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Newspaper Changes its Story on Beating of Bhutanese Pastor

Newspaper in Bhutan Shields Official Accused of Attacking Pastor

ICC Note:  

A newspaper is changing their report of an beating of a Bhutanese Pastor by a government official. The new report has the official claiming, “he was trying to wear his patang (sword) [and that] the pastor might have mistaken it as an attempt to use it on him." In a country where only Buddhists and Hindus are legally recognized and Christians are not allowed to build churches, we find the sudden change of tune interesting…

By Anugrah Kumar

08/07/2012 Bhutan (CP)- A government official beat and threatened to kill a pastor in the Buddhist-majority nation of Bhutan last week, The Christian Post reported. However, a local newspaper claims it was a "lie," misquoting the victim and apparently siding with the official.

Pema Wangda, a sub-divisional officer (known as "Dungpa" in the local Dzongkha language) in the southern town of Gelephu, hit an independent pastor, Pema Sherpa, on his forehead and chest, took out a sword, and threatened to kill him on July 31.

The official was angry because the pastor was reportedly not willing to stop gathering for worship services as temporarily demanded by the administration for alleged security reasons.

The Bhutanese, a bi-weekly newspaper based in the capital city of Thimphu, claimed that the reported incident "turned out to be a lie" after its reporter "conversed with both the parties and eye witnesses." However, the newspaper contradicted itself by quoting the pastor as repeating that "the Dungpa grabbed him by the chest and threatened him with his Patang (ceremonial sword)."

The article (http://www.thebhutanese.bt/christian-posts-claim-untrue-dungpa/), published in the local newspaper last Friday, based its claim on the official's version and that of an alleged witness.

"Dungpa Pema Wangdi said when he was trying to wear his patang (sword) the pastor might have mistaken it as an attempt to use it on him," The Bhutanese quoted the official as claiming. The newspaper then quoted the Gup, or head of the administrative unit of Gelephu, identified only as Tashi, as saying, "They only exchanged words and I did not see the Dungpa hitting Pema Sherpa."

The Bhutanese claimed Tashi "was present at the site." However, a source close to the pastor, who requested anonymity fearing reprisal by local authorities, said the pastor told him that Tashi wasn't present at the site of the incident.

The newspaper also quoted the accused official as saying that Pastor Sherpa had "submitted a letter of apology in which he stated that he will not repeat such a thing again," referring to a recent notification citing security concerns and requiring approval by the administration before holding "huge gatherings."

The source said the pastor had not given any letter of apology to the official. The pastor telephoned The Bhutanese reporter Tanden Zangmo after reading the article and complained about being misquoted. "Can the Dungpa produce the letter he claimed the pastor gave him, or was it a lie by the newspaper?" asked the source.

It was not clear whether the notification was disseminated also to Buddhist and Hindu groups in the town.

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