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World's Youngest King Admits He Doubted Ability to Reign


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.

The 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.

The 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.

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