The Dragon King

As Bhutan an­tic­i­pates demo­cratic re­forms, Jigme Kh­e­sar Nam­gyel Wangchuck ral­lies for the peo­ple’s cause.

Southasia - - Bhutan Kingdom - By Asma Sid­diqui Asma Sid­diqui is a free­lance jour­nal­ist who writes on so­cial is­sues.

On 17 De­cem­ber 1907, the Wangchuck dy­nasty, a hered­i­tary monar­chy, was es­tab­lished in Bhutan, af­ter oust­ing the al­most three hun­dred years old Bud­dhist theo­cratic rule of His Ho­li­ness, Zhab­drung Ngawang Nam­gyel. Sir Ugen Wangchuck, gov­er­nor of the Trongsa district, be­came the first king of Bhutan with di­rect sup­port from Bri­tish In­dia. The sec­ond king of Bhutan was Jigme Wangchuck, fol­lowed by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and then King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who ab­di­cated the throne in 2006 in fa­vor of his son. The present King of Bhutan, Jigme Kh­e­sar Nam­gyel Wangchuck is the fifth monarch in the lin­eage of the Wangchuck dy­nasty. He was the world’s youngest head of state un­til he was sur­passed by Kim Jong-un of North Korea.

King Jigme Kh­e­sar Nam­gyel Wangchuck was born on 21 Fe­bru­ary 1980 and is the el­dest son of the fourth Dragon King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. He grad­u­ated from Mag­dalen Col­lege, Univer­sity of Ox­ford, with a de­gree in the For­eign Ser­vice Pro­gram and In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions. Though Wangchuk be­came the King of Bhutan on 14 De­cem­ber 2006, he was not for­mally crowned un­til 6 Novem­ber 2008, an aus­pi­cious year that marked 100 years of monar­chy in Bhutan. The corona­tion cer­e­mony for the King com­prised of an an­cient, col­or­ful rit­ual, at­tended by thou­sands of for­eign dig­ni­taries, in­clud­ing the Pres­i­dent of In­dia, Prat­i­bha Patil. Ac­cord­ing to CNN re­ports the Bhutanese peo­ple painted street signs, hung fes­tive ban­ners and dec­o­rated traf­fic cir­cles with fresh flow­ers, to wel­come their King.

Wangchuk was crowned the King of Bhutan when his fa­ther ab­di­cated in his fa­vor. His fa­ther, Jigme Singye Wangchuck had as­cended the throne at the age of 20 in the year 1972. He is per­haps best known in­ter­na­tion­ally for his over­ar­ch­ing devel­op­ment phi­los­o­phy of “Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness.” Sat­is­fied with Bhutan’s tran­si­tion into a democ­racy, he ab­di­cated in De­cem­ber 2006, be­liev­ing that his son should have hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence as the na­tion’s leader be­fore pre­sid­ing over a trans­for­ma­tion in the coun­try’s form of government. Ac­cord­ing to the na­tional news­pa­per, Kuensel, he an­nounced to his cab­i­net that as long as he him­self con­tin­ued to be King, “the Crown Prince would not gain the ac­tual ex­pe­ri­ence of deal­ing with is­sues and car­ry­ing out the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the head of state. With par­lia­men­tary democ­racy to be es­tab­lished in 2008, there was much to be done; so it was nec­es­sary that he gained this valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence.”

On the other hand, the Bhutanese peo­ple felt be­trayed af­ter be­ing com­pelled by the regime to de­mand the es­tab­lish­ment of an in­clu­sive and vi-

The young king be­gan his reign over­see­ing the de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion of his coun­try by pre­sid­ing over the last ses­sions of the par­lia­ment where elec­toral laws, land re­form and other im­por­tant is­sues were de­lib­er­ated.

brant democ­racy. Many an­tic­i­pated that the tran­si­tion would de­fine the role and re­spon­si­bil­ity of both king and the peo­ple. How­ever, the peo­ples’ right to par­tic­i­pate in na­tion build­ing by ex­er­cis­ing their vot­ing fran­chise was not forth­com­ing in the sys­tem of ab­so­lute monar­chy. As a re­sult of a ve­he­ment de­mand for democ­racy, the ab­so­lute monar­chy was com­pelled to trans­form into a con­sti­tu­tional monar­chy.

Jigme Kh­e­sar Nam­gyel Wangchuck has also pro­moted the tran­si­tion to democ­racy. The young king be­gan his reign over­see­ing the de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion of his coun­try by pre­sid­ing over the last ses­sions of the par­lia­ment where elec­toral laws, land re­form and other im­por­tant is­sues were de­lib­er­ated. He stated that the re­spon­si­bil­ity of next gen­er­a­tion of Bhutanese was to en­sure the success of democ­racy. He also trav­eled ex­ten­sively around the coun­try to en­cour­age par­tic­i­pa­tion in the up­com­ing demo­cratic ex­er­cises, speak­ing mainly to the youth of Bhutan. He stressed upon the need for Bhutan to strive for greater stan­dards in ed­u­ca­tion, busi­ness and civil ser­vice. His reign has seen the enactment of the Con­sti­tu­tion of 2008 as well as the demo­cratic elec­tions of both houses of Par­lia­ment and three lev­els of lo­cal government – dzongkhag, gewog and thromde. Many government ini­tia­tives were pre­vi­ously un­der­taken by the new King with a view to strengthen the sys­tem in prepa­ra­tion for demo­cratic changes in 2008. The first elected par­lia­ment for­mally adopted the Con­sti­tu­tion of the King­dom of Bhutan on 18 July 2008.

The Crown Prince, pop­u­larly known to the peo­ple of Bhutan as ‘Dasho Kh­e­sar’, ac­com­pa­nied his fa­ther on tours through­out the King­dom to meet and speak to the peo­ple. In May, he rep­re­sented Bhutan at the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly and made his first speech to the United Na­tions where he ad­dressed is­sues re­lated to the wel­fare of mil­lions of chil­dren around the globe. He also at­tended Thai King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej’s An­niver­sary Cel­e­bra­tions in June in Bangkok. The youngest of the vis­it­ing roy­als, the Prince caused a sen­sa­tion, giv­ing rise to a le­gion of fe­male fans in Thai­land. The Thai press dubbed him “Prince Charm­ing,” pub­lish­ing his pho­to­graph and run­ning sto­ries on him and tourism in Bhutan for sev­eral weeks af­ter he had left Thai­land.

Fol­low­ing his 2006 visit to Thai­land as Crown Prince, the King has been im­mensely pop­u­lar in Thai­land. The num­ber of Thai tourists vis­it­ing Bhutan has in­creased steadily. In Novem­ber 2011, the King and Queen Jet­sun made a state visit to Ja­pan, be­com­ing the first state guests to the coun­try since the 2011 earth­quake. The Royal Visit had a sim­i­lar ef­fect, with re­ports that the Ja­panese were in­fat­u­ated with the King and coun­try.

With the new King reign­ing smoothly, the peo­ple seem sat­is­fied and happy with both the monar­chy and the new sys­tem of democ­racy. As Bhutan en­ters a new era of glob­al­iza­tion, this has been a wel­come change in the coun­try.

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