Me and my news

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

41 dead and counting: Bhutan’s growing Drug problem

A 29-year old man died due to drug overdose at the Intensive Care Unit of the Thimphu national referral hospital, on Monday.
The 29-year old was brought in a state of coma to the emergency ward at around 5:30 pm on 4 February. Hospital staff had recovered some Spasmo Proxyvon and white tablets from the deceased’s pockets.
This is not the first death under such conditions, as records with concerned agencies reflect 41 such deaths in a span of 10 years.
What is disturbing is that Drug overdose deaths have also been increasing rapidly in the last few years particularly from 2007 onwards till date highlighting the increasing number of people falling victim to drug addiction.
The sheer volume and increasing accessibility of drugs is also making it difficult for the police to stop the flow of Bhutan’s drug trade.
There is an increase in the number of mainly young people getting hooked to the substance.
Though the problem threatens to over swamp sections of Bhutanese youth the government is yet to even carry out a proper survey and analysis of drug abuse and deaths in Bhutan. Except for the occasional NGO Bhutan’s young drug addicts have little or no government support.
The figures compiled with the Narcotics Drug Law Enforcement Unit (NDLEU) of the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) states that out of 41 death cases in its records, six are female while the remaining were males which included students, unemployed youth and adults.
Over the past 10 years, starting from 2001 to 2010, a total of 17 people have died due to overdose in Phuentsholing followed by Thimphu with 13 people, three in Punakha, and one each in Trashigang, Gomtu, and Bumthang.
In 2011, four cases were reported across the country with three in Phuentsholing and one in Thimphu.
In 2012 eight overdose cases were reported across the country. With one case each in Paro, Sarpang, Lhamoizingkha, Samdrupjongkhar, Gedu, Thimphu and Pasakha.
One case of overdose from Darjeeling was reported in 2008, one from Siliguri in 2009 and one from Chennai in 2010. Police officials claim that there are many more cases of drug overdose in India and Bhutan but they go unreported.
No proper survey has been done by concerned authorities on the drug overdose and drug abuse cases.
Signs and symptoms of an overdose vary depending on the drug exposure and the cause of an overdose is either by accidental overuse or intentional misuse, said a doctor from the hospital.
“Pharmaceutical drugs find their way into Bhutan through the Phuentsholing border gate, Jaigaon which is the main source of drugs as these drugs are not available in the country. These are the drugs which are the cause of deaths and may become a leading cause of death if not monitored,” said a senior police officer.
Though Marijuana is found in Bhutan and is considered a drug no cases have been reported where Marijuana has caused deaths.
According to police officials if the illegal transaction of drugs is monitored well at the border sites, then drug related issues would be controlled.
A major contributor to trend of overdose deaths is due to the use of the pharmaceutical drugs like Spasmo Proxyvon, Relipen and Nitrosun-10, which has increased over the past few years, according to the police.
The NDLEU of Thimphu police seized 1,779 capsules of Spasmo Proxyvon, 293 tablets of Nitrosun-10, 35 tablets of Relipen in 2011.
While last year as of 26 December, 7,454 capsules of Spasmo Proxyvon, 79 tablets of Nitrosun-10, and 2,985 tablets of Relipen and about 106 Corex bottles were seized.
In 2011, a total of 1,545.3 grams of marijuana was seized.
16 people in 2011 and 12 people in 2012 were arrested in connection with the illegal transaction of controlled substance.
For possession of controlled substances, 295 people were detained in 2011 and 270 persons in 2012.
Between the years of 1989 to 2005, about 817 arrests were made by the police on drug related issues.
Despite police personnel keeping strict vigilance at checkpoints at the border, smugglers still make it through the checkpoints since police personnel are unable to check each and every vehicle and passenger on the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway where Traffic averages to more than 1,000 vehicles a day.
Some of the Thimphu residents The Bhutanese talked to said that if the drug related issues are not addressed properly, entire generations of young Bhutanese would be at risk.
Others feel that parents must play a vital role in addressing the issue as many parents do not seem to be aware that their children are hooked on drugs. Some live in denial.
The first drug abuse arrest in Bhutan was made in Gelephu on 29 June, 1989, after the police caught a man abusing marijuana.
Dr. D.K. Nirola, Psychiatrist with the JDWNRH said that drug overdosing is a serious issue that has to be addressed. The hospital has seen an increase in the numbers of drug overdose related deaths.
Explaining the symptoms, the Doctor said drugs have an effect on the entire body and causes respiratory depression.
Some experts say some symptoms of drug overdose like chest pain can be caused by heart or lung damage. Shortness of breath may occur. Breathing may get rapid, slow, deep, or shallow.
It is also said that specific drugs can damage specific organs, depending on the drug.
According to police, almost 70% of drugs are smuggled into Thimphu from Phuentsholing as parcels.
Most of the drug overdose cases are not reported to police with the fear of legal consequences said the officer-in-charge of Drug unit in Thimphu police station.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

