60. Bhutan (1907-present)

 

Pre-Crisis Phase (December 17, 1907-April 4, 1964):  Ugyen Wangchuck became the first hereditary monarch (Maharaja) of the Kingdom of Bhutan on December 17, 1907.  The government of Bhutan signed the Treaty of Punakha with the British government on January 8, 1910.  Under the agreement, Bhutan permitted its foreign relations to be control by the British government in exchange for a British guarantee of Bhutan’s independence.  The British government also agreed to provide 100,000 rupees in economic assistance to the government of Bhutan.

King Ugyen Wangchuck died on August 21, 1926, and he was succeeded by his 21-year old son, Prince Jigme Wangchuck.  Pashupathi Adhikari, the head of the village of Lamidara in Chirang District, lodged a protest against land taxes in 1927.  As a result, Pashupathi Adhikari was expelled from Bhutan and his land confiscated.  Representatives of the governments of Bhutan and India signed the Treaty of Punakha on August 8, 1949.  Under the agreement, the Indian government took over from the British government the responsibility for guiding the foreign relations of Bhutan.  India also agreed to provided the government of Bhutan some 500,000 rupees ($105,000) in economic assistance each year.  King Jigme Wangchuck died on March 24, 1952, and he was succeeded by his 22-year old son, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck on March 30, 1952.  King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck’s brother-in-law, Jigme Palden Dorji, was appointed as prime minister in 1952.  King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck established the 38-member National Assembly (Gyalyong Tshogdu Chhenmo) in 1953.  Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Bhutan on September 22-27, 1958.  During the visit, Prime Minister Nehru offered Indian economic assistance to the government of Bhutan.  On August 25, 1959, Prime Minister Nehru declared that the Indian government would defend Bhutan if it were attacked by a foreign power.  On September 18, 1959, the Indian government agreed to build a series of roads from India to Bhutan.

Crisis Phase (April 5, 1964-December 13, 1964):  Prime Minister Jigme Palden Dorji was assassinated by Naik Jambey, a member of the Royal Bhutan Army, in the town of Phunchholing on April 5, 1964.  Lhendup Dorji was appointed as acting prime minister.  Naik Jambey was arrested by government police on April 8, 1964.  Forty-one individuals, including Deputy Commander of the Royal Bhutan Army General Namgyal Bahadur and former Quartermaster General of the Royal Bhutan Army Bachu Phugyal, were arrested by the government in Thimphu on April 13-14, 1964.  On April 26, 1964, Bachu Phugyal confessed to plotting to killed Prime Minister Jigme Palden Dorji.  On May 8, 1964, Bachu Phugyal died of wounds suffered from a suicide attempt on April 27, 1964.  On May 16, 1964, four individuals, including General Namgyal Bahadur, were sentenced to death by a special tribunal for their involvement in the assassination of Prime Minister Jigme Palden Dorji.  On May 17, 1964, three individuals, including General Namgyal Bahadur, were executed for their involvement in the assassination of Prime Minister Jigme Palden Dorji.  The death sentence for the fourth individual, Naik Doley, was commuted to life imprisonment.  On July 4, 1964, two more individuals, Lt. Sangey Dorji and Naik Jambey, were executed for their involvement in the assassination of Prime Minister Jigme Palden Dorji.  On November 27, 1964, it was reported that King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck had foiled an armed attempt to depose the monarch.  King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck assumed full executive powers on November 28, 1964.  Five individuals, including the deputy commander of the Royal Bhutan Army General Ugyen Tanghi and Rin Singh Dorji, fled to Nepal on December 6, 1964.  Accused of complicity in a plot to overthrow King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Prime Minister Lhendup Dorji resigned on December 13, 1964.

