The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) will expedite the repatriation of 18 Bhutanese students who are stuck in Malaysia on expired visa within a week, according to the ministry’s officials.

“This will be done through diplomatic channel with the Malaysian foreign ministry,” foreign secretary Sonam Tshong said. “However, we are waiting for some details that we asked for from the education ministry.”

The education secretary, Karma Yeshey wrote to the foreign secretary on June 21 seeking the ministry’s support for the safe return of 18 students, including seven females from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The students’ special passes expired on June 7.

Sonam Tshong said the MoFA received the letter, which was sent through post only yesterday.

“We have requested education officials to provide us names and passport details of the students, and contact detail of Drupthop Education Consultancy & Placement Firm’s (Drupthop ECPF) partner in Malaysia,” he said. “Thereafter, MoFA will approach the Malaysian Embassy in New Delhi, India for assistance.”

The students are among the 23 who had applied for student visa and enrollment at Victoria International College, Kuala Lumpur Campus, through Drupthop ECPF in 2016. The students were taken to Malaysia on tourist visa in December 2016.

Drupthop ECPF proprietor Chhimi Rinzin’s partner Ravi facilitated to get the students out of the airport. After signing two agreements to bring back the students by May 25 and refund the money by May 31, Chhimi Rinzin reportedly disappeared.

Chhimi Rinzin’s husband who was supposed to remit full payment to those who wish to stay in Malaysia by yesterday informed the students that he would send the money next week. However, a female student said she was happy to know that the government is going to repatriate them from Malaysia. “I really want to come home,” she said.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said since Bhutan doesn’t have a diplomatic relation with Malaysia, the government would be working closely with Bhutan Embassies in Bangkok and New Delhi to bring home the 18 students safely.

Meanwhile, five students who are in Bhutan have decided to seek the court’s intervention on Monday to get a refund of Nu 1.360 million from Chhimi Rinzin and Drupthop ECPF’s managing director Kuenley Tshering Dorji. Four students paid Nu 280,000 each as tuition fee for a three-year Bachelors and another student paid Nu 240,000 for two-year diploma in hospitality management.

“This time we will request the court to summon Kuenley Tshering Dorji, who was actively involved in the consultancy and signed the agreement, to testify before the court,” one of the five students said.

Rinzin Wangchuk