Thinley Namgay   

Thimphu Dzongkhag Court sentenced three women to prison with terms ranging from three to five years for trafficking six Bhutanese women to the Middle East in 2019.

The court also ordered them to pay restitution to the victims.

Kinga Wangmo, a resident of Kawang, Thimphu, received a three-year prison sentence and was ordered to pay Nu 20,000 to one of the victims to cover the visa processing fees.   

She had deceived a girl, promising her a guaranteed job in Iraq where she would only need to work two hours a day. Kinga Wangmo received USD 300 from her agent for arranging the illegal work. The victim was taken first to New Delhi and then to Iraq via Dubai, where her passport and visa were confiscated by her employer. When she expressed her desire to return, the employer demanded USD 4,000.

Leki Wangmo, hailing from Shingkhar, Zhemgang, received a concurrent prison term of five years for trafficking four girls. She was also ordered to repay Nu 20,000 each to two victims as restitution for the visa fees.

Despite having herself experienced a similar fate in Iraq in 2017, Leki Wangmo chose to deceive other Bhutanese girls into going there. She connected with the victims through Facebook and received USD 400 from her agent for each woman.

Leki Wangmo claimed in court that she helped these girls travel to Iraq in response to their repeated requests. The victims, who were distant relatives, traveled to Delhi via Bagdogra airport at their own expense. They were instructed to tell authorities in Dubai that they were visiting Iraq for a holiday. However, upon arriving in Iraq, they were forced into working as maids and were later demanded to pay USD 4,000 by their employers to return home.

Thinley Zangmo, a resident of Genyen, Thimphu, was sentenced to a concurrent prison term of three years for trafficking two girls to Iraq via Bangkok and Turkey. Thinley, who was working in Iraq at the time, desired to return but was asked to pay USD 4,000 by her employer.

The employer offered her USD 1,000 for each Bhutanese woman she recruited, leading her to deceive the victims by promising them only household chores and a monthly salary of USD 300. Once in Iraq, the victims were subjected to exhausting work hours of 15 to 20 hours a day without rest and did not receive their agreed-upon salary. They were bound by a two-year contract and were required to pay USD 4,000 if they wished to return home.

During the trial, Thinley Zangmo argued that this case should not be considered human trafficking, as both women were her close relatives. She claimed that one of the victims was her niece, who was struggling with alcohol addiction, and she took her to Iraq at her sister’s request in an effort to change her life. The other victim, a jobless graduate, received Thinley’s help to secure employment, she claimed.

The Thimphu Dzongkhag Court, however, found all three women guilty of human-trafficking based on the evidence and testimonies presented. The sentences imposed by the court reflect the severity of their crimes.