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U.S. supports repressive regime in Nepal

by Sage Monday, May. 27, 2002 at 5:02 AM
sagenepal@hotmail.com Boston

In order to continue the "state of emergency" against the wishes of parliament, King Gyanendra dissolved parliament. The press is under strict censorship, and government security forces have been acting with impunity, engaging in torture and summary execution, and killing of noncombatants. Yet the U.S. has increased support for the Nepali state.

Nepal's King Gyanendra dissolved the Nepali parliament on May 22. The King and Prime Minister Deuba wanted to extend "emergency rule", which curtails freedom of the press and gives the army and police sweeping powers in their fight against the Maoist guerrilla insurgency.

Factions in both the majority Nepali Congress party and almost the whole minority party were opposed to extending the state of emergency, which requires a two-thirds vote. The measure was not likely to pass.

Dissolving parliament is, surprisingly, within the King's constitutional power, revealing that fundamentally Nepal remains a monarchy with democratic trappings. The King also has full sovereignty over the Royal Nepalese Army.

Three ministers have resigned in protest over the dissolution of parliament, and Prime Minister Deuba is being suspended from the Nepali Congress party for his complicity with the dissolution.

Over 100 journalists have been arrested and detained in Nepal since the declaration of the state of emergency six months ago. Many are still in detention. Several newspapers have been shut down. FM radio stations are prohibited from broadcasting news, leaving only the state-run Radio Nepal to broadcast news. All copies of one issue of Nepal's largest English-language daily, the Kathmandu Post, were siezed by the government for printing photographs of Maoist rebels in a "too favorable" light, according to the government. Journalists are self-censoring, fearing interrogation and arrest by government censors.

The government security forces have killed noncombatants and tried to cover up the executions and intimidation by demanding affadavits from villagers that the slain were killed in combat situations, according to several news reports by foreign journalists in Nepal. Security forces have also summarily executed captured Maoists instead of holding them prisoner. There have also been numerous reports of torture perpetrated by the Nepali police, a continuation of a long-running police tradition in Nepal.

In light of such impunity against international conventions on human rights in warfare, the U.S. has nonetheless pledged to increase ongoing foreign military assitance to Nepal by million this year. "It's obviously an internal matter to be worked out within Nepal's democratic system through procedures established by their constitution," said State Department spokesman Philip Reeker as quoted by the AFP newswire. "They certainly continue to struggle against the Maoist insurgency that we've talked about and we reiterate our support for the right of the government of Nepal to safeguard their citizens against the Maoists guerrillas within the framework of the constitution."

"The dissolution of parliament does not affect our plans to provide economic and security assistance to Nepal," he said.

The Bush administration and the government of Nepal are using the events of September 11 to legitimize U.S. financing of the Nepali military through the Department of Defense's "foreign military financing" program. Just after September 11, references to the insurgents by the government of Nepal, and mainstream media inside and outside of Nepal, switched from using the word "Maoists" to "terrorists". Thus, the class war in Nepal has become part of the global "War on Terrorism", despite the fact that there are no known connections between the Nepali insurgents and Al Qaeda or any other religious fundamentalist group.

Nepal Solidarity Network: http://nepalsolidarity.net/

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