The Bhutanese man who went missing in Bangkok for 10 days has finally been found.
We are thankful to those people who may have helped him get through his 10-day ordeal, which undoubtedly must have been a dreadfully frightening experience.
The efforts of the Thai government, police and media must also be acknowledged, along with the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Bangkok, and the Royal Government.
Of late, we’ve heard about other unfortunate events involving Bhutanese citizens that have taken place abroad. The most recent case involves a bus carrying 42 Bhutanese pilgrims getting into an accident in Himachal Pradesh. Again, fortunately, there were no fatalities.
However, at least two Bhutanese pilgrims died in accidents in India in the past two months. Both while attempting to cross the road.
These incidents clearly indicate that there is a need for those agencies or companies that take Bhutanese outside the country, especially elderly pilgrims or those who are going abroad for the first time, to have proper measures in place.
For instance, the Bhutanese man, a support staff for Damphu Central School, who went missing in Bangkok could not speak English and may not have travelled to such a large city before. The potential of getting lost did exist and should have been recognised.
In the future, organisations and agencies taking Bhutanese abroad, must recognise those at risk of getting lost and brief them on the dos and don’ts during the journey. It would also be advisable for those at-risk individuals to have on them a sheet of paper with emergency contact numbers of either their group leaders or the embassy, if there is one.
Perhaps, they could also be provided with a sheet of paper with a message printed in the local language and in English that the holder is lost and for emergency services to be contacted.
With more Bhutanese travelling abroad for pilgrimage as part of package tours, there is also a need for the government to require tour agents to bear more responsibility for the safety of their clients.
This could include not only ensuring that clients are briefed and aware of safety risks and what precautions they should take, for instance, when crossing a road, but also on the cultural dos and don’ts of a particular area. The guides or group leaders must also be trained in first aid so that they can respond at the earliest to any medical emergencies, which could occur as most pilgrims are elderly.