The Central Prison in Chamgang, Thimphu, has 363 inmates from all around the country, including 20 non-Bhutanese, but more than half are in for drug related offences.
Police records show that 178 of the total were jailed for drug related offences. The number includes 23 females and four juvenile delinquents. These convicts are aged between 16 -64 years and their sentences range from one to nine years. In addition the Thimphu district prison has 45 convicts.
Thimphu dzongkhag alone has contributed 61 percent of the total convicts involved in drug related cases.
Chief of Police Chimmi Dorji said the number of arrest seems high because in one catch they arrest 5 to 10 people during the course of investigation.
Due to this multiplicity affect the Thimphu detention is totally filled. “The courts also do not convict the suspect on first catch; either they are sent on bail or on surety with discretion but if a person is repeat offender than no exception is given by court,” the Police Chief said.
He also said that, like any other crime, the detection of drug offences keeps fluctuating. They manage to catch more people if the informer feeds them maximum information.
He said the biggest problem right now is to get hold of drug distributors. “We have been arresting many distributors, however, we have a feeling that there is bigger distributor with a huge consignment in their custody,” he said. “As of now we are not able to pin point the bigger distributor.”
The Police Chief also said that 99 percent of the people arrested are drug dependent or abusers while about a percent are dealers/ distributors doing business for profit.
Meanwhile, illegal marijuana trade in the southern regions including Diafam, Deothang and Jomotshangkha has decreased according to the chief.
“Before because of demand from across the border Bhutanese farmers plucked the abundantly growing plants, preserved it and sold it in winter and autumn through a middleman,” the Police Chief said. “It was going on for long time and farmers did it for money not knowing that marijuana is actually a drug and a banned substance in Bhutan.”
Given the drug abuse issue in the country the Police Chief said that apart from existing initiatives they are forming a big task force with a specific mandate to clamp suppliers and distributors.
“The initiative will be implemented very soon and it will be a low profile but hard hitting operation,” he said.
The initiative will target distributors and middleman and the task force will be busy in Thimphu, Paro, Phuentsholing, Wangdue and Punakha.
The second initiative that has already started is checking highway traffic in two places where police personnel will be placed at highways and in forests and 24 hrs checking will be carried out.
A drug team will also be deployed to do testing for those found suspicious. Anybody found under influence, including driver, will be arrested.
The drug OC of Thimphu city police station said that both demand and supply of drugs must be addressed. Surprise highway checking and gathering information can choke supply.
To stem demand police were doing advocacy in schools appealing to public through social media and national media and encouraging schools and institutes to uproot marijuana plants.
They were also using the dog squad, drug detecting machines and training police personnel to reduce demand and supply.
He said drug offences were classified into abusers, middleman or peddlers and distributors. “Abusers are those who depend on drugs, middleman act for some commission to sustain themselves and distributors import mainly to make easy money,” he said.
BNCA director general Phuntsho Wangdi said that abusers forwarded to BNCA by RBP are mostly the students and school dropouts. After receiving them treatments are given accordingly after assessment.
For now, he said that BNCA is training school teachers on how to study a student involved in drugs, how to intervene at the early stage, how to deal with those students and on how to study their behavior.
“Kicking out the student is not a solution, which can be a burden for those students in the society leading to other crimes. Therefore, trainings are given in schools and we have already trained 485 teachers in Thimphu,” he said.
The highly used drug in the country is SP painkiller pills followed by marijuana.