Monday, 2 May 2011

The Smoking Buddhist

My sympathy goes to the 23 year old Buddhist monk Sonan Tshering, who is facing three years in prison after becoming the first casualty of a stringent anti-smoking law in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan - a country which claims to be Shangri-La and considers gross national happiness before gross domestic product - vows to become the first smoke-free nation.

Mr Tshering has been convicted of consuming and smuggling contraband tobacco under a law that came into force in January. In 2005 the sale of tobacco was banned in Bhutan because it was considered bad for one's karma, but it failed to make much of an impact because of the thriving smuggling operation from neighbouring India.

The new law permits the police to enter homes, threaten jail for shopkeepers selling tobacco and smokers who fail to provide customs receipts for imported cigarettes.  Smoking in private is not illegal but the sale of cigarettes is banned, although smokers can legally import 200 cigarettes of 150grams of other tobacco products a month.  They must provide a customs receipt when challenged by police.

The young monk bought the 72 packets of chewing tobacco from the Indian border town of Jaigoan and it was for personal use.  He said he was unaware of the new law and had no tax receipt from the customs department.

Illegal cigarette sales have almost stopped in small shops as shopkeepers say it's difficult to hide tobacco from sniffer dogs.

The leader of the political opposition said the sentence was "very, very harsh.  It's not in line with the character of Bhutan which is based on tolerance, compassion and justice".  This politician certainly lives in Shangri-La.  In the early 90s, many thousands of ethnic Nepalese who lived in Bhutan were stripped of their citizenship and forced into exile, apparently in a bid to ensure a homogenous culture.  Up to 100,000 Nepalese had to live in camps in Nepal and an international attempt to resettle them in third countries is ongoing.

I'm surprised the monks haven't introduced a little tobacco growing/processing system within their hallowed walls. Religious institutions are historically renowned for bridging such gaps.



Joe Public said...

Read the headline, and feared it was another self-immolation.

However, it's not only the Bhutanese who now fear the fag-cops.

Dick Puddlecote said...

"It's not in line with the character of Bhutan which is based on tolerance, compassion and justice"

Bwahahahahaha. They could teach Ricky Gervais something about sublime stand up comedy, too it would seem.

Of course, the British medical establishment laud the country as a shining example of where we should be heading.

subrosa said...

I wonder how well the Chinese will police this Joe. Will be interesting.

subrosa said...

Aye Dick, I saw that link but thought I'd put it another way.

Coming to a town near you though. :)

Mark Wadsworth said...

"Buddhist" with an "h".

Apart from that, this tomfoolery in Butan would be bad enough (the whole country was named after butane fuel used in cigarette lighters - fact), apparently PR China is clamping down on smoking. Let's hope that this was the last straw which breaks the Communists' back, eh?

banned said...

Bhutan mis-lies when it claims to be Shangri-La.
That honour belonged to the formerly sovereign Himalayan Kingdom of Mustang until it was overthrown in 2008 during the Moaist insurgency in Nepal.

Anonymous said...

I guess that's Bhutan off your holiday list then SR?

subrosa said...

Mark what would I do without you. Thanks so much because I knew it didn't 'look' ok but spellcheck didn't pick it up. I, of course, should have checked manually. My spelling usually isn't too bad but when it's late at night I become lazy.

Aye I read that about the name and also the atrocities the government carry out on their people.

I do hope it is but it's a mighty big straw in China.

subrosa said...

Looking a Wiki I found lots of places lay claim to it banned but the one you mention rates at the top of the list.

subrosa said...

Aye indeed Tris. Mind you, mountain climbing isn't one of my hobbies and I can't see me scrambling up their sides just for the sake of it. Now, if there was a temple dedicated to smokers at the top I may have a rethink. :)

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