The small Buddhist nation of Bhutan with 750.000 inhabitants is known for its monasteries, fortresses and dramatic landscapes. The Bhutanese monarchy was established with the first king in 1907. In 1910, Bhutan became a British protectorate, and later and Indian protectorate after India gained independence. This is despite its location between the powerful China and India.
Dr Pommaret explores how the Bhutanese monarchy has been a main factor of positive change from a historical perspective, arguing that the country owes its identity and political system to the long-term vision of its rulers. Dr Pommaret shows that modernisation and innovation have become a royal tradition in Bhutan and that the progressive approach of the kings of Bhutan has brought not only development but also democracy to the country. Thus, Bhutan’s kings changed its political system from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy, to allow for democratic elections, as Dr Pommaret describes.
This challenges the established idea that Asian monarchies are conservative institutions. Dr Pommaret speaks on how the conjunction of monarchy and democracy is possible, based on the enactment of Bhutan’s first Constitution in 2005 and the first democratic elections in 2008.
Dr Francoise Pommaret grew up in the Congo and holds a Masters degree in the history of art and archaeology from the Sorbonne, France. She completed her studies in Tibetan at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales in Paris. Her doctoral thesis was awarded the Prix Delalande-Gueroineau from the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres. She is the Director of Research at the National Centre for Scientific Research, France and an Adjunct Professor at the Institute of Language and Culture. Since 1981, the focus of her work has been Bhutan, and she has given lectures on Bhutanese history around the world. Dr Pommaret worked with the Bhutan Tourism Corporation for five years. She has worked as a consultant for UNESCO, guest-curated exhibitions on Bhutan and published many scholarly articles and books on the culture and history of Bhutan. Dr Pommaret is also The Honorary Consul of Bhutan in Paris and the president of the French Amis de Bhutan association. She is the recipient of the French Légion d'Honneur and of the Gold Medal of the National order of Merit of Bhutan.
Members of the RGS, their guests and others are most welcome to attend this event, which is HK$150 for RGS Members and HK$200 for guests and others. This event is free of charge for Student Members.