Five months after a coup, the king is no closer to a deal with rebels or political parties
KATMANDU - It's an hour before midnight and the Go Go Bar is packed with the boisterous sons of Nepal's new middle class stuffing cash into dancers' panties.
Katmandu is humming, its young people spending big on drugs, disco and drink.
But while the capital parties, Nepal is paralyzed by a political crisis and an increasingly bloody Maoist rebellion aiming to oust King Gyanendra, who seized power in February, ending 15 years of democracy.
"Nobody knows what will happen — a kind of terror still exists," says human rights campaigner Krishna Pahadi, freed this month after being held for 143 days in a police camp. "There is a climate of fear. The rule of law is totally demolished."
Gyanendra said he was forced to take over because the politicians were incapable of quelling the Maoists' "People's War," which has killed at least 12,500 people since 1996. But five months on, he is no closer to a deal with the guerrillas or with the seven mainstream political parties.
The political parties are slowly forming a united front and appear to be moving closer to the Maoists.
"The two (parties and rebels) coming together would build up pressure on the king," says S.D. Muni, a South Asia expert at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University. "Either he makes compromises, or if he does not, then I think Nepal will see a lot of turmoil in coming years."
But analysts expect no real breakthrough for at least three to four months, when the parties can organize protests after the monsoon and crop-sowing season. The parties have so far failed to rally popular support against the king, despite his increasing unpopularity.
Even before the Feb. 1 royal coup, the Hindu kingdom, one of the world's poorest nations, had seen remarkable political instability, with 14 prime ministers in under 15 years.
In fact, for hundreds of years, it has seen bizarre power plays, murder, exile and takeovers between royalty and the upper caste Brahmins and Chettriyas who dominate the still largely feudal country.
Parliament has been dissolved since 2002, when Nepal was supposed to prepare for elections. Gyanendra sacked Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba for failing to hold them.
The palace says Gyanendra is popular and adored, but many Nepalis are suspicious of the way he came to power, after his brother, King Birendra, and several other members of the royal family were gunned down by the then-crown prince in 2001.
By TERRY FRIEL
Reuters News Service - Aug. 6, 2005,
Nepal king tours rebel areas after landmine blast:
KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Maoist rebels blew up a police vehicle in western Nepal on Monday, killing four policemen, as King Gyanendra began a tour of an area further to the west, officials said.
The Maoists, who have been fighting to replace the constitutional monarchy with a communist republic for the past nine years, set off a mine under the police vehicle near the town of Butwal, 300 km west of Kathmandu.
"It was a big mine. The blast has caused a huge crater on the ground and the vehicle has broken into pieces," a police officer told Reuters by phone.
A palace official said the king would spend a week touring areas in and around Kalikot, 600 km west of Kathmandu, where the army lost at least 55 soldiers in a fight with the Maoist rebels two weeks ago.
It was the bloodiest clash between the two sides in the past one year.
Twenty-six guerrillas died in the clash sparked by a rebel raid on an army base.
The king was not scheduled to go to Butwal.
"The objective of the visit is to assess the situation and meet the people," the official said, without giving details.
Maoist violence has escalated in the impoverished Himalayan kingdom after King Gyanendra took control of the government nearly seven months ago, saying politicians had failed to tackle the insurgents.
The rebels said they had captured 60 soldiers and a large arms cache after the Kalikot gunbattle on Aug. 7 and 8. The army said the soldiers were missing and troops were hunting for them.
Nepal's leading human rights group, INSEC, said in a statement late on Sunday that 27 soldiers captured after that battle were safe in rebel custody, quoting a local journalist who had met the captives in a remote mountain village in west Nepal.
It posted photographs on the Web site, www.inseconline.org, of the soldiers, some with bandages, but said nothing about the remaining soldiers.
More than 12,500 people have been killed since the revolt began in 1996.