UNODC: As part of an effort to strengthen local cyber-security measures against cyber-terrorism and other crimes, a workshop was organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Bureau of Law and Order (BLO) of the home ministry, last month.

At the workshop, it was highlighted that while Bhutan has made significant progress in information technology, a number of challenges associated with the potential misuse of the internet for criminal activities have emerged, it was stated in a UNODC press release.

To address these challenges or shortcomings, the information technology and telecom department’s director Phuntsho Tobgay said that the BICM 2006 (Bhutan Information Communications and Media Act) is undergoing revision to include provisions that address cyber-terrorism and other cyber-offenses.

The director said that an agency is also being formed to boost cyber-security called the Bhutan Computer Incidence Response Team (BCIRT).

This agency will serve to collect, analyse, disseminate information on cyber incidents, establish emergency measures for handling cyber security incidents, and prepare disaster management, contingency and business continuity plans for critical information infrastructure.

The director added that this agency could collaborate with a lead agency like the home ministry or the police.

The need to make laws more precise and stricter was also recommended by the Royal Bhutan Police during the workshop. A spokesperson for the police said that current laws on cyber crime was a challenge for enforcement agencies.

“Well protected as we may appear to be in the folds of the mighty Himalayas, the reality is that no country, including Bhutan, is immune to the scourge of terrorism,” the foreign affairs ministry’s multilateral department director, Doma Tshering said at the opening of the workshop. “There is therefore, no room for complacency, even in Bhutan, and we are constantly reminded that we must remain vigilant.”

The director pointed out that Bhutan has ratified eight of 19 UN treaties on terrorism and that it is committed to working towards full implementation of the provisions of the treaties. She also pointed out that Bhutan works closely with UN Counter Terrorism Executive Director, other law enforcement agencies outside the country, and has ratified regional legal frameworks on countering terrorism, among others.

However, as a least developed state Bhutan is faced with the challenge of limited resources and capacity constraints and other national priorities. “Strengthening the capacity of states to fight terrorism is essential, yet counter terrorism measures can be complex and highly resource intensive,” Doma Tshering said. “We therefore attach great importance to the role of international cooperation and support, including through initiatives like this workshop.”

The workshop ended with a discussion on what steps should be taken to strengthen the domestic legal and policy framework to implement the universal legal framework against terrorism. Participants also requested UNODC to conduct more such activities to enhance local capacity as the topic of use of internet for terrorism is a relatively recent one in Bhutan.

By Gyalsten K Dorji