The following is an interview with G.Battulga who spent more than 10 years of his life in prison because he got addicted to narcotics when he was young. He let us use his real name in the interview and said that he is known as “Cannibal Tulgaa” in the criminal world.
We hope to warn young people about the harmful effects of drug use through this interview.
When did you start using drugs?
Many Russian people used to live in Mongolia until 1990. There were also few Russian people who were living in my apartment. I tried wild weed once with my Russian friends when we were at Nairamdal summer camp in 1990. I learned so many bad things while I was living in Russia in 1998. I and my Russian friend were caught at the border crossing by agents in 2000.
How did they reveal that you used drugs?
During the concert of Khurd band that took place at the Wrestling Palace, policeman gathered some young guys. They searched everybody and arrested those who looked suspicious. They had been doing a research on drug users and they were collecting information about them. I and my Russian friend were sentenced to one-and-a-half years. Once I got out of prison in 2004, I was caught again. I have used drugs for almost 20 years, now my whole body aches as if I’m going to die today or tomorrow. I have to be under the supervision of a doctor all the time.
It’s illegal to use, sell and transport drugs in Mongolia. How were you able to find drugs?
I tried ice when I was in China. I thought I would stop after trying it once, but I got addicted to it. Narcotics are different from drugs. Those which are made out of chemical compounds such as ice are more dangerous. However, people are using it a lot in Mongolia. I don’t buy drugs. I used to smoke weed that I picked up by myself.
It is said that there are big drug trading networks in Mongolia. Do you know about it?
There are such networks. They import and sell it due to financial benefits. You know, there are some artists who use drugs in Mongolia. Moreover, those who work in law and defense sectors are linked up with drug use.
You said that you quit from harmful addiction, how did you manage to do that?
I was released from Maanit Prison of Tuv Province last June. I’ve been clean since that time. I was arrested at the Zamin-Uud border point and I was sentenced to seven years in a maximum security prison. However, I was released through the Amnesty Law after spending three years in that facility. I set a goal to not use drugs for the sake of my family, and the more I tried, the harder it seemed. When I had a desire to take drugs, in order to get rid of it, I was drinking vodka. I have also received treatment at the Narcology Center. If I hold back the temporary desire, then I feel better after a moment.
The low class is drinking vodka while the high class is taking drugs. Because it is beneficial for policemen, they have no interest to destroy it completely. They will have a job to do and chances to be promoted.
People say that drugs ruin both of your health and finances. How does it affect your health?
It’s impossible to stay healthy if you use drugs. I used to be 72 kg, but I am 58 kg now. I always sweat, wheeze, shake, hurt and feel dizziness as if I am drunk. I felt its damage more after I turned 30. I have been under the supervision of doctors at the National Center for Communicable Disease and another private hospital.
I heard that people experience hallucinations after drug use. Was there anyone who died because of it? Have you done something risky after you used it?
It affects differently depending on the temper and emotion of a person. My girlfriend fell to her death from window after she took a drug in the late 1990s. I didn’t have a right-minded day since that time. I was frustrated that I was crying and singing most of the time. I tried to commit suicide couple of times. Everything seemed as if fate discarded me.
You were sent to prison four times. May I ask about the condition of prisons?
The condition has changed since the new Law on Criminal Procedure took effect last July. Now all the prisoners wear prison uniform and eat the same food. Because the phone signal is blocked in prison, nobody can use a cell phone. Some time ago, it was lawless. Prisoners used to have cell phones, cook on their own and bring women. Police officers were inspecting once a month with dogs when I was in prison with DJ Uujii. I heard that they were doing that because it was announced that prisoners are taking drugs in Maanit Prison.
Weren’t the prisoners bringing drugs to prisons?
No. Prisoners can’t do that. But weed was growing in the prison area of Bulgan and Zuunkharaa.
Did you make the decision to not use it anymore when you were in prison?
