Sonam’s question

Will they run?

Will the colour run?

Last month, Sonam Ongmo, who blogs and tweets from New York, asked her readers:

have a Q 4 Bhutanese. What happens to orange scarf 4 elected ministers after they leave office?

This is a pertinent question. And we should discuss it. So send me your comments. And take the poll.


Facebook Comments:


  1. Do they call a minister who left office a minister in other countries? No, they don’t. At the most, they call them an ex-minister. Same is here in Bhutan.
    The orange scarf (“namza leewang”)unlike the red scarf(“bura marp”)is not a personal decoration or honor bestowed on someone by our King.The orange scarf is the “symbol of office” and anyone who is elected to the office and becomes a minister will have to wear it. Therefore all elected ministers and the leader of Opposition MUST NOT WEAR the orange scarf after their term in office is over.They have no right to wear it. However,the old ministers who were awarded orange scarf by the King before the establishment of democracy and got re-elected as ministers in this first democratic government should enjoy the benefit of our bygone tradition and history.They can continue to wear the orange scarf until they die as all our old ministers used to do in the past. There are only five such ministers in the present Cabinet: Lyonchen JYT, Lyonpo Ugen, Lyonpo Zimba, Lyonpo Wangdi and Lyonpo Khandu. The other six ministers will have to shed their orange scarves and put on the ordinary white scarf like all other citizens. And this tradition must continue in the next elected cabinet and the cabinets thereafter. Same should be for the title “lypnpo”. We should call them “lyonpo droep” if we like but not a “lyonpo” anymore.
    The other issue I would like to leave here for discussion is the title of “dasho”.We call the red scarf people “dasho”. We call the royals “dasho”. We call the military and police officers “dasho”. We call our bosses “dasho”. We call almost everyone a “dasho”. Is that right?
    Share your opinions.

  2. Quote “However,the old ministers who were awarded orange scarf by the King…………..”

    so I was wondering those new ministers were also given the scarf and patang by the King after the election, wouldn’t it deserve the same treatment.

    just my thought

  3. Clyde, you got a very good point there but let me explain.
    In the past, when someone became a minister, they did not get on to wear the orange scarves automatically. No. They could wear the orange scarves only if our King wished to bestow it on them on their appointment as ministers.It was exclusively the Royal Prerogative. Otherwise, they worked as a ‘lyonpo’ without any orange scarves. I can tell you a number of names of such ‘lyonpos’ we had in the past but that is not a good idea here. However, now the times have changed. Any elected minister is automatically entitled to the orange scarf without our King’s approval because the orange scarf has become a “symbol of office” and not a “Royal Decoration” anymore. In section 1 of article 17 of our Constitution, you can see that only the “Dakyen” awarded to the prime minister is a kind of a Royal Decoration. Rest, the Druk Gyalpo is merely performing his duty according to section 19 of article 2 and section 3 of article 17 of our Constitution. He is not decorating anyone but just appointing them to their elected offices.It is a formal procedure required by our Constitution, not a Royal Prerogative. I hope you are clear now.

  4. All is okay except if a presently serving minister wins the 2013 elections but is not appointed as a minister. Will he still wear his orange scarf or the MP’s blue scarf?

    Many may argue that he will be reappointed as a minister, but the fact remains that there is a chance that this can happen in the near future.

  5. Sonda,
    Answer 1: If he is one of the current five “old” ministers, he will wear his orange scarf even though he is not a minister but just a MP then. As a matter of fact, these five “old” ministers can continue wearing the orange scarves even though they retired from politics and become farmers then.
    Answer 2: If he is one of the current six “new” ministers, he will wear the blue scarf if he becomes a MP but not a minister.
    Isn’t it so simple and straight forward?

  6. Thinlay says

    Color coded officials are eye relishing to behold, but unwittingly creates division among people, as someone commented. Now question is: can we do away with awarding different color scarf considering the deeply entranched custom of wearing different color scarfs by different government officials??? multimillion dollar question!!!!


  7. Well, in my opinion, all orange, blue, green and red with white strip should layoff after they resign from that particular post. The basic argument is they got it because of their post. Therefore, once they resign from that specific post, all should go and only red should be allowed to use. Otherwise, in future, we will have so many colourful scarfs in the public gatherings.

