Born in a rural hamlet to a farming family, Dr Phanchung completed his primary education in his home village of Yurung. He moved to southwest Bhutan in the mid-1970s and completed his secondary education in 1980, graduating from Samtse Central School. He was the first Eastern Bhutanese, an ethnic minority, to enroll in the school, where students were predominantly of southern Bhutanese origin.
He received his pre-university degree from Sherubtse College, Bhutan, and was later selected to pursue a Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry from the Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University in Hyderabad, India. He began his career in January 1989 as a veterinary officer and later concurrently as the principal of the Royal Veterinary Institute, Serbithang, Bhutan.
Meanwhile, the Royal Government of Bhutan initiated a decentralized form of Government by grouping Bhutan into four zonal administrations. Social service sectors like education, health engineering, and rural development sectors like agriculture, animal husbandry, irrigation, and forestry were decentralized to the zonal administration. Dr Phanchung was appointed the Zonal Animal Husbandry Officer of Zone IV, Yonphula. Later, he served as the Regional Veterinary Officer of the Eastern Region at Dewathang and moved to the Head Office in Thimphu as the Animal Health Officer of the Department of Animal Husbandry.
In the early 1990s, the Ministry of Agriculture restructured its organization and one of the outcomes was the establishment of an integrated training institute at Lobesa.
Dr Phanchung served in different capacities – as an assistant professor, Dean of Academic Affairs, Principal, and Head of Department – at the College of Natural Resources for 18 years. He received his PhD in Animal Nutrition from the University of Melbourne, Australia and an MSc in Animal Production from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK.
He took over as the Director General of the Department of Research and External Relations, Bhutan in August 2015. Prior to that, he worked as Manager of the Programmes, Teaching and Learning, under the Department of Academic Affairs, Bhutan. Dr Phanchung is Secretary of the Research and Innovation Committee and the Research Degree Committee and member of the Academic Board, Programmes Quality Committee, Academic Planning and Resource Committee, University Human Resource Committee, University Academic Staff Selection Committee, University Promotion Committee of Professorial Positions, and several committees of the Royal University of Bhutan.
Dr Phanchung is Managing Editor of the Bhutan Journal of Research and Development. He is a member of the Climate Change Coordination Committee of Bhutan appointed by Bhutanese the Prime Minister. He also acts as an external evaluator of the BSc degree thesis of the College of Natural Resources and an external reviewer of the Bhutan Journal of Natural Resources and Development. He is Director of the National Research Fund, Bhutan.
During his time as ICIMOD Mountain Chair, Phanchung accomplished a great deal. Some of his most significant contributions include the following:
- Helped strengthen inter-university research and academic cooperation among HUC members through the Partnership Day organized by ICIMOD and the Royal Government of Bhutan in Thimphu in May 2018
- Facilitated the Expert Working Group on “Higher education, PhD programme, capacity development, and training” at an international workshop organized by the United Nations University in Germany and Eurac Research in Italy
- Presented a paper at the International Mountain Conference 2019 in Innsbruck, Austria on the HKH region’s transboundary educational programme on sustainable mountain development
- Paid an institutional visit to Yezin Agricultural University, Myanmar, and gave a seminar on Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness philosophy as a paradigm for sustainable mountain development