YK Poudel

In a decisive move to address the escalating concern of drug-related crimes, the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) has “strategically” established field divisions and amplified its manpower, marking a significant step forward in their efforts to combat the proliferation of narcotics.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) for the Narcotics Drugs and Other Vices Division, Colonel Dorjee Khandu, underscored the paramount importance of these measures in fortifying the nation’s resolve against the burgeoning drug trade.

This concerted endeavour aligns with His Majesty The King’s unwavering vision, articulated during the 115th national day address, where resolute emphasis was placed on tackling the menace of drug abuse among the youth. 

This multifaceted crackdown strategy has been designed to curb the surge in drug usage that has gripped the nation.

“The Royal Bhutan Police now boasts an augmented and specialized workforce, strategically dispersed across the nation’s southern region, complemented by the establishment of field division offices and dedicated narcotic law enforcement units,” said Dorjee Khandu.

This year, a total of 1,764 individuals were caught in 953 cases recorded by the police.

The prevalent inflow of pharmaceutical drugs, coupled with the relentless ingress of other illicit substances, has accentuated the complexity of this challenge.

Currently, the police are grappling with a surge in marijuana-related cases, alongside the illicit trafficking of pharmaceutical drugs and the upsurge of solvents like thinner and dendrite in recent years.

According to the police statistical yearbook of 2022, substance abuse accounted for a staggering 78 percent of criminal activities, followed closely by the illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances at 36 percent.

The stark reality of these figures becomes even more evident when examining the recent police statistics as of June 25, which revealed that 796 individuals were apprehended for the abuse of narcotic substances. 

In addition, 204 individuals were nabbed for involvement in illicit drug trafficking, while four individuals faced charges related to illegal drug sales, and two were implicated in possession offenses. As of now, 616 individuals are convicted for abuse of narcotic substances.

Efforts to tackle this crisis have extended beyond Bhutan’s borders, as the police division has engaged in collaborative discussions with their Indian counterparts, resulting in a more stringent and coordinated approach of zero tolerance to the crackdown on drug-related activities. 

The police have also implemented random vehicle testing, harnessed the capabilities of trained narcotic-detecting dogs, and are poised to undertake room inspections in hotels and construction sites to ensure public safety and secure the nation from criminal elements.

Deputy Chief of Police (DCoP), Colonel Passang Dorji, highlighted the indispensable role played by educators, parents, and communities in reshaping collective perspectives on drug abuse. “The involvement of these stakeholders is pivotal in moulding the mindset of the people.” 

Moreover, Bhutan has experienced an 8.7 percent increase in its crime rate in 2022, prompting a reminder from law enforcement that failure to report criminal incidents is, in itself, a punishable offense under Section 116 of the Penal Code (Amendment) Act. 

The divisions within Bhutan have each grappled with the challenge of drug-related crime, with Thimphu recording the highest number of arrests at 269, closely trailed by Phuentsholing with 242 cases. 

Integral to the success of these endeavours are the Integrated Check-Posts, hailed by both DCoP and SSP as instrumental in tracking and intercepting criminals.

A sweeping and comprehensive approach has been adopted in the form of nationwide mandatory drug tests, targeting various sectors including professional driving license (PDL) holders, government vehicle operators, military personnel, and private drivers. 

This campaign has identified a notable number of individuals enmeshed in drug-related activities, further accentuating the depth of this crisis.

Revealing figures from August 1 indicate that out of 4,173 individuals subjected to the mandatory testing, 274 individuals tested positive for drugs, encompassing diverse demographics such as bus and taxi drivers, private employees, the unemployed, government officials, students, and other drivers.

The year 2022 marked a sobering milestone, witnessing the highest number of individuals implicated in drug-related crimes over the past five years, with a total of 2,836 arrests recorded, a significant escalation from the 2,572 cases documented in 2021.

The arrest of four 13-year-old males (three students and a dropout) in a substance abuse case highlights the gravity of the situation.