Bhutan bids farewell to former RBA Chief Operations Officer

Rinzin Wangchuk

The military funeral of the former Chief Operations Officer (COO) of the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA), Goongloen Gongma (Lt. General) Lam Dorji, was held at the Pelkhil School ground in Thimphu yesterday.

Draped in the RBA flag, the body of Late Goongloen Gongma was escorted from his home to the cremation ground where the armed forces officers received it with a Guard of Honour. The cremation ceremony was presided over by the Dorji Lopon of the Zhung Dratshang along with 100 monks.

The funeral was attended by His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, members of the Royal Family, prime minister, cabinet members, the armed forces, representatives of 1990 and 2003 militias and retired armed forces officers as well as wishers whose lives have been touched by late Goongloen.

Late Lt. General passed away on April 27 at the Thimphu national referral hospital. He was 87.

The Chief Operations Officer of the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA), Lt. General Batoo Tshering described the late COO as an inspiration to serve the Tsa-Wa-Sum with full dedication and loyalty.

“I looked up to him as an iconic figure worthy of emulation for generations to come. His loyalty and dedication and his half a century of service to the TsaWa-Sum has rightly earned for himself an honorable mention in the annals of modern military history of Bhutan,” he said. “I am immensely privileged to have been groomed, nurtured and mentored by the late General. I am proud of having had the opportunity to serve under him, as well as alongside the late General, in serving the Third and Fourth Kings.”

Lt. General Batoo Tshering also fondly remembered Late Goongloen as a fatherly figure besides being a senior and superior officer. “Goongloen Lam Dorji was very fond of children and his enthusiasm and affection at times drove children to tears,” he said.

According to the CCO, the late Goongloen had fulfilled His Majesty the King’s Commands and trust and helped the Armed Forces grow from strength to strength.

Late Goongloen Gongma (Lt. General) Lam Dorji

Late Goongloen Gongma (Lt. General) Lam Dorji

On the late Goongloen’s contribution, Lt. General Batoo Tshering said that as the CCO for 41 years, he developed a close rapport with 15 Chiefs of the Army Staff of the Indian army. His outstanding contribution in enhancing the close friendship and cooperation between the Indian army and the RBA significantly contributed to the strengthening of Indo-Bhutan relations.

“He restructured RBA into various Wings under the leadership of His Majesty the Third King and was instrumental in organising RBA as a professional standing army,” he said.

Describing Goongloen Lam Dorji as a man of destiny who enjoyed the confidence of two great monarchs, Major General V. Namgyel, Ambassador of Bhutan to India, said that the Late Goongloen played a key role in the establishment of the RBA and guided its growth as a modern army during his distinguished tenure of more than 40 years as its chief. “

Major General V. Namgyel said that as a senior member of the Lhengye Zhungtshog, from its establishment till its transition to an elected cabinet, the Late Goongloen made valuable contributions on issues of national concern and importance.

“A man of high principles and unshakable loyalty and dedication to the King and the country, his outstanding service to the TsaWa-Sum was recognised with the award of the highest medals by three generations of our enlightened Monarchs,” Major General V. Namgyel said.

“I had the privilege of interacting and learning from him in my capacity as ADC to His Majesty the Fourth King. I had the highest respect for him both for his great leadership qualities and for his single-minded loyalty and dedication to His Majesty the King that inspired me throughout my own career.”

Former Chief Justice of the High Court, Dasho Paljor J Dorji, a contemporary of the late Goongloen said, “Goongloen Lam Dorji was someone I have known throughout my life, starting at Bhutan House in the 1950s, the 70s fishing and passing evenings playing bridge, to serving two Kings. Our interaction was more during the glorious reign of Druk Gyalpo Zhipa. Many happy memories and my respects to a man who served two Kings having the trust and confidence of Their Majesties, not many can lay claim to such meritorious service.”

The former editor-in-chief of Kuensel, Dasho Kinley Dorji, said Goongloen Gongma Lam Dorji was, in a real sense, an officer and a gentleman. “Besides serving as the head of the Bhutanese army for so many years, he was often a senior and dignified member of Bhutan’s delegation when His Majesty Drugyal Zhipa led the government to international and regional conferences,” he said. “He belonged to a generation of Bhutanese who played an important role in the evolution of our kingdom.”

Born on October 23, 1933, Late Goongloen Lam Dorji joined the army at a young age. He graduated from the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun in 1954 and completed a post-training attachment with a range of Indian Army units and schools of instruction.

His first assignment was to establish the RBA training centre in Wangduephodrang in March 1959. In 1962, during the Indo-China war, he was posted to Lingmithang to oversee the training of a militia force drawn from Kurtoe, Bumthang, Mongar, and Pemagatshel.

He was promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel on August 7, 1962, and served as the Commandant of the training centre from 1963 to 1964.

On November 25, 1964, he was appointed as the Chief Operations Officer at the army headquarters in Thimphu by the late King, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.

In 1983 he was assigned to command and control of the Royal Bhutan Police by His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo to reorganise and streamline the service conditions and improve the morale of the RBP.

According to Lt General Batoo Tshering, late Goongloen was instrumental in reorganising the Royal Bhutan Police.  “In 1983, when the RBP was in a total disarray owing to leadership crisis, late Goongloen was involved in streamlining of RBP which later became the three forces of RBA, RBG and RBP and came to be referred to as Dragkhag-Sum under one umbrella. This reorganisation enabled the Armed forces to function in a coordinated conduct,” Lt. General Batoo Tshering said. “The efficacy of Dragkhag-Sum was proven beyond doubt during the unfortunate 1990 uprising and 2003 militancy problems.”

Goongloen Gongma Lam Dorji was the most decorated officer in the armed force. For his dedicated and distinguished service he was awarded Druk Zhung Thugsay medal in July 1969 by His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo. In 1991, His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo awarded him the highest medal of the Royal Bhutan Army, the Druk Yugyel (DYG). His Majesty also awarded the Drakpoi Wangyal in 2001.

In recognition of his 49 years of meritorious service under the Third and Fourth Kings, Late Goongloen was awarded Druk Thuksey by His Majesty The King on 17 December 2010.

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