Starting 2013 and till date, 61 people, which include a freelance guide, tour operator and permanent guide, have been involved in drugs offences.
Out of the 61 people, seven were arrested for drugs transaction, 28 for drugs possession and 2 for drugs trafficking, and the remaining was arrested for other related crimes.
According to Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), an increasing number of guides are involved in drug- related issues, and therefore, a sensitization workshop was conducted for 20 guides undergoing the guide course in Thimphu. This was also done on the request made by the proprietor of the Institute of Professional Studies.
RBP stated, “Bhutanese tourist guide are the face of the nation as law abiding and responsible citizens.”
The guides were sensitized on the two classifications of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS), including the source of NDPS, and physiological and psychological effects of NDPS. They were also sensitized on drug-related crimes and its penalty.
Meanwhile, more than 500 doma also called paan shop owners have pledged their full support towards ensuring a drugs and tobacco free society. They also pledged to help the youth to lead a drug-free life so they do not suffer from the harmful effect of drugs and tobacco.
BNCA along with RBP emphasized on how to be a responsible citizen and to help every individual from getting into the abuse of drugs and tobacco product.
BNCA legal officer, Tshering Om, said a person is allowed to import a certain amount of tobacco product for personal consumption but after paying a tax. Each person is allowed to import 800 sticks of cigarettes, 1200 sticks of bidis, 150 pieces of cigars and 750 grams of other tobacco products after paying taxes and duties to the customs office. The receipt is valid for only 1 month.
“Not every individual can import those products, an importer must be 18 years and above, can import only one type of tobacco product and a person cannot import on behalf of others,” Tshering Om said.
Talking about the penalties related to different offences, she said that, if a person is found smoking in a non-smoking area then he/she will be charged a fine of Nu 500 per incident. In case of person-in-charge of the location, failure to display no-smoking sign board in their premises carries a fine of Nu 10,000. In addition, failure to ensure no person smokes in his/her premises then the owner will be charged Nu 1,000 per person.
Highlighting on a person who buys tobacco products without import duty, if a person is buying within the permissible quantity then the person is liable for petty misdemeanor. If the quantity is more than the permissible limit then the person will be liable for misdemeanor and must pay a fine three times the value of the tobacco or tobacco products.
A second time offender is liable for misdemeanor as per the Penal Code of Bhutan and pays a fine of six times the value of the tobacco or tobacco products, and for the third time, person is liable for felony of fourth degree.
If a person sells, distributes, cultivates, harvests or manufactures tobacco or tobacco products then the person is liable for misdemeanor and pays a fine equivalent to a minimum of 12 months and maximum of 35 months of minimum wage, and a second time offender will be liable for felony of fourth degree.
“Also if any person portraying scenes depicting tobacco use including smoking in domestic production of videos, movies and cultural shows, except in educational clips produced for the purpose of health
Dy. Chief Program officer of BNCA, Dorji Tshering, said that the use of tobacco product is the first step towards abusing controlled substances. He said, “Shopkeepers encourage the use of substances by selling illegally. If they don’t sell any of those substances then the consumption number might go down which can save many lives from getting ruined.”
DCOP Crime, Lt. Colonel Dorji Wangchuk, said that most people are only concerned about their own children. He said the sellers do not think about the damage such products will have on other people.
During the discussion, the paan shop owners suggested that the sale of alcohol should also be banned as they see alcohol as the main cause of problems.
BNCA and RBP encourage people to come forward and inform the relevant authority if they find anyone doing illegal trade of tobacco product or if anyone sees anybody smoking in non-smoking areas. The person shall be rewarded according to the quantity of product they seize, and the identity of the informer will remain confidential.