On behalf of the Australian government, the ambassador of Australia to Bhutan, Harinder Sidhu conferred the insignia of Honorary Officer within the General Division of the Order of Australia to Ashi Tashi Chodzom Dorji yesterday in Thimphu, a press release from the foreign ministry states.

Her Majesty the Royal Grand Mother Kesang Choeden Wangchuck hosted the investiture ceremony at the Chimi Gatshel Palace in Motithang.

Their Majesties the Queen Mothers, Their Royal Highnesses, Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, family members and friends of Ashi Tashi Chodzom Dorji attended the ceremony.

The press release states that Ashi Tashi Chodzom Dorji, was awarded the insignia for her contributions to fostering Australia – Bhutan relations, particularly in the education sector and, her efforts towards opening up Bhutan to the outside world.

“Ashi Tashi Chodzom Dorji laid the foundation for the growth of excellent relations between Bhutan and Australia, which today continues to be marked by excellent collaboration in the education sector,” the press release states.

The Order of Australia is an order of chivalry established on February 14, 1975 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia to recognise Australian citizens and other persons for personal and meritorious service. The Order consists of four levels, in both general and military divisions. Honorary awards in the Order of Australia are given to persons who are not Australian citizens.

Ashi Tashi Chodzom Dorji is the daughter of Gongzim Sonam Tobgay Dorji and Sikkim Princess Rani Choeying Wangmo Dorji.

“Ashi Tashi Chodzom Dorji was instrumental in securing Bhutan’s membership to the Colombo Plan in 1962, the first international organisation that Bhutan joined,” the press release states. “Joining the Colombo Plan was an important milestone in Bhutan’s foreign relations, which eventually led to Bhutan’s admission as a member of the United Nations in 1971.”

Ashi Tashi Chodzom Dorji is the first Bhutanese national to receive the insignia of the Order of Australia.

A press release from Australian High Commission states that in 1962, Ashi Tashi Chodzom Dorji secured Australia’s support to include Bhutan as a member of the Colombo Plan, a centrepiece of Australian foreign policy aimed at strengthening ties with Asia, by providing aid to countries in need of assistance.

“It is my great privilege to confer the Order of Australia honour to Ashi Tashi Chodzom Dorji for her immense contribution to the Australia-Bhutan relationship. This award is an indication of the respect and value that Australia places on its relationship with Bhutan,” ambassador Sidhu said. “From her advocacy of Bhutan’s inclusion in the Colombo Plan in 1962, Ashi Tashi Chodzom Dorji sowed the seeds of the deep friendship between Australia and Bhutan that lasts till this day.”

The press release states that Ashi Tashi Chodzom Dorji helped establish the Australian Government’s development programme in Bhutan, which has developed into an enduring education relationship – 1,450 Bhutanese students are currently studying in Australia. She also assisted with the establishment of the Australian-Bhutan Friendship Association.

The Honorary Awards in the Order of Australia are made to persons who are not Australian citizens but have given extraordinary service to Australia or humanity at large.

Staff Reporter