The Royal Bhutan Army, Royal Body Guards, Royal Bhutan Police, and militia and Desung volunteers celebrated Armed Forces Day yesterday. To commemorate the important day, I’m reproducing a translation of the motion of thanks that I proposed during the opening ceremony of the sixth session of Parliament about a year ago, on 19 November 2010.
It has been almost three years since Bhutan became a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy. Throughout this period, His Majesty the King has continuously favoured the first elected Parliament with counsel, guidance and unconditional support. As a result, neither misfortune nor hardship has been able to trouble the two Houses of Parliament or any of its 72 honourable members. And for that reason, we, the members of Parliament, have been able to fulfill our respective responsibilities, and work towards establishing a strong foundation for our democracy.
Earlier this year, during the inauguration of the fifth session of the Parliament, I had the opportunity to report to the Honourable Members that, from the day His Majesty the King ascended the Golden Throne, His Majesty has worked throughout the country, and worked tirelessly, for the benefit of the nation and the people. More specifically, I drew attention to the fact that the selfless service rendered by His Majesty were in accordance with the duties of the Druk Gyalpo as enshrined in the Constitution.
My report, however, was very brief. In fact, since I covered His Majesty’s accomplishments in a range of areas, I could not do justice to any one of them. So today, as I, on behalf of the Opposition Party, respectfully submit this Motion of Thanks, I propose to focus on just one aspect of His Majesty’s work.
To do this, I would like to draw the attention of our Honourable Members to Article 28 Section 1 of the Constitution which states that: “The Druk Gyalpo shall be the Supreme Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the Militia”.
Our Armed Forces
Our armies and militia have served our kingdom admirably throughout our history, and over many centuries. All of us know this well. Under the able leadership of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Gongsar Jigme Namgyel and our successive monarchs, our armed forces have successfully defended our kingdom’s security from all outside threats and dangers. That is why Tibetan armies from the North could not challenge our sovereignty. That is why the English armies from the South could not make any inroads. And that is why militants and anti-nationals could not disrupt our peace, and compromise our independence.
In the 1990s, for example, Indian militants entered our kingdom and established their camps throughout our land, from Sipsoo in the East to Diapham in the West. The presence of these heavily armed militants in our country for many years seriously undermined the sovereignty and independence of our kingdom. So in 2003, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, personally led his soldiers, and forced the militants out of the country, and thereby further strengthened Bhutan’s security and sovereignty.
Today we enjoy unprecedented peace, security and sovereignty. These are precious gifts from His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo to the people of Bhutan. To cherish and safeguard these gifts, we, the people, must continue pay the highest tribute to our armed forces.
The Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces
His Majesty the King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, is the Supreme Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. And as Supreme Commander in Chief, His Majesty has fulfilled his Constitutional responsibilities in the most successful manner. For this, I, on behalf of the opposition party, and all the people of Bhutan, I offer our sincere gratitude to His Majesty the King.
All of us know very well that, since the introduction of democracy in the kingdom, the Armed Forces, under His Majesty’s personal leadership, have safeguarded our nation’s security from both external and internal threats.
Even today, our Armed Forces continue to address repeated threats of armed militants and anti-nationals. There are many such encounters. Too many, in fact, to recount all of them here. So instead, I will limit my observations to only the few reports that were covered by the newspapers.
In January of 2008, for instance, the Armed Forces confronted 26 armed antinationals who set up their camp in Tsirang. One antinational was apprehended. The others retreated out of the country.
In February 2008, the Armed Forces apprehended six antinationals in Singye Gewog, Sarpang.
Also in February 2008, the Armed Forces encountered antinationals attempting to establish a camp within our nation. Two of them were arrested.
And recently on the 14th of March, the Armed Forces exchanged fire with militants in Sukan Taklai, Sarpang. One militant was apprehended.
This year on 1st of February, RBA soldiers put their own lives at risk when they successfully defused a bomb that had been placed in Gelephu town.
On our part, we, the people, must be aware of and appreciate that the security services rendered by the Armed Forces involve considerable dangers and risks. Last year, for instance, on 12th of October, bombs planted by antinationals and Bodo militants seriously injured two of our soldiers.
And more recently, on 11th of September, a group of soldiers were ambushed by armed militants. One solider lost his life during the encounter. And two others were injured.
As the Royal Bhutan Police is also an important part of the nation’s security force, they too have been involved, alongside the RBA, in defending against security threats from antinationals and militants.
These are just a few examples. Even so, they clearly show that the Armed Forces, under His Majesty’s leadership, have successfully safeguarded the peace, security and sovereignty of our nation.
Relief and support
But in addition to taking care of the nation’s security, the Armed Forces have also provided important relief and support to our people, especially during times of natural calamities.
For example, when an earthquake struck the eastern part of our country last year inflicting tremendous hardship on our people, His Majesty the King personally visited all the affected areas, provided immediate relief, and commanded the Armed Forces to help the victims rebuild their lives and homes.
Shortly after the earthquake, a fire destroyed much of Wamrong town and left most of its residents homeless and desperate. But the army rebuilt every home, and thanks to them, today, all residents live in brand new houses.
Similarly, recently, on 26th of October, a fire raged through most of Chamkhar town in Bumthang. His Majesty the King personally visited the destitute victims and provided them with cooking utensils and cutlery, blankets and clothes, rations and temporary shelter, and financial support. In addition, more than 330 soldiers were mobilized to rebuild each and every house at the specific command of His Majesty the King.
The Armed Forces have served the tsa-wa-sum selflessly and with total dedication. As such, the Opposition Party is overjoyed and extremely grateful to His Majesty the King for increasing their salaries and allowances.
There’s no doubt that the salary increase will benefit our soldiers and their families immensely. But it will also improve morale, and further motivate them in the service to our nation and people.
Bhutan is a small, landlocked country. In spite of that, our sovereignty is intact and strong. And we, the people, continue to enjoy unprecedented levels of peace, prosperity and happiness. All this has been made possible because of the Supreme Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, His Majesty the King.
In conclusion, I, on behalf of the opposition party, humbly thank His Majesty the King for selflessly serving the nation and people, and respectfully congratulate him and the Armed Forces for their continuing successes.
UPDATE: During the past year, the armed forces have engaged in even more encounters with militants and antinationals. They have also fought numerous forest fires, helped fire victims, and provided relief and support to victims of the earthquake in western Bhutan.