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Nepal Still Unstable 3 Years After Palace Massacre - 2004-06-01


Nepal remains without a prime minister three weeks after the previous one stepped down, despite a deadline imposed by the king for political parties to appoint a new one. The Himalayan kingdom is being rocked with political upheaval as some Nepalese commemorate the third anniversary of Nepal's palace massacre.

There was no official ceremony to mark the third anniversary of Nepal's palace massacre, an event that plunged the nation into political crisis from which it has yet to recover. Still, ordinary Nepalese laid flowers and prayed at makeshift memorials throughout the capital Kathmandu, to commemorate the loss of King Birendra.

Crown Prince Dipendra shot and killed his father King Birendra and nine other royal family members at the Narayanhiti Palace, then turned the gun on himself. The prince was reportedly angry with his parents, who disapproved of his choice of fiancee.

The king's brother Gyanendra assumed the throne, but he has not been able to bring stability to Nepal's government, which is struggling with a Maoist insurgency that wants to abolish the monarchy.

On Monday, Nepal's five main political parties failed to meet a deadline imposed by King Gyanendra to recommend a new prime minister to replace Surya Bahadur Thapa, who resigned in May. Only the king can approve the prime minister.

King Gyanendra fired Nepal's government in 2002 for what he said was incompetence. But some analysts say the king has created the stalemate between the palace and the political parties.

Lok Raj Baral, the executive chairman of the Nepal Center of Contemporary Studies in Kathmandu, said, "Now the King has opened a front on different levels, because he now has problems with the parties, he has problems with the Maoists - a triangular kind of conflict."

Analysts say political turmoil in the capital is preventing the government from ending an eight-year insurgency in the countryside. Maoist guerrillas have been fighting for the dissolution of the monarchy since 1996 and nearly to 10,000 people have died in the fighting.

The conflict also costs Nepal much needed revenue from tourism. Nepal is home to Mount Everest and other Himalayan peaks that used to draw tens of thousands of tourists every year.

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