As of June 2020, the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) has registered 66 Missing of Person (MoP) cases nationwide, out of which 8 are children. Thimphu police alone has registered 31 MoP cases so far. RBP is yet to find 13 missing people.
Likewise, 186 cases were registered with RBP in 2019, of which 66 were children and 124 were adults. Both years saw the highest number of female missing persons, 99 females were reported missing in 2019 and 20 females in 2020. The females’ age range between 13 years to 20 years.
90 percent of the cases result from elopement where the persons leave homes without informing their parents. Some of the other reasons cited for the cases are family issues, non-payment to staff, failing to pay the debts and difficulties in achieving academic goals.
The remaining 10 percent are due to pure parental negligence, whereby the parents report the missing children, and there are also a few cases of missing old aged people.
According to the Officer Commanding (OC) of Thimphu Police Station, many of the youth are going out in the pretext of doing school assignments in a friend’s house due to the school closure. MoP cases can turn into criminal cases, the OC said.
He said, “They think that eloping with a boyfriend is fine, but they do not realize the associated risks, like early marriage, teenage pregnancy and falling into a wrong person’s hand. In some situation, we have to charge the men for rape of a child below the age of 18, even though they have a sexual intercourse with consent from the girl. It is illegal by law.”
However, he said that the cases will not be registered if a boy is below 18 years of age. Nevertheless, in such a situation, maximum cases of men involved are above the age of 18 years, which makes them liable for rape.
The OC added that there is also a chance of the missing person staying out of reach because of the fear of going back home after eloping. Some of them take the drastic steps of running away to India and finding small jobs to sustain themselves, which also has risks, he added.
While dealing with most MoP cases, RBP is not able to trace the missing persons as most of their mobiles phones are switched off. However, 95 percent of the MoP cases are solved and the missing persons are handed over to their parents or relatives.
As for the remaining 5 percent, some persons are still missing, and there are some complaints people fail to update the police on the status of the missing person returning home by themselves or on being found.
RBP urged the public to take care of their children and keep tabs on their whereabouts, especially keeping an account of the company they keep and setting curfew timing so they avoid staying out late.
In recent times, RBP has been receiving an increasing number of MoP cases involving foreign laborers, whereby they have found and handed over to their respective owners. The reason given by most laborers for going missing is that they want to return back to their homes in India, he said.