From quarantine to prison

Rinzin Wangchuk

After completing his 21 days mandatory quarantine period today, Sangay Lhendup will not go home in Kabisa, Thimphu. Escorted by the police, he will be taken straight to the prison.

Thimphu dzongkhag court sentenced Sangay Lhendup, 51, to four years in prison in connection with the clandestine entry and false declaration of travel history through a video conferencing hearing with the defendant, prosecutor and immigration officials of Phuentsholing yesterday.

Based on a police report, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) charged Sangay Lhendup for criminal nuisance, breach of public order and tranquillity, and reporting of false information.

The court has convicted Sangay Lhendup for criminal nuisance and sentenced him to three years and six months and another six months for breaching public order and tranquillity. It is a non-compoundable sentence.

According to the press release from the Covid-19 task force in Phuentsholing,  Sangay Lhendup had deliberately misled immigration officials at the international border crossing in Phuentsholing stating that he had come from Gomtu when he had actually come from Nepal.

Subsequently, he entered the country clandestinely to evade health protocols and mandatory facility quarantine. “Through this reckless and highly irresponsible act, he endangered the lives of his family and community and people of Bhutan at a time when the entire nation is working hard to prevent the importation and spread of Covid-19,” the press release stated.

The case was initially reported to the Ministry of Heath by the community of Kabisa on July 1. Kuensel learnt that Sangay Lhendup had entered Phuentsholing clandestinely in an Indian truck and then travelled to Thimphu by taxi on the same day. He returned from Nepal.

Police report stated that Sangay Lhendup was apprehended and was quarantined along with some of his close contacts after receiving a report from local government officials.

Sangay Lhendup is originally from Shingkhar, Zhemgang but lives in Kabisa.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 task force urges and appeals to the general public to refrain from committing such selfish and reckless acts under any circumstances.

“Those that commit such offences shall face severe consequences in accordance with due process and the rule of law,” the press release stated.

At the same time, the task force also pleading all communities to remain vigilant and to immediately report the presence of any individuals who they suspect of having entered the country without complying with health protocols and mandatory quarantine.

“It is in our individual and collective interest to support the efforts of the government during this very difficult and challenging period,” stated in the press release. “The general public is also reminded to comply with all notifications and measures put in place to mitigate the risks of importation and transmission of Covid-19.”

The government on March 23 made it mandatory for all persons travelling into Bhutan to undergo facility quarantine. Notwithstanding this requirement, there have been cases of individuals who have defied this notification by surreptitiously entering the country and willfully avoiding the quarantine.

The Covid-19 task force reminded again on July 19 through public notification stating that such selfish and irresponsible acts shall be liable for the offence of criminal nuisance as per Section 410; failure to assist lawful authority as per Section 428 and breach of public order and tranquillity as per Section 448 of the Penal Code, 2004.

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