Potemkin village?


Lobxang’s comment on “Mining our business”:

Pardon me, this is not related to mining but rather a bizarre topic.

Is the Government panicking over the upcoming SAARC Summit in the Country? From what I read in Kuensel, the government is acting like they are having a cold feet already. First, tour operators were asked to vacate hotel rooms of their guests in Thimphu to Punakha and Paro. Now Kuensel reports that there is this strange rule of allowing traffic on alternating days depending on their odd or even license numbers.

From my understanding, Bhutan had a very, very long time to prepare for this very upcoming occasion.

Is there a such thing as a Police Escort and Motorcade in our country? Sure, heavy traffic can be an inconvenience and a security concern to our dignitaries. But should the restrictions go as far as putting the ordinary lives to a complete halt? This is beginning to sound like the Russian legend of Potemkin Village. What are we trying to hide from the dignitaries anyway?

I’ve taken the liberty of linking Lobxang’s article to relevant sites – I hope he doesn’t mind. In addition, see inconveniences caused to travelers, contractors, and local residents.


Facebook Comments:


  1. The restricted traffic arrangement is a fairly standard practice around the world for high profile international meetings. It isn’t unusual at all. When my home city of Toronto hosts the G20 in June, several large downtown city blocks will be completely fenced off to civilian vehicles and pedestrians alike. People who live in apartments in the restricted zone will be particularly inconvenienced.

    I’ve been following the hotel problem on Kuensel and it seems quite outrageous that whoever is planning the summit is so much less organized than local tour operators. It should have come as no surprise that there aren’t many hotel beds in Thimphu – the summit planners should have booked every last one the moment the event was confirmed, instead of expecting private businesses to change their well-laid arrangements.

  2. Pema wangchuk says

    Andrea, this is what our government always does. Government is government, and this democratically-elected government led by JYT is not much different from the previous ones.

  3. Holding SAARC summit is something we all should be proud of. We should try everything possible to make visiting important dignitries feel at home. Small inconveniences may be regretted but i guess it is for the reputation and standing of Druk-yul in SAARC fraternity. Let us not complain but do our best to hold the summit as successful as others.


  4. I think the government is panicking about their MPs salary increase. Every session of national assembly is about MPs benefits. Do we really have that much money lying around, if we do put it to good use by helping our poors.
    Now I don’t really blame the gups for asking for more money, afterall our MPs are never satisfied with what they are getting.

    Greed breeds more greed.

  5. At this juncture, i think government should put brake on MP’s pay increase. Instead we should make SAARC summit successful and implement economic development plan recently revealed by the Government. I agree with truth that greed breeds more greeds. When I am comfortable with 20,000 plux Nu for my work as specialist of very important profession, i think MPs should be satisfied with 30,000 plux Nu for their profession. We should not let loose our inherent human greed. If we do so we will have never ending demand for more pay from limited government resource. This will be bad for Bhutan. For the next five to ten years let us be satisfied with our present salary. May be when we have all mega hydropower in full operation then gopvernment will be in position to give pay rise to all civil servants, private sector employees, corporate employee etc. But we should also use revenue from such mega project to develop farm roads, health and education facilities, pay good price for farm produces. etc. My request to all MP’s– please do not discuss your pay rise at this time. have patience and do your work. You will be paid if you prove your worth. It reflects very bad on your profession if you discuss your personal benefits in every ssembly session. people lose faith in you and institution you represent–democracy.


  6. I am in completement agreement with Thinlay.
    MPs already get a lot of benefits, their salary is just 10% of total benefit they receive, I think they should try to set good example. As mentionted when they set bad precedent, we already saw how it impacts other Bhutanese. Recently gups were demanding they be paid same as MPs. When our minimum wage is 3,000 per month, I am sure MPs can feed themselves with what they are getting right now.
    The worse part of this is we have already wasted first few National Assembly sessions on discussing MPs salary and benefits. Those times could have been used to discuss how to develop our country, how to help our rural poor villagers.
    Now they want to discuss MPs benefits again. How about we don’t pay sitting fees and other benefits for the National Assembly if all they want to do is discuss their benefits.

  7. We wanted our able domestic investors to grow at their own pace and develop Bhutan. Now we realize that benefits forgone of being restrictive and conservative in opening up our economy is paying off but not in a desired way. This is were foreign investors should be encouraged to build infrastructure including hotels. We cant afford to wait until such time that our local capacity is built. We will have forgone more opportunities.

