As many as one of every 12 Bhutanese gathered in a stadium Friday to hear a
rare address to the nation from their new king. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman
was there for the speech by the world's youngest monarch and has this report
from Thimpu, the capital of the small Himalayan nation of Bhutan.
It is believed to
be the largest-ever gathering of Bhutanese in one spot. An estimated 50,000
people spent Friday in the national stadium celebrating the coronation of Jigme
Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.
The traditional three cheers came after the
28-year-old king, in a rare public speech by a Bhutanese monarch, acknowledged
that when his father passed on the responsibilities to him two years ago he had
serious doubts as to whether he was capable to shoulder the responsibilities.
Fifth Druk Gyalpo or King of the Land of the Thunder Dragon, calls his ascension
to the throne a matter of destiny. But he says he will work tirelessly to serve
the people his entire life.
His speech and the festivities were aired on
national television, which normally does not broadcast during most of the day.
During the day of celebration in the 2300 meter high capital,
traditional dances and songs were performed as the king and other members of the
royal family watched.
Although the young king told his Buddhist
subjects he is wanting for nothing and has no material desires, in accordance
with tradition, he was presented with a number of gifts. Among them: several
satchels of coins, nine bags of cereals, five bales of textiles and a number of
animals, including three elephants, several sheep, a pair of yaks, two horses
and a mule.
During the afternoon, the Fifth Druk Gyalpo, whom many here
already refer to as "The People's King," left his reviewing stand to mingle with
the crowd. Bhutanese handed him white ceremonial scarves which he placed around
the necks of his subjects.
The monarch, partly educated in the United
States and England, becomes Bhutan's first sovereign under the Himalayan
nation's written constitution, signed less than four months ago.
country also held its first national democratic elections this year, making it
the world's youngest democracy, another reform introduced by the new king's
father, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The Fourth Druk Gyalpo, who himself was given
the Raven Crown at the age of 17, came to international prominence for
envisioning the development concept of "Gross National Happiness" for the former
feudal and isolated state.