A reporter from a media house made an enquiry with the Wing Commander, Royal Bhutan Army (RBA), Wing IX Gelephu, on August 23 asking about the incident where the wives of two soldiers were “chased away from the campus after being manhandled”.
1.The RBA categorically denies the manhandling or physical abuse not only of the two women, but also even of their husbands who are soldiers. The RBA has established procedures and practices for reprimanding the soldiers who are guilty of disciplinary or other problems due to which it does not need to resort to physical abuse/manhandling of any of its personnel, let alone their wives.
2. The behaviour and conduct of the two women in question have been a major cause of concern since as early as 2013. Firstly, as a security organisation based near the international border riddled with insurgency problems, the RBA is very cautious about its personnel or their wives coming into close and frequent contact with people from across the border since it may lead to leakage of sensitive information or other security breaches.
3. Second, the women and families in the Wing have repeatedly expressed their concerns through complaints against the two women citing their lifestyles which not only put themselves at risk of contracting STI but which could also expose others to it. Further, the two women were observed to be neglecting their children while they went about their immoral and illegal activities, which was a cause of immense distress to many other wives, who were devoted mothers themselves.
4. The RBA launched a thorough and detailed investigation in order to establish the facts based on which corrective measures may be taken. Statements were obtained from a total of 30 witnesses, including the two women themselves, fellow wives of other soldiers, concerned RBA officers and NCO’s (non- commissioned officers), Royal Bhutan Police officer, and 3 hotel owners in Gelephu.
5. The investigation confirmed the suspicions, which had surfaced since 2013, that the two women were not only visiting the Drayangs, but they were frequent visitors of local hotels where they indulged in illegal activities with customers that included drivers, Indian labourers and visiting Bodo tourists.
6. The investigation also revealed that Dedrim Dorji verbally abused the two women not only in the office but also publicly in front of the families of that Company by warning them that he would smear chilly paste on their private parts if they continued their illicit activities.
However, the allegation of chilly paste being actually smeared on the women or of any other physical manhandling was found to be false and baseless as corroborated by numerous witness statements, which refute the allegation. In fact, both the women have, in their signed statements, denied that the Dedrim resorted to any physical abuse or smearing of chilly paste.
7. Likewise, the allegation of the women being “chased away from the campus” was found to be false since it was the women themselves who ran away from the camp when they were told to furnish statements regarding their conduct. It was only when the wives failed to return to the Camp that the two soldiers were made to shift to company lines, because of the severe shortage of family accommodation. Moreover, the women had been warned that their family accommodation facilities would be denied if they continued to indulge in immoral activities.
8. Based on these facts established through the investigation, the RBA would like first, to express its serious concern on the conduct of the women. The involvement of soldiers’ wives in such illegal and immoral activities has brought disrepute to an organization that is not only committed to defending the security and sovereignty of the country but is proud of its traditions of chivalry and respect towards women in general. Second, their conduct has brought immense anguish to the other wives who fear the development of a derogatory image towards RBA wives even though they are devoted, both as wives and as mothers.
9. Most importantly, as a direct result of their immoral and illegal activities, the women have neglected their own children, even failing to feed them on a regular basis. The children were usually left to fend for themselves with the elder children looking after the small ones and other soldier’s wives being driven to feeding the children out of pity. The RBA is deeply concerned about the severe and long-term emotional impacts on children who are subjected to such traumatic treatment by their own mothers.
10. As far as the actions of Dedrim Dorji are concerned, the use of abusive language and tools brandished to threaten the women were primitive and demeaning. Regardless of the gravity of the transgressions committed by the women, such an exaggerated response was not warranted and appropriate action will be taken in accordance with the rules and regulations. NCO’s are trained to command and control other soldiers who are also trained to be subjected to the strictest standards of military discipline, both physical and emotional. However, methods used to regulate soldierly conduct cannot and must not be applied to civilians, particularly women.
11. The RBA takes this opportunity to thank the media in general and the reporter in particular for bringing this grave matter to our notice and also for bearing with the delay in our response. This delay was caused not due to the RBA’s desire to hide information of the issue, but as a responsible organization, to establish the facts through a fair and detailed investigation into the affair so that the rights of both the parties are protected and that justice is delivered in a fair and equitable manner.
Much damage has been done to the image of the RBA through this incident, particularly on social media where online members have been quick to act as both judge and jury, but without having access to any verified fact.
The RBA regrets this unfortunate tendency of social media enthusiasts to cast aspersions on any individual or organization based on hearsay and unconfirmed rumours but thanks the mainstream media for waiting to do the story until the facts have been established. We believe that responsible journalism gives credence to facts over hearsay and our confidence in the mainstream media has been enhanced through this incident.
12. The media may deal with this report in the manner that it deems fit but we see no point in further vilification and humiliation, be it against the two women or the Dedrim. While the women may have neglected their children and resorted to immoral activities, they are still part of the larger family that is the RBA.
This incident provides us with the opportunity to formulate systems and protocols that will not only prevent similar incidents in the future but will help the RBA to deal with such incidents, if they arise, in a professional, sensitive and responsible manner.
Royal Bhutan Army