SURKHET, Feb 12: Chiring Dhamdul Lama (Karchen) has been appointed as the minister for industry, tourism, forest, and environment, despite spending two years in prison for his involvement in statue theft. He had stolen the statue from Khochyar Monastery of Tibet in 1992. The appointment of a statue thief as a minister has invited a strong backlash from locals toward the Karnali Province government and the CPN (Maoist Center), which recommended his name.
Karchen is also the niece of lawmaker Chakka Bahadur Lama. As per the statement given by Karchen at the court after getting arrested, lawmaker Lama was also involved in the incident. “My uncles Chakka Bahadur Lama and Norbu Tsering Lama live in Kathmandu. I traveled there to seek his assistance to sell the stolen statue,” Karchen had said in his statement.
Karchen was caught by the police in the course of smuggling the statue on November 10, 1992, from the Limi-Muchu intersection in Humla. He was arrested along with another Nepali and three Indian nationals on a charge of stealing the idol. Despite Karchen’s statement, no action or investigation was conducted against lawmaker Chakka Bahadur Lama.
Karchen, who was charged with two years of prison time and a fine of Rs 5,000 for his involvement in idol theft, has been given the responsibility to oversee the Ministry of Culture, Archeology, Tourism, Industry, Forest, and Environment. After getting released from the prison after serving his time, Karchen was involved in the Maoist movement