Post-Crisis Phase (December 14, 1964-September 18, 1990):  King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck established the Royal Advisory Council (Lodoi Tsokde) in 1965.  King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck survived an attempted assassination on July 31, 1965.  King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck vested full legislative power in the National Assembly on November 23, 1968.  King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck died of a heart ailment in Nairobi, Kenya on July 21, 1972, and he was succeeded by his 16-year old son, Prince Jigme Singye Wangchuck.  The government uncovered a plot to assassinate King Jigme Singye Wangchuck on June 1, 1974.  The formal coronation of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck took place on June 6, 1974.  The Bhutan Citizenship Act of 1985, which modified the Bhutan Citizenship Act of 1977, went into effect on June 10, 1985.  The citizenship law classified persons within Bhutan who were not residents on or before December 31, 1958 as illegal immigrants.  Tek Nath Rizal, an ethnic-Nepali Bhutanese and former member of the Bhutan Royal Advisory Council, established the People’s Forum for Human Rights (PFHR) in Nepal on July 7, 1989.  Tek Nath Rizal was arrested by Nepal government police in Kathmandu and extradited back to Bhutan on November 16-17, 1989.  The Bhutan People’s Party (BPP) was established in West Bengal, India on June 2, 1990.  The BPP submitted a memorandum to King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in July 1990, demanding the establishment of a democratic system in Bhutan.

Crisis Phase (September 19, 1990-July 18, 2008):  Some 50,000 Bhutanese pro-democracy demonstrators, mostly of Nepali origin, clashed with government troops in southern Bhutan beginning on September 20, 1990, resulting in the deaths of at least two government policemen and two demonstrators.  More than 400 individuals were arrested by government policemen in September 1990.  Some 135,000 Bhutanese of Nepalese were displaced between 1990 and 1995, including some 108,000 Bhutanese who fled ended up in refugee camps in eastern Nepal.  The Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP) was established on February 7, 1992, and the Human Rights Organization of Bhutan (HROB) was established on September 7, 1992.  The Association of Human Rights Activists in Bhutan (AHRA-Bhutan) was established on November 16, 1992.  Tek Nath Rizal was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1993.  Anti-government demonstrators clashed with government security forces in eastern and southern Bhutan in February 1994, resulting in the deaths of eight demonstrators.  The Druk National Congress (DNC), whose membership was mostly non-Nepali, was established by Rongthong Kunley Dorji on June 16, 1994.  On March 19, 1996, the European Parliament (EP) approved a resolution calling on the government of Bhutan to ensure the repatriation of the Bhutanese in Nepali refugee camps.  The United Front for Democracy in Bhutan (UFD) led by Rongthong Kunley Dorji, including the Bhutan Democratic Party (BDP) and the Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP), was established in July 1996.  Rongthong Kunley Dorji, leader of the UFD, was arrested in New Delhi on April 18, 1997.  King Jigme Singye Wangchuck vested full executive power to the six-member Council of Ministers (Lhengye Zhungtshog), and appointed Jigme Thinley as prime minister on July 20, 1998.  The Bhutan People’s Party (BPP) submitted a 10-point memorandum to King Jigme Singye Wangchuck on June 3, 1999.  Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was appointed as prime minister on July 9, 1999.  King Jigme Singye Wangchuck ordered the release of 200 political prisoners, including Tek Nath Rizal, on December 17, 1999.  King Jigme Singye Wangchuck called for a written constitution on September 5, 2001.  The Communist Party of Bhutan – Marxist-Leninist-Maoist (CPB-MLM) was established on April 22, 2003.  The Human Rights Council of Bhutan (HRCB) was established on July 13, 2003.  Jigme Thinley was appointed as prime minister on August 30, 2003.  On March 27, 2005, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck unveiled a draft constitution established a constitutional monarchy, two-party democratic system, 75-member National Assembly, and 25-member National Council.  Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup of the PDP was appointed as prime  minister on September 5, 2005.  On December 17, 2005, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck announced his decision to hand over power to his son and to hold multiparty elections in the country.  King Jigme Singye Wangchuck abdicated in favor of his 26-year old son, Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, on December 14, 2006.  Prime Minister Khandu Wangchuk and six government ministers resigned on July 26, 2007.  Maoist militants bombed four different locations, including the capital Thimphu, on January 20, 2008, resulting in injuries to one individual.  No one was killed or injured in a Maoist bombing in the village of Ghmauney in Samste District on February 3, 2008.  Government policemen killed at least five suspected Maoists and arrested 17 suspected Maoists from March 1 to March 12, 2008.  One individual was accidentally killed in an explosion in the district of Dagana on March 13, 2008.  One individual was injured in Maoist bombings in Chukha District and Pasakha on March 15-17, 2008.  Parliamentary elections were held on December 31, 2007 and March 24, 2008, and the Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party (Druk Phuensum Tshogpa-DPT) won 45 out of 47 seats in the National Assembly.  The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won two seats in the National Assembly.  Jigme Thinley of the DPT was appointed as prime minister on April 9, 2008.  On July 18, 2008, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck ratified the country’s first constitution, which formally established a parliamentary democracy with the monarch as head of state.  At least 18 individuals were killed, and more than 100,000 individuals were displaced during the crisis.

