Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A moving story and a shining example

For more than 30 years His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck has ruled The Land of the Thunder Dragon with what is widely acknowledged to have been great wisdom and benevolence. By almost all accepted indicators - literacy rates, life expectancy, household incomes - Bhutan, which remained closed to foreigners until 1961, has flourished.

Now, however, the fourth Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) is asking his 750,000 mainly Buddhist subjects to replace him with a directly elected parliamentary democracy. As Bhutan's chief justice, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, said last week during a rally to discuss the proposed changes, it is almost "unique in human history" for a monarch to use his absolute authority to cede power to his people.

Equally unique, perhaps, is that the ordinary citizens are desperately trying to persuade their monarch to stay on.

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