Only two of the 18 stranded are willing to come home 

Even as the Thimphu dzongkhag court registered a case filed by the five students against the education consultancy’s proprietor and her partner, the repatriation process of 18 students from Malaysia is on hold for the time being.

Both officials from the Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs  (MFA) confirmed that the repatriation effort would not happen within a week or so. The officials did not give reasons for the delay.

Kuensel however, learnt that DAHE has reportedly decided to hold the repatriation process after the department received a lukewarm response from some parents of the students who are struck in Malaysia on expired visa. Kuensel sources in Malaysia said that of the 18 students stranded there, only two wanted to return home.

The education ministry has reportedly requested the foreign ministry to not process repatriation for few days after the MFA asked the ministry on June 23 to provide names and passport details of the students, contact detail of Drupthop Education Consultancy & Placement Firm’s (Drupthop ECPF) partner in Malaysia.

Education secretary Karma Yeshey had written to the foreign secretary Sonam Tshong on June 21 seeking the ministry’s support for the safe return of 18 students, including seven females from Kuala Lumpur. The students’ special passes expired on June 7.

The students are among the 23 who had applied for student visa and enrollment at Victoria International College, Kuala Lumpur Campus, through Drupthop ECPF in 2016. The students were taken to Malaysia on tourist visa in December 2016.

Drupthop ECPF proprietor Chhimi Rinzin’s partner in Malaysia, Ravi, facilitated in getting the students out of the airport, according to the education ministry’s letter. All 18 passports with expired special passes were reportedly taken by Ravi.

A student who is waiting to come home said that Drupthop ECPF’s managing director Kuenley Tshering Dorji was supposed to remit the full payment for those who wish to stay in Malaysia last week. “However, he hasn’t sent the money until now and we haven’t heard from him after that,” she said.

Meanwhile, five students who are in Bhutan have filed a case against the duo on June 29 requesting the court to help them recover Nu 1.360 million from Chhimi Rinzin. Four students paid Nu 280,000 each as tuition fee for a three-year Bachelors and another student paid Nu 240,000 for two-year diploma in hospitality management.

They stated in their court petition to summon Kuenley Tshering Dorji, who was actively involved in the consultancy, to testify before the court since Chhimi Rinzin’s whereabouts are still unknown. “The duo duped us and deprived us of our study opportunities,” one of the five students, Doley Tshering said.

After signing two agreements with the parents of 18 students and five students to bring back the students by May 25 and refund the money within May 31, Chhimi Rinzin disappeared.

They also requested the court to contact Chhimi Rinzin’s mother, who runs a restaurant in Hejo, to find her whereabouts.

Earlier on June 8, they submitted a petition at the same court during which court officials advised them to file the case when they know the proprietor’s whereabouts.

“Since Kuenley Tshering Dorji informed us that Chhimi Rinzin is in Kolkata, India and promised us that he would refund our money, we believe that he is constantly in touch with the proprietor,” the petition stated.

The students also questioned about how the education ministry issued a license to the firm to send students to Victoria International College, which do not meet the international standards.

The students applied through the Drupthop ECPF after seeing opportunities posted on social media. “We confirmed with DAHE and found that the firm is legally registered,” one of the students’ relatives said.

Rinzin Wangchuk