Last Friday, I was on my way to Thimphu from Phuntsholing when suddenly the bus I was travelling in was flagged down by police at Tsimasham for a surprised highway checking. The two policemen swooped in and headed straight towards the rear section of the bus where a group of young boys were seated. One by one, they started to frisk them until two sticks of cigarettes emerged from one of the boys’ shoes. The real drama began to unfold as one of the policemen pulled out small packages of cannabis drugs from around his seat. The boy was immediately removed from the bus for further scanning and interrogation. We all watched in disbelief as he was finally taken away for detention at Tsimasham Police Station. We had to wait for more than an hour while the police completed the formalities.
When the driver of the bus finally returned, we learned that the boy is a class XI student of one of the private schools in Thimphu and that he was returning from his summer vacation. As a counsellor and a parent, the incident left me mentally disturbed and sad. I couldn’t imagine how painful would it have been for his parents to digest the news that their son has been detained for illegal possession of drugs. As the boy walked away with the policeman, I could only wish if he could be given the second chance. I felt so sad that if he had got appropriate psychosocial support on time, perhaps he wouldn’t have met such a fate. However, he was bit lucky as he was said to be caught with only about 9 grams of the drugs which can at the most send him to jail for 3 years as per the Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan (2015), provided if the drugs he was carrying was just dried cannabis leaves and twigs. But if it was cannabis hashish, then he could face up to 5 years imprisonment since the quantity he was carrying was more than the permissible quantity of 7 grams.
One of the key lessons that can be learned from this particular incident is that police can always track you down if you are carrying drugs. You should never try to smuggle illicit drugs while travelling. There are many eyes watching your activities across the borders and if you are found to carry any of the illegal drugs, you can be easily tracked down. I hope everybody knows that there is a reward system for the informants of such cases. But more importantly, you should understand that the Royal Bhutan Police and the Royal Government of Bhutan are taking such actions all for your own health and safety. When your parents, teachers and the concerned authorities are telling you not to use drugs, they don’t mean it for themselves. It’s all for you. Everybody wants to see you grow up healthy and responsible. Nobody wishes to see you in misery.
Despite the constant efforts of the government to create a drug-free society in Bhutan, it’s very painful to learn that substance abuse continues to top the list of issues affecting the lives of youth, the key segment of our population. The issue now calls for collective efforts from parents, teachers, business community and other stakeholders to help our youth stay safe from illegal drugs. Substance abuse is a family disease. We all know how one drug user in the house can affect the entire network of family-members, relatives and friends. Everybody wants to help but feels helpless. It causes a lot of anxiety and worries for the parents, siblings, teachers and friends. So let us all work together to make our society safe and healthy for our children and youth to grow up without any unhealthy distraction. For a small country like Bhutan, every child is an asset. We cannot afford to lose even a single soul to such crises.