Bhutan Taxi Association (BTA) joined the ‘national drug awareness campaign’ organised by Chithuen Phendhey Association (CPA) in Thimphu yesterday. Some 40 members of BTA will provide free ride once every morning and evening to Kuenselphodrang for three days starting today.

Themed ‘health and happiness campaign for a drug free Bhutan’, the month-long awareness programme aims to reduce drug abuse and illicit trafficking of psychoactive substances in the country.

The campaign will reach out to commuters, drivers and the public.

The campaign started with over 100 vegetable vendors from the Centenary Farmers’ Market on August 4. On the same day, 16 Youth Volunteer Initiative members conducted advocacy for drivers at fuel stations, taxi and bus stands in Thimphu.

Executive director of CPA, Tshewang Tenzin, said that many people who were caught by police for illicit trafficking were not aware of the Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act of Bhutan 2015. “Although people are caught with enough amount of substance to be penalised, they think they are victim or innocent because they were not properly informed of the law.”

CPA is now reaching out to individuals with a series of activities, including creating awareness with support from taxi drivers and vegetable vendors.

Tshewang Tenzin said taxi drivers are in a very good position to sensitise their passengers. “We have around 7,000 taxis in the country. Even if 3,000 of them support us, each driver can sensitise a minimum of four people a day.”

At least two taxi association members from each dzongkhag are attending the three-days advocacy programme who will further sensitise association members in their own dzongkhag.

Tshewang Tenzin said that CPA with Bhutan Foundation, Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority, Road Safety and Transport Authority, and Police would carry out advocacy along the three highways leading to Thimphu and on buses travelling between Phuentsholing, Thimphu, Paro and Punakha. “We have already identified three different locations on the highways where people will be stopped to sensitise them on the issue.”

CPA intends to involve teachers in future.

Karma Cheki