Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck becomes king of Bhutan

Friday, November 7, 2008

The new king of Bhutan
Image: Royal Family of Bhutan.

Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck yesterday became the new king of Bhutan following the abdication of his father, who started the country's transition to democracy two years ago.

The new king, who is the world's youngest monarch at age 28, gave his accession speech to around 30,000 people, and celebrations across the country are planned for the coronation which is due to take place.

“My deepest concern is that as the world changes we may lose these fundamental values on which we rest our character as a nation and people,” he said in his speech. “Henceforth, even as more dramatic changes transform the world and our nation, as long as we continue to pursue the simple and timeless goal of being good human beings... we can ensure that our future generations will live in happiness and peace.”

“Ultimately without peace, security and happiness we have nothing. That is the essence of Gross National Happiness,” he continued. This comment was in reference to the Bhutanese alternative to Gross Domestic Product, Gross National Happiness, which aims to put happiness above monetary wealth when developing government policy.

“Throughout my reign, I will never rule you as a king. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother and serve you as a son,” he continued. “As the king of a Buddhist nation, my duty is not only to ensure your happiness today but to create fertile ground from which you may gain the fruits of spiritual pursuit and attain good karma.”

“As citizens of a spiritual land you treasure the qualities of a good human being — honesty, kindness, charity, integrity, unity, respect for our culture and traditions, love for our country and for God.”

Following his speech, the new king handed out 20,000 commemorative coins to mark his new role in a country that did not have a currency until the 1960s.

The king that preceded Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck gave Bhutan many modern ideas, including democracy. He also introduced roads, schools and hospitals, consequently increasing the country's life expectancy by 26 years during his reign.