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Duo undergo trial for suspected trafficking

… 44 women were allegedly trafficked to the Middle East in 2018 and 2019

In the case involving alleged trafficking of 44 women to the Middle East, a duo in their late thirties, Dawa Dema and Karma Thinley from Trongsa is undergoing trial at Thimphu district court.

They have allegedly trafficked women to countries in the Middle East, and India.

At the court trial, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has requested the court for the highest prison term to deter people carrying out heinous crimes in the future.

OAG submitted the opening statement on May 10.

Additionally, the OAG also made put a plea to the court to let the defendants compensate the victims of trafficking for the money taken from the victims as a fee.

As per OAG’s submission to the court, Dawa Dema was also a victim of trafficking.

Dawa Dema was operating business in Thimphu, and she had borrowed money from people that later she could not refund subsequently, she fled the country in 2015.

She started working for a travel agent in New Delhi, India, and later in 2017 she was trafficked to Dubai. Six months in Dubai working as a housemaid, she started to collaborate with her agent.

Dawa Dema is said to have instructed the victims to not reveal the purpose of their travel to the authorities, instead trained the victims to say that they were travelling for other purposes including vacation, education or for business.

She is said to have received between USD 1,000 to USD 2,000 per individual as a commission.

Her partner in suspected crime, Karma Thinley is said to have aided Dawa Dema with transporting and harbouring the victims of trafficking.

Talking to Bhutan TODAY in an earlier interview, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) said that there about 184 victims identified in total. The rest had returned on their own expense from Iraq and Oman after paying a hefty charges ranging between US 2,500 to USD 6,000.

The Special Investigation Team in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Kuwait launched rescue operations and repatriated 179 victims in 2020.

According to the SIT official, the victims were lured mostly through word-of-mouth and social media advertisings. The suspects had targeted jobseekers on social media platforms.

Some of the victims also reported harassment and use of violence against them, however, none reported rape.

It is learnt that many victims were not able to escape because the employers in Iraq seized their passports and other relevant documents which is a case of deprivation of identity and a gross violation of human rights.

Once the victims were repatriated counselling and reintegration processes were carried out by certified Bhutanese counsellors from National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC), Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW), Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAOWE), Nazhoen Lamtoen, Tarayana and the Department of Youth and Sports (DYS). Counselling and reintegration processes were coordinated jointly by the SIT and NCWC.

Meanwhile, the grading for the offence of trafficking a person according to Penal Code of Bhutan is a felony of the fourth degree with a sentencing of three to five years in prison.

OAG has requested the district court to sentence the duo to the highest sentence.

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