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Bhutan's prince has also joined anti-insurgency operations

By Sukhendu Bhattacharya in Samdrup Jongkhar (Bhutan)
Last updated on: December 19, 2003 19:13 IST
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Prince Jigyel Wangchuck, second son of Bhutan's monarch, has joined the army's military operation to evict anti-India militants from the country.

The junior Wangchuck was away studying in Oxford when he learnt about the trouble back home as the militants had refused to shut down the bases set up for conducting subversive activities against India.

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Once it was decided that military action was inevitable, the prince wasted no time in returning to his motherland to clear the kingdom of the intruders.

"His only aim is to clean the country from such elements who have made it their domain and openly flouted all norms," says Victor, an employee of Bhutan's Excise Department.

The militants first started entering the country about 12 years ago. Since the last six years, the government has been trying to persuade them to leave fearing upheavals in the tiny Himalayan kingdom. When all efforts failed, the monarch opted for military action.

"We are Buddhist people who are basically peace loving and have very unwillingly taken up arms," says Director of Foreign Affairs Yashey Dorji, who has been stationed in Samdrup Jongkhar since the operation against the ultras began.

Even as the battle rages hardly 20km away, this small hill town, nestled among green mountains, wears a sombre look. There is hardly any tourist.

"People here are quiet, fun loving and peaceful," Dorji said.

In Thimphu, the country's capital, the temperature does not rise above 10 degrees and during winter the mercury drops to minus 10 degrees. Up in northern Bhutan, the temperature sometimes drops to minus 20 degrees.

"Who would like to fight in that kind of terrain, which is snow covered almost the entire year?" he asked.

"Security is the tightest ever. Everyone, including the visiting mediapersons, are advised not to venture into the markets unless it is absolutely necessary," a policeman posted at the gate in Samdrup Jongkhar on the Indo-Bhutan border said.
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Sukhendu Bhattacharya in Samdrup Jongkhar (Bhutan)
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