  8. Mr Thinlay, yes, you are right. Hosting the SAARC Summit will be a pride of our nation. Every Bhutanese should be proud of it. Why not? But let me ask you one thing: do you invite guests to your house when you know that you don’t have any “yue chum marp”, “ema kaam”, “datshi”, or blankets or mattresses in your house? I don’t. I try to defer their coming to my house at some other time when I am ready if it is not urgent. And I think this is what most people in Thimphu do.
    Well, I appreciated your views above but I think the most important issue we are discussing here is whether or not our country is READY to host such a summit. As responsible citizens of this country, we are asking the government and our people: are we ready yet or is that just another over ambitious plan of the PM? If you ask me at this point of time, honestly, my answer is NO. Our country is not ready to host such a high profile summit. Let me explain it. Please lend me your unbiased ears and then share your unprejudiced views with me.
    Number 1: Our security is not ready.
    a.When such high profile summits take place in other countries, the VVIP leaders are lodged in separate hotels for security reasons and, also to honor their dignity. No two leaders are lodged in one hotel. We can not lodge the President of India in the third floor and the President of Bangladesh in the first floor of the same hotel. We can’t and we should not. The President of India and his retinue of VIPs may occupy the presidential and other executive suites in one hotel while the President of Bangladesh and his VIP retinue can occupy the presidential suites and other executive suites in another hotel. This is the international norm when such high profile leaders meet. This SAARC summit will bring in seven heads of states along with a long retinue of VIPs which means we must have at least seven five star hotels. We don’t. Are we going to cramp them in just one or two hotels? Can we take the risk if something goes wrong? What about the VIP retinues? Shall we cramp them in other hotels which by our Bhutanese standard is considered good but it may be just a second class hotel to the high profile foreigners and dignitaries? And such summits will not only bring in the VVIPs and the VIPs participating in the summit but also hundreds of international observers, officially or non-officially, journalists and media people, and tourists. Where shall we lodge them all? Now the government and the tour operators are jostling over hotel vacancies to lodge their guests. This clearly shows that we have a big problem: over ambitious plans to host the summit with outrageously poor planning and organization.
    b.Other countries seek foreign security intelligence information when such summits take place but do not hire foreign policemen to secure the premises of the venues, the hotels the dignitaries put in and to ensure personal safety of the dignitaries. Internal sources tell me that our RBP is going to employ some Indian Policemen for these jobs. This also shows our Police force is not ready.
    Number 2: Our medical service is not ready:
    Last week I went to JDWNRH I waited for a doctor for three hours and couldn’t meet him. They gave me an appointment two days later but still I couldn’t meet him. You know why? He was involved in organizing medical services for the dignitaries. If so many of our health people and doctors are diverted from their daily routines, imagine how our farmers who come all the way from far away villages to see the doctors in Thimphu will have to endure? This shows that our health service sector is not ready for such summits. They are going to provide health services to our dignitaries on an ad hoc basis. That is chilling. What will we do if the President of Maldives who’s got some kind of heart disease gets a sudden heart attack in our high altitudes? What if that happens in Punakha? Do we have adequate medical facilities, prompt medical procedures and transfer protocols for such medical emergencies? I don’t think so and I am worried. In other countries they have well established hospitals everywhere and that is not a problem. Here in our country, the situation is totally different.
    Number 3: Our country is not ready.
    When such summits take place in other countries, they motorcade the dignitaries through the most beautiful avenues and parks which were there years before the summit was to take place. They don’t build makeshift parks and flower gardens. They don’t paint the whole streets. What are we doing? We are building improvised drains and pavements. We are painting our roads and the walls. Somewhere I see students planting flowers by the road sides. What does it mean? It means we have nothing; all for the show only. Is that what we want in our country? Is that what we want to show to our guests: we have nothing actually?
    I personally think our PM has lofty dreams and he is lost in his fantasies. He is building airports, road tunnels, hosting summits but preaching GNH at the same time. Don’t you find it contrasting? I think it is a man in power going crazy. NUTS.

  9. why cant we just appreciate whatever has been done, its a done deal we might as well welcome them with open arms and make their stay in our beautiful country worthwhile.

  10. the other day….i found two policemen in a wierd harsh tone asking a guy whether he is wearing a wig or not…when he says no..he tries to pull bt u shud knw the manner of tht police was not policing at all…he left and the boy must have felt little disgusted…he ran after him asked whether is is a crime to wear a wig…for what reasons…police remained mum…his previous commanding voice lost….with these policemen i am not so sure…a gun shot is heard and these guys will fled the scene….it is not relevant one in here but i felt like sharing….

  11. I think that SAARC summit is sure going to be held within this month, and i guess there is no need to cry over spilled milk. The best we could do is be Bhutanese and show foreign guests Bhutanese hospitality.

    I pray that Foreign guests feel comfortable staying in luxuary Minister’s enclave; My gut feeling is that foreign guests will enjoy more staying in smaller structure than in five star hotels-they might have had enough experience staying in five star hotels. For change, why not they experience something different. As far as security is concerned, i am sure nothing will happen. As usual Govt. of India is helping us to ensure that everything goes well without a problem.


  12. yeswecan says

    I think it is high time that we change our mentality and be more positive, sometimes we need guts to succeed in life, trying something which everyone thinks we cannot.

    “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once” Shakespeare

  13. I appreciate the concerns expressed by Tangba, Lobxang, and others. In particular, I want to thank Tangba. We always learn a lot from your comments and views.

    It is important to raise these questions and make our leaders think. Otherwise, we’ll never learn, and our government and leaders will go back to business as usual. We can’t go on like this with half measure efforts and ad hoc arrangements. I also don’t like our Government’s high handed dealing with our own people and our tour operators.

    Most importantly why is it such a priority to have this summit now? We could have better invested our time, resources, and effort in helping the victims of earthquake, fires, and other disasters.

    This is the most busy tourist season, and beside inconveniences, even our hotels are not making any extra income.

    Also think about what our Tour Operators must be telling their clients and the kind of image it creates, in people’s mind, about our government. Hopefully, they know that our beloved Kings are not in charge of the government.

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