NA Passes Gyalsung Bill | Kuensel online

… National Council to adopt it today

Nima Wangdi

A national service program, the Gyalsung program will commence in 2024 in accordance with the Kingdom of Bhutan’s Gyalsung Bill 2022, which the National Assembly (NA) passed unanimously yesterday after extensive deliberation.

It was sent to the National Council for deliberation. The National Council will deliberate on the bill and adopt it today.

The Gyalsung training program will be a compulsory one-year integrated training program for all young people reaching the age of 18 and if they are in school – at the end of the twelfth grade.

The year-long training will consist of three months of basic military training followed by nine months of specialized training in a variety of areas ranging from home-building technologies, computers and entrepreneurship to targeted agricultural skills development.

National service is also a basic duty required of all Bhutanese citizens as stipulated in Article 8.1 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

National Service consists of three phases – National Service (NS) cadets who are required to undergo a year-long integrated training program where there will be three months of basic military training followed by specialist training in various fields.

National Service Duty (NS Duty) is the second phase. Gyalsups can be called up to both Compulsory Service and Voluntary Service up to the age of 35.

In the third phase of the National Service Reserve, at the end of NS service, NS personnel must remain as reservists until they reach the age of 45, at which time they fulfill the obligations of national service. Afterwards, they can volunteer to join De-Suung.

A council of seven members will govern the program, including the secretary of interior and the secretary of Gyalsung headquarters who will serve for their term of office. The other members will serve for five years.

The Board will establish the Gyalsung Academies headed by delegated commanders of the Royal Bhutan Armed Forces to provide basic military training and other specialized training.

“The Royal Government will provide a budget as an annual grant to finance the management and operations of Gyalsung Headquarters and Gyalsung Academies,” the bill reads.

The bill also states that a person who fails to register for Gyalsung training after receiving the notice will be subject to an offense and be fined at the daily national minimum wage rate up to a maximum 90 days.

A person who evades or abandons Gyalsung training is committing an offense and will be liable, if convicted, for a fourth degree felony under Bhutan’s Penal Code, according to the bill.

Although few members of the National Assembly asked for clarification on certain articles and clauses yesterday, the bill passed quickly, with all 45 members present voting yes.

Exercising the royal prerogative enshrined in Article 2 of the Constitution, Her Majesty issued a Royal Kasho requesting the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Speaker of the National Council to introduce the Gyalsung Bill to Parliament.

President Namgyel Wangchuk read the Kasho to the House before the start of the introduction and deliberations on the bill.

Head of the National Service Core Task Force that drafted the bill, Dasho Sonam Kinga introduced the bill in the House.

Bongo-Chapchha member Tshewang Lhamo expressed concern that ineligibility criteria would prevent some people from participating in the program.

“A child serving a sentence for an offense punishable by a felony in the third degree and above and who is serving a sentence for an offense punishable by a felony in the fourth degree to be a repeat offender and a repeat offender is not eligible,” a she declared.

She said that, like Her Majesty’s vision, it would be ideal if all Bhutanese turning 18 could participate regardless of their criminal background. “The opportunity could definitely change their mindset and become a better citizen.”

Drametse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi backed the submission saying the person can be considered ineligible if the council or doctors establish him as mentally incompetent. Rest can benefit from equal opportunity.

“If the person has already finished serving their prison sentence, whatever the length, they may have the opportunity to do so,” he said.

Dasho Sonam Kinga said that every year there will be about 13,000 children eligible for the program based on their estimates. There won’t be many who would be ineligible.

He said that according to data from the judiciary, only three children under the age of 18 are given a third and fourth degree crime. “The number could increase in the future, but we don’t have many at the moment.”

Dasho Sonam Kinga also clarified that if the person has finished serving his prison sentence before reaching 18, he will be given the opportunity. However, if the person is still serving a prison sentence when they turn 18, they will not be eligible. “We can’t get them out of jail for the program.”

“These ineligibility criteria could also act as a deterrent to bad behavior in children, as they could instill fear in themselves of losing the opportunity,” he said, even if the person misses the Gyalsung because she was in prison, she can still join programs like De-Suung after serving their prison term.

He said the ineligibility criteria actually benefit children by protecting them from further possible disqualifications.

Bartsham-Shongphu MP Passang Dorji (PhD) said the offense of fourth degree felony against the person who evades or abandons the Gyalsung program commits an offense is too severe. He said the infraction could be a misdemeanor.

Dasho Sonam Kinga said fourth degree felony could deter people from evading the scheme. “If the violation is a misdemeanor, the wealthy can pay instead and opt out of the program. This will widen the gap between rich and poor.

Lyonchhen Dr. Lotay Tshering and Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi thanked His Majesty the King for initiating the bill and instituting the program.

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