  8. Tangba,

    It is not simple and straight forward.

    There is no written regulations on this.I think you and I saying this is not enough. It has to be in black and white.

    If Zangley Dukpa resigns tomorrow, he will definitely not wear the red scarf. He will continue with the orange color. DO we have rules in place to see he goes back to the red color?

  9. Sonda, you are right. We need it “BLACK ON WHITE” but I also think that Ap. Zangley will wear the orange scarf and put the red scarf on his back seat wherever he will go. Can bet my two cents on it….hahahahaha.

  10. I am sure since this is a new culture and a new brand of Ministers the DPT Government will propose a regulation to their favour and to this effect so as to save their face post 2013 election.
    unless the royal media office comes out with specific rule to avoid multiple color issues in our great nation

  11. Honestly, for me except for the yellow scarf of His Majesty the next color that looks nice now is the red, followed by the white. The other colors orange, blue and green look ridiculous.

    Somehow, those colors have lost their charm.

  12. Thinlay says

    The other thing about kabney is that it is becoming expensive. Recently, i had to buy a kabney at P/ling and had to pay Nu.1500. Ofcourse, it is a nice white bura kabney. I am thinking how much it cost for orange, blue, red, and green kabney! Are they made of Bura or some other materials. Just curious.


  13. tangbaI says

    Why is it that some of the people appointed to the same post as per the constitution by His Majesty the King – some are with patangs and some are not. Some are addressed as Dashos while others are not, why why why? LoO please standardize!!!

  14. chalame says

    Worry about it if you ever get one! Right now we have more important things to do than bother about OL’s orange scarf. If we go by the logic used by Tangba, OL is not a minister and hence not related to his post.

  15. Hon’ble OL, kindly discard my earlier post la. Minor mistakes there la.

    As Hon’ble OL said this is a pertinent question and Tangba has made a valid point. In my view also those ministers who were awarded red scarf prior to becoming a minister should retain this honour but those who received the orange scarf without red scarf earlier should not be eligible for orange scarf without the post. However, referring as Ex or former minister should not be a problem, I think this is an international norm. But it seems to me that we do not have a standard reference of the title to a person and inappropriate references are being made specially in the media. On 18 March, 2010 Kuensel issue “A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed yesterday between the founder, agriculture minister, Lyonpo (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho and the SAF Bhutan chapter chairman, Sangay Ngedup, in Thimphu”. I personally feel former ministers should be referred as Ex or former minister/Lyonpo. In contrary the prefix Dasho is being added to some rich man’s name which I doubt the appropriateness, relevance and seriously the legitimacy. In my opinion by being financially successful do not have a virtue of being called as DASHOs.

  16. Lobxang says

    These ‘Kabneys’ and its colors were wrong from the very beginning.
    The kabney is nothing but a form of social classification and discrimination.
    We do not need kabneys or colors to identify lynpos or dashos.
    If they are good enough and serve the people well, they will be known and go down in the history.

    If it serves the culture to wear colorful kabneys, so be it but don’t let it define positions. It’s ridiculous that only Lynpos get to wear orange scarves and the ordinary citizens can’t. Same goes with the tshoglhams.
    If anybody refutes this, name one country that bars people from wearing certain color scarves.
    Leave alone ‘bhutan being a unique country’ from your answers. Being unique is no excuse for discrimination.

    I say stop this idiocy right about NOW!

  17. Chalame,yes,you are right. He is not a “minister” in that sense of the word. He is the Opposition Leader and we always refer to him as OL(dokchok gothrip),or the honorable OL or something like that. I meet Tshering Tobgay here and there but I never called him a “lyonpo”. He is humble enough to prefer us calling him that way too. I am not talking about this OL but all OLs to come in the future. You know, as OL, he/she plays a more pivotal role in our democracy. We can have a dozen or a score of ministers but if we do not have a strong Opposition Leader, our democracy is at naught. The main purpose of our democracy is shattered and the whole mechanism of our democracy will break down. You see, as a matter of fact, if we do not worry about how strong our Opposition is, there is no use worrying about how strong a government will be because ultimately that will lead to tyranny of democracy. Therefore our King knwoing this fact very well, awarded the OL with the orange scarf not to be a minister and call him/her a ‘lyonpo’ per se but to remind our people that the OL is as important,if not more,than the ministers in the government.
    On the other hand, Chalame, have you ever wondered why our people are making a fuss about calling our OL who is a ‘national leader’ a ‘lyonpo’ but never bother to think why they call their incapable, inefficient, poorly educated, half educated, good-for-nothing small office bosses ‘dashos’??

