Deposed king of Nepal moves out of royal palace

Updated: 2008-06-12 07:50

 

Nepal's deposed King Gyanendra addresses the media at the Narayanhiti royal palace in Kathmandu yesterday. Reuters

Nepal's deposed king has left the royal palace for the final time and began life as a civilian in the newly declared republic, saying he had no plans to leave the country.

Ousted King Gyanendra said he handed in his royal scepter and crown of peacock feathers, yak hair and jewels to the Nepali government yesterday as he prepared to move to one of his former summer palaces on a forested hill on the outskirts of Katmandu.

There, he will be protected by police but will otherwise live as any other Nepali - albeit an incredibly wealthy one who some believe should still reign.

"I have no intention or thoughts to leave the country," Gyanendra said in his first public statement in months. "I will stay in the country to help establish peace."

The vast majority of Nepalis have made it clear they are pleased to see the monarchy no more, and while Gyanendra's throne was formally abolished last month, yesterday's move carries great symbolism in a nation that was ruled by Shah dynasty monarchs for 239 years.

Nepal was declared a republic last month after elections that saw the country's former leftist rebels win the most seats in a special assembly charged with rewriting the constitution.

"I have accepted the decision," Gyanendra told reporters yesterday.

Speaking in a grand palace hall decorated with portraits of the Shah dynasty kings, stuffed tigers and ornate chandeliers, he said: "I have done all I can to cooperate with (the government's) directives."

The Narayanhiti palace has been Gyanendra's home since becoming king in 2001, after a palace massacre in which a gunman, allegedly the crown prince, assassinated King Birendra and much of the royal family before killing himself.

Government officials plan to turn the pink concrete 1970s palace into a museum.

After his brother's death, Gyanendra assumed the throne. But the killings helped pierce the mystique surrounding a line of kings who had once been revered as reincarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu.

No proof has ever surfaced that Gyanendra was involved in the massacre, but rumors have swirled for years that he was behind the slaughter.

Yesterday, he dismissed the accusations as a baseless "campaign to defame the royal institution."

In 2005, Gyanendra seized power from a civilian government, a move that made him deeply unpopular. He said he needed total authority to crush the leftist insurgency. But the rebellion intensified, and a year later massive protests forced Gyanendra to restore democracy, after which the rebels began peace talks.

The king does not leave public life a pauper, even if his palaces have been nationalized and his $3.1 million annual allowance cut.

Before assuming the throne, he was known as a tough businessman with interests in tourism, tea and tobacco. He also inherited much of his family's wealth after the palace massacre.

The government is letting Gyanendra live in the summer palace - which was among the royal residences that were nationalized - because the former king's son is living in the family's private Katmandu residence.

Agencies

(China Daily 06/12/2008 page11)