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The Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) has refused to register Dasho Sonam Kinga’s book, “Democratic Transition in Bhutan - Political contests as moral battles.”

BICMA refuses to register Dasho Sonam Kinga’s book

Tshering Palden

The Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) has refused to register Dasho Sonam Kinga’s book, “Democratic Transition in Bhutan – Political contests as moral battles.”

Kuensel confirmed that the decision was taken when the present works and human settlement secretary was the director general of the authority.

A source told Kuensel that BICMA’s foremost consideration was if the book would have any adverse impact on the harmony in  the country.

“The management concluded that it could possibly create disharmony in the community and division among political parties,” the source said.

BICMA issues registration number for books which are meant to be made available for sale or distribution to public in Bhutan, whether published within Bhutan or otherwise. This means the book cannot be distributed physically in the country.

Dasho Sonam Kinga (PhD) posted a summary of the book on his Facebook page on August 31, 2018. The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa complained to the Election Commission of Bhutan about the intent and timing of the post, as the parties were contesting the primary round of the 2018 parliamentary elections.   

The commission ruled that the author has violated the election rules and ordered him to remove the post. Dasho denied any wrong-doing but complied with the ECB order.

As the book is not approved for distribution in the country, Kuensel cannot reveal the content of the book. However, the publisher, Routledge, a top-notch international academic publisher in London,  states that the book studies how a modern monarchy transformed Bhutan into a parliamentary democracy.

“A political ethnography, it focuses on the historic elections of 2007–2008, and studies democracy and its transformational processes from the ground up. It draws on historical as well as contemporary theories about kingship and regime change to analyse Bhutan’s nascent democratic process and reflect on the direction of political change, both at the state and local levels in the aftermath of the elections.”

The book, according to the publisher, also presents insights into the electoral and political process by giving a first-hand account of the author’s own participation in the elections and ponders on the larger political implications of this election for the region.

The international print and eBook editions of the 306-page book were released in October. The South Asian edition of the book is expected to be early next year. The author said that he will comment only after the launch of the South Asian edition.

The international printed edition costs around 115 UK pounds and the eBook can be bought for 18.5 UK Pounds.

Questions remain on implementation of the restriction on distribution of the book as the book is available online.

BICMA officials couldn’t comment on Kuensel inquiries as of yesterday.

Addendum: (Published on November 2) 

Refer story ‘BICMA refuses to register Dasho Sonam Kinga’s book’ in November 1 issue. Dasho Sonam Kinga was charged for violating social media rules and not the electoral rules as mentioned in the story. The ECB had asked Dasho to remove the summary of the book from his Facebook page and issued a cautionary note. However, it was not because the ECB found the political party’s charges against him were proven.


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