Crime: The increasing number of guides coming in conflict with law is a worrying trend, say Royal Bhutan Police.

Since police began a major crackdown on drugs from December 2013, about 22 guides were convicted for abuse, possession and trafficking of banned narcotic substances as of last month.

Police Chief Brigadier Kipchu Namgyel said they have discussed the issue with relevant tourism agencies. “It is a concern,” he said, adding there are also few tour operators involved.

When guides are caught, police said they record the licenses and inform the associations for guides, tour operators and hotels along with the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB).

TCB’s disciplinary committee last month cancelled the licenses of all convicted guides.

TCB’s spokesperson said the implications of few guides engaging in such activities do not only affect the reputation of all tourist guides but are also risking the safety of tourists.

“Such act may eventually affect the reputation of our destination,” the spokesperson said. “TCB has been consistently taking action against offenders and we are taking this issue very seriously.”

Police also emphasized the importance of creating awareness of the issue among guides as soon as they avail trainings.

TCB officials said that as part of the guide course, training institutes are mandated to keep a session to meet the regulators, where representatives from TCB briefs all trainees on the code of conduct, responsibilities, rules and regulation.

Chairman of the Guides Association of Bhutan (GAB) Garab Dorji agreed it was important for guides to be aware of the issue before they join the industry.

Garab Dorji said besides drug related cases, he was also informed of few guides involved in choeten vandalism and theft cases.

As a majority of guides are youth who worked for a certain period of time in a year, he said they could resort to such acts owing to easy money.

Garab Dorji also emphasized on the need for certain standards before guides are selected for trainings or employed. “As commercial entities, even training institutes could overlook such issues,” he said.

There are more than 2,700 licensed guides today.

Although the amended Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act 2015 come with stricter penalties on smugglers, smuggling cases have not dropped. The amended Act was enforced since July 20. From July to October alone, about 122 persons were arrested.

Since December 2013 until October this year, about 1,373 persons were arrested of which 789 were aged below 24. Of the total, 191 were students followed by 97 government and corporate employees. The remaining 1,085 were either unemployed, farmers or into private businesses.

Kinga Dema