Ex-king quits palace in new republic of Nepal
Nepal's deposed king left the royal palace in Kathmandu on Wednesday, handing over to officials his former symbols of office — a sceptre and a crown made of yak's hair, emeralds and bird of paradise feathers.
A newly elected constituent assembly declared the country a republic late last month and gave the former king, Gyanendra Shah, 15 days to move out of the Narayanhiti Palace, the traditional residence of Nepal's 239-year-old royal dynasty.
In a rare address to the media before he left the palace for good on Wednesday, Shah said he would now live in Nepal as an ordinary citizen of the new republic.
"I have no intention or thoughts of leaving the country," he read from a prepared statement in front of dozens of local and international journalists. "I will stay in the country to help establish peace."
Speaking in a grand hall decorated with fading portraits of former kings, stuffed Bengal tigers and crystal chandeliers, Shah said he accepted the abolition of his position as monarch.
"I have done all I can to comply with [the government's] directives," he said.
Killings cloud reverence for kings
A once revered institution, the Nepali monarchy fell into increasing disrepute after Shah took over the throne when his brother King Birendra and eight other members of the royal family were killed by a drug-crazed Crown Prince Dipendra in June 2001. Dipendra later killed himself.
Many Nepalis believed Shah had been behind those killings, despite the findings of an official inquiry that the crown prince had been the gunman who slaughtered his father, mother, sister, brother and other relatives.
The outgoing king's unpopularity deepened after the massacre when he dismissed elected governments and assumed dictatorial powers to put down an armed insurgency by Maoist rebels.
Instead, Nepal faced international isolation and the Maoists made common cause with dismissed democratic politicians, forcing Shah to surrender power in 2006.
The Maoists won the most seats in the new assembly and will probably lead the next government.
Most Nepalis have welcomed Shah's deposal, despite the fact that the largely Hindu populace of the country once regarded their king as a living god.
King kept us poor: Nepali farmer
"This marks the beginning of a new Nepal and the end of a dynasty that has done nothing but harm this country," said Devendra Maharjan, a farmer who came to Kathmandu to see the ex-king leave the palace. "If it had not been for the kings, Nepal would probably not have remained a poor country."
Most of Nepal's 29 million residents live on less then $2.00 a day.
Shah enters private life theoretically stripped of his former royal privileges, but the new government has allowed him to continue using another ex-royal residence near Kathmandu. Despite losing his palaces and annual royal stipend of about $3 million, Shah is still one of the richest men in Nepal, with business interests in tea and tobacco farms and tourism.
Nepali media have called in recent weeks for a full accounting of his assets to determine if any were obtained through abuse of office.
The authorities are also permitting his elderly stepmother and his father's last surviving concubine to stay in Narayanhiti palace, even as plans are enacted to turn it into a museum.
The two women are in their late 80s and are too old to be forced to move, the government decided.
With files from the Associated Press