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Thousands of Nepalese Protesters Defy Kathmandu Curfew

Patricia NunanKate Pound Dawson

Thousands of Nepalese protesters have gathered on the outskirts of Kathmandu for another day of rallies demanding the ouster of King Gyanendra and the restoration of democracy.

Police opened fire on one group of protesters, wounding at least three people.

The demonstrators are defying an 11-hour curfew imposed by the government Sunday in a bid to prevent unrest.

VOA's correspondent in Kathmandu (Patricia Nunan) says the protesters are largely sticking to the ring road surrounding the capital.  She says the protesters are not trying to force their way into the city center, as they did the previous day.

More than 100,000 protesters defied a similar curfew Saturday as they tried to approach King Gyanendra's palace from the outskirts of the city.  More than 100 people were injured as protesters clashed with police.

Nunan spoke with VOA's Kate Pound-Dawson in Hong Kong:

DAWSON: Patricia, can you describe the activity today in Kathmandu?

NUNAN: In some spots, it's actually been really, really festive. There was dancing and protesting in front of the troops yesterday…. People were saying that they were happy that democracy was on the way. In a lot of places actually, people are making their own roadblocks around the ring road to prevent the police and troops from getting around. They're actually knocking down trees across the road and lighting stumps of trees on fire and things like this, in order to prevent any security forces from penetrating into certain areas, at least by truck.

DAWSON: Now one of the things that has gotten a lot of attention at least in the last 24 hours is the inability of the seven-party coalition to come out with a proclamation on what it will do, what the parties plan to do. What is the thinking? What's going to happen from the political side?

NUNAN: That is the million-dollar question. There's been a lot of speculation and rumor and some reports on local press … that the parties want to set up a parallel government, that at a certain time they will just declare they have reinstated parliament. Some of the people we've spoken to think that what the protest could be facing, what the whole movement could be facing is the imposition of martial law or some sort of declaration of a state emergency and they're trying to think ahead to counter that. But there's been very little from the seven-party alliance leaders since they formally rejected the king's offer for an interim government. But they have not set an agenda for the next few days or the next few months for that matter.

DAWSON: Does this indicate that the seven-party alliance has its own fractures, that it's unable actually to come to a consensus on what to do, other than to demand a return to democratic government.

NUNAN: Well, the seven-party alliance is exactly that, it's seven parties and the political parties in Nepal were renowned for bickering, which is one of the justifications the king used for seizing power last February (2005). So I'm sure there is a great deal of internal debate. Some of the people we speak to have said there's no room for the monarchy in Nepal, people from other parties within that alliance say 'No, we're neutral on the question of monarchy, the king could probably stay.' So I'm sure there is a whole lot of debate going on but I think they realize this is a critical time and they probably will come up with an agenda soon but it is a little surprising that we haven't heard anything more strongly from them so far.

The king on Friday announced a plan to return Nepal to multi-party democracy, but it has failed to quell the demonstrations.

The opposition launched a nationwide general strike on April sixth, and hundreds of thousands of Nepalese have responded to calls to intensify the strike.

A police crackdown on the protests has left at least 13 people dead.

King Gyanendra dismissed his government and took absolute power in February 2005, saying elected officials were not able to control Nepal's Maoist rebels

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