to the families of those soldiers who lost their lives during the military operation. The Punakha chimi said that the Bhutanese people wanted to convey a special appreciation to the government of India for its support during the military operations. He also thanked the Indian army for escorting Bhutanese vehicles traveling through Assam and West Bengal.

The public of Trashigang dzongkhag appreciated the fact that the militants were flushed out with minimum casualties and without affecting the planned geog development activities and the lives of the people.

The 11 geogs under Samdrup Jongkhar said that the presence of the militants had been impeding the process of economic development and implementation of national policies. Now the road was clear for development.

Trashiyangtse dzongkhag said that the militants had not only threatened the security of the country but jeopardised the lives of people living in the security affected areas.

The public of Zhemgang dzongkhag expressed their condolences to the families of the military personnel who lost their lives during the operation.

The public of Thimphu dzongkhag also expressed their appreciation to the government of India for its support to Bhutan.

The people of Chukha said all the citizens of Bhutan had pledged full support to His Majesty in flushing out the insurgents from the country. But they had failed to fulfill their pledge at a time of need and it was only through His Majesty's personal leadership that the militants were removed.

The people of Haa, Pema Gatshel, Wangduephodrang, Bumthang, and the business community said that the militants had refused to leave despite repeated peaceful attempts by the government, leaving Bhutan no choice but to resort to military action. They expressed their heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to His Majesty the King and security troops for flushing out the Indian militants.

Submissions from the floor

The Thimphu dzongda submitted a special appreciation from the 20 dzongdas, 20 drangpons, and the administrative staff of all dzongkhags to His Majesty for overcoming a grave problem.

The dzongdas noted that the people of West Bengal and Assam were friends, not enemies, and that Bhutan would maintain this relationship. The friendship and understanding between Bhutan and India would also grow stronger with the years. They said that the security problem had not harmed the process of development and that the people must now work harder to make His Majesty proud.

Royal Advisory Councillor, Dasho Adap Pasang, said that the world appreciated the fact that the militant problem was solved within a short period of time with minimal casualties.

The Minister for Trade and Industries, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, pointed out that, while there were scores of leaders around the world trying to cling on to power, His Majesty was ready to sacrifice his life for his people. The decentralization policy also symbolised His Majesty's trust in his people. He said that it was not enough for people to express their appreciation verbally but that they should show it in their actions. Therefore it was the sacred duty of the GYT/DYT, Lhengye Zhungtsho, and National Assembly to uphold and achieve His Majesty's vision and aspirations.

The Yangbi Lopon of the central monk body said that the miraculous subjugation of potential sources of harm was a result of the blessings of the Triple Gem, the protective powers of guardian deities and the merits of the boundless blessings of the Avaloketeswara in the person of the King.

The monastic body expressed its deep gratitude for this great deed and accomplishment. He said that the dratshang shared the people's grief and concern for the soldiers who lost their lives and those who were injured in the line of duty. He expressed his appreciation that, despite his youth, His Royal Highness Dasho Jigyel Ugen Wangchuck had served the country by joining the militia.

The Yangbi Lopon thanked Her Majesty the Queen Mother and Their Majesties the Queens for conducting kurims and prayers and Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck for the construction of the Druk Wangyal Chorten. "The militants are not our enemies but we had to resort to military action because there was no option left," he said. "We regret the lost lives of the militants and we have performed religious ceremonies for them." The Yangbi Lopon said that Bhutan had reposed the responsibility of solving the problem in His Majesty the King. In future, it was the duty of all Bhutanese to take on the responsibility of safeguarding the nation's security.

Dozin Batoo Tshering of the Royal Bhutan Army acknowledged the appreciation of the government and people. He confirmed that the 30 camps established by the ULFA, NDFB, and KLO had been destroyed and all the cadres removed from Bhutan. All captured militants had been handed over to the Indian army along with the guns, ammunition, and documents. We would like to submit that, as per the resolution of the 81st session of the National Assembly, we were able to flush out the militants within a short period with minimum casualties solely because of His Majesty's wise and inspiring leadership and guidance," he said. "As members of the armed forces we have tried our best to faithfully follow and implement the decision of the royal government and the National Assembly." "We would also like to acknowledge, with deep appreciation, that the generous support provided by the Indian army helped the Royal Bhutan Army greatly during the operations," he said. "The Indian army also arranged very prompt helicopter service to evacuate casualties for treatment in India and saved the lives of many of our soldiers. For this we are most grateful."

Concluding the session, members of the National Assembly agreed that it was an auspicious moment for all Bhutanese citizens that they were able to express their appreciation to the Druk Gyalpo for his selfless service to his country and his people and to the security forces for their dedicated service to the nation.

This article was contributed by Kuensel, Bhutan's National Newspaper, 2004

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