The Kingdom of Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom in the eastern Himalayas, lying between China, India and just to the east of Nepal. Following the recent abdication of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in preparation for democratic reforms, the current king is his son King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.  Its capital since the 1950's is Thimphu.
Bhutan is most notable for its policy that "Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product" Bhutan discourages tourism, as they feel it erodes their national identity. Also in support of this policy, tobacco is banned, imported goods are heavily taxed, and television has only recently been allowed. With the increased democratisation of the country these policies may soon be relaxed however. 
Bhutan is an inland country between China to the north and India to the south. Very little flat lands lie within the country, as it is generally hilly to mountainous; the border with China consists of the Himalaya mountain chain, the tallest on earth.
- Area: 46,500 sq. km.
- Cities: Capital: Thimphu (pop. approx. 55,000) Other significant cities: Paro, Phoentsholing, Punakha, Bumthong.
- Terrain: Mountainous, from the Himalayas to lower-lying foothills and some savannah.
- Climate: Alpine to temperate to subtropical with monsoon season from June to September.
The people of Bhutan can be divided into three broad ethnic categories--Ngalops, Sharchops, and Lhotsampas. The Ngalops make up the majority of the population, living mostly in the western and central areas. The Ngalops are thought to be of [[Tibet|Tibetan origin, arriving in Bhutan during the 8th and 9th centuries A.D. and bringing Buddhism with them. Most Ngalops follow the Drukpa Kagyupa discipline of Mahayana Buddhism. In a country that is deeply rooted within the Buddhist religion, many people's sect of religion, as opposed to their ethnic group, characterizes them. The Ngalops predominate in the government, and the civil service and their cultural norms have been declared by the monarchy to be the standard for all citizens.
The Sharchops, who live in the eastern section of Bhutan, are considered to be descendants of the earliest major group to inhabit Bhutan. Most follow the Ningmapa discipline of Mahayana Buddhism. Sharchop is translated as "people of the east." The Ngalops, Sharchops, and the indigenous tribal people are collectively known as Drukpas and account for about 65% of the population. The national language is Dzongkha, but English is the language of instruction in schools and an official working language for the government.
The Lhotsampas are people of Nepali descent, currently making up 35% of the population. They came to Bhutan in the 19th and 20th centuries, mostly settling in the southern foothills to work as farmers. They speak a variety of Nepali dialects and are predominantly Hindu.
- Nationality: Noun and adjective--Bhutanese.
- Population: Approximately 672,425 (according to the 2005 census). Domestic and international estimates of the population vary greatly.
- Annual population growth rate: 2.082% (2007 est.). Density--45 per sq. km.
- Ethnic groups: Drukpa 50% (which is also inclusive of Sharchops), as well as ethnic Nepalese (Lhotsampas) 35%, and indigenous or migrant tribes 15%.
- Religions: Lamaistic Buddhism 75% (state religion), Indian- and Nepalese-influenced Hinduism25%.
- Languages: Dzongkha (official language), Bumthang-kha, English (medium of instruction), Sharchop-kha, Nepali.
- Education: Years compulsory--11. Literacy--59.5% (Ministry of Education General Statistics 2007). Primary school net enrollment rate 82.1% (UNDP). Women's literacy--59.5% (2007).
- Health: Infant mortality rate (2007 est.)--total: 96.37 deaths/1,000 live births; male: 94.09 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 98.77 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy --total population 67 years; male 69.1 years; female 59.5 years (Ministry of Education General Statistics 2007).
- Work force (2005): Agriculture--94%; industry--1%; services--5%. The unemployment rate is 3.1% (2005 est.).
Traditionally a decentralized theocracy and, since 1907, a monarchy, Bhutan completed its successful transition to a constitutional monarchy in 2008. Bhutanese officials began preparations for the first-ever elections in 2006, shortly before King Jigme Singye Wangchuck abdicated in December 2006. The National Council of the new bicameral parliament was elected in December 2007, and National Assembly elections followed in March 2008. The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) won 44 out of 47 seats in the latter election in which 80% of the 320,000 registered voters cast a ballot.