2010 killers still at large

Thimphu: The Royal Bhutan Police are still looking for those behind four high-profile killings of 2010. They have even sought the help of Interpol to help track them down.
While two of the suspects are believed to have absconded from the country, the third, allegedly a non-Bhutanese, is also still at large.
A senior police officer said that the hunt is very much on, with information being shared with law enforcement counterparts outside the country to help nab the killers.
The photos of the suspects displayed on Interpol website.  
“The Interpol office for RBP in Thimphu has shared information with other Interpol member countries of the region about those on the wanted list,” the officer said.
Among the killings, the first occurred on September 5 at Kulagangri hotel in Thimphu. Gyem Tshering, a 25-year old from Pangserbo village, Drujeygang gewog in Dagana, was found stabbed at five different places on the body.
The killer was later identified as Ugyen Lhendrup, a 32-year old man from Dragom village in Lhuentse. Preliminary investigations revealed that the killing may have been spurred by disputes arising from a transaction over a six-eyed Dzi.
The second incident took place in Samtse on August 26. Pelkimo, a 46-year old housewife and her mother, 69-year old Sonam Zangmo, were found killed in broad daylight at their house in Dungkar under Yoseltse Gewog.
The killer was identified as Jetlal Tamang, a well-known criminal from across the border, but there is still no development in the case.
In the third case, Jigme Tenzin, a 35-year old man from Trashiyangtse was found killed on December 28 in a forest near Hashimara, about eight kilometers away from Alipur Duar, West Bengal.
The police have identified the suspect as Sonam Dorji, a 35-year old from Songteykhar village in Bjena gewog, Wangduephodrang, but he is still absconding, believed to be living somewhere in Kakarbhitta, Nepal.
Meanwhile, the police in Alipur, West Bengal, detained one Tshewang from Mongar on February 11 for an alleged complicity in the killing.

Just shy of the border

Thimphu: A 33-year old man from Trashigang was spared the full brunt of the tobacco law for bringing in the contraband just outside the border point between India and Bhutan on February 25.
When the district court in Samdrup Jongkhar passed its verdict on March 22, Cheku Dorji received just half the sentence – one year and eight months – because when arrested, he was a few yards short of the Bhutanese territory.
This happened because the Gelephu-Samdrup Jongkhar bus in which he was a conductor usually stops for inspection just outside the gate. As a result, not only is the punishment lighter but Cheku Dorji can pay Nu 60,000 in lieu of the sentence.
He was caught with 200 pieces of cigarettes and 600 packets of Baba (chewing tobacco) which he had hidden in a box concealed near the driver’s seat.  
When the police asked him to open the box, he confessed having the tobacco products. He even went to the extent of confessing that he intended to sell them in Kanglung in Trashigang.
“He was very fortunate for having been caught just outside the border,” said a police officer. “He was convicted only for the attempt to smuggle in tobacco products.”
 Cheku Dorji, who is presently out on bail, also told the police that he had bought the contraband from Daranga, an Assam district adjoining Samdrup Jongkhar.
Meanwhile, the police in Paro have released Kado, a 17-year old unemployed youth, who was found carrying a packet of Baba.  
On March 19, Kado had gone to the Paro police station to reach breakfast for a friend who had been involved in an assault the previous day and was detained.
Kado was caught while trying to share the chewing tobacco he had in his pocket with his detained friend.
The police have released Kado on surety as he is a juvenile.

Bus driver convicted

Thimphu: Yet another person - a bus driver - was convicted for tobacco smuggling.
Twenty nine-year old Ambar Biswa from Dagana, working for Sernya Transport, was sentenced to three years in prison on April 4 by Chhukha dzongkhag court.
The judgment stated that Ambar Biswa’s act had violated section 52 of the Tobacco Control Act and was thus liable for fourth degree felony.
He was arrested at Tanalum checkpoint for carrying 10 packets of chewing tobacco (Baba) and two packets of cigarettes which were hidden in the bus’ dashboard.
In his statement to the police, the convict said the tobacco products, supposedly bought in the border of Jaigaon, West Bengal, were meant for his personal consumption.
Bhutan TODAY learnt that the convict is unhappy with the judgment and will appeal to the High Court.
Ambar Biswa was released on bail after paying Nu 3,000 on March 28 but was later detained on the order of the court.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Accident kills Autsho principal

