At least three people were arrested every day in 2018 for illegal trafficking and abusing drugs in the country, taking the total number of people to 1,188, records with the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) show.

This is an increase of 133 people from 2017.

Thimphu has the highest arrest record at 575, followed by Chukha with 217, Sarpang with 103 and Paro with 72 people. At least 70 people were arrested in Samdrupjongkhar, 52 in Punakha, 29 in Wangdue Phodrang and 28 in Samtse. Trongsa, Zhemgang and Gasa have zero arrest record in 2018. Remaining dzongkhags arrested between one and 12 persons.

The figures were shared during the training of police officers on drugs and tobacco law enforcement yesterday in Thimphu.

According to records with the Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA), another 59 people were also arrested in relation to tobacco in the last 12 months. The total number of tobacco-related arrests so far since 2011 stands at 423.

BNCA also seized 78,994 sticks of cigarettes, 121,192 sticks of bidi and 279.27kgs of baba chewing tobacco and other tobacco products in 2018.

While the number of people arrested in relation to tobacco products remains the same, the amount of seized cigarette has decreased from the previous year. However, the seized amount of bidi and baba increased.

In the last eight years, BNCA seized 855,138 sticks of cigarettes, 930,742 sticks of bidi and 4,663.44kgs of baba and other tobacco products.

In terms of drugs, RBP seized 1,580.14kgs of dried marijuana leaves, 6.76kgs of marijuana hashish, 1,878 marijuana plants and 986 grams of brown sugar.

RBP also seized at least 489,892 Spasmo Proxyvon capsules, 39,816 Nitrosun tablets, 585 Relipen tablets, 3,375 Corex bottles, 108 correction fluid (bottle pen), and 2,365 grams of dendrite and 28.01 litres of thinner.

With concerns of increasing figures, BNCA is training police officers from southern and western dzongkhags for effective and uniform implementation of laws related to drugs and tobacco.

The three days training will train participants on the identification of the mode of operation of smuggling drugs and tobacco, identification and classification of Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substance (NDPS) and tobacco.

BNCA’s deputy chief programme officer, Chimi Dorji, said the police officers are already aware of the laws but to maintain uniformity, the training is being conducted.  “We prioritized RBP because they are the main implementing partners,” he said.

Similar three-day training will be conducted for police officers of eastern dzongkhags from January 17.

BNCA officials say they will also train other law enforcement agencies such as customs and Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority in phase-wise.

World Health Organization is funding the training.

Nirmala Pokhrel