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Nepal Opposition Continues Demanding Dismissal of Government - 2004-05-05


For the first time in a month, Kathmandu is peaceful, after the government allowed opposition parties to hold a protest march. The country's political impasse remains, with opposition parties refusing to talk with the king, until the current government is dismissed.

Only singing and speeches were heard in Kathmandu. An end to a ban on demonstrations means opposition parties are now free to shout their slogans, without fear of the dreaded lathicharge - Nepali for "police cane".

Despite Tuesday's lifting of the protest ban, Nepal's five opposition parties still say they will not meet with King Gyanendra, unless he first dismisses Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa.

Dhan Prasad Pandit is a supporter of Nepal's Congress party. He says the political parties have met to try to establish their agenda for talks with the king.

"The party leaders said they will find their common ground, and then decide when they will talk to the king, and what type of agenda they will take to the king," he said. "King is ready to talk to them but, not clear about how to solve the problem. So, on both sides there is confusion, and they are trying to find some way out."

If the two sides do come to the table, the opposition parties are expected to press for a new interim government, as well as new elections.

King Gyanendra, who wrested power from Parliament 18 months ago, faces a nation increasingly dissatisfied with his rule. Many view the king as a despot.

Student groups are particularly critical of the king, and, at their frequent rallies, call for him to give up power. Student leader Rajesh Prasai explains what the students want.

"All of the people of the country want at this time good democracy and a people's elected government," said Rajesh Prasai. "So, the king should be [aware] of the people's wish and desire. So, he must know the feeling, wishes and desires of the people, so he can sacrifice his power. He has surely and must give the power back to the people."

For a month, rock-throwing students attacked the police almost daily. Schools have been turned into virtual battlegrounds, with dormitories turned into bunkers and bonfires raging in the streets.

With the ban on demonstrations lifted, a truce has been called, though the students indicate it is a tenuous one. Real peace, they say, will come only with the ousting of Nepal's centuries old monarchy.

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