Thimphu: Will mishaps ever stop happening lately?
The principal of Autsho primary school was killed on the spot while another succumbed to injuries later when the car they were travelling in veered off the road near Phaling near Lhuentse Dzong.
Needup Dorji, the school principal who was in his early 50s, was driving his Santro car along with two passen­gers - Jambay, 54, and Tshagayla, both cooks of Tshangkhar School in Jarey gewog – when the accident took place around 3:00 pm.
According to the officer in-charge of Lhuentse Police station, the princi­pal had died on the spot while Tshagayla died in the hospital later. Jambay who is in his mid-thirties, however, is in a stable condition.
The principal had gone to the dzong for some official work and was on his way back to Autsho when the car fell about 60 meters below the road.
“The principal could not negotiate a bend and the car went straight off the road,” said Jambay, the survivor. “When I opened my eyes I found myself lying in the hospital.”
The cooks had taken a lift with the principal from Lhuentse town to return to their home.
According to Dr Karma Tenzin of Lhuentse hos­pital, the principal had sustained major head injuries while Tshagayla died from head injury and “massive” internal bleed­ing.
The Lhuentse police are investigating the cause of the accident.

House gutted in Bjemina

Thimphu: A two-storied house in Bjemina, Thim­phu, was razed to the ground by fire yesterday evening.
Despite having four fire engines at the scene, the house could not be saved and a refrigerator was the only item that was sal­vaged in the end.
The fire had started at around 5:00 pm. It was first noticed by one of the tenants living on the second floor.
 She had gone out to fetch water when she spotted the fire burning at one corner of the house.
At the time of the in­cident, there was no one in the house except for a 10-month old child who was fortunately saved by the mother.
The ground floor was used as a restaurant while the upper floor had three units in which the labor­ers working at a nearby quarry lived.
The fire could have started due to a short circuit or from a bukari, according to the police.
The house belonged to the Singye group of companies. The property destroyed is estimated at around Nu 250,000.
An eye witness said that if there was no timely intervention by the fire fighters, the entire quarry site would have gone up in flames.
The four families living in the house watched helplessly as the fire de­stroyed everything they owned.

Investigation on for Lam Peri accident

Thimphu: Over-loading, negligent driving and mechanical failure have emerged as the probable causes of the Lam Peri bus accident which killed nine and injured 28 people on December 22.
While the director of the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA), Tashi Norbu, said the driver will be held responsible for carrying 37 passengers, 15 more than the capacity, RSTA’s regional transport officer (RTO) in Thimphu, Dophu Dukpa, did not rule out mechanical failure as the cause.
According to Dophu Dukpa, the 24-year old driver claimed that the bus’ engine stopped all of a sudden at the accident spot. The steering got jammed, the brakes ceased to respond and the bus plunged 519 feet below the road.
Some of the passengers corroborated the driver’s claims. A 36-year old passenger who was sitting next to the driver said that the egine ceased to function when the bus reached the accident site.
“It is very difficult to come to any conclusion as to what caused the accident as the bus is totally damaged,” said the RSTA director. “We now have to discuss with the traffic police.”
He said the the driver would be charged with negligent driving and will not be allowed to drive throughout his life. The RSTA has formed a committee to decide on the course of action againt the driver while also stepping up vigilance along checkpoints and increasing highway patrolling to check on overloading.
The owner of Pelyab transport, Sangay Dorji, 44, from Paro, will also be held liable for carrying extra passengers. According to the RSTA act, for each extra passenger the bus was carrying, the owner has to pay Nu 1,000 as fine.
As required under law, Sangay Dorji paid a total of Nu 180,000 as compensation to the relatives of the deceased yesterday. In addition, he gave a semso of Nu 2,000 each to the passengers who were injured and admitted in the hospital.
“I am sad as because of my bus so many lives were lost,” he said. “He (the driver) was a good person who does not drink and I trusted him. But just to earn a little more money, he broke the rule and nine people were killed.”
On the command His Majesty the King, the Zhung Dratshang, presided over by the Yangbi Lopen, conducted the cremation rites for the deceased yesterday.
Meanwhile, His Holiness the Je Khenpo gave Semso to the bereaved families and instructed all the dratshangs in the 20 Dzongkhags to perform Moenlam and offer Karmi Tongchoed. His Holiness will also perform Mithrup Tongchoed in Punakha Dzong.
This is the third time that Pelyab transport has met with an accident, this year alone.
                                   The Pelyab transport bus which plunged 519 feet below the road