Bhutan’s latest convict

The Thimphu District Court has sentenced Sonam Tshering to jail for three years.

Another lawyer has volunteered to represent Sonam Tshering. So I’m hopeful that he will agree to appeal to the High Court.



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  1. Do not blame the Judiciary for this. The Parliament has imprisoned Sonam Tshering with three years. The Judiciary just upheld the law that was passed by our so called Hon’ble Members of Parliament.

  2. The Parliament has imprisoned Sonam Tshering with three years. The Judiciary just upheld the law that was passed by our so called Hon’ble Members of Parliament.

  3. Now i feel the mandatory entry level (Bachelor’s degree) for so called Hon’ble Members of Parliament is making sense. This has demonstrated how can they can play a cynical ploy….

  4. We still see many people smoking everywhere but then no one really care.Are we serious about this law????

  5. “Law is the will of people” because it is framed by MP who are elected by people… but Did they consult us at anytime before they went on to pass this act?
    I respect Law but this law is not our Will, not at all… MPs are aliens to us after they were elected…

  6. Extremely disturbed by what sonam tshering is going through…loosing hope in the government and Bhutan….If law is law ,then implementer should check all the citizens of Bhutan…including the MPs(Most of the MPS are smokers and they doesn’t have receipt or license…or what ever you may call it.

  7. nosamtang says

    i) Government does not make laws – parliament does. Get that straight.
    ii) How many of you made noises when youth as young as 18 were sentenced to serve several years more than ST for having sex with a girl of the same age. Arguing that it was consensual sex didn’t help them to escape the law.
    iii) If you talk about quantity and value, think twice. Your argument is like a rapist saying “I used condom.”
    Yes, it is sad that Sonam is convicted but it is equally sad that people want to politicise this case.

  8. the latest case do not deserved to be titled as case concerning Smuggling of Tobacco. The reason is simple because Sonam Tshering had revealed the source of tobacco as required by the act. Then where is the question of imprisoning him for 3 years when offence clearly fall under less than 3 yrs to maxmum of one years. When the law says one thing and if judges are to render judgement in contradiction to law, i wish law themselves could speak so as to get justice.

  9. To imprison Sonam Tshering to 3 yrs imprisonment is blunder of judge who decided the case. To enact such harsh law is blunder of MPs. wrt a hell.

  10. Sonam Tshering should have got more than three years.
    If I remember correctly, few thieves who had robbed the American tourists at Paro were sentenced not only for the theft but for tarnishing the image of the nation too.

    I encourage his prosecuter to check the rules and regulations of Dratshang Lhentshog and include that too in the charges.

  11. ….. its sad but true…. we aren’t blaming anyone but frankly our Bhutanese sensibilities are such that when a new law or rule is passed the first who transgress it are made examples of and whether or not it is right or ethical isn’t taken into account!!!

  12. Press Rewinder says

    Here’s a news clip of the debate on the Tobacco Act 2010.

    “Gasa MP Damcho Dorji opposed the decision stating that fourth degree penalty should not be imposed to all level of offenses, but should be based on the degree of crime. He said it was not fair to penalise a person, who illegally sold a packet of cigarette equally to those who sold huge amounts. He suggested that, for the first offence, fine was more effective, as it contributed to country’s revenue, as well as eased the present congestion problem in the detention centres. “The country is already running out of space in detention and lock-up centres and, if minor offenders are put in jail, it’ll be an additional problem,” said Damcho Dorji.

    The MP also questioned if the bill could be implemented strictly. “When a child is locked up in police custody, parents call up the police and release their children. In such a case, will the act be successful?”

    National Council MP, Tshewang Penjor, and the works and human settlement minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, supported him, stating that the penalties were too harsh for a minor offence.

    But health minister, Lyonpo Zanglay Drukpa, whose ministry arranged a tobacco exhibition in the corridor of the parliament house, disagreed. “We want to sentence the offender, irrespective of the degree of crime they commit, otherwise those, who could afford fine, escape imprisonment term and the law becomes weak,” said the minister.

    Most MPs supported the minister, stating that, without strong penalties, the act was relevant, only for certain people, who couldn’t afford money or are without relatives in concerned agencies.”

  13. Dekey C Gyeltshen says


    The Tobacco Control Act and the sentencing of former monk, Sonam Tshering, have been blown out of proportion. I sympathize with the sentiments of the people who are affected by the severity of the sentence and believe that it is important to provide a clear perspective on the issue.

    What has been overlooked by the media and some sections of the Bhutanese population is that the Tobacco Control Act, introduced in the National Council (NC) by the Ministry of Health, debated in both the NC and the National Assembly (NA) was enacted by parliament with all members of the NC having voted in favor while only three voted against the bill in the NA. It was, therefore, a decision of the majority in parliament and therefore, the majority of the Bhutanese people.

    Sonam Tshering has now been convicted in a court of law, not by the government or parliament.

    I feel sorry for him and have empathy for members of his family who must bear the pain of his misdeed. I can understand why many people feel that the punishment is incongruous to the crime. But then, that is what the law has prescribed. In the end, it is not about how much of tobacco he was carrying, it is about committing an illegal act.

