Upon the coronation of the current Druk Gyalpo — Dragon King — of Bhutan in 2008, His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck announced to his subjects that he would “not rule over them as a king”. Instead, he promised that he would protect them as a father, care for them as a brother, and serve them as a son. He would give them everything and keep nothing.
Further, he emphasised the importance of the nation’s youth for the Kingdom’s future and swore he would not rest until he provided inspiration, wisdom and skills necessary to help Bhutan’s youth fulfil their own aspirations and their worth to the nation.
It’s been nearly ten years since he made his coronation pledge and he has done everything humanly possible to fulfil it, leading Bhutan’s 11th newspaper The Bhutanese to hail him as “the People’s King”. Continuing his father’s project of democratisation within the ancient Himalayan kingdom, King Khesar has seen the final transformation of Bhutan from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. In the run up to the first parliamentary elections in 2008 months before his coronation, the King himself travelled the country educating people about the new Bhutanese constitution and encouraging people to vote. This is a practice he continues today, often speaking to younger Bhutanese subjects on the importance of education, entrepreneurship and civil duty.
Further, His Majesty always makes a point of addressing the country’s youth whenever he has the opportunity to do so. He frequently attends the National Graduates’ Orientation Programs to meet with young graduates and impress upon them the importance they have to the future of Bhutan. As they begin their new lives as adults, the King does his utmost to inspire and guide them, and propel them to further academic and vocational excellence.
The Bhutanese also emphasised the King’s humility and openness towards his subjects, and his own father, who was King until his abdication in 2006. In a culture that places great emphasis on due filial duty and respect towards elder generations, the newspaper is pleased to note that King Khesar continues to treat his father with great respect. When the King intended to marry Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema in 2011, he ensured he informed his parents and sought their permission before he did so. He also ensured that he introduced his new bride to the people as well, and sought their blessing as well.
Given the two were indeed wed in 2011 to much celebration and joy throughout the kingdom, we can only guess it was indeed given.
As well as inviting the people to take part in the celebrations of his family, the King has also done his part to make sure his people experience their own joys. One of the traditional duties of the King of Bhutan is called kidu, a sacred duty towards the care of his people. Anyone may appeal to see the King himself, or else apply to receive kidu from various official sources. By it students struggling through education can receive aid, ailing subjects receive medical assistance, and dispossessed farmers can receive land. The King makes a point of stopping frequently on his travels through the country so everyone can have the chance to approach him with their troubles.
During natural disasters, the King is nearly always on the scene in a matter of hours. When Bhutan was devastated by earthquakes and floods in 2009 and 2011, His Majesty personally led and supervised rebuilding efforts.
The King’s charisma and devotion have won him many fans abroad too. When the King and Queen of Bhutan visited Japan in 2011 shortly after the earthquakes that struck Fukushima, the Japanese were reportedly enthralled by the King and his country. An earlier trip to Thailand in 2006 as Crown Prince had, likewise, enamoured the Thai people to Bhutan to such an extent that visitors from the country have been steadily rising ever since.