Post-Crisis Phase (July 19, 2008-present):  The formal coronation of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck took place on November 6, 2008.  Maoist militants killed four forest rangers in the village of Singye on December 30, 2008.  More than 65,000 ethnic-Nepalese refugees from Bhutan were resettled in the U.S. and more than 5,000 in Canada as of April 15, 2013.  Parliamentary elections were held on May 31 and July 13, 2013, and the PDP 32 out of 47 seats in the National Assembly.  The DPT won 15 seats in the National Assembly.  Tshering Tobgay of the PDP was appointed as prime minister on July 30, 2013.

[Sources:  British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), June 29, 1998, July 2, 1998, July 7, 1998, July 8, 1998, November 26, 1998, January 27, 1999, February 28, 1999, December 20, 1999, December 7, 2002, March 27, 2005, April 4, 2005, December 18, 2005, September 19, 2006, November 10, 2006, December 15, 2006, July 26, 2007, December 31, 2007, March 12, 2008, March 24, 2008, November 6, 2008, May 31, 2013, July 13, 2013; Indo Asian News Service (IANS), February 4, 2008, March 15, 2008; Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, April 25-May 2, 1964, August 8-15, 1964; New York Times (NYT), August 9, 1949, October 28, 1952, September 27, 1958, September 28, 1958, August 24, 1959, August 26, 1959, September 1, 1959, September 19, 1959, March 17, 1960, June 13, 1960, October 21, 1962, April 6, 1964, April 7, 1964, April 8, 1964, April 15, 1964, May 10, 1964, May 17, 1964, May 18, 1964, June 15, 1964, July 10, 1964, November 28, 1964, November 29, 1964, December 6, 1964, December 7, 1964, December 15, 1964, August 2, 1965, December 26, 1970, July 23, 1972, July 25, 1972, August 22, 1972, December 11, 1973, January 1, 1974, June 2, 1974, June 3, 1974, June 7, 1974, June 9, 1974, October 7, 1990, September 17, 1992, June 6, 1993, July 12 1998, December 23, 1999, December 18, 2005, December 17, 2006, April 24, 2007, January 21, 2008, March 24, 2008, March 25, 2008, June 15, 2013; Reuters, March 27, 2008, March 28, 2008, November 4, 2008, January 1, 2009, May 28, 2012.]

 

Selected Bibliography

“Dissent in Bhutan,” Economic and Political Weekly, February 17-24, 1990, vol. 25 (7/8), p. 355.

Kharat, Rajesh S. “Bhutanese Refugees in Nepal: Survival and Prospects,” Economic and Political Weekly, January 25-31, 2003, vol. 38 (4), pp. 285-289.

Mathew, Joseph C. “Political Transition in Bhutan,” Economic and Political Weekly, April 8-14, 2006, vol. 41 (14), pp. 1311-1313.

Mathew, Joseph C. “Bhutan: Democracy from Above,” Economic and Political Weekly, May 10-16, 2008, vol. 43 (19), pp. 29 and 31.

Muni, S. D. 1991. “Bhutan in the Throes of Ethnic Conflict,” India International Centre Quarterly, vol. 18 (1), pp. 145-154.