News and Views on Tibet

Bhutan reports 17 border intrusions by China in 2009

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By Kalsang Rinchen

Dharamsala, December 9 – It’s not just India that is at loggerheads with China on border issues. Bhutanese Secretary for International Boundaries, Dasho Pema Wangchuk, told the Bhutanese parliament that Chinese soldiers had intruded into Bhutanese territory as many as seventeen times in 2009 alone, reported Kuenselonline, web edition of Bhutan’s national newspaper.

Dasho Pema Wangchuk was presenting an updated status report on the Bhutan-China boundary negotiations on December 4 in the Bhutanese National Assembly. Chinese soldiers have entered as far as the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) outpost at Lharigang in the Charithang valley, according to Wangchuk.

According to Wangchuk, China started road construction work from Langmarpo stream towards Zuri ridge in 2004 but later stopped work after protests from the Bhutanese government. However, in August this year the Chinese started extension of the road construction work between Zuri to Phuteogang ridge, which overlooks the Charithang valley, Wanghuk said, adding that his government protested five times and asked China to stop construction on the basis of 1998 agreement on the maintenance of peace and tranquility in Bhutan-China border areas which states that “the two sides agree to maintain peace and tranquility in their border areas pending a final settlement on the boundary question, and to maintain status quo on the boundary as before March 1959” and that “they will also refrain from taking any unilateral action to change the status quo of the boundary”.

Dasho Pema Wangchuk said that the main reason why Bhutan has not been able to successfully demarcate the northern border with China even after many years is because of the differences of views and positions of the boundary between Bhutan and China. “At present we have four areas which are disputed in the western sector- Doklam, Charithang, Sinchulumpa and Dramana pasture land, ” Wangchuk was quoted by Kuensel online as saying.

The two countries have met 18 times since 1984 for border talks with the latest being in August 2006 in Beijing. China had proposed the 19th round of the border talks to be held in December this year but Bhutan has proposed the border talks to be held in Thimphu in January next year. Wangduephodrang MP, Gyem Dorji, said thousands of people from Tibet enter Bhutan every year to “illegally” collect Cordyceps (yartsa gunbu) along the northern border of Sephu Gewog.

Analysts say that China has not been able to woo Bhutan the way it had wooed Nepal. Bhutan has been a loyal neighbor for many years to India which has been providing various assistance to the Himalayan Kingdom.

Many Tibetans settled in Bhutan after fleeing Tibet through its southern border at Dromo after Chinese invasion. However, the Tibetan population in Bhutan dwindled after the royal government of Bhutan expelled many Tibetans and Nepalese refugees in early eighties.

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