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Speech by Ambassador Sonam Tobgay at the community celebration of the 116th National Day of Bhutan in Brisbane on 17 December 2023

It was very important for all the Bhutanese living abroad to listen to the National Day speech of His Majesty The King. His Majesty has outlined a clear vision for the prosperity of Bhutan. I encourage all of you to continue to reflect on this very important address by His Majesty The King.

Firstly, as commanded to me, I have the honor to convey the warmest greetings of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen to all the Bhutanese in Australia on the auspicious occasion of the 116th National Day.

Their Majesties are always concerned for the welfare of the Bhutanese in Australia and the Embassy has received commands to provide assistance whenever required.

I would also like to take the opportunity to wish every Bhutanese in Australia Tashi Delek for the National Day.

This year, I am extremely happy to celebrate the National Day with the Bhutanese in Brisbane, where the number of Bhutanese is also growing. It is estimated that there are about 3,000 Bhutanese in Queensland.

I would like to thank Mr. Tashi Sonam, President of the Bhutanese Brisbane Association (BBA), and the Executive Members, for the excellent arrangements made for the celebrations today. Let me also congratulate Tashi Sonam for the important role he has played as BBA President for several years.

I would now like to talk about several aspects that are relevant to the Bhutanese community in Australia.

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Let me first delve into the Gyalsung Program – which is Bhutan’s National Service, as this will be important for all the Bhutanese youth in Australia and for their parents.

 As you would be aware, the Gyalsung Program was announced by His Majesty The King in 2019. His Majesty has envisioned the Gyalsung to empower all Bhutanese youth to participate in the process of nation building to further enhance the security, peace, unity, harmony and sovereignty of Bhutan. It will aim to enable each and every Bhutanese youth to realize their full potential, become productive and worthy citizens of Bhutan.

The Gyalsung is a fundamental duty required of all Bhutanese citizens as per our Constitution, and in November 2022, the Parliament of Bhutan enacted the Gyalsung Act, which means that it has become law. As per this Act, Gyalsung will be compulsory for every Bhutanese citizen who turns 18 years or completes Class 12 or Year 12 for those in Australia. His Majesty has said that even His Royal children will be required to undertake the Gyalsung training. The only persons who are exempt are those in monastic/religious schools, if a person is deemed medically unfit by the Medical Board or if someone is pregnant. Evasion of Gyalsung will be an offense, liable for a felony of the fourth degree under the Penal Code of Bhutan.

Each year, the Gyalsung Training Program will start on 1st March and end on 31st January of the following year i.e. 11 months, but since there will be short breaks, in effect, the full duration of the training will be 10 months. However, only the first batch of Gyalsung will start from 1st September 2024 and end on 15th January 2025 i.e. for 41/2 months.

The Gyalsung training will take place in the four academies and will comprise of 3 months of Basic Military Training and then followed by skills training in one of the following programs:

  1. ICT Skilling (cyber security, data science and programing)
  2. Home Security Skilling (construction technology and trades)
  3. Food Security Skilling (agriculture technology and practices); and
  4. Community Security Skilling (fire fighting, traffic, disaster and public order management)

All of these trainings will not only be useful for the youth, but will help the nation develop a skilled workforce. 

Gyalsung is a noble initiative of His Majesty that will make our youth highly capable, skilled and confident to take on any challenge and succeed wherever you are in the world. Basically, His Majesty is setting our youth up for success. Building the capabilities of our youth will then translate to building a stronger and prosperous nation. Therefore, I urge all the Bhutanese youth in Australia, aged 15-18, to explore the Gyalsung website for detailed information and reach out to the Embassy, where we have a Focal Officer, for any clarifications. The Gyalsung Secretariat has informed me that as of today, 142 students have registered from Australia for Gyalsung. After my speech, we will also play a short video providing an introduction to the Gyalsung Program.

Secondly, I want to bring to your attention the rising threat of online, telephone and text message scams. Recently, some of our fellow Bhutanese, especially new arrivals, have fallen prey to these scams and they were either tricked or threatened and scammed of huge amounts of money. This has led to heavy financial losses and caused immense stress and distress to the victims, and left their parents, friends and even the Embassy extremely worried.

Online, telephone and text scams are a huge problem in Australia and it is estimated that Australians lost $3.1 billion to scams in 2022 alone. Therefore, the Police, Banks and even Universities have regular awareness campaigns on how to avoid being scammed. If you encounter threats online or by phone as some of our Bhutanese have faced, I urge you to report such incidents promptly to the Police, the Bhutanese Association in your city or call the Embassy to prevent further victimization. We must all be vigilant and, as a community, educate newcomers about such risks. 

Another critical issue I want to touch on is road safety. In the past two years, several driving-related accidents have led to injuries and sadly, a few precious Bhutanese lives were lost. Such incidents are extremely painful for the family members and for the entire Bhutanese community in Australia. Given the frequency of such incidents, we have requested the Bhutanese Associations and the universities to provide orientation sessions on safe driving to newcomers. I strongly advise recent arrivals to prioritize driving lessons for your own safety and others on the road.

Next, I want to highlight the investment incentives offered to all Bhutanese living abroad by the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan and financial institutions. Recently, a delegation from RMA and the financial institutions visited Perth, Canberra, Melbourne and they also came here to Brisbane to share information about exclusive financial products tailored for Bhutanese living abroad. From Australia, you can now access a wide range of deposit, credit and financial products at interest rates even higher than Australia. You can even trade in the stock market of Bhutan without a broker.

I encourage you to explore these opportunities on the RMA website and strongly consider investing. By investing in Bhutan, you will not only allow your money to grow. You will also be contributing to the financial and economic growth of our country. This will be a great contribution that the Bhutanese living in Australia can make for Bhutan.

Lastly, I would like to share that there are now an estimated 30,000 Bhutanese living in Australia, the majority of whom are students and the remaining are working in different fields. I’ve met with many of the Bhutanese living in the different Australian cities and have been inspired and impressed by your achievements in Australia. 

I’m heartened by the positive feedback received from Australians about the sincerity, hard work, trustworthiness, and reliability of the Bhutanese community. Let us maintain this good reputation and continue to remain united. In a country of 26 million people, we are a small community of only 30,000 people. But if the 30,000 of us are united, we will be a stronger community.

Let me conclude by mentioning what I’ve said several times in the past. While I’m the official Ambassador of Bhutan to Australia, every Bhutanese in Australia is also an Ambassador for Bhutan. Each one of us must represent Bhutan with great pride and dignity in Australia.

Thank You and Tashi Delek!

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