Monday, February 9, 1998 Published at 11:25 GMT
Bhutan: a land frozen in time
All buildings must conform to ancient Bhutanese designs
The tiny kingdom of Bhutan lies in the Himalayan Mountains, with Tibet and China to the north and India to the south.
Indeed, the autocratic monarch, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, has gone to great lengths to preserve the culture and purity of the land and its people and to keep out Western influences.
Television and jeans are banned; only about 5,000 tourist permits are granted each year; and Westerners can only travel in organised tour groups.
By royal decree, all buildings must be constructed in traditional style with multi-coloured wood frontages, small arched windows and sloping roofs.
Bhutan is an absolute monarchy without a written constitution.
Its system of government is unusual in that power is shared by the King, the Council of Ministers, the National Assembly and the Head Abbot of Bhutan's 4,000 Bhuddist monks.
The King, who has four wives, all sisters, has been in power for 25 years and rules from a monastery-fortress on the outskirts of Thimphu, the capital.
Bhutan is one of the poorest nations in the world: in 1992 GNP per head was reckoned to be $468 a head.
Agriculture is the main source of income for most of the 600,000 Bhutanese citizens who grow potatoes, oranges and cardamom.
Timber is also important as about 60% of the total land area is covered in forest.
Only one paved road crosses the country and there is very little traffic.
On farmland and in the forest, no mechanised vehicles are used. Rice and potatoes are gathered by hand, planks are sawn and taken down the mountains on yaks and ponies.
The state religion is Mahayan Buddhism, although the ethnic Nepalese, called "southern Bhutanese", are Hindu.
These include organising demonstrations demanding democratic rights and refusing to recognise the King's authority, which amounts to treason.
1907 The first hereditary King of Bhutan is crowned.
1910 An Anglo-Bhutanese Treaty places Bhutan's foreign relations under the supervision of the Government of British India.
1949 After India becomes independent, the Indo-Bhutan Treaty of Friendship allows Bhutan to seek advice on foreign relations with the right to decide whether or not to accept such advice.
1953 King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck establishes the National Assembly.
1959 China takes control of Tibet and Bhutan grants asylum to 6,000 Tibetan refugees.
1972 The king dies and is replaced by his son, the Western-educated Crown Prince Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
1979 The National Assembly decrees that by the end of the year, refugees must accept Bhutanese citizenship or be repatriated.
1988 A census finds thousands of "illegal immigrants" in southern Bhutan. Many are in fact ethnic Nepalis, resident in Bhutan for some 20 years. The authorities impose highly unpopular measures requiring them to adopt northern Bhutanese traditions and culture.
1990 Following pro-democracy demonstrations in southern Bhutan and demands from ethnic minorities for a greater role in the country's political and economic life, thousands of Nepalis flee to refugee camps in Nepal.
The small and faction-ridden Bhutan People's Party (BPP) embarks on a campaign of violence and intimidation, blowing up bridges and looting schools.
1992 The former leader of the BPP, D K Rai, is sentenced by a Bhutanese court to life imprisonment.
The Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP) is founded in Kathmandu.
1993 Teknath Rizal, alleged to be the mastermind behind 'terrorist' activities in southern Bhutan, is jailed for life.
They would be placed in four categories: bona fide Bhutanese forcefully evicted; Bhutanese who emigrated; non-Bhutanese and Bhutanese who committed criminal acts
1996 The situation remains unresolved as Nepal demands all refugees should be accepted by Bhutan.
Bhutan suspects that many who claim to be Bhutanese are simply Nepalis attracted by a better standard of living, free education and health care.
1998 Prince Charles visits Bhutan.
Amnesty International Reports human rights violations against the ethnic Nepalese community and other groups.
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