  18. Firstly I dont agree that OL shouldn’t be addressed as Lyonpo. For that matter even the speaker and the NC Chairman.

    Head of the Ministry is Minister (In English). In Dzongkha Ministry is called Lhenkhag and thus Minister would equal to Lhengye. But Lyonpo is the titled bestowed to people decorated with the ornage scarf in the olden days. So therefore they should be addressed as Lyonpo.

    But Yes I dont agree with the rainbow colors of our culture, the reasons being cited by many people who commented before me.

    My Opinion is that If Possible we should do away with the colors entirely except for the yellow and the white as suggested by others. Even if we retain the color scarves, I wouls suggest that we consider them as decorations and wear them only on national occassions like the national day, corronation day and HM birthday celebrations. Other times all people should wear white as a symbol of equality.

  19. the out of office MPs and Minister should wear the kabney, so within two decades Bhutan will have all the citizen wearing either blue and orange scarfs in the country. What you guys think la…. The present set of MPS and Minister should turn to white as they wont be receiving any respect from the public like today only…

  20. I believe those who were elected by the people and by virtue of that – got the scarfs should use it only while holding that office. And this applies to the old lyonpo’s who are presently in the government. Life is about making choices and not have the cake and eat it too.

  21. hindiman says

    The Lyonpos who were awarded orange kabneys by HM took a risk while joining politics. Once you opt to become a politician and have enjoyed the fruits of it, one must also learn to let go gracefully. Therefore, all politicians must be treated equally and if some lyonpos can’t wear orange then it is only fair no one wears it since your term is over.

  22. I get the feeling that there is some confusion here. Every body seems to agree with the following:

    1. The orange scarf is awarded by the King when some one attains the rank of a Minister; meaning that it is an automatic entitlement.

    2. That the award of the orange scarf does not constitute an exercise of the Royal prerogative which is true in the case of the award of Bura Marp.

    If you consider the above to be true, then it should be accepted that all the Ministers – whether appointed prior to the advent of democracy or thereafter – should be stripped of their orange scarf because they are no longer serving as ministers. If it is accepted that the orange scarf is titled specific, then the recipient automatically forfeits his right to wear the scarf the day he relinquishes his post as a minister.

    The issue of whether the orange scarf was awarded by the King is not important since the scarf is awarded by the King in all cases.

    Having said that, I am in favor of the Ministers keeping their orange scarf even after their tenure as a minister is over.

  23. Kabney,its colours and Patang is not wrong at all. It is infact one of our customs and tratidions.
    Tangba is very much right in what he has written above. Dakyen is conferred by HM the King to the Honb’le PM, The Speaker of the NA, NC chairman as per Article 17(1),A-12(4),A-11(5). As per A-17(3)HM appoints Ministers on the recommendation of the PM. So if orange scarf is conferred to the cabinet Ministers and the OL then I think it is as per A-16(a)of the Constitution and therefore HM in exercise of his Royal Prerogatives awarded dhar for Lhengye and therefore my understanding is that once they receive dhar from HM the King they can continue wearing it even after their retirement. Lynpos can be referred as “lyonpo dep” after the expiry of their term and if they get re-elected and not chosen as Minister then I think they should wear the Blue scarf during their term as the MP and can wear the orange scarf after their term.
    It is wrong to address OL,the NC Chairman and the Speaker as Lynpo because they are not Ministers.

