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June 2, 1999
Bhutan gets Internet, TV in one go!The eldest queen of Bhutanese King Jigme Singye Wangchuk has inaugurated an Internet service in this remote Buddhist country in the Himalayas that until now has not even had television.
The launch was the first ceremony in the modest celebrations to mark the king's 25th year on the throne.
Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, eldest of four sisters whom the King married, clicked the button to launch an Internet and email service following an elaborate Buddhist ceremony.
Officials said the service would reach all 20 districts, many of which don't have paved roads.
In a brief speech, the queen said this is the right time for Bhutan to be connected to the outside world. But it would continue to temper modernisation with its traditional values.
For years, Bhutan has had a deliberate policy of isolation, fearing outside influences would undermine its absolute monarchy, freedom and culture.
Bhutan, squeezed between India and China, has just 600,000 people, most of them subsistence farmers.
In Thimphu, the capital, satellite dishes have begun sprouting on rooftops, although they have been officially banned until now.
Many urban Bhutanese, however, have TV sets to watch movies rented from video stores.
The arrival of television will herald tremendous social change, said the country's only newspaper, Kuensel, a weekly.
'If we are to record the language pattern, interests, sense of humour, values, fashion and behaviour of our children now and repeat it six months later, we will see a dramatic difference,' it said in a recent editorial.
The King took the throne after the death of his father, King Jigme Dorjee, on June 2, 1974, when he was only 17 years old. The 42-year-old king, whose title Druk Gyalpo means 'precious ruler of the dragon people', is the fourth in a dynasty that has ruled Bhutan since 1907.
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