47 from 2728 PDL holders test positive for drugs

The primary objective is to ensure the safety of both individuals and the public at large, as well as to promote a drug-free environment

In a significant move following His Majesty the King’s command during the 114th national day and in the wake of increasing substances abusers in the country, the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), in collaboration with Bhutan Construction and Transport Authority (BCTA) started administering mandatory nationwide drug tests on Professional Driving License (PDL) holders. As of June 16, 2023, a total of 2,728 PDL holders have undergone the tests out of which 47 individuals have tested positive for drugs. 

The deputy chief of police for crime and operations, Colonel Passang Dorji said, “The mandatory nationwide drug test is a specialist program mainly aimed at a specific section of drivers.” He said that the primary objective behind these tests is to ensure the safety of both individuals and the public at large, as well as to promote a drug-free environment. 

He also added that those who tested positive are being referred to treatment assessment panels for treatment at some specific places. It includes, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) at Thimphu, Phuntsholing Hospital, Central Regional Referral Hospital in Gelephu, Bajo Drop-In Centre (DIC), Samdrup Jongkhar DIC and Bumthang Hospital. Additionally, The PEMA Secretariat has also established a separate unit to address individuals with substance use disorders, who test positive. These individuals are assessed by health officials and provided with appropriate treatment. 

Colonel Passang Dorji further stated that earlier the drivers had to go to their assigned police stations for drug tests. However, he said that after observing several drivers who were refusing to come forward for the testing, “the RBP created an atmosphere for convenience for the drivers and started the test on the highways, so that everyone would come forward.”  

However, Colonel Passang Dorji said that despite efforts to create a convenient testing environment, some drivers have still refused to come forward. He added that after all initiatives that the RBP has taken for the convenience of drivers, “if they fail to come for testing, we may be taking legal action against those who fail to comply within the given period.”  

Meanwhile, if an individual tests positive, their licenses are seized and temporarily canceled.  Moreover, individuals involved in drug trafficking are detained and charged in court, depending on the severity of the matter. 

Currently, the focus of the drug testing program is on professional driving license (PDL) holders, in order to ensure the safety of both individuals and those availing themselves of their services. With approximately 27,000 PDL holders in the country, the testing process is being conducted nationwide on the highways.

In the near future, the RBP plans to expand the drug testing program to other sectors including private drivers, government drivers, and even military personnel. 

Colonel Passang Dorji said that there is still much work to be done and that this is just the initial phase of implementation. “Everybody should act responsibly to ensure a safe and clean nation without drugs, so that everybody can live in peace,” he added. 

Meanwhile, routine drug tests which RBP has been conducting are continuing as part of ongoing efforts to combat drug abuse in the country.

Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu