Sonam Tshering matters

Sonam’s Lawyer generated a lot of questions about why I was so interested in helping Sonam Tshering, the first Bhutanese to be detained under the Tobacco Control Act.

“lindawangmo”, who was the first to question my motives, wrote:

Ever since Sonam Tshering has been arrested your Blog has been full of support for him and the whole town talks about him. But what disturbed me was ppl hardly talk about the second catch, the driver, no one knows about him, does he have no relatives or friends. Are you backing sonam Tshering because he is a haap, or because as a plain Bhutanese Citizen. If its because of the first one than I think you ask the MP from the drivers village to help him and for the Later one I think you should look into the Matter.

Then “issay” asked:

why did you not mention the other person. Why do you only care for sonam. Is it true that he is from your constituency and a relative as well? Please tell us.

And “YPenjor” lamented:

Only today, I am knowing that you push so much of saving Sonam Tshering because he is a Haap.

Are you trying to fool the public with your foolish notion?

Many other readers also commented. And most of them questioned my motives for helping Sonam Tshering, while ignoring the second person detained under the Tobacco Control Act, a driver.

Thank you for your comments and observations.

Sonam Tshering is from Haa. He hails from Lopa, a village in Samar gewog.

I knew all this when I wrote about Sonam Tshering, but I did not think that it mattered. And if it did, Kuensel had already identified where Sonam came from.

What I did think that mattered when I wrote about Sonam Tshering was that he was the first Bhutanese citizen to be detained under the Tobacco Control Act. And that, without legal counsel, he could face the minimum three-year jail sentence.

That’s why I went to see him. That’s why I asked for volunteer lawyers to represent him. That Sonam was from my constituency did not matter at all.

But it wasn’t just readers of this blog who questioned my motives for mobilizing support for Sonam Tshering. The PM and the health minister also feel that I’m supporting Sonam only because he’s from my constituency. They are wrong.

The PM and Lyonpo Zanglay are wrong. And they know it. They know it because they, like me, were also concerned about Sonam Tshering’s plight. That’s why the DPT offices had also provided Sonam their support and guidance.

Sonam Tshering is from my constituency. And I find his case disturbing – I do not want to see any one, from any part of our country, go to jail for any amount of time, let alone three years, for possessing tobacco worth under Nu 100. But that’s not important.

What is important – very important – is that Sonam Tshering is the first person to be charged under the Tobacco Control Act. How he is adjudged will have a strong bearing on future cases, including that of the second person already detained under the Tobacco Control Act.

That’s why I called for concerned citizens.


Facebook Comments:


  1. well…sometimes the most well intended of actions are trivialized and brutalized.

    Being a politician, you can bet your life that every initiative/action you take will be put under the microscope/stretched to fit in with peoples’ weirdest fantasies. You gotta take it in your stride… Good Luck!!!

  2. Dear opposition leader,
    I am from the very crux of my heart totally disappointed when the Thimphu District High Court finished hearing and waiting for verdict. Yes, our law makers are foolish enough in passing the law and Tobacco Control Act was approved by Parliament and aimed at trapping innocent people.You as opposition leader is what actually i am appreciating but for Sonamm Tshering though he is not my relative but keeps disturbing my mind. After the Tobacco Act was banned, the rapid growth of black marketing commenced and there are many illicit smokers in Thimphu. Sometime, i wonder whether the law aims for catching small fish.

    I have one question.
    Do both the parties passed and get approved the law with vivid scientific investigation of our society?
    Do our government used to conduct research for requirement of law? Opposition leader, you might be knowing the answer, will you please answer it la?

  3. deb-karpo says

    The answer i guess is ‘blowing in the wind’….

    1)Tobacco Act Passed
    2)OL concerned
    3)…”DPT offices had also provided Sonam their support and guidance”…

    What am I hearing? Where is this ‘demoncrazy’taking us?

  4. In my opinion, this guy should be punish double coz he broke two laws. he is monk and he very well know that what he is doing is not right…and tobacco control act was there since long time and i a sure he knows that it is illegal to bring in such products……he is not a kid…somebody broke the law and now, let us not try to politizes it capitalize on it…..this process of enacting law went through all processes and finally HM gave the assent…so, let us all respect it and follow.

  5. Fuentsho says

    Dear OL,

    You still did not bother to know the name of the second person who was accused and that still makes me believe that you are perhaps garnering public support for your political mileage.

    Of course the law makers including the opposition MPs and the NC members were foolish to enact such laws not reflecting on many acts and laws that were previously enacted but not really implemented.

    Have you and other members really reflect on why laws were not implemented uniformly? I guess the problem lies in the very matrix of how are society is formed? For instance, we have different cars with different number and licence plates that sends the message to the people responsible not to frisk or stop that car, or even the type of the car people drive affects the uniform implementation of law.

