Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
As Bhutan opens international borders across the country today, the event will not only bring about positive change but also heralds a new era with renewed hopes and aspirations for the people in post-Covid-19 Bhutan.
Among all the international borders, the opening in Phuentsholing will be the most significant given the new international standard pedestrian terminal. Immigration rules that are internationally accepted will apply.
The terminal has been tried and tested. Over 80 officials and representatives from Jaigaon arrived on September 20 for a tour of the terminal.
The residents in Phuentsholing and Jaigaon are excited about the reopening and the terminal. Officials also let people visit the terminal and try the new system.
A resident and grocery owner, Bijoy Chhetri said he was satisfied with the terminal system. “It gives a nice airport feeling,” he said.
One has to first pre-register on (https://bms.doi.gov.bt), which generates a QR Code. People will have to show this QR Code at the terminal for scanning. However, people are also requested to carry a hard copy of identity proof while going for the first time. Those who don’t have phones or don’t know how to register online will be assisted by immigration officials at the terminal.
The Jaigaon Merchant Association’s general secretary, RS Gupta said, “As much as it is a day to remember for Bhutan, it is equally a great day for us. It is the day our close friends from Bhutan will come to Jaigaon.”
“We are very grateful to Bhutan for all these and wish that our friendship between the two peoples grows even stronger than before,” he said.
RS Gupta said that they will be waiting for Bhutanese people at the gate to welcome them with khadar today.
Meanwhile, there was some confusion among the people about the September 13 notification, which said people will be taxed if they brought purchases more than Nu 3,000. However, the finance ministry on September 21 did away with this rule.
Instead, the ministry has said that the officials will closely monitor individual imports entering through the pedestrian terminal or other entry points for a month starting today. This has alarmed the shopkeepers in Phuentsholing.
One said that everything being imported must be taxed at the terminal.
“If we don’t do this, we are going the same old way and the government will again lose in taxes,” he said. “However, it is yet to see how things will develop.”
A businessman, Kuenzang said that many people may want to go to Jaigaon today given they didn’t have the chance for 30 months.
“Eventually, the movement will fall into its regular and former pace.”
He said: “Many shops that deal in Indian goods may lose business as people will buy from Jaigaon. But for third country goods, Phuentsholing will still be the place.”
There are five entry-exit points in Gomtu, Pugli, Jitti, Bhimtar and Samtse. Samtse Dzongdag Pasang Dorji said that they are well prepared to open the gate today.
“We have five entry-exit points,” he said, adding that Bhutanese and those living across the borders have been sensitised.
“We have received very good feedback from the people across the borders.”
Samdrup Jongkhar and Paro ready for guests
Border towns are prepared to welcome visitors into the country as Bhutan’s international borders finally open on September 23 after three years.
Samdrupjongkhar officiating Dzongdag Tashi Wangmo said that the dzongkhag is prepared to open its gates for visitors.
She said that the human resources at the gate have been strengthened and they have also installed magnetic gates with metal detectors. The registration counters are also ready.
“The visitors coming in will have to show their passports at the counter and the Bhutanese going out will either have to show their passports or CID cards,” she said.
Dzongkhag officials will gather at the gate today morning to hold a small ceremony. “The Tourism Council of Bhutan has sent gifts to be handed to the first group of visitors and some private individuals have also agreed to prepare refreshments for the visitors,” she said.
All dzongkhags performed Kurims from September 20 for the opening of the border.
Paro Dzongdag Karma Thinley said that TCB would be conducting a small ceremony at the Paro International Airport to welcome the first group of foreigners visiting Bhutan.