Ensuing declaration of COVID-19 as pandemic, Bhutan closed its’ International border gates as preventive measure on March 23, 2020. Exactly after two and half years, Bhutan is ready for re-opening its International Border Gates.
By Sonam Choki
Bhutan is readying on smooth opening of international border gates-Phuntsholing, Samtse, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar on September 23. The country is focused on travelers to have safe, comfortable and hassle-free entry and exit across the border.
“The Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs(MoHCA) has been working closely with the Dzongkhag, Dungkhag and Thromde administrations as well as local law enforcement authorities, particularly the Royal Bhutan Police to prepare for a smooth re-opening of the international border on September 23, 2022”, said Pema L Dorji, Director General(DG), Department of Immigration, MoHCA.
He added, “We have held a series of meetings with local government officials as well as the Royal Bhutan Police of all border districts. The respective Dzongkhag, Dungkhag and Thromde administrations including law enforcement agencies are ready and prepared for the re-opening of the international border. As the Single Authority for Checkpoints in the country, the Royal Bhutan Police will be at the frontline to facilitate entry and exit of people and vehicles at all checkpoints along the southern border. All persons crossing the international border shall be required to complete immigration formalities.”
The systematic and well organized system and operating protocols will be instituted for all travelers at the boarder gates. Just like in any well-organised and developed countries, for the safety and comfort of travelers certain travel protocol needs to be fulfilled and Bhutan will be instituting the same with the opening of the international boarder and this shall be the new norms for all travelers.
“I am excited with this new gate and system that all of us must follow after September 23; we understand it is for betterment of all travelers and their safety as well as for the country. We must support and over the time, we will get used to it”, said Wangchuk, who works for private company in Phuntsholing. He further added that his friends across the border area are in support for the same reason.
“Yes, we are looking forward for gate opening on September 23. It has been two and half years since boarders remained closed. Everyone from both sides is looking forward to its opening”, said Navneet Jain, an Indian business man who own Fashion Square at Jaigaon, Kalchini, West Bengal.
Similarly, Tandin Gyeltshen, a business man from Gelephu said, “if any inconvenience with this new procedure, it is not only with foreigners or non-Bhutanese but Bhutanese alike. I do not see this as inconvenience but a well-intended government initiative. As long as our documents (travel) and personal information is valid and genuine, anyone can pass through with ease. I think everyone travelling in and out of the country should respect and support the initiative”.
Pema L Dorji, DG, Department of Immigration, MoHCA explains simple and easy procedure for entry and exit of individuals. He said, “Bhutanese citizens will be required to produce a passport or citizenship identity card and complete immigration formalities when entering or exiting the country. Other residents of Bhutan will have to produce the permit issued by the Department of Immigration or Department of Civil Registration and Census”.
“In keeping with existing practice, nationals of India will be required to produce a voter card or passport as proof of identity when entering or exiting the country. Other foreign nationals will continue to be facilitated entry and exit in accordance with immigration requirements and formalities. In the case of Phuentsholing, entry/exit of persons shall be facilitated through the Pedestrian Terminal’, he added.
Director General further added that “a pre-registration system has been developed and rolled out to reduce processing time at the Terminal. Everyone intending to pass through the Pedestrian Terminal is requested to preregister on https://bms.doi.gov.bt to avail faster and seamless immigration clearance. On successful registration, a QR code will be generated. The registered person is required to present the QR code at the immigration counter along with the required identity document. Preregistration is one time only and once a person has pre-registered, there is no need to register again. However, Inter-Dzongkhag travel via India in public/private vehicles shall continue to be facilitated based on CPMS registration”.
“The Royal Government of Bhutan has ensured every step in developing the terminal to international level and what I personally feel is it will be much more convenient for people moving regularly. It’s for betterment of both the sides and everyone is positive about this”, said Navneet Jain, an Indian business man.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering is visiting the border entry/exit point of the country in the southern parts in preparation for international border gates opening. The Prime Minister is meeting with the dzongkhag officials, agencies, business communities and publics creating mass awareness and monitoring the situation to ensure a safe, well-organised and comfortable passage in and out of Bhutan.
A team led by the Director of the Department of Law and Order, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs visited the counterpart Districts of the State Government of Assam to discuss about the international border re-opening and other issues pertaining to security. The team also met with the official of the Bodoland Territorial Council, District Administrations and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).