Sunday, December 20, 2009
Clashes with Maoists in Nepal could spell end of political peace
Clashes on the streets of Kathmandu on Sunday could signal the end of a tense political peace that has held for seven months since Maoists resigned en masse from Nepal's central government in a protest. Riot police fired tear gas and beat protesters with batons after demonstrators threw rocks at officers, the Reuters international news service reported. As many as 100 protesters and 17 police officers were injured. The protests kicked off a three-day strike aimed at returning the Maoists to power, which they gave up in a constitutional dispute with Nepal's president over control of the military. The Maoists, who gave up a 10-year-long insurgency to enter politics in 2006 and won a majority of parliament in a special election two years later, left the government after the president, Ram Baran Yadav, reinstated the army chief after he was fired by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the Maoist leader also known as Prachanda. Prachanda tried to fire the army commander over his refusal to integrate some 19,000 former Maoist rebels into the country's armed forces, as required under the 2006 settlement. United Nations human rights observers said Nepal's police used excessive force in charging the protesters and beating them with batons, Reuters said.