Area: 18, 147 square miles
Capital: Thimphu (pop. 20,000)
Languages: Dzongkha (official) Gurung,
Ethnic make-up: Bhote 60%, Napalese 25%
Religion: Buddhist (state religion 75%)
Currency: Indian rupee
Literacy rate: 15%
Exports: timber, rice, coal, fruit
Trading partners: India
Climate and Geography
Bhutan is a small country located in the Himalayas. It does have a richly scenic land though. There are broad, grassy valleys; forested mountain ranges, and heavily wooded jungle areas. There are three geographic regions in which the country is divided. Northern Bhutan lies in the Great Himalayas where the mountains reach as high as 24,000 ft. and the weather is cold. Central Bhutan is in the middle of the Himalayan region where there are several fertile valleys. The Duars plain, along the southern border of Bhutan is a hot, humid, and rainy area. This jungle region is filled with malaria infested swamps. (Karan, 224)
Bhutan is the poorest of all the Himalayan countries. It?s underdeveloped, but has the potential to develop it?s economy. Farming is Bhutan?s chief economic activity. Different crops are grown depending on it?s elevation. Rice and buckwheat are grown up to 5000 ft. Barley and wheat are grown up to 9000 ft. Coal is the only mineral mined. It?s economy hasn?t been able to develop due to it?s remoteness, lack of convenient markets, qualified technicians, and transportation facilities. In 1974 Bhutan began to welcome tourists. In 1990, more than 1500 tourists visited Bhutan, and tourism was the largest source of foreign exchange. There are no railroads, but by 1990 there were about 2336 km of roads linking many parts of the country. (Karan, 224)
Not much is known of Bhutan?s historical origins before the late 17th century. Although, Tibetan Buddhism was brought into Bhutan by the mid 16th century; monasteries dot the inner Himalayan valleys. Most of the 17th and 18th century Bhutan had an aggressive policy toward it?s neighbors. This eventually brought them into conflict with the British East India Company in 1772. A series of civil wars plagued Bhutan during the late 19th century. A treaty in 1910 between Britain granted Bhutan internal autonomy and an annual subsidy. But the British still had control of the country?s foreign relations. China?s territorial claims helped strengthened Bhutan?s relationship with India. This was followed by economic aid agreements, military assistance, and diplomatic representations. (Kaminsky, cd-rom)
A Tibetan lama named Sheptoon Lapha proclaimed himself king and Bhutan became it?s own political state some 300 years ago. Bhutan?s government is a limited monarchy. Jigme Singye Wangchuck is the current king of Bhutan. He is advised by the Royal Advisory Council and he appoints the members of this council. Legislative power is held by the national assembly. 106 of 151 members are elected by the public, the rest are picked by the king or indirectly elected. All of Bhutan?s foreign affairs have been handled by India. Now that the United Nations has accepted Bhutan into it, they can start to establish their own diplomatic relations. (Kaminsky, cd-rom)
Bhutan doesn?t really seem the ideal place to live. It might be nice to go check it out for a while, but I wouldn?t like to stay there for an extended period of time. I haven?t even heard of the languages they speak. I have a hard enough time with Spanish. Being ruled by a king doesn?t sound like fun; a democracy is a lot better than a monarchy. I like living in cities and Bhutan?s largest city, which is the capital, has only 20,000 people. So to me, Bhutan isn?t sound like a good place to settle down in.
"Bhutan". The 1996 World Almanac,
"Flags of Bhutan". www.theodora.com/flags/bhutan_flags.html, 5/30/97.
Karan, P.P. "Bhutan". Lands and Peoples, 1983.