News / Asia

Anxious Himalayan Nation Prepares for Unprecedented Hosting of Dignitaries

The Himalayan nation of Bhutan prepares for the 16th summit-level meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Thimphu, 24 Apr 2010
The Himalayan nation of Bhutan prepares for the 16th summit-level meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Thimphu, 24 Apr 2010

Multimedia

Audio

The Himalayan nation of Bhutan is gearing up to host the two-day South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation annual summit of leaders beginning April 28. Officials in the small and remote country are billing the event as a "coming of age" watershed for Bhutan, which rarely finds itself in the international spotlight.

This sleepy capital in a Himalayan valley with an elevation of more than 2,300 meters high, is home to 100,000 Bhutanese who do not have much experience playing host to visiting dignitaries. A president or prime minister from a neighboring foreign country might drop in every few years, but never have seven heads of government come calling simultaneously.

The Secretary of the Information and Communications Ministry, Kinley Dorji, tells VOA News that makes the SAARC summit an unprecedented event in Bhutan's history.

"It's the biggest meeting we've held, we've ever held," he said.  "And it will be the biggest for a long time because I don't see Bhutan being able to host any of the larger international gatherings."

During the quarter century of SAARC's existence, Bhutan repeatedly backed away from taking its turn as summit host, citing lack of infrastructure and inability to provide adequate security.

Visiting leaders will stay in a complex recently built to house Bhutan's Cabinet members.

Every hotel and guest house in Thimphu has been booked by delegation members and the more than 100 visiting foreign journalists.

That has shopkeepers in central Thimphu delighted.

Tenpa, who uses only one name, runs a small store selling traditional and modern garments, as well as a bit of jewelry.

The merchant says many visitors will surely drop in to his shop and he is expecting a bonanza of additional sales.

Not everyone is caught up in the whirlwind. For Buddhist nun Mindu Zangmo, walking back to her monastery from a hospital visit, it is all a bit confusing.

She says she has no idea what is SAARC but if all these important foreigners are coming, she figures, it must be good for Bhutan.

Many others seem to agree with that optimistic assessment. Hundreds of civil servants, students and recent graduates have volunteered and undergone training to become cooks, butlers and janitors to provide manpower at summit venues.

In addition to host Bhutan and the seven other SAARC countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - there will be a number of official observer delegations: Australia, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid