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Bhutan Accuses China of Intrusion and Encroachment

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 05/10/10; November 29, 2005.]

Thimphu: 29 Nov 2005 (IANS) - Bhutan's lawmakers have accused China of encroaching upon its territory and said nationals of the giant Asian neighbour had made repeated incursions into the Himalayan kingdom to gather crops of a prized fungus.

According to Bhutan's state-run newspaper Kuensel, the representatives levelled the charges at the ongoing National Assembly session in capital Thimphu.

"The Chinese government did not adhere to the 1998 understanding signed between Bhutan and China by constructing several roads in our territory," Kuensel quoted a lawmaker of Bhutan's Haa province as saying in the National Assembly.

Another lawmaker told the house that Tibetans entered Bhutan during the harvesting season for cordyceps, a high valued medicinal fungal species widely used in clinical medicine, as a household remedy and as an overall tonic in China and Bhutan.

There were allegations that the Tibetans cross the unguarded borders in groups and decamp with large stocks of cordyceps, whose popularity has soared in recent years to the point where it now sells for $7,000 a kilogram, half the price of gold, mainly due to its alleged aphrodisiac properties.

"The number of people coming from across the border to collect cordyceps has greatly increased over the last few years. We would be grateful if, between April to August, the government can provide security personnel along the border," the weekly newspaper quoted another lawmaker as saying.

Landlocked Bhutan - with an area of 46,500 sq km and a population of 650,000 - shares a 470-km unfenced border with China.

Bhutan's secretary for international boundaries, Dasho Pema Wangchuk, told the assembly that Thimphu had formally lodged a protest with China in July about the road constructions.

"The next round of border meeting would be held in Beijing and that would be followed by a ministerial level meeting later where all these issues would be followed up," Wangchuk said.

Bhutan and China signed an agreement to "maintain peace and tranquillity" on their border in 1998 to "fully respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bhutan".

Another lawmaker from Zhemgang province told the assembly: "Bhutan is a small country with limited land so even if we lose a small area it would be a big problem for our future generations and it can also have implications on our country's sovereignty."

Diplomatic ties between Bhutan and China started only in 1984 and the two countries are now holding talks to resolve their boundary disputes.

Bhutan had traditional trade relation with Tibet, though this was officially stopped after the tiny Buddhist nation witnessed a large-scale influx of Tibetan refugees in 1960.

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