Migration by Nepalis into southern Bhutan began in the early 19th century. Currently these and other ethnic Nepalis, referred to as Lhotsampas, comprise 35% of Bhutan's population. In 1988, the government census led to the branding of many ethnic Nepalis as illegal immigrants. Local Lhotshampa leaders responded with anti-government rallies demanding citizenship and attacks against government institutions. Between 1998-1993, thousands of ethnic Nepalis fled to refugee camps in Nepal alleging ethnic and political repression. Currently, 107,000 refugees reside in seven camps. Bhutan and Nepal have been working for over seven years to resolve the refugee problem and repatriate certain refugees living in Nepal. The resettlement of Bhutanese refugees from the camps in Nepal to the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand is proceeding. The transition to democracy may improve the situation: of its 47 candidates, the DPT fielded nine Nepali-speakers. Officials from both the DPT and PDP have said that resolving the grievances of ethnic Nepalis is a priority.
The spiritual head of Bhutan, the Je Khempo--the only person besides the king who wears the saffron scarf, an honor denoting his authority over all religious institutions--is nominated by monastic leaders and appointed by the king. The Monk Body is involved in advising the government on many levels.
Bhutan is divided into 20 districts or dzongkhags, each headed by a district officer (dzongda) who must be elected. Larger dzongkhags are further divided into subdistricts called dungkhags. A group of villages are grouped to form a constituency called gewog, administered by a locally elected leader entitled a gup. There are 201 elected gups. In 2002, the National Assembly created a new structure for local governance at the geog level. Each local area is responsible for creating and implementing its own development plan, in coordination with the district.
Bhutan's early history is steeped in mythology and remains obscure. It may have been inhabited as early as 2000 B.C., but not much was known until the introduction of Tibetan Buddhism in the 9th century A.D. when turmoil in Tibet forced many monks to flee to Bhutan. In the 12th century A.D., the Drukpa Kagyupa school was established and remains the dominant form of Buddhism in Bhutan today. The country's political history is intimately tied to its religious history and the relations among the various monastic schools and monasteries.
The consolidation of Bhutan occurred in 1616 when Ngawana Namgyal, a lama from Tibet, defeated three Tibetan invasions, subjugated rival religious schools, codified an intricate and comprehensive system of law, and established himself as ruler (shabdrung) over a system of ecclesiastical and civil administrators. After his death, infighting and civil war eroded the power of the shabdrung for the next 200 years when in 1885, Ugyen Wangchuck was able to consolidate power and cultivated closer ties with the British in India.
In 1907, Ugyen Wangchuck was elected as the hereditary ruler of Bhutan, crowned on December 17, 1907, and installed as the head of state Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King). In 1910, King Ugyen and the British signed the Treaty of Punakha which provided that British India would not interfere in the internal affairs of Bhutan if the country accepted external advice in its external relations. When Ugyen Wangchuck died in 1926, his son Jigme Wangchuck became the next ruler, and when India gained independence in 1947, the new Indian Government recognized Bhutan as an independent country. In 1949, India and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which provided that India would not interfere in Bhutan's internal affairs but would be guided by India in its foreign policy. Succeeded in 1952 by his son Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Bhutan began to slowly emerge from its isolation and began a program of planned development. Bhutan became a member of the United Nations in 1971, and during his tenure the National Assembly was established and a new code of law, as well as the Royal Bhutanese Army and the High Court.
In 1972, Jigme Singye Wangchuck ascended the throne at age 16. He emphasized modern education, decentralization of governance, the development of hydroelectricity and tourism and improvements in rural developments. He was perhaps best known internationally for his overarching development philosophy of "Gross National Happiness." It recognizes that there are many dimensions to development and that economic goals alone are not sufficient. Satisfied with Bhutan's transitioning democratization process, he abdicated in December 2006 rather than wait until the promulgation of the new constitution in 2008. His son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, became King upon his abdication.
- ↑ https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/bt.html CIA World Factbook - Bhutan
- ↑ http://news.scotsman.com/opinion.cfm?id=660062007
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