Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing 

Police in Samtse arrested a 44-year-old man from Rinchhenphu village in Yoeseltse gewog on December 29 for allegedly crossing the border and had quarantined him since then. 

Police suspected him of crossing the border since they found 15 pieces of tobacco leaves, which are not available in the locality, in his home.

The suspect had been under the police radar for a long time.

On December 29, officials called him to ask his whereabouts and he allegedly lied saying he was at home. It was later found he was not at home.

Yoeseltse gup, Ganga Prasad Limboo, said police found the tobacco leaves when they went to his house for inspection. 

“These leaves are not something you get in Bhutan and he was arrested.”

Although the suspect denied crossing the border and having bought the tobacco leaves, sources said his mother-in-law had admitted he gave her the tobacco leaves.

Sources also alleged the suspect made a living before the lockdown by transporting alcohol across the border for commission.

The suspect has two houses, one at Rinchhenphu and one at Samtenchhu.

During the lockdown, the man requested the gewog officials to allow him to shift to Rinchhenphu, reasoning he is suffering from backache and didn’t have rice to eat at Samtenchhu.

“He requested to go to his Rinchhenphu house where his wife and children are staying,” the gup said. “The gewog, along with the help of the police, facilitated his request.”

But on December 29, when police called him, he kept misguiding the police about his whereabouts.

Gup Ganga Prasad Limboo said the task force and the gewog had been sensitising people living in the border areas on the risks of crossing the border and doing illegal activities.

“We have even made agreements with people to not cross the border,” he said.

Meanwhile, starting from Norgaygang gewog until Tading, Samtse shares a porous border with Indian villages. In many places, it is not even possible to differentiate which part is Bhutan and India. There are over 74 points of entries that are manned by police and DeSuups.

Yoeseltse also shares a porous border with Gathia Tea Garden. And there are at least 70 houses close to the border. A huge trench has also been dug, which separates Yoeseltse and India.

Since the beginning of the pandemic and the closure of borders on March 23, about 60 such cases have been reported from Samtse.