Yesterday, in Changzamtog, Thimphu a group of youth gathered. They probably had scores to settle. In a flash, the altercation led to violence. I young boy of about 14 years was hit on the head with a machete.

This happened in broad daylight! And those involved were children, even little girls!

This is coming at a time when the police are busy sensitising to control youth-related crime in the country. 

A majority of the youth involved are young students as one observed our children “antagonise others or are provoked by a mere exchange of words with other youth. Our youth appear to be walking around today in an atmosphere of high tension.”

Going by some available statistics, at least two youths come into conflict with the law every day. Drug trafficking, battery, alcohol abuse and larceny, among others, are among the crimes that our people are engaged in most of the time. 

Last year, RBP apprehended 689 youths, out of which 186 were students. In 2020, 689 youths were arrested, out of which 162 were students. And, recently, a dispute in a school spilled onto the street. Youths were found in possession of weapons and chasing each other on the streets.

Are our homes, schools, and streets becoming dangerous places for our children?

What we are bringing in as an intervention must also be recognised, but more clearly needs to be done. We now have hospital-based substance use disorder (SUD) treatment and care services and anti-bullying guidelines.

An effective referral pathway for persons with SUD through a continuum-of-care approach is essential. However, more should come from the parents themselves. Deputy Chief of Police Colonel Passang Dorji recently said that things are now getting out of control and an increasing number of youths have been caught violating laws. Incriminating young people, however, will not solve the problem.

There is a need to go further and deeper into this emerging social issue. As Passang Dorji pointed out parents react only when their children are arrested.

Children need love and attention. When they are left alone and do not get either love or attention from their parents and elders, they come out on the street and put themselves in various problems.

The police and schools can do only so much given the different mandates they must fulfil. The buck stops with the parents. If you do not make an effort to understand your children and give them enough family time, they will resort to things that will ultimately harm themselves and others along the way.

What happened in Changzamtog yesterday is just a snapshot of what happened with our young people every day. This must worry us all.