THIMPHU (AFP) — Bhutan's new king vowed Friday to shield his remote, staunchly traditional and insular Himalayan nation from the negative forces of globalisation.
In a speech the day after his lavish coronation ceremony, 28-year-old Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck said he would protect the landlocked country's unique culture and traditions by pursuing the principle of 'Gross National Happiness.'
"My deepest concern is that as the world changes we may lose these fundamental values on which we rest our character as a nation and people," King Wangchuck, now the world's youngest reigning monarch, said in a speech to tens of thousands of people.
"Henceforth, even as more dramatic changes transform the world and our nation, as long as we continue to pursue the simple and timeless goal of being good human beings... we can ensure that our future generations will live in happiness and peace," he said.
"Ultimately without peace, security and happiness we have nothing. That is the essence of Gross National Happiness."
The crowning of the new king Thursday capped a year of sweeping changes for the Buddhist country, which is sandwiched between Asian giants India and China but has never been colonised.
Bhutan held its first democratic elections for a new parliament and prime minister in March, as part of a plan by the former king to modernise the country by relinquishing the Wangchuck dynasty's absolute power.
It was the revered former king, who is 52, who devised the principle of pursuing national happiness rather than focussing on purely economic indicators.
He abdicated two years ago, saying he wanted to match the shift to democracy with a change of face in the white-walled palace that overlooks Thimphu.
The new king, an Oxford-educated bachelor, is widely viewed as having brought a more common touch to the royal family. Immediately after being crowned, he stood for hours personally greeting thousands of well-wishers.
"Throughout my reign, I will never rule you as a king. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother and serve you as a son," he said in his speech.
"As the king of a Buddhist nation, my duty is not only to ensure your happiness today but to create fertile ground from which you may gain the fruits of spiritual pursuit and attain good karma.
"As citizens of a spiritual land you treasure the qualities of a good human being -- honesty, kindness, charity, integrity, unity, respect for our culture and traditions, love for our country and for God," he said.
Bhutan, home to just over 600,000 people, is one of the most remote places on earth.
It had no roads or currency until the 1960s, allowed television only in 1999 and continues to resist the temptation of allowing mass tourism -- preferring instead to allow access to only small organised groups of well-heeled visitors.
The king's first speech was delivered to at least 30,000 people in Thimphu's main stadium, the scene of traditional dance, military parades and Buddhist rituals throughout the day.
National celebrations marking the coronation end late on Saturday.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »