Bhutan’s monarchy was established in 1907 under the guidance of the British. The two entities signed a treaty stating that Britain would not interfere in Bhutan’s internal affairs, but would continue to direct its foreign affairs. That role passed along to India after 1947.
In 1949 India and Bhutan formalized an agreement that defined the annual subsidies Bhutan received from India. The agreement also stated India’s responsibilities in Bhutan’s defense and foreign relations. In 2007, this agreement was renegotiated, giving Bhutan more autonomy in conducting its foreign policy. Bhutan still continues to coordinate its foreign affairs decisions with India.
In March 2005, Bhutan’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck agreed to introduce democratic reforms by bringing out a draft constitution. Elections were held in March 2008 which transformed Bhutan into a two-party parliamentary democracy, but a constitutional monarchy. The pro-monarchy Bhutan Harmony Party won a landslide victory led by former prime minister Jigme Thinley. The opposition People’s Democratic Party also supports the monarchy.
In December 2006 Wangchuck passed the throne to his Oxford educated son Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck – the new head of the state.
In the 1990s, the former King’s attempts to emphasize the majority Buddhist culture resulted in political strife and resentment among the country’s ethnic Nepalese community. Violent protests led to thousands of Nepalese fleeing to refugee camps. Currently there are 100,000 Nepalese refugees from Bhutan in camps run by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in Nepal.
Some left-wing elements within the refugees have been blamed for bombings in Bhutan. The Bhutanese security forces believe they are behind the wave of
bombings that rocked the kingdom in the run-up to the 2008
parliamentary elections. Attempts have been made by the governments of Nepal and Bhutan to resolve the refugee crisis, but with no significant results.
Sources: BBC, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.
Kingdom of Bhutan
Form of Government:
Constitutional monarchy; special treaty relationship with India
Year of Independence:
1907 (became a unified kingdom under its first hereditary king)
Lamaistic Buddhist 75%, Indian- and Nepalese-influenced Hinduism 25%
47,000 sq km
Dzongkha (official), Bhotes speak various Tibetan dialects, Nepalese speak various Nepalese dialects
64 years (men), 67 years (women)
1 ngultrum = 100 chetrum
Electricity (to India), timber, cement, handicrafts, cardamom and other spices, gypsum, fruit, precious stones
GDP - Per Capita (PPP):
$5,200 (2007 est.)
International Dialing Code: