05/03/2010, 00.00
NEPAL
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Army on alert, Maoist protests continue

by Kalpit Parajuli
Over 200 thousand people participate in the general strike announced yesterday by the Maoist Party. Army ready to respond in case of violence. More protests are planned in the coming days over failed negotiations between the government and former rebels.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The general strike called by the United Communist Party (Maoist) of Nepal (Ucpn-m) ongoing since 1 May, could bring the country to the brink of another civil war. Currently there are no clashes, but the government has ordered security forces and army to open fire if unrest should break out. Yesterday a crowd of over 200 thousand people, armed with bamboo sticks brought the capital to a standstill demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and the signature by next May 28 of a new constitution. The event was also attended by students, women and children. New protests are planned in the coming days, shops, schools and factories are closed.

"We need to maintain order in the country - Nepalese Minister for the Interior Bhim Rawal, tells AsiaNews - and create a peaceful atmosphere among the people." "While doing this – he adds - we can deploy the army and other security personnel. If the Maoists become violent they have been instructed to respond to attacks. " Police allegedly seized a few demonstrators, carrying Molotov cocktails, knives and other weapons.

The government threats do not scare the Maoist Party. Their spokesman Dinanth Sharma said: "If the government opens fire, we will be ready to respond to the attack ... If the 22 parties of the coalition government does not ensure a logical conclusion to the peace process and complete the new constitution, we will declare a new constitution for the people who gave us the mandate of the Constituent Assembly as the first party. " "The parliament - he adds – should be dissolved and another way out found for a government led by Maoists who are now ready to govern."

After centuries of monarchy and decades of guerrilla war, the birth of the Republic of Nepal (2006), the UN and the interim government have decreed a peace process involving the disarmament of Maoist militias and their absorption into the army. In 2008, guided by their leader Prachanda, the Maoists  won the election. But President Ram Baran Yadav, fearful of the power of the Maoists, has refused so far to integrate former rebels into the army. On May 4, 2009 Prachanda stepped down as prime minister and is now the leading protests.

 

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