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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Nepal: Stumbling Home

June 29, 2008

Strategy Page (USA)
June 28, 2008

Last month, the 601 members of the Constituent Assembly declared
Nepal a republic. The king has left the palace in Katmandu, and moved
to another mansion in the suburbs. In the process of removing the
king as head-of-state (after his family held the job for 239 years),
it was revealed that over 15 percent of the national budget was being
spent on maintaining the royal family. The royals are on their own
now, but the kings is believed to have assets in excess of $200
million. Despite the violence last year, the economy grew about two
percent. But much more economic growth will be needed to placate the
growing (because of the new government) expectations of Nepalese.

Maoists control 37 percent of the seats in parliament, and the other
parties have agreed to let the Maoists try and form a coalition
government. This will be difficult, as the fall of the king brought
out many of the ancient problems the monarchy had not solved, but had
suppressed for centuries. The widespread poverty and ethnic
differences are now out in the open and demanding solutions. The
major violence of the Maoist rebellion (ended in 2006 with the peace
deal) has been replaced by less violent unrest. The Hindus in the
south and the tribes in the hills have formed political parties and
are demanding changes that will help them out economically (less
feudalism, more education and growth) and politically (more
autonomy). Radical Maoist factions are still trying to create a
communist dictatorship.

Although the Maoists have been cooperative and willing to compromise,
many Nepalese still do not trust these radical communists. Thus
Maoist demands to lead the new government, and to integrate some of
its 20,000 fighters into the army, are viewed with suspicion. The
Maoists have now agreed to control Young Communist League violence,
in return for some of its fighters joining the army, and the police.
This makes the non-Maoist parties (still the majority) nervous.
Meanwhile, the special police (the 15,000 strong Armed Police Force),
established in 2001 to fight the Maoists, has been turned into riot
police and reinforcements for the border police. The Armed Police
Force is still a major counter for any political violence, including
the Young Communist League.

Meanwhile, the main sources of unrest are not going away. The Maoist
Young Communist League is active in using threats and physical
violence to gain control of local governments in the countryside.
This is a violation of the 2006 peace deal, and Nepalis wonder if the
Maoist politicians are unable, or unwilling, to control their violent
youth auxiliary.  Then there are the Tibetan refugees, who have been
demonstrating in support of recent anti-Chinese violence in Tibet.
For decades, Tibetans fleeing over half a century of Chinese rule,
have been crossing the border into Nepal. Currently, nearly 3,000
Tibetans a year sneak across the border. Most go on to India, where
the government there has tolerated a large Tibetan exile community.
But there are 20,000 Tibetan refugees in Nepal, and they can be a
problem because Nepal likes to maintain good relations with its big
neighbors (India and China). To that end, over a thousand
anti-Chinese Tibetan demonstrators have been arrested in the last month or so.
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