Thinley Namgay    

Of the 30 agents accused of trafficking Bhutanese women to the Middle East, the special investigation team (SIT) had forwarded nine cases to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).

The nine agents, comprising nine women and two men, are accused of trafficking about 70 women.

One case was forwarded last year where a couple in their late 30s from Trongsa were accused of trafficking 44 women in 17 groups to Iraq.

An official from the SIT said that they have completed the investigation, but are still framing the charges. “We are trying to send at least two to three cases to the OAG a week.”

According to the official, the Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns have prolonged the investigation. “To get the correct statements, we have to meet in person.”

Officials said 184 women had been trafficked to the two Middle Eastern countries of Iraq and Oman. Out of the 184 women, 174 were trafficked to Iraq and while nine were sent to Oman.

Officials also said that shelter was provided to the women after being repatriated to the capital from the Middle East under the coordination of the National Commission for Women and Children. Some women returned to their homes in their villages.

“For those victims who have no place to live in the capital during the investigation, we have requested the police stations in the dzongkhags to get the details from these girls,” an official said.

The Penal Code (Amendment) of Bhutan 2011 states that a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of trafficking in person if the defendant recruits, transports, sells, buys, harbours, or receives a person through the use of threat or force or deception within, into, or outside of Bhutan for any illegal purpose.

SIT official explained that the senior superintendent of police reviews their reports before they forward them to the OAG.

According to the OAG, the cases forwarded by the SIT are under review.