DT: With the recent spate of choeten vandalism in the dzongkhag, Trashigang dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) members raised concerns over the increasing crime and sought police protection.

About 1,005 choetens are spread across Trashigang dzongkhag and most have been vandalised or were attempted to.  Presenting the issue, Sakteng gup, Tshewang Tshering said that choeten vandalism has become rampant.

“About 90 percent of the choetens in Sakteng have been vandalised. To protect these choetens, we need more support from the police force,” he said. “I think it is time that the police provide security.”

But the tshogdu decided that communities should continue protecting choetens as the number made it impossible for the police to provide security.

Superintendent of Police (SP) in Trashigang, major Sonam Tshering said that although choeten vandalism was a matter of grave concern, it would be difficult for them to provide security services.

With most of the chortens located either at remote corners or inside forests, the SP said these religious structures were vulnerable to vandals. Another challenge, he added was the vastness of the dzongkhag

“On the other hand, post vandalisms, the rate at which we have nabbed the vandals is very high,” he said. “We also have the Special Investigation Team (SIT) in place to handle such cases.”

However, the only probable solution, he said, depended on the villagers themselves. “Should villagers start patrolling the choetens frequently, vandalism cases would certainly decrease,” he said.

Trashigang dzongdag, Lungten Dorji suggested that the gewog administration and the community should come forward to protect choetens.

“Villagers should be alert and question any new faces or vehicles in the community,” he said.

Meanwhile, it was also informed during the DT that restoration of choetens and placing of nangzungs has started in the dzongkhag. For instance, about 40 choetens in Lumang gewog have been restored.

Because choetens that are away from the villages would be difficult to protect, the Chief Forestry Officer, Dendup Tshering, recommended that such choetens should be demolished and in their place, a new one be constructed near villages.

“The maintenance cost for about five or 10 such choetens should be enough to construct a new one. All the recovered nangzungs could be placed in the new choeten,” he said.

Choeten vandalism is one of the top crimes committed in Trashigang and Trashiyangtse. In 2013, the two dzongkhags saw 72 cases while in 2012, 43 cases were reported.

By Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang