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Bhutan - Militia

Village security is a long-standing tradition. The present militia is controlled by the central government. Universal militia training by the Royal Bhutan Army was instituted in 1989. Militia have been raised at various times, including during internal disturbances in the early 1990s. Militia training was reportedly provided to individuals who had completed at least the tenth grade, new college graduates, and members of the civil service.

The Royal Bhutan Army remains a small force. The founder of the country, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, created local militias and these were resurrected in 2003. The militias play an important role in protecting important installations like hospitals, bridges, power and telephone stations, and checkposts. The militia volunteers have to complet a two-month militia training at the Royal Body Guards (RBG) training center.

Historically, the government raised militia forces during times of crisis during the period of theocratic rule (1616-1907). They were commanded by a dapon (arrow chief in Dzongkha). In modern times, a 5,000-strong militia was raised in 1958 as part of the defensive strategy against China. Militia personnel were trained by army officers who had been trained at the Indian Military Academy. Their primary function was as a first line of defense along frontier areas with China. Following an Indian inspection tour in 1961, the government was advised to step up militia recruitment. In 1967 the militia was reorganized on a national basis, with compulsory military training being given for three months each year for three years to men twenty to twenty-five years of age. After the initial three-year training phase, militia personnel were placed on reserve status.

In a move said by the Druk Gyalpo to reinforce Bhutan's security, new militia training was initiated in 1989. In the early 1980s, weapons training for all male citizens between ages sixteen and sixty was considered, but, in view of national security and public works projects to which the army already was committed, it was postponed. In 1990 ninety-four students were enlisted in a program at the Tenchholing army camp. Candidates for militia training included individuals who had completed at least the tenth grade, new college graduates, and members of the civil service. Starting in 1989, new male civil service entrants were required to take a three-week militia training course.

In the face of the continued presence of United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and Bodo fighters in the country, there were calls in the National Assembly in 2000 for the reintroduction of militia training for men between the ages of 18 and 60. According to the Royal Government of Bhutan, as of 2001 there was no longer any standing militia force in the country and no military training had been conducted outside the armed forces.

In reaction to the "prodemocracy" demonstrations by ethnic Nepalese in southern Bhutan in September 1990, the government announced that more than 1,000 citizens had volunteered to join militia groups. The army was to provide training for around 500 militia members to assist the "badly under strength" police in dealing with mob attacks. Recruits were men and women from among civil servants and urban residents. Militia trainees pledged to give their "full support and loyalty" to tsawa sum (country, king, and people) and a total commitment to defend the nation.

A large crowd of family and friends, including proud parents, spouses and children, gathered in Dechenchholing on September 15, 2003 as His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, Dasho Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck awarded the dhar, prizes, and certificates to 106 militia volunteers who completed their two-month militia training.

Speaking to the 28 militia officers, 53 undergraduates including His Royal Highness Dasho Jigyel Namgyal Wangchuck, and 25 village volunteers at the oath taking ceremony, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince commended the volunteers for their spontaneous response when their country needed them. "There are many ways to serve the nation and you all have chosen a noble and selfless way," Dasho Khesar said. "With His Majesty the King at the helm, there is no doubt that Bhutan can overcome any problem today and in the future". Dasho Khesar reminded the militias about the National Assembly resolutions on the militant problem which had been extensively debated since the 77th session of the Assembly in 2000. "Our ancestors have handed over to us a secure and sovereign nation," the Crown Prince said. "It is therefore of utmost importance that we hand over a secure and sovereign Bhutan to the future generation."

The 28 graduates and in-service volunteers, including three women, were awarded the rank of lieutenant, 10 undergraduates, based on their merit, were awarded the post of second lieutenant, five undergraduates were appointed as Dekha Drimpons, 17 as Drimpons, and 21 as Pelpons. A total of 634 volunteers, that form a nation-wide militia force, also completed their training on Monday around the country.

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