Relocating the check post from Panbang to Mathanguri is expected to strengthen border security

Security: The increasing instances of confrontations between foresters of Manas Park Range and visitors from India entering Zhemgang has caused its residents to call for a relocation of the existing check post to Mathanguri from Panbang.

Mathanguri is 13 kilometres from the existing Royal Bhutan Police check post in Panbang. Save for the park’s foresters, the other regulating agencies like RBP, immigration and BAFRA operate from Panbang.

On November 16, forester Dhan Bahadur had a verbal confrontation with visitors from India when they refused to accept the entry fees’ change in Ngultrum. There were over 50 Indian nationals seeking entry.

Park officials collect an entry fee of Nu 30 a person and Nu 150 for a car entering the protected area from Mathanguri.

“I didn’t have INR but they were unhappy with the change in Ngultrum,” Dhan Bahadur said.

Last year another MPR forester, Kinley Wangdi also faced a similar problem when a mob of visitors from India objected the entry fees. To date, MPR officials had entered into confrontation with casual visitors five times. One of the foresters even had a scuffle and the issue had to be resolved from the dungkhag administration.

“There is a need to strengthen border security with a check post to ensure safety for officials and travellers,” Ngangla gup, Rinchen Wangdi said.

When officials leave after 5pm, the gate at Mathanguri remains unmanned. “Often visitors from India walk illegally into Manas without proper permit since the check post is located 13 kilometres away,” a forester said.

Rinchen Wangdi said leaving Mathanguri gate unattended is both a risk to security and lives. The issue, he said, was also raised at the Gewog Tshogde earlier.

Unchecked movement of visitors in Manas is also now a growing concern to the park since the occurrence of a forest fire in 2013.

“The visitors exit from Panbang check post before 4 pm but some drift about between Mathanguri and Panbang creating nuisance under the influence of alcohol,” ranger Tshering Dorji said.

The park also fears loss of natural resources to illegal activities at night from unwarranted movement of visitors. “There are also chances of losing wildlife and timber from the protected area to miscreants,” MPR forest ranger II, Sangay Tenzin said.

According to RBP officials in Panbang, there is no plan to relocate the existing check post to Manthanguri because of the uncertainty surrounding the road’s existence in future since it’s runs through the protected area.

“While it would strategically be better to position a check post in Mathanguri, there will also be issues on how to ensure security to those officials living by the border,” the RBP official said.

He however said there is a plan to either retain the existing check post at Panbang or to relocate it at Panbang Bridge.

But residents said the opening of a check post in Panbang Bridge wouldn’t be effective enough to monitor the movement of visitors from Mathanguri.

By Tempa Wangdi, Panbang