Gangs resurface

Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) prepares to crack down gangs

Usha Drukpa & Sonam Dorji, Thimphu


Few years back, the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) resolutely cleaned Thimphu and made it a “gang” free city. Though a massive task, the RBP succeeded, especially in disbanding the then strongest gang called MB boys. However, gangs have mushroomed again, growing and going beyond Thimphu and reaching even Trashigang.

While the RBP is aware of this and collecting information to eradicate this social malice, gangs continue to grow, with new members joining different gangs. In an investigative venture into the world of the gangs, The Journalist has unveiled several aspects of the gang culture and their roots.

According to gang members, the strongest now is ANB, an acronym for Action Naughty Boys (ANB), which is based in Thimphu. Their establishment in Thimphu speaks about their strength. ANB has established themselves in Khasadrapchu, Babesa, Thim Throm, Taba and Dechhencholing. On an average, each has about 30 members. Beyond Thimphu, ANB reportedly has branches in Paro, Punakha, Phuentsholing, Gelephu, Samdrup Jongkhar and Trashigang. In what can be called as decentralization, ANB has a leader and its branches are looked after by selected members, mainly by those who are feared and have leadership skills.

Samdrup, an active member of ANB said that their leader recently returned from a rehabilitation centre and has now left for his studies. “He has instructed us on what we should do to strengthen ANB,” Samdrup said. When asked about ANB’s members, Samdrup said that all one needs to do is search for ANB on Face book (FB). “You will get all details about ANB.” Samdrup added that though they are termed as “Gangs,” they are not different from “Tshogpas.” “The only difference is that we get involved in various types of crime,” he added.

On reasons for joining or forming gangs, Samdrup’s friend Karma, another active member of ANB, said that everything begins with fear. “At our age, we land up fighting physically with people we know and strangers, too. The next day we hear that the person is looking for us with his gang members. We have no alternatives but to seek protection from another gang,” he said, adding that he became an ANB member after he fought with a member of another gang, C2.

Karma said that C2 was once Thimphu’s strongest gang before ANB entered. “Almost all other gangs fear ANB because of the number of members we have,” he said. On crime, he said one or two members are always involved in physical brawls (battery), substance abuse, larceny and other crime. “Stabbing happens frequently and just few days back, one of ANB members stabbed a person outside a discotheque here,” he said.

Phuntsho, an “inactive” member of ANB, said that gang members incite and infuse fear. “They tell the youth that a person or member of a gang is looking for him/her. In fear, the youth end up becoming a member and once you are in, it is very difficult to get out,” he said, adding that once disowned by a gang, members of other gangs target the person.

Namgay, an ANB member said C2 was Thimphu’s dreaded gang before ANB came in. Apart from the two, there are also gangs such as the Chicken NS; One to One and G2. While the first two have not been able to establish themselves strongly due to the presence of bigger gangs, G2 has remained un-functional after its leader was arrested.

Namgay also said that most members are adolescents, unemployed, those who have had conflict with the law and drop outs. There are students, too. Namgay added that authorities think gang members are mostly drug addicts. “It is not true and is the main reason why the police land up arresting people who do not belong to any gang. We cannot afford to be intoxicated, especially when we know that members from other gangs and the RBP are after us,” he said.

The Journalist also found that most members of the gangs have “girl friends,” working as commercial sex workers. “They are our friends and to ensure that the girls are not exploited we say that they are our girl friends,” Thinley, a recovering addict and former member of C2, who joined ANB said. “If not, the girls themselves will begin exploiting each other,” he added. When asked about the payment he gets for protecting the girls, Thinley said that it depends. “I have started liking one of the girls and so I do not charge her. But from others I take a maximum of Nu 1,000 per client,” he said. From the money earned, fifty percent goes to the kitty of the gang. In order to keep their “organizations” functional, they have bars, most of which are open 24×7.

Apart from such ventures, most stolen goods, such as spare tyres, lap tops, phones and others end up with the gangs. “The ones stealing are usually the youth and they sell the goods to us and other gangs as they trust us. We then sell it across the border, from where revenue is generated,” Thinley said.

Outside Thimphu, Gelephu’s DFG – Dirty Fighter Gang- is another group, which is well organized.

Karma, a social worker who accompanied The Journalist to show the night life of Thimphu said that parents and policy makers should be blamed, too. “I have seen all this coming. The RBP also started frisking people who were moving around after 10.00 pm, which was a very good move,” he said, adding that political parties then started making noises saying it is infringement into their fundamental rights. “I do not know where it is mentioned that it is a fundamental right to carry knives, daggers and other weapons and walk into town,” Karma said. He mentioned that policy makers should see the ground realties and then frame appropriate policies. “Only when one of their children or relative is affected will they know the gravity of the situation,” he noted.

He also blames law enforcement agencies. “Look at this,” he said, as we entered a prominent discotheque. “It is 2.30 am and the party is still on.” “And there are scores of places like this spread over the capital, which become perfect avenues for gang fights and other crime,” he added.

Karma further mentioned that parents hardly have time for their children. “Some youth are ragged and beaten up by others. They want to speak to their parents, but find out that they are so busy. Frustrated and seeking revenge, they become gang members,” he said.

In about a year with the gang members, Karma also discovered that gang members do not report to the RBP, when someone is assaulted or battered. “It is considered as a weakness,” he said.

A Police officer said that they are aware about the gangs in Thimphu and other dzongkhags but have very little information. He also said that the gangs have to commit a crime, without which the Police cannot take actions. “We are keeping an eye on them, keeping track and in the processes of collecting information,” he said.

The officer also said they have got the names of various gangs formed in Thimphu. The RBP is looking for the main gang leader, members, motive and the mode through which the gangs get funds.

Meanwhile, most gang members are “busy” these days, giving farewell dinners and treats to their Bhais (brothers) and friends who are going back to their schools.

All names have been changed

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