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Sunday, July 19, 1998 Published at 18:11 GMT 19:11 UK

World: South Asia

King of Bhutan accused of hypocrisy

Political reform - the King's new clothes?

The main exiled Bhutanese dissident group, the United Front for Democracy in Bhutan, has accused King Jigme Singye Wangchuk of introducing political reform only in a desperate attempt to refurbish the global image of his country.

[ image:  ]
In a statement issued in Calcutta, the UFDB chairman, Thinley Penjore, said the King was just bringing back reforms he had already cancelled.

The reforms were originally introduced in 1971 by the king's father, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, to reduce the absolute power of the monarchy.

They include measures allowing the Bhutanese national assembly to force the monarch to abdicate.

[ image: Thimphu - Bhutan's capital]
Thimphu - Bhutan's capital
Under the new rules, the king will have to stand down in favour of the crown prince if there is ever a two-thirds majority in the assembly in favour.

King Wangchuck has also given the assembly the right to elect the majority of members in the country's cabinet.

He said the King had put his own supporters in key positions in the Bhutanese national assembly before offering it the opportunity to challenge royal decisions.

A government spokesman said the exiled opposition was reacting in disarray to democratic reforms which had caught them off guard.

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