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<-Back to WTN Archives Bhutan mulls militia training as conflict looms with Indian separatists
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World Tibet Network News

Published by the Canada Tibet Committee

Sunday, July 20, 2003



6. Bhutan mulls militia training as conflict looms with Indian separatists


NEW DELHI, July 19 (AFP) - Bhutanese parliamentarians have suggested
military training for all able-bodied citizens amid fears of conflict with
Indian separatists holed up in the south of the Himalayan kingdom, state
media reported Saturday.

The Kuensel newspaper reported on its website that numerous members of the
national assembly have proposed Swiss-style militia training for Bhutanese
so they would be ready to head to sensitive areas or guard vital
installations.

It said an assembly representative from the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and
Industry recommended a three-month training course or all men and women aged
18 to 50 and offered for the business community to bear the expenses.

"When the country is passing through a crucial time, we cannot wait for a
militia to be formed. I suggest that the military be strengthened," the
business delegate was quoted saying.

But Foreign Minister Jigme Thinley was hesitant.

"When it comes to safeguarding our country we have always been ready. There
is no need to conscript people for militia. If we are needed, we will all
come forward," Thinley said.

At least three ethnic separatist outfits fighting in India keep bases in
Bhutan and have ignored repeated warnings by the Buddhist kingdom to leave.
The government in Thimphu is reluctant to use its tiny military against the
rebels, fearing it would prompt attacks on its own nationals.

Kuensel quoted the Royal Bhutanese Army Brigadier Batoo Tshering saying
5,000 soldiers were deployed between Sibsoo and Diafam, the far western and
eastern points respectively on the southern border with India where the
tribal separatists are based.

"We have been strengthening the army since the militants started entering
our country," Tshering said.

"We have established many army camps and deployed our soldiers in the
security-affected areas. If His Majesty the King (Jigme Singhye Wangchuk)
commands us, we are ready to sacrifice our lives to defend our country."

Bhutan already has a volunteer militia with an estimated strength of more
than 5,000. The force was organized with India's blessing in 1958, seven
years after China took over neighboring Tibet.

The king is Bhutan's head of state with the national assembly serving only
an advisory role.


Articles in this Issue:
  1. VAJPAYEE's CHINA VISIT DRAGON SMILES AGAIN
  2. Rights groups urge Blair to push Tibet, abuses in China meetings
  3. Nepal foreign secretary leaves for US to discuss trade, refugees
  4. Dalai Lama to speak at concert
  5. Tibet - a living tradition
  6. Bhutan mulls militia training as conflict looms with Indian separatists
  7. The uprooted of Bhutan



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