Thursday, April 20, 2006


Protests have spread across NepalAn 18-hour curfew is force in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, ahead of a major demonstration planned by opposition parties. Ten people have been killed at rallies in two weeks of protests calling for an end to King Gyanendra's direct rule.
Authorities have said anyone violating the curfew would be "shot on sight". The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in the capital Kathmandu says protests have already started in some parts of the city, despite the curfew. Thursday's pro-democracy rally, planned in defiance of a ban on public meetings, would mark the start of the third week of countrywide marches and strikes. The government has accused Maoist rebels have infiltrated rallies to sow violence.

We have been very concerned about the closing of the space for peaceful demonstrations in Nepal - Kieran Dwyer, UN human rights spokesman

Soldiers are pushing back the few people who have ventured out, our correspondent says. "We are just ordinary people, not members of any political party. This is a peaceful protest. Yet the king has declared a curfew," said 27-year-old resident Sudarshan Rimal. A few groups of tourists escorted by the police have left for the airport to catch flights. A group of people have gathered in the Samakhusi area defying the curfew. Nepali Congress party leader Shobhakar Parajuli told the AFP news agency that demonstrations would go ahead despite the curfew. "The state has taken every step to repress our movement," he said. "We will not remain silent, we will defy the curfew order and stage demonstrations as scheduled," he said. The curfew does not extend outside Kathmandu and protesters are expected to gather on the outskirts of the capital.

Locals and tourists in Nepal give their views on the crisis -
In pictures

In addition to the curfew, the government has doubled the period of detention orders on a number of imprisoned human rights campaigners and opposition politicians. In previous curfews over the past two weeks, passes were issued to tourist, press, diplomatic and emergency vehicles. Wednesday was the 14th day of a nationwide shutdown called by the opposition, angered by the king's decision to sack his government and assume direct powers in February 2005. In what was the worst day of violence since the protests began, security forces opened fire on protesters in the eastern town of Chandragardi, killing four people and wounding dozens.
Reports from inside the town, 600km (370 miles) east of the capital, suggest that at one point the crowd of anti-royal demonstrators started to run. The security forces are said to have channelled protesters towards a stadium and then opened fire.

International condemnation of the crackdown has been growing. In a BBC interview a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, Kieran Dwyer, expressed concern over the "escalation of excessive use of force" by the authorities. An envoy from India - which borders Nepal and is a major ally - is visiting to try to help defuse the crisis. In talks on Thursday, Karan Singh is expected to try and bring pressure on the monarch to take concrete steps towards reconciliation with the political parties. Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran is also expected to attend the talks amid increasing concern in India about the political crisis. In advance of the envoy's arrival, the Nepalese authorities released two senior opposition figures - the Communist Party (UML) leader Madhav Kumar Nepal and Ram Chandra Poudel of Nepali Congress - after three months in detention.
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