  24. In some countries, it is the caste system that divides people and contradicts democratic principles. In ours, the colour system serves the same purpose. Therefore, in principle, we shouldnot have any colour differentiation. If at all, people should use hair colours instead of kabneys and tshoklams so that they can be easily distinguished besides being more affordable and inexpensive. With regards to the way it is awarded, I am confused. Some say, it is awarded by HM while others say it is purely post specific. Either way, I don’t care. “Monkey no work – balls stone crush” may best describe the significance of this thread!!!

  25. Thinlay says

    OL: you raised the issue, and you must be having opinion on this issue; or are you simply testing our mind. As a leader you should also state your view for public to know. If you function based on public opinion, i do not consider such people as leader. Leader is supposed to have strong belief and conviction’ otherwise he/she is simply opportunist. No offence but speaking out the truth.


  26. I have voted ‘Yes’ in the poll saying that scarfs should be allowed to be worn.

    It is a least that we can do for those who have served people’s wishes and the country. It is honor that they have received and it is our honor that we have these people serve delligently.

    Even consideration to take away the scarves is a desecration. Where is our values when we have to even debate of such issues. There should have not been any hesitation in leaving the small token of honor that people who served deserves.

  27. Now, i will state my unbiased opinion regarding different color kabney accorded to officials, either by HM or based on the official positions. What i feel is that there is no black and white answer or solution to such issue. On the one hand, wearing different color Kabney is part of our Buddhist tradition, it is also an honor bestowed upon officials either for their official position or their extraordinary achievements; removing such insignia from them, as KISA put “is a desecration” and dishonoring the honor our system willingly placed on officials. On the other hand, in a modern democratic system, equality is a principle that a true democracy strives for, and people classification based on color of kabney they put on is not keeping in tune with the cardinal principle of democracy. Then, where is the solution and how should we resove such paradoxical situation? To me, it is not easy, which is why i wrote earlier that it is a multimillion dollar issue. Perhaps, the issue may warrant some serious discussion in the NA and decide one way or the other. That is why, it is important to know the opinion of OL who raised the issue for discussion.


  28. At This rate… If i live enough to see my great grandchild Bhutan will be flooded with Orange Kabney and than the government might have to give white Kabneys to the ministers

  29. Lobxang says

    Honoring a citizen is good. Perpetuating a precedence of social classification is not good. Our Lynpos and Dashos can equally be valued even without the color coding of Kabneys and Tshoklhams. By classifying them with color coded kabneys, it gives them not just teeth, but fangs to exercise their authorities beyond lawful necessities.

    Sonam G.
    Kabneys, Its colors and Patangs are indeed not wrong at all. I agree with you that it’s our beautiful culture. But, using it to distinguish an official’s position is wrong. Baring ordinary people from wearing the same color is wrong. Besides, most cultures contradict with democracy.
    Remember, the ‘Changjey’ system was once in fashion and considered a part of our culture. It’s now considered corruption and banned from practice in all offices.
    It was in our culture to spank our kids to keep them on track. It’s now considered child abuse. Dig that?
    So, preserve the culture, let them wear the colorful kabneys if they so please, But don’t use it to distinguish their positions.
    Let them use their Office and their Official Seal. That way it cannot be taken home to jump queues at hospitals or harass the handyman at the gas pump.
    Also, it will be handed over to their successors when they retire so we do not have to worry about too many ex chiefs expanding like our landfills.

  30. easiest way out would be for the retired people to give up their post, title and colored kamneys gracefully … they did what they had to do during their best productive years now please resign and give chance to the new generations

  31. If they lived with honor and dignity while having the opportunity to adorn the kabney and the sword, they will be respected and honored irrespective of whether they continue to wear them or not. And if they hadn’t then it will only be a disgrace and shame to wear them.

    Having said that i still feel they shouldn’t wear their kabney and patang once they resign.

  32. Pema Wanmo says

    At one time all dzongdags and thrimpons were given red scarfs by the King. This tells us award of red scarfs wasn’t based on individual capacity rather as a holder of a certain position in government. It was said that at one time, Dobji dzong on the way to Haa housed the maximum number of red scarf officers serving prison terms and working in the reconstruction of the dzong. Judging from this, it appears that being a red scarf officer isn’t all that important. Just points to how best he licked someone’s ass! This is something to think about when you guys talk the colours of the scarfs. I am for totally removing the colours of the scarf…..