    Although the members of the Lhengey Zhungtshog and parliament might individually harbour differing views, and disagree with the law, the government is bound to stand by the side of law. Likewise, all MPs who debate and vote on an issue in parliament have the ethical and moral obligation to stand by the will of majority as manifest in the laws made by it.

    However, the Royal Government — elected by a majority of the populace — has and shall always stand by the will of the people. Therefore, if the people want the Tobacco Control Act, or any other Act, to be amended, there are proper procedures for amendment. No law is perfect and all laws can be changed as compulsions and values of society change.

    However, the government will not respond to any attempts to create hysteria on the issue through any forum including the social media. Likewise, street demonstrations and movements in such cases are unpredictable in their outcomes and are necessary only in countries where the rule of law is undermined by authorities; where democracy has failed and where there is no other way to draw the attention of those in power.

    We must avoid bringing in practices that are foreign to Bhutan and go against the interests of true democracy. In a country that is committed to establishing a unique democracy, we must find ways and means to express our will and opinions in the most civilized and effective ways using means that are democratic, relevant and peaceful.

    The government encourages the people of Bhutan to express their views and to propose amendments to existing Acts through their elected representatives who are duty bound to represent them in parliament. I encourage the people to call or write to your own MPs, as responsible members of your constituency, not as anonymous voices in the media. You must prevail upon your MPs to act on your behalf.
    (Jigmi Y Thinley)
    The Prime Minister of Bhutan
    5 March 2011
    Camp – Lhuentse

  14. The judiciary seems to have done its work. The interpretation of the Act as reflected in the Press Release sounds status quo fair.
    So, going by the Act or the Law of the country, how far is Sonam Tshering’s, Lhab Tshering’s, or any other to-be-convict’s offence be made an excuse? Should it happen, the very purpose of the Act will be defeated.
    Thus, it calls for an immediate Amendment of the Act.
    Till then, the police can continue with its fishing duty..but a bigger fish this time, it should make some ‘louder’ noise!

  15. Drukpason says

    A question to all MP’s (The one’s who will see this…), Which one of you actually consults the people who have voted for you when you decide to vote on something? What gives you the right to decide what the people want without consulting them first? This isn’t a picture of democracy, this is like a dictatorship… Gross National Happiness? Maybe some Bhutanese People want to be happy as smokers, maybe some Bhutanese don’t want to live in fear of a parliament which will create a law that takes away their freedoms.

    You want to ban something… Ban Drugs and booze… Personally I haven’t ever heard of a person beating his or her kids because they smoked too much, I haven’t heard of a person driving off a road or into a wall because they had just a little too much to smoke. I haven’t ever heard of people fighting and creating a scene because they smoked too much… Have you?

  16. Drukpason says

    this issue isn’t just about Sonam Tshering, no no its about every single Bhutanese citizen’s freedom. Today its a ban on tobacco, not to mention with serious consequences. whats next? These things are taking an individuals freedom away, something I feel which is too precious to let go considering how much our ancestors had to go through for us to get it.

  17. Social media is the new battle ground for politics. and we also should make the best use of it.

  18. Sukharanjan Suter says

    I have read almost all the comments on this wall about smoking/tobacco. As a foreigner, I am little curious to know whether Foreigners are allowed to carry cigarettes in Bhutan and smoke there, if not publicly, at least privately at hotel room ??

  19. Truth_is_Buddha says

    Sonam Tshering faced the consequence of a ‘collective stupidity’ brought about in the form of a senseless law, not founded on any rational rhyme or reason.

    I remember a story about a kingdom, whose ruler hanged another prisoner in place of a condemned man who escaped a day before the execution day. All this again, based on no rhyme or reason, but only to save the face of the ruler.

    My dear parliamentarians, we the people have elected you and kept you there to make good, rational, and educated decisions. But sadly, you are too busy participating as a mob member and backing stupid decisions of your internal superiors.

    It has often been told and retold: A sensible enemy is better than a foolish friend. O god, save us from our MP friends.

  20. Concerned Citizen says
    If you care about this issue and want to make a difference

  22. If Paro Airport Case is neglected than our law makers and implementers should look back at monk Sonam Tshering’s case or If Sonam Tshering’s is punished than the people involved in the Paro Airport case should also be punished. It is not fair pinishing one and leaving other just because police chief Brigadier Kipchu Namgyel ! “said they will not accept the case”

  23. First of all i never knew if the parliamentarians had consulted the public while formulating the law. Secondly they must not sympathize a convict after being punished when the public say that it was very sad thing because you become unworthy of your own law if you do that and everyone loses hopes in you.
    Thirdly i am very much concerned if Parliamentarians or law makers are making laws with proper survey of every element of law making because laws are to materialistic. No time contextual, context on the situation is missed, they have not done proper survey on the psychology of Bhutanese people which is infact the most important thing. these are very essential parts of law making indeed. in case of tobacco law, the degree of punishment could have gone time. its true that many people would be against this law because the way the law is being formulated and implemented is totally wrong though they were right that there was a need of tobacco law, Indeed every Bhutanese might have realized that there is a need of tobacco law in Bhutan including the smokers. If people are not there, law isn’t required. Bhutan law is for all Bhutanese. Therefore lawmakers sometimes need to level yourself with the common people and experience their lives to realize if the law that you are making can actually benefit the people instead of rolling it from somewhere alien.

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