Lhakpa Quendren


Gelephu — The Gelephu court last week convicted a couple, proprietors of Hotel Park, along with five women for their involvement in the prostitution in Gelephu town.

The Gelephu police arrested two women from the hotel along with its owner on September 20, 2023, leading to the arrest of three more women and the husband of the hotel owner a few days later.

The court handed a two-year prison sentence on 44-year-old Choki Wangmo and 52-year-old Ugyen Dorji, a couple managing Hotel Park in Gelephu town, for running a prostitution racket and promoting prostitution.

The couple was convicted of a misdemeanor offense under Section 375 of the Penal Code of Bhutan, which includes running brothels or soliciting individuals for prostitution, including procuring individuals for brothels.

However, they have the option to pay thrimthue in lieu of serving their prison term. The thrimthue can be paid for the remainder of their prison terms, considering that Choki Wangmo was detained for 45 days and Ugyen Dorji for 29 days.

The hotel owner employed five prostitutes and promoted them by showing their pictures to Indian customers for selection. Each customer was charged between Nu 2,500 to 3,000, of which Nu 1,000 was kept for hotel charges.

The court denied Choki Wangmo’s compensation plea from former Gelephu Officiating Superintendent of Police (SP), Lieutenant Colonel Karma Samten, for losses during the hotel closure. She alleged the police confiscated the hotel’s license without due process of the law. The court clarified that the license suspension resulted from the crime committed by the hotel owner.

The defendant’s legal representative also claimed that Karma Samten, Ugyen Dorji’s cousin and the officiating SP, arrested them because of a personal grudge related to a land purchase, and requested the dismissal of the case.

However, Karma Samten was not involved in the case, and he signed none of the prostitution-related documents. The investigation and charge sheet were conducted by Major Denka Choden, the former Officer in Command of Gelephu.

While the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) petitioned to cancel the hotel license, the court ordered the license to be returned with a warning, considering that the hotel business is the family’s sole income source. The warning stated that the license would be revoked if similar crimes recurred.

Concerning the accusation of shaving Ugyen Dorji’s head while in detention, the court clarified that it was carried out with his consent, as per the Prison Act of Bhutan. Section 79 of the act specifies that no prisoners shall be allowed to maintain long hair and beard to ensure personal hygiene.

The court also sentenced five women, aged between 18 and 32 years, to a one-year prison term for their involvement in illegal sexual business. They have the option to pay thrimthue in lieu of serving their prison term, after deducting the detention period they served during the investigation.

These women have confessed to being involved in the prostitution business for about seven months under the influence of the hotel owner, Choki Wangmo. These women, without other options, ended up in the sex trade while seeking employment opportunities due to financial challenges.

Following the arrest of the 32-year-old hotel manager, she disclosed the involvement of four additional women who were earning substantial income through the sex trade. She earned Nu 30,000 to 40,000 a month after paying Nu 1,000 to the hotel owner as a room charge.

The police obtained lengthy conversations lasting over 30 minutes between the hotel owner and employees via WeChat and Messenger online platforms. Multiple financial transactions have occurred between the hotel owner and the hotel manager.

According to a woman’s statement, “I did not see Uncle (Ugyen Dorji) making calls or looking for girls like Auntie (Choki Wangmo) does. All the calls and arrangements for girls for Indian visitors are done by Auntie herself, even when she is out of town.”

The manager was the first to be arrested from the hotel while she was engaged in conversation with four Indian men from Bongaigaon, in the Chirang district of Assam, during drinks. They had visited the hotel for sexual activities after their trip to Serzhong bridge.

“I inquired with the owner about the girls, mentioning previous visits to the hotel and observing other Indian men heading towards rooms with Bhutanese girls. The owner then showed me pictures of Bhutanese girls on her phone and asked which one I preferred. I selected one, and she indicated a price of Nu 3,000, to which I agreed before continuing to drink alcohol,” said a customer.