The history of Bhutan | The monarchy | Jigme Dorje Wangchuck | Internal reforms

Internal reforms

Early on in his reign, the king realised that, in order to develop further, his country needed important socio-economic reforms. In 1956 serfdom was abolished and the re-distribution of land started. Nobody was allowed to own more than ten hectares of land. What was left over after the re-distribution was completed, was given to the landless people, who were also exempted from taxes. Later most of the monasteries also lost large sections of their land holdings through re-distribution. As compensation the monks received financial support from the government.

The structural reforms were accompanied by important constitutional reforms. In 1953 the king established a National Assembly (tshogdu) consisting of 150 members. The Assembly met twice a year to discuss all kinds of matters of national importance and to enact laws. Of the 150 members, 105 were elected representatives of the people, 33 were nominated representatives of the government, and twelve represented the monk-body.


In 1965, the Royal Advisory Council was constituted with nine members, consisting of six representatives of the people, two representatives of the monk-body and one nominee of the king. The Royal Advisory Council members' task is to advise the king and to verify the implementation of the laws passed by the Assembly. A modern judiciary system, with codified laws, was also established, as well as a High Court, which originally - after 1968 - functioned as highest Court of Appeal. The final power of decision, however, always rested with the king.

The history of Bhutan
.  Bhutan before ..
.  Shabdrung Ngawang ..
.  The monarchy
.  .  Jigme Namgyel
.  .  Ugyen Wangchuck
.  .  Jigme Wangchuck
.  .  Jigme Dorje Wangchuck
.  .  .  International ..
.  .  .  Internal reforms
.  .  Jigme Singye Wangchuck
Bhutans religion
Gods and Sacred ..

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Ceremonial textile (chagsi pangkheb), hand-spun silk with colourful weft patterns; size: 272 cm x 79 cm; loan from Anthony Aris
These »cloths for hand-washing« are only used by the upper classes and high clerics at rituals or official occasions. The name, however, has not got anything to do with the use of the cloths: they are placed over tables or hung on the wall behind the seats of high personalities. Cloths with yellow colouring are carried a few steps behind the king at official events.

After King Jigme Dorje Wangchuck announced that Thimphu would be the permanent capital, he had the Tashichö Dzong enlarged. Until today it is the seat of the government and has hosted the National Assembly's conferences.
Photo by Robert Dompnier