Crimes and punishments

Better than tobacco?

BBS recently ran two stories:

On 4 March they reported that:

The Thimphu district court yesterday sentenced a 23-year-old monk to three years in prison for smuggling tobacco. He is the first man to be convicted and sentenced under the controversial tobacco act.

Sonam Tshering was caught at the Chunzom checkpoint carrying 48 packets of Baba or chewing tobacco worth Nu.120. He confessed that he bought the chewing tobacco from a shop in the border town of Jaigaon for his own personal consumption.

And on 13 March, they reported that:

Thimphu City police have apprehended a 17-year-old boy and two men for substance abuse. The 17-year-old boy was apprehended from the vegetable market area. He was found intoxicated and carrying several tablets.

After talking to him, police apprehended the two men for dealing in drugs.

One of the men was apprehended earlier this month for illegal transaction of drugs. He was released after paying fine.

Our laws seem to say that it’s better to be caught selling drugs than to be caught possessing tobacco.

Photo credit: BBS

A big problem

We have a problem. In our last poll, 94% of you claimed to either know or think that drug abuse is already a problem in Bhutan. On the other hand, only 5% of you said that drug abuse is not a problem in our country. 1% admitted that they don’t have a clue.

I suspected that substance abuse was growing, especially among out youth. But, I had no reason to think that it was already a problem. The poll results have forced me to rethink my views – that’s why I kept the poll up for so long. Next week, I plan to discuss this issue with the government including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency. I’ve also arranged to meet some youth.

This week’s poll asks: “how prepared are we to cope with disaster?”

A problem

Last Friday, an MP asked the health minister, Lyonpo Zangley Dukpa, what his ministry was doing to address the growing problem of drug abuse in our country. In his response, Lyonpo Zangley informed the National Assembly that, in 2008, a total of 418 people had been arrested for drug abuse. And that, in the same year, in 2008, 132 drug dealers had been arrested and charged in our courts.

Now look at the numbers. 132 drug dealers and 418 drug addicts were caught in the same year. That’s only 3.17 drug addicts caught for every drug dealer caught. And that can’t be right. The average drug dealer must surely have many more customers. And so, 132 drug dealers would actually cater to several times the 418 drug addicts who were caught.

But consider this: no one really knows how many drug dealers there actually are in our country. It’s obviously more than 132. And, obviously, the greater the number of people selling drugs would mean that we have an even greater number of people using them.

And consider this: in the last month alone, Thimphu police arrested 57 drug abusers.

We have a problem.