With Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) arresting one or two persons in possession or abusing drugs every day, it is apparent that drug problems are becoming uncontrollable.
According to records maintained with RBP, more than 600 people are arrested in a year for drug related cases. RBP has also seized huge amounts of drugs and illegal substances through the years.
In the fight against drugs, every police station and police division in the country is conducting a serious drug crackdown on drugs operation. According to a police official, RBP conducts highway checking in the entire south to north highways, like Phuntsholing to Thimphu, on a daily basis, Gelephu to Trongsa, Sarpang to Thimphu, and Samdrupjongkhar to Trashigang.
“Also starting November 1, RBP plans to initiate the lateral route checking, like from Trashigang to Thimphu,” the RBP official added.
RBP also conduct sensitization programs on drug-related issues, highlighting the legal consequences of drug use to the parents and students.
“We always appeal to public for their cooperation and help. Also we make an appeal to taxi drivers to be cautious and to be of help, in the sense, to just give the information,” RBP official said.
However, the police source said that it is very challenging for them to work on drug-related matters. “We cannot check every vehicle, but we can check only those who are suspected.” He added that the checking of heavily loaded vehicles is difficult as it takes a lot of time to unload everything.
“We have a manpower shortage even after knowing the inflow of drug substance, so every citizen has to join hand in cutting down the inflow of drugs,” the official added.
RBP also conducts house frisking when they receive information on drug possession. “Every police division has its own informers or network whereby we work accordingly,” the official added.
Possession and use of Marijuana is the most common among the drug users in Bhutan. The other commonly abused drugs are the banned prescription drugs, like Spasmo-Proxyvon (SP) and N10, which is bought and smuggled from border areas.
“We forward the case to court and until the final verdict by the court, we store the seized substance as the evidence, and once the final verdict is out, the seized drugs are surrendered to Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA),” the official said.
According to RBP, charges against drug smuggling are dealt in three ways. Firstly, if a person is abusing any drugs or substances then the person is liable for misdemeanor resulting in a sentence of 1 to 3 years. However, drug users get three chances to reform themselves. They are sent for treatment and rehabilitation in an approved treatment center, as assessed by Treatment Assessment Panel (TAP) or counseling or community service.
“If the person is caught for the fourth time, then they will be charged as misdemeanor,” the official said. Under drug possession, the charges are same as drug abusers, but depend upon the drug quantity.
According to the RBP official, usually possession charges are the same those laid down on drug abusers; liable for misdemeanor without much treatment or any counseling provided. The third kind of charges is reserved for drug traffickers, the official said, “The charges of trafficking are quite heavy when compared to the other two, and it comes under felony of fourth degree, resulting in 3 to 5 years of prison time.”