Bhutan to crown new king

High in the Land of the Thunder Dragon, final preparations are underway for the coronation of a new ruler who will become both the world’s youngest reigning monarch and head of state of its youngest democracy.

Bhutan will enjoy three days of national celebrations following Thursday’s ceremony to crown 28-year-old Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as the Himalayan nation’s new head. And while he will not have the same absolute powers as his predecessors - Bhutan held its first parliamentary elections earlier this year - the new king will retain a crucial influence within Bhutanese society.

“It is the most significant event in the lives of the present generation of Bhutanese citizens,” Jigmi Thinley, the country’s prime minister and a staunch monarchist, told Reuters. “Even though in terms of governance we are now a democracy, there is no elected individual who will enjoy the kind of respect, trust, confidence and reverence our kings enjoy.”

Many believe the young, Oxford-educated king represents the latest step in the modernisation of Bhutan, which has only had television since 1999 and for decades was all but cut off from the outside world. The man who will wear the country’s traditional Raven Crown, has been waiting for this moment since his father, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, announced his decision to abdicate two years ago. Since then, palace officials have been waiting for an astrologically suitable day for the 52-year-old former king to place the crown on his son’s head and formally end his own rule.

The last coronation was almost 35 years ago in 1974 when the fourth King, was crowned at the age of 17. At the time, he said in his address: “The future of the nation lies in the hands of the people.”

The ceremony will take place the throne room of the white-walled fortress in the capital, Thimphu, in the presence of officials and politicians from across the region. From India President Pratibha Patil, Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling coalition and foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee are all expected to attend. Reports suggest that in a deliberate move to underline the monarchy’s commitment to democracy, other royals were not invited.

Bhutan, with its striking natural scenery and philosophy of gross national happiness which stresses the importance of the 600,000-strong population’s spiritual and mental well-being, usually earns positive headlines. But the tiny country, sandwiched between India and China, faces considerable problems, not least its slow progress to modernity. Unemployment, crime and drug dependency are all rising.

There is also controversy about the way Bhutan treated its Nepali ethnic minority. In the early 1990s, the country stripped those people of their citizenship and forced them into exile, apparently in a bed to ensure a homogenous culture inside the country. Up to 100,000 refugees have been living in camps in Nepal ever since.

Earlier this year, planeloads of refugees began making the journey to the US, which agreed to resettle around 60,000 of them. Those who opted to make the journey said they had little alternative. In March, when the first flights began, refugee Jay Narayan Adhikari, told officials: “We chose to resettle because there was no other outlet. Talks between Nepal and Bhutan have produced no results.” His wife, Sita, added: “Everyone says ‘America, America, America’, but I don’t know much about it. It’s only for the sake of the children that we are ready to go.”

While there was initial public scepticism about the election earlier this year, the poll eventually had a turn-out of around and 80 per cent and saw the Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party (BPPP) take 44 of the 47 seats in the new parliament. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won the remaining three seats. The BPPP was seen as being slightly more supportive of the monarchy than its rival.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?