The case involves soldiers and a Haa resident 

Crime: Police in Haa conducted an investigation involving a 32-year-old Haa resident and some soldiers of the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) Demo Company in Haa, who were involved in a physical altercation on October 17.

The incident occurred at around 2am when the Haa resident visited a musical show at the RBA dining hall. A hotelier in Haa rented the RBA hall to stage the musical show during the IMTRAT raising day.

According to the 32-year-old resident, who sustained injuries in the loin region, laceration of the kidney and scalp, the fight broke out after he asked six men standing in front of him watching the show to sit down, as he couldn’t see.

“Three men from the group came to charge me and we went out to sort out the difference. But as the men got aggressive, I punched one man’s face,” he said. He claimed the other two men ran away and he then went inside to watch the musical show.

He claimed that about 10 minutes later, a group of 15 to 20 men came looking for him. “They were shouting who had raised hands on the soldier and that was when I realised I beat up a soldier,” he said. “I went inside the bar and the musical show owner said he would compromise but before he could do anything, the men beat me up, asking why I raised my hand on a uniformed person.”

He claimed he jumped behind the counter but three men followed and hit him with a beer bottle.

The 32-year-old man also claimed that the three men then stabbed him with a knife. He also said the fight went on for about 15 to 20 minutes before he could manage to flee the scene. “I fell down thrice before I could get out of the hall and I got beaten up every time I fell,” he said.

The man said he begged his assaulters and told them that he didn’t know they were soldiers, as they were all in civil dress but he was not spared.

The man was taken to the IMTRAT hospital in Haa after a cousin, who was also in the area found him running that same morning. The man was later referred to the Thimphu referral hospital and he was sent home on October 24.

The RBA, in a press release, however claimed the soldiers were in plainclothes and had been tasked with maintaining security on the campus, as the musical show was taking place on their premises.

RBA claimed that a senior non-commissioned officer (NCO) was on duty that night to ensure the musical show was closed on time but the Haa resident challenged the NCO and assaulted him with a cycle chain on the left eye.

RBA claimed that the Haa resident was intoxicated and the NCO could not retaliate, as he was alone and the Haa resident and his friends surrounded him. They claimed a few other soldiers on duty arrived on the scene and a tussle between the soldiers and the civilian ensued.

The RBA press release stated blows were exchanged consequent to which the Haa resident  sustained injury  The NCO also sustained injury and had to be administered six stitches for a cut on the left eye. “The case has been registered with the Royal Bhutan Police at Haa by both the parties.”

Police claimed that they completed the investigation and it was an assault and battery case. “The case will be forwarded to Office of Attorney General (OAG),” a police source said.

Police sources also said the case is registered against three soldiers but they could not detain the soldiers, as they do not have jurisdiction over armed force personnel. “Army have their own standard of procedure and follows their own due processes of law,” a police source said. “But in this case, since a civilian is involved, we investigated the case and will forward it to OAG.”

Meanwhile, eye witnesses, who were also at the musical show, said they saw a group of soldiers chasing the victim in the hall. “We ran out of the house, as we had small children with us,” a Haa resident said. “We told the victim not to react, assuring him the soldiers might not beat him but it didn’t happen as we expected.”

Tashi Dema and Yeshey Dema