Yes, I did it there. I thought a lot when I was there. Time makes people realize things. I have spent more than 10 years of my life in prison. I regretted a lot that I wasted that much precious time and worried my family. I was willing to accept responsibility but my family was suffering too much. How could it be nice to live in a small room with seven other prisoners and eat animal intestines most of the time?
We had to work a lot, such as breaking rocks and preparing wood in the mountain when we were in the maximum security prison in Bulgan Province. It made me think a lot when I was breaking rocks with huge sledgehammers until I’m exhausted in the middle of winter. We were burning lime whole day in Maanit Prison. I think this country is not helping prisoners to become rehabilitated.
The director of the prison doesn’t like those who are going their own way. They like snitches and those who suck up to them. How can prisoners live when they get out of prison if they’ve learned such behavior? But I was serving as a librarian in prisons. I like reading and writing. Currently, I am converting historic books written in old Mongolian script into Cyrillic. Also, I wrote an article called “Note of Maanit” and it’ll be published soon.
Can you talk about your family?
I have three siblings and am the eldest one. I used to have a wife and a child. Of course, we divorced. Who’d live with someone like me? I meet my son sometimes. My mother says, “My son, if you make another mistake your body can’t take it anymore.” She’d be happy if I drink vodka. All she is scared of is drugs. I regret so much that I made my poor mother live like this.
It seems like the sentence for drug use is light compared to how many people use them. Do you agree with this?
Those who trade ice and those who tried weed are sentenced the same in Mongolia. There is a big difference between a curious boy and the one who sells poison in order to get rich. I think the sentence should be different depending on the damage. For example, a person who sells drugs all the time was paroled after four years. If it was someone like me, they’d put me in prison immediately.
Big drug selling networks are linked to the police. They inform each other and are promoted. When I was caught for the first time, there were around 60 of us. I and my Russian friend protected all of them and were sentenced. Nowadays, guys are telling on one another in order to save themselves. They just call the police and tell the location of someone who bought drugs from them right after they took their money.
Mongolia does not care much about the treatment for drug addicts. What kind of treatment are you receiving currently?
In Mongolia, there is no comprehensive anti-addiction treatment. They offer treatment for poisoning and mental rehabilitation. It depends on the person’s consciousness, whether he or she stays away or stops using it. Anyone can get rid of this addiction if he or she really cares for their family. Medicine cannot save anyone. A man who was receiving treatment in the United States is using it back. It used to feel like there is a veil before my eyes when I don’t use it.
Nowadays, my whole body aches when I drink a shot of vodka, not to mention drugs. I want to stay with my mother longer. I’ll do my best to make this dream come true. Many people are helping and supporting me. One of them is Sh.Lkhagvasuren, head of the association that protects citizens from drugs. He even came to see me in prison, hospitalized me and bought medicines for me.
Do you want to work?
It’s hard to find a job for those who got out of prison. Even if I pass a job interview, the next day they’d call and say, “Meet our lawyer.” The lawyer would say, “You were sent to prison. We cannot hire you. Come back when your parole is over.”
I tried to explain myself, saying that I didn’t steal anything. It was a drug issue and I took the responsibility. I didn’t do any harmful things to others. But it didn’t work. Everyone refuses to hire me with the same reason.
Has your parole ended?
I am on parole.
Friends prod each other to make mistakes sometimes. Do they try to deprive you?
I barely meet people. I change my phone number every few days. Otherwise, they’d call me and say, “We have it, don’t you want to use it?” or “I need drugs. Help me find it.”
What do you want to say to youth about avoiding drugs?
It’s not a thing you should want. I want everyone to stay away from it if you don’t want to lose everything you have such as health, mind, and money. Not only me but also my family is suffering because of it. My whole body is aching all the time and is living under the supervision of doctors and policemen.
Moreover, many people are dying because of drugs. Being healthy is the only happiness. I also think that many movies and videos which promote drugs, alcohol, slaughter and fornication are being screened on TV, which has a bad effect on children.