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Bhutan: Militia
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Paramilitary > Militia


Historically, the government raised militia forces during times of crisis during the period of theocratic rule (1616-1907). They were commanded by a dapon (arrow chief in Dzongkha). In modern times, a 5,000-strong militia was raised in 1958 as part of the defensive strategy against China. Militia personnel were trained by army officers who had been trained at the Indian Military Academy. Their primary function was as a first line of defense along frontier areas with China. Following an Indian inspection tour in 1961, the government was advised to step up militia recruitment. In 1967 the militia was reorganized on a national basis, with compulsory military training being given for three months each year for three years to men twenty to twenty-five years of age. After the initial three-year training phase, militia personnel were placed on reserve status.

In a move said by the Druk Gyalpo to reinforce Bhutan's security, new militia training was initiated in 1989. In the early 1980s, weapons training for all male citizens between ages sixteen and sixty was considered, but, in view of national security and public works projects to which the army already was committed, it was postponed. In 1990 ninety-four students were enlisted in a program at the Tenchholing army camp. Candidates for militia training included individuals who had completed at least the tenth grade, new college graduates, and members of the civil service. Starting in l989, new male civil service entrants were required to take a three-week militia training course.

In reaction to the "prodemocracy" demonstrations by ethnic Nepalese in southern Bhutan in September 1990, the government announced that more than 1,000 citizens had volunteered to join militia groups. The army was to provide training for around 500 militia members to assist the "badly under strength" police in dealing with mob attacks. Recruits were men and women from among civil servants and urban residents. Militia trainees pledged to give their "full support and loyalty" to tsawa sum (country, king, and people) and a total commitment to defend the nation.

Data as of September 1991

Last Updated: September 1991

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Bhutan was first published in 1991. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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