Informe sobre el país: Bhutan

Ultima revisión: 27 Mar 1998
27 Mar 1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

According to some sources there is no conscription. [4] [7]

Other sources maintain, however, that selective conscription applies, or that recruitment is voluntary but augmented by a form of conscription. [2] [3]

As Bhutan is such a closed society, it is hard to work out just how far military service is compulsory. Recruitment methods on local (village) level can be described as a form of conscription. (see: recruitment)

There is no clear legal basis for conscription. Indeed Bhutanese legislation in general is not at all clear. Bhutan has no written constitution and can best be described as modified form of constitutional monarchy ruled, on the whole, in an ad hoc way, more by word of mouth than by means of written regulations. [1] [2]

Recruitment methods resembling conscription are apparantly needed in order to achieve the increasing number of requisite recruits. The size of the armed forces has increased significantly since 1990, and is said to have doubled from 11,000 by 1990 to 22,000 in 1996. This has been due to the general escalation of political unrest since Bhutan's first human rights movement was formed in exile in Nepal, following the introduction of the New Census Policy in 1988 depriving the mainly Nepali-speaking people in the south of the country of their Bhutanese citizenship. Owing to the armed forces' growing need of recruits, voluntary applications to join up are no longer sufficient to achieve the requisite number of recruits. This comes as no surprise; the armed forces have always had to struggle to maintain their strength. [1] [5]

military service

Provisions on duration of and liability for military service are not clear.

According to one source, recruits receive six to twelve months' military training. [1]

According to another source, there is selective conscription for one to three months. [3]

postponement and exemption

There are no known regulations for postponement of and exemption from military service.


Recruitment procedure has always been as follows.

The government sends a circular to the (sub)district civil administrations, informing them of the armed forces' recruit requirements. The civil administration authorities then instruct village heads to provide a specific number of people from their village. Village heads are obliged to meet these quotas. Mainly young men are then summoned to district headquarters for medical and other check-ups. Those found fit face further screening and are then recruited.

Since 1990 the government is believed to have employed several new recruitment methods. The government evidently stressed the role of the village heads over this: they have been ordered to encourage people in order to join up voluntarily, using such arguments as 'join up and save the nation from the clutches of anti-nationals'.

Minimum enlistment age is believed to be 16. There are, however, reports that since 1990 the authorities have resorted to recruitment from the country's only religious school and to the recruitment of children younger than 16.

In recent years recruitment seems to have been used particularly in the east of the country. Recruitment seems to have been low in the politically sensitive south of the country with its large Nepali-speaking population. Most soldiers from the south are posted to remote places in the north of the country. [1]

2 Conscientious objection

There is no known legal provision for conscientious objection.

3 Draft evasion and desertion

No information available.

6 Annual statistics

The size of the armed forces is not clear.

According to one source, the armed forces are about 22,000-strong. [1]

According to another source, the armed forces are 5,000 strong. [6]


[1] Rädda Barnen 1997 Child soldiers in Bhutan. Case study for the United Nations study on the impact of armed conflict on children. [2] Europa Publications 1997. The Far East and Australasia 1997. Europa Publications, London. [3] UN Commission on Human Rights 1997. The question of conscientious objection to military service, report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1995/83. United Nations, Geneva. [4] UN Commission on Human Rights 1994. Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1993/84 (and Addendum). United Nations, Geneva. [5] Rose, Leo E. 1977. The politics of Bhutan. Cornell University Press. [6] US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency 1997. World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 1996, Washington DC. [7] Amnesty International 1991. Conscientious objection to military service. AI, London.