Tenzin Wangchuk, Thimphu
Disillusioned youths are trying every desperate measure to stay afloat in the ever growing capital city.
With increasing incidences of individuals getting mugged by desperate youths, walking alone in the dark in the streets of Thimphu has become a scary experience.
And, with the schools closed for summer vacation, the streets of Thimphu are filled with young children and students who roam freely and have nothing productive to do rather than while away their time with friends.
But the chilling fact is that these young men and women can go to any extent to get a few extra bucks, often through means which are in conflict with the law. One such incident, and that is fast becoming a dreaded issue, is snatching mobile phones or demanding money from unsuspecting individuals often armed with knives and other weapons.
Tshering Dema, 32, a corporate employee in Thimphu said that she and her friend who were waiting for a taxi after a Saturday night out were confronted by a group of boys, mostly high on alcohol, who demanded that they spare their money and mobile phones or get injured.
“The incident took place two weeks ago in Olakha at around 1AM when we were waiting for a taxi. The boys, three of them, approached us yielding knives and rods and snatched away our mobile phone and purse. They disappeared within seconds,” Tshering Dema said, adding that the incident has left her jolted.
According to her, the attackers were young boys probably in their late teens and were staggering when they confronted them. “They were probably high on alcohol or drugs and could have become violent if we denied them.”
Like Tshering Dema and her friend, there are many other individuals who were confronted with similar incidents. According to a victim, the youths usually stayed in groups of three or more and attacked unsuspecting victims especially in the cover of darkness.
36-year-old Tshewand Dhendup who owns a shop in Changzamtok said that one fateful night when he was returning home with his wife after closing his shop, they were confronted with a group of men when they reached the call center area at around 11 at night.
“The men, four of them, demanded in a stern voice that they spare whatever valuable they have or get stabbed. One of them was brandishing a knife. We handed them our mobile phones but fled the scene when they saw a car coming towards their direction. I and my wife were lucky that the car came on time otherwise they would have snatched our money too,” Tshewang said.
Tshewang says that the people be extra careful especially at night because these miscreants usually operated in the cover of darkness, and that we never go out alone as most of the victims who were robbed were either travelling alone or were drunk themselves.
According to police reports these types of incidences, of mugging, is also rampant in the border towns of Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar and happens mostly during times when the schools are closed for vacations.
“The public should be aware of these untoward developments and be prepared should they fall victim to these muggers. We would generally advise people to not travel alone or carry valuables and cash at nights because you are very susceptible to these kinds of attacks,” a police officer based in the capital said.
According to him, the police department is doing all they can to ensure that the streets of Bhutan are safe for everyone. Additional men are deployed in sensitive areas, especially where people gather for parties and night outs.
“We patrol the streets and deploy additional men during weekends and holidays as the number of brawls and violence is higher during these times. I would also advise all parents to please monitor their children’s behaviors and whereabouts so that they do not come in conflict with the law,” the officer added.
A senior citizen, Sangay Duba, 68, said that times have changed and that it is no longer safe for people to walk alone at night. Sangay says during his youth the capital city of Thimphu was just a row of houses and shops and everybody knew each other and crime like these were virtually alien to them.
“I wish that the people themselves become more responsible because those children who are doing these nasty things are also sons and daughters of someone else. The summer vacations have started and, apart from police, parents too have a lot more to do,” the retired civil servant says, adding that every Bhutanese must ensure that our streets are safe for everyone including tourists and foreigners who work in our country.
Meantime, its 3Am in the morning and the many discos, drayangs and night clubs of Thimphu that were are abuzz with life is dead silent except for the City Police Station where police have freshly arrested three men for mugging a couple.
By then Thimphu is in deep slumber. But it will be a long night for the men in blue.