Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The miscreants from across the border who clashed with two policemen on March 9 morning were trying to smuggle in tobacco, police officials in Phuentsholing confirmed.

A police search team yesterday found eight sacks of tobacco products hidden below the road on the way to the Medical Store and Distribution Division building premise in Pemaling, Phuentsholing.

The policeman, a chuma, Suk Raj Subba, 29, who had an altercation with the miscreants, has been discharged from the hospital yesterday and put into a seven-day quarantine. Suk Raj Subba has been placed under quarantine as per the doctor’s advice since he had come into contact with the people across the border during the fight.

Suk Raj Subba and his colleague, another policeman, Sonam Wangchuk encountered the miscreants at Pemaling during a regular patrolling duty. They were serving at the Pemaling outpost.

Suk Raj Subba sustained cuts in his three fingers of his left hand during the conflict. The miscreants used a knife.

The incident took place between 4am and 4:30am on March 9. The policemen were with two desuups (both women) during the incident, but the desuups were unharmed as they were not at the spot where the incident took place. Sonam Wangchuk was also unhurt.

Police sources said there were about six people who were trying to enter Bhutan from Pemaling.

“After we spotted them, they tried escaping from the point where they entered. The chuma also reached there,” a police official said.

Pemaling shares a porous border along what is popularly called  the Chinese Lane in Phuentsholing. There is no proper structure, like a high raising wall,  dividing the border. A small stream, which is dry at present directly flows to the border. The area where the stream flows has been fenced with barbed wire.

The conflict at Pemaling indicates how porous the border areas are in Phuentsholing and reveals the challenges policemen, desuups and other patrol teams face in securing the border during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hundreds of desuups, policemen and volunteers patrol about 26 points of entry that stretches from Amochhu embankments to Pasakha and beyond until Pana villages in Sampheling gewog round the clock.

Suk Raj Subba said they were unprepared and were just carrying out their regular patrolling duty.

“There was a route and we doubted if people had entered through,” he said, adding that they asked the desuups to stay away and went there to check. 

“The miscreants were hiding and attacked us without any sign of warnings.”

The policemen on patrol climbed from a small hill and flashed their torches. They didn’t see the miscreants hiding and when they met up-close suddenly, one of the four miscreants hiding attacked the patrolling team.

“I could see four of them. And one of them attacked me immediately when they saw me,” he said.

Chuma Suk Raj tried to push away one of the miscreants who attacked him. 

“When he attacked, my friend hit him with a baton. He came again charging with a knife,” he said.

Suk Raj Subba said he only knew about the cuts on his fingers when he was chasing the culprits. The policemen chased them but couldn’t catch them. With just batons in hand, Suk Raj Subba said it was risky going after the armed miscreants.