Bhutan. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck passed away surprisingly in December 2006 and handed over power to his son, Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck. According to CountryAAH, major public holidays in Bhutan include Independence Day (August 8) and New Year (January 1). The king, who has ruled for 34 years, had previously said he would leave the throne in 2008, when the country’s first free elections will be held. He himself gave no explanation, but one co-worker said that the early departure was because the Crown Prince needed time to get used to the government.
In September, the authorities had presented the details of the 2008 election, which will mean a transition from absolute monarchy to parliamentary democracy. The election is part of the proposal for the country’s first constitution that King Wangchuck presented in 2005. According to the authorities, an unlimited number of parties and parliamentary candidates should be able to stand in the first round of elections, but in the second and decisive only the two parties with the most votes can participate.. Parliament should have two chambers; an upper house with 20 seats and a lower house with 75 seats. Bhutan will be assisted by India in preparing and conducting the historic elections. The two countries also signed an agreement on cooperation on free trade and hydropower during the year.
The question of the more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees who have been living in eastern Nepal since the early 1990s remains unresolved. In November, the UN Refugee Agency again appealed to Bhutan to take back all or part of the refugees, claiming that they were deprived of their citizenship in Bhutan or expelled for conducting campaigns for democracy. New talks between Bhutan and Nepal are expected to be held in 2007. So far, despite several negotiations and even promises, Bhutan has not returned a single refugee. The refugees live in camps, are dependent on food shipments from the UN and are not allowed to work. The United States and other Western countries have offered to accept the refugees, but some of them believe it would legitimize ethnic cleansing. Other refugees believe that a move to the West is their only opportunity to get away from misery.