Recently, we published numerous stories on crime, mostly on rape, and the feedback was that there are bigger and more important things happening in the country today; it was giving the country a bad name. It is a little surprising, not shocking, but definitely concerning. 

In the early 1990s, when Kuensel started reporting crime in Thimphu, a senior official complained that we were giving the country “a bad image” by writing about such things. Many Bhutanese shared the view that negative aspects of your own society should be kept discreet to protect the national reputation.

Another view in Bhutan was that crime was not a problem because it was all under control. Crime in Bhutan was just petty crime and every criminal, including juveniles, was being monitored and watched. We did not have a serious problem and, compared with other countries, issues like crime and corruption were negligible. Therefore, writing about crime was exaggerating the problem.

However, more than three decades later, we have the same problems—only bigger and more complex. Suddenly, it is not an exaggeration. 

A rape of a minor below 12 years by a monk at a hotel by is concerning looked at through any lens or angle. The obvious question we must ask with deep concern is why did it happen? By law, such acts are meted out with heavy penalties.  Why can’t we do something to stop it? 

The stronger we condemn the media for bringing out such issues, the greater the encouragement to such perpetrators and more dangerous for our innocent children. 

The purpose of news stories is to provide insights into society that are not always visible. That, we understand, is what the Bhutanese media has been established to do and that is what it must try to do.  

The problem, as we see over and over again, is not the crime itself but the trend. But the real issue is our refusal, or inability, to acknowledge it and deal with it on time. The same people sit down to discuss the same problems and we see the same problems only continue.

While we have always maintained that Bhutan is a special place—that is true in every sense of the word—we are suddenly struck by the realisation that we, ourselves, are vulnerable to all the ills that have affected other places and societies. And if such trends are not checked, Bhutan will not be special for much longer.