Nepal: Frustration over government inability to stem atrocities

KATHMANDU, 5 June 2007 (IRIN) - Sharmila Chettri and her family have tried desperately to get back farmland recently seized by Maoist workers in Chitwan District, nearly 300km west of Kathmandu, but in vain.

"We went to our village more than 15 times to ask the Maoist cadres to return our land but they only threatened to assault us," Chettri told IRIN. She said the former rebels still walked around in the villages openly displaying their pistols in clear breach of a peace treaty the rebels signed with the Nepalese government in November 2006.

Despite orders by top Maoist leaders to Maoist activists to return all properties seized during the hostilities, the latter have simply turned a deaf ear, said local civilians.

"I'm trying to get help from local farmers... and have promised to donate small plots of land to them if they convince the local Maoist cadres to agree to return my farmland," said Puja Thapa, a local villager from Nawalparasi, 400km south of Kathmandu.

Villagers like Chettri and Thapa have started to flee their homes again despite the peace process and after nearly 11 years of violence that displaced over 200,000 families and killed over 14,000 people, according to human rights groups.

"Even today, we are forced to pay donations and feed Maoist workers," Sunita Karki told IRIN after fleeing her village with her family when she became fed up with extortion by Maoists in Nawalparasi.

She said the situation had barely changed in villages where Maoists continued to rule. They continued to harass political workers of the other seven national parties despite being part of the coalition caretaker government.

Police "powerless"

Crying in frustration, Chettri told how even the police had done nothing to help her when the Maoists threatened her family in public.

"The police looked helpless and powerless to do anything. Who will now give us protection and security?" asked her husband requesting not to be named.

"It's very difficult to do our jobs as they always threaten to attack our police posts," a local police officer, Mukesh Kunwar from Nepalgunj city, 600km west of the capital, told IRIN. He said the threats should not be taken lightly, given that in May Maoists seized police posts in Banke District, near the city.

Local rights workers said several police were also abducted following the attack on a Suyiya police post in May by 500 Maoists. Police officer Mukesh Kunwar, who was in charge of the post, was abducted, robbed and his office burned down, they added.

"The attack was because the police had done a good job controlling criminal activities supported by Maoists who were benefitting from smuggling timber and other goods near the Indian border," said local resident Mohammed Rahis Jolaha. "Now we don't know who is going to protect us since the police are so powerless and demoralised," he explained.

When villagers protested against the attack, they were threatened by the Maoists, Jolaha added.

"My family is now preparing to flee to India so that we can survive without intimidation and threats from both Maoists and armed robbers," said Mohammad Jalil.

Diplomats concerned

Compounding the problem further, the Maoists' Youth Communist League (YCL), a recently formed Maoist youth wing, is causing concern among both national political parties and diplomatic missions in Nepal.

During the last week of May YCL members hurled stones at a UN vehicle carrying US Ambassador James F. Moriarty and UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) representative Abraham Abraham.

"We condemn any and all attempts to harm, threaten, or interfere with foreign diplomats working in Nepal," said a statement by the diplomatic corps of Nepal, consisting of 15 diplomatic missions.

There is scepticism over whether the government is able to do anything to improve security. On 3 June, it failed to comment on an attack on a vehicle carrying party leaders near Kathmandu, said politicians.

"The excesses and atrocities by the Maoists have to stop immediately," said an official statement by the Nepali Congress (NC), the country's largest party. NC parliamentarians called on the government to take firm action against those involved.

"The Maoists are in breach of the peace treaty due to their activities," said parliamentarian Sitadevi Yadav.

However, Maoist leaders denied any violations on their part, saying other criminal elements were involved.



[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]