Police and BNCA determined to continue their fight against drugs

Crime: The Royal Bhutan Police is determined to fight against drugs with the nationwide drug crackdown that began on December 2, 2013 to continue.

Since the nationwide crackdown began, 1,452 people were arrested until December last year of which 63 were female. In less than a month, 225 people were arrested in 2013 while 712 persons were arrested in 2014 followed by 515 as of December end last year.

The highest arrests were made in Chukha followed by Thimphu and Sarpang with 473, 395 and 148 persons arrested respectively.

From 370 cases in 2014, possession and illicit trafficking/transaction of controlled substances dropped to 296 last year.

Youth top the list

An age-wise breakdown of the total arrest shows that a majority of the persons involved were youth between 18 and 24 years (711) followed by people aged 25 and above (640). Of the total arrests, 101 were below 18 years old.

Occupation wise, categorized as “others” farmers and unemployed, among others topped the list of arrest followed by students with 210 arrests and civil servants with 37 arrests so far. Over the years 20 tourist guides, 17 private security personnel, 15 private and corporate employees and 10 armed force personnel were also arrested.

When working people are arrested, police officials said they write to the concerned organizations to suspend the suspect. However, it is not known if the organizations take any action to those involved, as police cannot follow up all the cases.

“Drugs is an issue which should be dealt seriously unlike other issues,” Chief of Police Brigadier Kipchu Namgyal said.

According to the Chief, the drug theory was like that of a swimming buffalo. “Its just the upper part of the buffalo that is visible with three-fourth of its body submerged in water,” he said referring to the current drug scenario in the country.

Spasmoproxyvon popularly known as “Sonam Penjor and Blues” continues to be the most abused drug followed by Nitrosun and Relipen.

The police during the crackdown operation seized 126,569 capsules of Spasmaproxyvon, 14,601 tablets of Nitrosun and 585 tablets of Relipen followed by 907 bottles of Corex (100ml each) and 83 bottles of correction fluid. Besides, police also seized 512.03 kgs of dried marijuana, 2.14 kgs of hashish, 910 grammes of brown sugar and 1,565 grammes of dendrite.

Police shared the progress of the nationwide crackdown from December 2, 2013 to December 2015 at the annual press conference on January 28.

Police records indicate that of the total 1,452 arrested, 645 convicts were released after paying thrimthue (cash in lieu of prison term) while 594 were imprisoned, 78 still under police custody and five acquitted. 13 were placed for rehabilitation and treatment and 117 are under trail or on bail.

Records also indicate that after the enforcement of the amended Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act (NDPSSA) 2015 that ensures stricter penalties since September last year, 144 persons were arrested. Among them, 59 are still under custody, 33 under trail and bail and 38 convicted. Only three convicts were released upon paying thrimthue.

 No mercy

The amended Act, Brigadier Kipchu Namgyal, said is not a draconian law but an important one.

“We are concerned about many people not aware of the stricter penalties in the amended Act but if caught there will no mercy,” he said. “Even if 1,000 more are arrested, we’ll construct as many prisons required.”

Police warned that those arrested in connection with drug-related cases will not be able to get away as they did in the past. In the past, police said that if a person caught with a box of tablets and claiming it to be for self-consumption got away with a penalty of misdemeanor case.

“Not anymore. If anyone is caught carrying more than the prescribed tablets, it’s a felony,” Brigadier Kipchu Namgyal said.

During the nationwide drug crackdown, a total of 150,848 vehicles and 537,435 persons were checked on the Thimphu-Phuentsholing, Wangdue-Sarpang, Trongsa-Gelephu and Trasigang-Samdrupjongkhar highways.

Police said that the drug crackdown would continue along with the highway checkings.

Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency’s (BNCA) director general Phuntsho Wangdi attributed the drop in cases to the intensified inspection in the field and sensitization programmes.  “Another constraining factor could be the harsher punishment,” he said.

BNCA will continue to increase the level of sensitization progarmmes to the extent required as preventive measures.

“It’s important as we don’t want people to get into problems and abusing controlled substances is not good for their own health and life,” Phuntsho Wangdi said.

BNCA officials also urged abusers to come forward for voluntary submission to treatment and rehabilitation for which they will receive support without criminalizing.

Officials also requested the community to come together to fight against drugs and to report trafficking or illegal possession of drugs that they are aware of.

“Law enforcement agencies cannot fight the battle alone. We need the support from the community,” Phuntsho Wangdi said. “People providing accurate information will be rewarded and their identities will be protected even in the court.”

Kinga Dema