    In this case, your excellency have my full support if another person in question who is from an elite family is not sentenced of carrying tobacco but the commoner is put behind bar for the same.

    Good luck any way.

  6. ratho namgay says

    i don’t care whether it’s a draconian law or not. what i care is how the law is adjudicated. i am just raising my opinion here.the monk should go to jail on the grounds that he broke the law in the first place. ignorance of the law is no excuse.

    if i were in the monk’s shoes, i would accept the fault and go to jail. amending the law is a petty act; don’t make fun of the rule of law! if the government envisaged these things to happen, why did the government in the first place signed the bill?
    now that the act has come into force, i expect it to be an across the board one; it should be applicable to everyone, be it a lyonpo or an ordinary man. we don’t want to hear something related to the case of zangley’s son!

  7. zambala and ratho namgay!
    You actually tends to subjugate down and disrespect the individual freedom of other in democracy.
    “Ignorance of law is of no excuse if authentic but know one thing laws are enacted and framed by big fish aiming to catch innocent people”.
    Dont curse him as he is having greatest plight in his life. May be you are dingy smoker in city but i pray you also get in trap if you curse Sonam Tshering.

  8. For me, law is law and it must be followed by everyone including you and me…And if somebody has broken it, knowingly or unknowingly, one deserves punishment….Whether the law is harsh or not is something debated by our representatives in the parliament…whether they did justice or not by enacting such law is a different question they will have to answer to the people when they ask for next vote…we can express our satisfaction or grievances that time by voting in or out …that is the only power we have…Till then, it is a law and everyone should follow it…..ignorance can not be a answer in the court!

  9. ratho namgay says

    i just said that the law should be across the board. if the monk goes to jail, he will set a precedent, that is, everyone busted for breaking the law have to go to jail. kinzang, for your kind info, i neither smoke, not drink. i am still a student. maybe you are the one who can’t stay for a minute without smoking and living in constant fear that the next person to be busted for breaking the law would be you.
    i am talking about how the law should be applied, irrespective of whether it is good or evil. the question of amending the law lies in the hands of our parliamentarians; after all, they are the one who enacted the law.
    sonam tshering going to jail is justifiable on the grounds that he broke the law. i have a brother in jail for a six years term for the crime he did not commit. he simply accepted his fate!

  10. yalamakheno says

    The choice is clear! Either we live by the rule of law or by the doctrine of compassion and exemptions based on various factors. If we don’t respect the law, why make laws in the first place? Why have judges and lawyers? Why have parliament? In fact, going by the number of policemen, courts and judges, we may run the risk of being seen as a nation of criminals. The question here is: What was the monk doing with the KHAINI in the first place? When he took his oath, didn’t he vow to give up all vices including smoking? How many packetes of KHAINI can he chew himself if not for selling to other monks? Agreed the law is rather harsh, but doesn’t he like any one of us, have a choice to respect it or break it? In my view, he has not only bronken the man-made law but also the law of the Dharma and he now needs to contemplate whether he will escape the judgement of Yamaraj even if he escapes that of the court. Will OL be in a position to represent him there too?

  11. drukzeen says

    i was reading the comments of others in this blog for quite sometimes on this topic. monk who is the first victim in the law of tobacco control act. i think the same as some one mentioned rightly the monk should accept the law but i see law is there which is quite. i agreed with the government for controlling the tobacco products by imposing tax but i don’t see any transparency in law. as per the tobacco act the should recognize the smoking area but govt fail to do that, secondly the law is not aware of many innocent people across the country. the govt should campaign for the law to enact it because innocent people does not know about the penalties and punishment although law is passed in the parliament.
    so my dear friends and concern citizen should fight for the law to amend or law should address for innocent people. that will be the only solution to save the life of innocent people get prisoned fro 3 yrs to 5 yrs i am sure that rich, high class,educated people will not get in these problem as they will always try to save themselves but let’s all join and save the life of other innocent people than the two victims at present.

  12. No Robin Hood this time? another SC verdict.

  13. The verdict is out and Sonam Tshering is charged with three years of prison. The court passed the verdict according to the law, a law that is very unreasonable and one that violates the fundamental rights of an individual.
    I know many people have said that before and not much has been done about it but I am hoping that repeating it – time and again- will put some sense in the minds of the people who are responsible for establishing such a law. I believe those very people smoke themselves and perhaps have easy access- with or without the permit/receipt- than most other smokers in the community.

    “Equity and Justice” was what the Government sold and yet, ever since there has been very little ‘equity and justice’ in the system. It is not fair that in the name of religion or to look good in the eyes of the rest of the world, ordinary people have to pay the price.
    Smoking or consumption of tobacco in what ever form is a personal choice and a life style. it is up to the individual to make certain choices and not be forced or have to hide that choice that has very little effect on the over all society whatsoever.
    On the other hand, regulating it through taxes, regulating areas of smoking where non- smokers are not so affected and regulating the sale to minors would have a much better effect on the overall tobacco control policy in the country.

