Research: While the country attempts to curb problems caused by drugs, it is proving a lucrative business for some, including rural folks.

A focus group discussion involving nine drug addicts and abstainers conducted by the National Statistic Bureau (NSB) exposed several issues.

Participants of the discussion revealed the presence of not less than 50 drug peddlers in Paro alone making it easy to obtain the narcotic drugs.

The participants made it known that some villagers earn money by selling marijuana hashish to young people in Thimphu, who become suppliers of narcotic tablets and other drugs to the rural youth.

“The participants said that the popular market deal was to exchange hashish (moulded in a camera shape) with samsung mobile phones,” it is stated in the NSB’s study on crime and mental health issues among young Bhutanese.

The use of heroin and cocaine, participants had said, occurred among people belonging to rich families. It was also exposed that the narcotic drugs are smuggled in from the Indian border towns and even from the Chinese frontier and sold to the Bhutanese at three times the actual price.

Cannabis plants, as per the study, are being exported to India illegally, concealed in trucks. It is then processed in India and sold back to Bhutan in different forms such as chur and charas.

Alcohol and substance abuse was reported as the “top factors” pushing young people to commit crime. The study has delved into criminology over the past couple of decades.

The NSB’s study revealed that 40 percent of the crimes among young people were committed under the influence of alcohol, and 12 percent under the influence of controlled substances. It thus indicates that abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs were the main triggers for criminal deviancy among young people.

According to the report, the country’s total recorded crime has increased by over 100 percent from 1986 to 2013.

In 2013, the RBP recorded 2,925 crimes against 1,243 crimes in 1986. Until 2008, the reported crime has remained relatively stable with an average of 1,672 crimes per year. However, there was a sudden rise in the reported crime beginning 2009, reaching a record high of around 3,500 cases in 2010.

While there is a general conception that youth related crime increases during the winter vacations, NSB’s study ascertained that crime among young people was a year round phenomenon.

NSB’s study shows that more crimes were recorded on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays rather than during the weekends.

The study revealed that registered crime increased by age until the age of 19, a small drop at the age of 20 and 21 was recorded. Crime, again, increased from age 22 to 24.

“The observations conform to the theory that the crime tends to peak in adolescence or early adulthood, and then decline with the increase in age,” the study stated.

Crime committed by young people (less than 24 years) mainly involve offences against a person, offences against property, and miscellaneous offences. It was reported that commercial crime, fraud, corruption and related offences and the offences against state and public order were relatively less.

On further segmentation into the crime sub-categories, offences related to controlled and other harmful substances was the most common offence among youth followed by assault, battery, and related offences and then larceny, robbery, armed robbery and related offences.

There was not much variation in the nature of offences between the two age groups: adolescents (10-19 years) and young adults (20-24 years). The most common offences between these two age groups were “controlled substances, assault, battery and related offences” and “larceny, robbery and related offences”.

More adolescent offenders had committed “larceny, robbery, armed robbery and related offences,” and “burglary, trespassing and related offences”. Sexual offenses, money laundering and smuggling occurred relatively more often among young adults.

It is a combination of multiple factors pushing young people to commit criminal offenses, says the study. For instance, family breakdown could be further linked to a range of problems like unstable social environment.

“Families seemed to have induced the anti-social behaviour such as drug and alcohol abuse and personality disorders (stress, hopelessness, estrangement, and revengeful attitude), triggering in them deviant behaviour like truancy, poor academic performance, escaping unstable homes (to be with deviant peers or to lead underground lifestyles), and to finally carry out various counter-law activities.”

It was highlighted that some individuals become criminally deviant for the reason that they do not see the benefits of adhering to conventional norms and social values.

Another factor, the study points out is the social environment, such as weak or broken family bonds, hostility towards school and community or unfavourable social and economic conditions, evoke criminal behaviour.

Using the information and data from the Royal Bhutan Police, NSB found that, more than half of the offences reported have been committed under peer pressure and in companionship. Another 12 percent of young offenders reported poor socio-economic conditions necessitated them to commit crime. About seven percent of young offenders reported unemployment as the main reason.

The study is a part of the thematic studies of the NSB on the issues of policy importance and in areas where research gaps exist.

 Tshering Dorji