10/23/2008, 00.00
NEPAL
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Maoist government to integrate guerrillas into regular army

by Kalpit Parajuli
A committee is expected to supervise process incorporating the People’s Liberation Army and the Nepal Army. Nepal’s opposition parties are against the plan. Madheshi Rights Forum leader threatens secession for Terai region if plan is implemented.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepal’s government headed by Communist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal plans to integrate former Maoist guerrillas into the army. According to United Nations data, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had some 19,000 members who fought the regular army over a ten-year period.

“We are preparing to form a committee which will decide everything about PLA integration into Nepal Army,” said Ram Bahadur Thapa (aka Badal), a former PLA commander who is now defence minister.

Following the Communists’ victory in the new Republic’s first elections in April, PLA troops are waiting for a decision about their future.

Former guerrillas want integration into the regular army. Senior Maoist leader Mohan Baithya even claimed that since the “PLA successfully fought against Nepal Army in the past, it is far better than the Nepal Army. Therefore, we can improve its standards by integrating the PLA into the national army.”

Opposition leaders disagree. Former Prime Minister and Nepali Congress President Girija Prasad Koirala is against integration, also for reasons of international politics.

“The Nepal Army is not operating only as a national force,” he said, “but is also involved internationally with the United Nations in various countries. Its standards should therefore not be changed to accommodate the armed force of a party.”

“How could the UN recognise a politically-indoctrinated army as international peacekeeper?” the former premier asked.

Madheshi Rights Forum leader and government member Upendra Mahato goes one step further. As leader of a movement that represents the southern region of Terai, he said that “if the Maoist PLA is integrated into the Nepal Army, we will form thousands of revolutionary groups in Terai and go for an underground insurgency,” adding that ‘this will lead to the separation of Terai from Nepal.”

The United Nations special peace envoy for Nepal, Ian Martin, said that the world body will work for an agreement between Nepal’s government and political parties in this matter but in the meantime it wants camps housing former PLA guerrillas dismantled.

Since the elections hundreds of them have been living in such sites and the United Nations wants them removed before UN Secretary general Ban Ki-moon visits Nepal in early November.

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