Nepal’s Last King Hospitalized After Heart Attack

Gyanendra Shah, the last king of Nepal, has been hospitalized in Kathmandu after an apparent heart attack. The hospital’s chief cardiologist told the press Sunday morning that Shah was in an intensive care unit but was out of danger.

Shah is the younger brother of late King Birendra, who was killed along with his wife and children in a massacre at the palace in June 2001. He was the only member of the family not at the palace that day, fueling suspicion that he was involved. A commission of inquiry later blamed Birendra’s eldest son, Dipendra, for the killings. Dipendra died three days later of a gunshot wound to the head.

In early 2004 Gyanendra dismissed parliament and took direct control of the government, a highly unpopular move. Two years later a people power-style movement forced him to step down. After an election in 2008 the new Assembly declared Nepal to be a republic, abolishing the monarchy.

The ex-King lives as a private citizen outside the capital in what was once a royal hunting lodge. He has appeared in public a few times each year, usually on pilgrimages to temples around the country. Though he remains unpopular, a substantial minority of Nepalis want the monarchy to return. Well-wishers thronged to the hospital Sunday, and former prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa visited him in the afternoon.

If Gyanendra is unpopular his son, Paras, is even more so. The once-crown prince is believed to have been involved in hit-and-run auto accidents, and he has brandished a pistol in public places a number of times. He has been arrested twice in Thailand for drug charges. Paras has had two heart attacks, in 2007 and 2013.

Nepal’s monarchists’ thread of hope lies with Paras’s son Hridayendra, who at 12 years old is too young to have alienated the public. Gyanendra was allegedly offered a deal in 2007 by the then prime minister to save the monarchy if he and Paras would abdicate in favor of the boy.

Gyanendra is expected to be released after on Wednesday.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.