    I also personally feel, that more than the tobacco control, the drinking age for minors should be controlled. Because many young people who are as young as 15 and 16 are drinking most weekends in the clubs and parties with minimal monitoring. These very young people also consume tobacco which is a complimentary good of alcohol. The discos are well equipped with security and bouncers inside and therefore, checking IDs of everyone who enter is not going to be that big of a work. The shops and stores that sell alcohol should also be advised to ID if they suspect the customer to be below the minimum age.As a social worker for young people, this to me seems like a bigger social issue than jailing an individual for three years for possession of barely Nu. 100/- worth of tobacco.
    Similarly, waste management, housing policies and other issues related to it such as parking allotment for residential areas are much bigger concerns at this point for the over all development of the country.

  14. Fuentsho says

    well i am sorry Sonam Tshering but you will have to face the prison. Of course you knew it is illegal to carry tobacco but you took your chances to make some profit out of it. you also tried to cheat yourself by putting those stuffs under your red robe, you tried to gamble through thinking that the police might not frisk you since you are a monk.
    going to the prison gives you all the freedom practice your dharma to attain the ultimate self realization.
    there is no question of human rights violation here, tobacco is a drug and people abusing and smuggling drugs will think our law is nothing compared to that of Thailand, Singaore and SriLanka.

    i see positive effects if the law is applied uniformly which is questionable in our state. children and youth will refrain from abusing drugs for the fear of prison (may be i am wrong, may be we will have lot of youth in the prison)
    i wish alcohol and doma were also included in tobacco.

  15. May be OL and Ritu now needs to appeal to HC.

  16. First of all, i m really sad 2 know about Sonam Tshering who has fallen under the hands of such a harsh law. I really want somebody like you (OL) to step up n do something about Sonam Tshering and many more who r or will b busted up.

    I m not against da law but against those law makers who made this law. if di law makers were so concerned about ppl’s health, y dun they enact a law for alcohol also. alcohol is di greatest enemy of our sociecty (domestic voilence, accidents due to intoxication, fightings, health problems and many more direct or indirect social problems). Alcohol has more -ve impacts than tobacco products.

  17. I really appreciated the work done by our opposition party in the recent tax hike drama. They have been precisely following the constitution and rules in force. Kudos!

    Few weeks down the line, we again see the opposition leader crying for Mr. Sonam Tshering who was convicted for smuggling tobacco into the country. Now in the present situation, who is contradicting the law.? PDP has been stressing so much on rules, and i think the court delivered their verdict based on the rules passed by the parliament. Rule should be rule to be applied across the board.

    Let us not play the game to gain popularity

    Please shed some light on this.

  18. I am surprised for many reasons:
    1. How could the Tobacco Act be passed if there are still many differences of opinion in the interpretation of what has already been passed by the Parliament.
    2. Can the Judiciary’s “thrimchoed” be questioned if the Judiciary has just interpreted the Law of the land.
    3. Is there a way to change the verdict of a Court just with the expression of concerns by few people
    4. How could a monk who is respected in a society engage in the illegal transaction of a good that is considered the most undesirable at least from the Buddhist view if not from the health view
    5. If going by the trends, people would like to consume tobacco why in the first place was the Act passed.
    6. How can there be so much debate over the case of an individual if the Act benefits the overall majority of Bhutanese through long life and wellbeing
    7. If there are reasons for a strong penalty, why should there be so much noise in the media over this penalty

  19. Concern Citizen says

    Our parliamentarians seems seems not using their head and their common sense. They enact a law that requires light penalty with harsh penalty and law that requires harsh penalty with light penalty. Look at Amendment of Anti- Corruption Act which requires harsh penalty with light penalty and Tobacco Control Act that requires light penalty with harsh penalty.
    What is this? Corruption offences are especially committed by those person in power and they seriously breach trust of our govt. Such offender are deserved to treat with harsh penalty rather than those people found with little Tobacco. the reason is simple – Those people involved in corruption cases siphon millions of money for their personal benefit which is actually meant to benefit society at large. The amendment Anti- Corruption of law clearly indicates our parliamentarians are least interested to fulfill one of their promises of zero tolerance to corruption made during their campaign to the people.
    If our current ruling party goes on with this same policy, definitely we will see in next election and don’t forget you all will be paid for this.

  20. pema tshering says

    Dear OL, what is going on? The tobacco act of the country has been affecting alot of people in the country,since its adoption. Is the govt.considering any symphathy to those affected or are they simply igonoring the matter. Let us know it at the earliest.

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