09/27/2006, 00.00
NEPAL – CHINA
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Beijing starving Nepal to stop Tibetans from fleeing

by Prakash Dubey
Chinese authorities are blocking lorries taking food from Tibet to the Nepali district of Mustang because they might be used by Tibetan refugees trying to escape to India. The lives of more than 10,000 are at risk from hunger.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – More than 10,000 people are at risk of starvation as a result of a ban on food exports from Tibet to Nepal imposed by Beijing in order to stop Tibetans from fleeing their homeland.

Since August overland links from Tibet into the northern Nepali district of Mustang have been totally cut. This has had the effect of exacerbating an already serious food shortage in the area and is affecting a largely Buddhist population that has strong blood ties to Tibetans.

Balananda Basyal, head of the Nepalese Food Corporation depot in the town of Lomanthang in upper Mustang district, told AsiaNews that famine was widespread in the area until the government and international agencies were able to ensure the residents' survival. However, "with the collapse of the [former royalist] government aid has stopped. We can only get food from Tibet but now the Chinese ban has caused such shortages that we'll soon start to starve".

Human rights activist Ram Ekbal Choudhary explained that the Chinese have imposed the ban "on the excuse that Tibetans use the lorries carrying food to flee their region through Nepal in order to go to India and the Dalai Lama".

This accusation, he immediately added, "is ridiculous. There was no need to take drastic measures that endanger the lives of hundreds of people. China has security forces all along the border. Why doesn't it use them to check the lorries?"

"If refugees can cross the border, it is obvious that it is because somehow they are able to bribe the guards who are supposed to stop them. Perhaps they [the refugees] play on the guards' compassion," he said.

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