  33. kabneyphobiac says

    This topic has attracted a considerable number of people and I think that judging by the no. of comments merits to be a public issue. I look at this issue from the following points:

    Different colour Kabney system is good if we look from the point of tradition and culture. In fact a Bhutanese without a Kabney would be a flag pole without the flag. It is also good that people bestowed with recognition serve as examples in society. People look up to them with respect and aspire to be one. Kabney system is not good if we look from the implications that we presently see. There is some sort of discrimination in various forms and ways. People with Kabney receive more attention in all sphere of lives and it contradicts the democratic principle of “all men are equal”. If I wear a “colourful” kapney, the services I receive are different. Imagine the ramifications of a seemingly simple colour difference in kapney. The costs attached with the kapney system is immense – from chadris to the allowances and benefits. But how do we balance the two, the benefits and the costs? The answer is the wisdom of how and when we use them. Let the kapneys be used when people hold the post because they need to have authority and be responsible. For example, a Dranpoen needs a kapney and pata when he is in the court room but what is the use of wearing them once he/she is out of the system (resigned). The same thing applies to an MP, a minister, etc. I like the colours and decoration. Imagine we all Bhutanese wearing all types of kabneys and patangs of all colours and sizes. It would be so colourful. Of all the colours I like white. In fact it symbolizes purity of mind and spirit – white inside and outside. It symbolizes simplicity and humbleness. This I think is what we want being a happy, GNH-promoting country. We do not need to differentiate ourselves from each other. We do not need to brand ourselves. We need unity, cohesiveness and trust and remove the barriers between us. Kapney is like Berlin Wall in some way.

  34. Patang is out of question.They might wear it in the forest if they chose to be a cow herder after retirement & perhaps in the confinements of their own homes if they so wished.
    I like the Kabneys as they represent our culture but many have raised the pertinent issue of division. They perpetuate hierarchy and often devalue those who may not have the right colour but the right ideas. Democracy should be about responsibilities and not hierarchies. As long as they conduct themselves appropriately, they will all be respected for who they are and should not really need a symbol to flaunt.

  35. Damcho Dorji, Gasa MP. says

    Hey Guys, it was interesting reading your comments and arguments which seem to go spiralling round and round (no offence intended). Now I realise why our people have given only two seats to the Opposition – so that decisions could be made promptly!!

  36. Youngmein says

    We have the bad habit of retaining old timers even though their contribution to the nation after serving for so many years is virtually zero. If we are to keep with this habit in the name of culture, one day Bhutan will be full of orange scarfs, just as someone pointed out that in one of the prisons there are many red scarfs serving prisons terms. This bunch will encroach in whatever area they might want to and you can sense the picture of future.

    Once the term is over for the MPs (orange and blue scarfs) including all their entitlements (vehicles, government houses etc) should not be allowed to retained.

  37. superman 000 says

    old has to give way to new…. is the law of nature…. and it applies to democratic system. yes they have to give up very tittle, kabney and patang to the new ministries and Mps. they can only retain till their tenure. after that they have to be like us.
    i have noticed retired armed personnel wearing their own towel kabney what about it.when they visit the office and in any public gathering. once in tshechu…i thought retired police man as a public controller, but i am shock to know that he was retired man, pushing me from is real causing confusion to the people like me…. same problems might arise if mps and lynpos does same
    if they can’t…our lynpos and mps …no ways….

  38. What is there in Royal Family same thing will continue in minister level also.

  39. Dear Tobgay,
    in my view minister are the servant of people in Democracy. so if we give them they will keep it otherwise it should be away from them when they leave their office.

  40. ya kabney is to represent the post, after one is resigned from the post he/she is equivalent to a farmer, so why he/she should wear the kabney?

  41. pem tshering says

    All Lyonpos, Dashos and Aums must change their kabneys as soon as they have finished their term. It’s so simple. A couple is not supposed to be sleeping together once they have been declared as divorced. So, a lyonpo, dasho or an aum must just change his/her kabney upon completion of his/her tenure in that post/title, or after having relieved from his/her post.Or, can it be possible like the divorced couples copulating again secretly sometimes?

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