Trashiyangtse dzongkhag dispute settlement body on October 7 warned and slapped a fine of Nu 6,450 to Samten Wangdi, a Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) supporter based in Phuentsholing.

The warning and fine were imposed following a complaint Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) coordinator in Trashiyangtse, Chorten Tshering, filed against Samten Wangdi.

On October 3, Chorten Tshering lodged a complaint with the chief election coordinator in the dzongkhag alleging that in a WeChat group, Samten Wangdi from Khamdang chiwog in Trashiyangtse stated that India will not support Bhutan if DPT forms the government and to get good support, DNT should win the general round of the election.

As evidence, the complainant had submitted an audiovisual clip where it was found that Samten Wangdi had specifically mentioned about the Government of India’s support to Bhutan based on the outcome of the elections.

An investigation team was formed following the corpus screening of the complaint, which found that propagation of false information merited further investigation, an official with the dzongkhag dispute settlement body said.

In the sound clip, Samten Wangdi in Sharshop dialect said that if DPT wins and forms the government, there would be no support from the Indian government. “This is a fact that everyone must be aware of and is also broadcast in Indian news. When there is no Indian support, then initiating Kholongchu project is not possible.”

He goes on to say that people have to understand the situation and act accordingly. “If DNT comes to power then the Indian government has their full support. This is not something that is cooked up by people. It’s a fact that is shown on television and you all must also be aware of.”

On further interrogation, Samten Wangdi admitted that he did communicate the alleged conversation in the ‘DNT Yallang group’, a WeChat group with 51 members. Samten Wangdi said that his communication was based on the news video clip by an Indian channel, NMF, shared in the group.

Samten Wangdi told Kuensel that he was explaining the content of the NMF news clip to the members as it was in Hindi. “Some of the members wanted me to translate the content of the news clip,” he said. “I had no other reasons behind the statement I made in the audio video clip.”

Chorten Tshering did not respond.

Chorten Tshering had told the team that such false statement could undermine Bhutan-India relationship. He also said that Tenzin Norbu from Yallang gewog shared the audio video clip in the group.

Tenzin Norbu told the team that after finding the contents of Samten Wangdi’s message in the group disturbing and potentially damaging to Bhutan-India relationship, he sent the recorded audio clips to Chorten Tshering out of concern.

Based on the content of the clip and the confession made by Samten Wangdi, the team established a prima facie case against Samten Wangdi and held him accountable for transmitting or sharing false and malicious statements.

It was also established that Samten Wangdi had allegedly contravened section 294 of the Election Act and section 4.4 of the ECB Social Media Rules and Regulations.

The dispute settlement body also decided to issue a warning letter to Tenzin Norbu for breaching Section 4.1 of the ECB Social Media Rules and Regulations, which states, “Every user of social media have the responsibility to carry out oversight duty and report to the election authorities of any violation of the laws, in particular, the Election Code of Conduct by a political party, candidate, voter, media, electoral officer or worker of a political party.”

It was also learnt that the dispute settlement body dismissed other three accusations alleged by Chorten Tshering against Samten Wangdi for want of prima facie.

Chorten Tshering complained that Samten Wangdi allegedly said that the fuel price was hiked because People’s Democratic Party could not participate in the general elections and also alleged DPT of promoting sectarian or regional discord in the country and breach of electoral laws.

Younten Tshedup | Trashiyangtse