News / Asia

National Strike Ordered by Maoists Brings Nepal to Virtual Halt

A merchant locking his shop to avoid getting caught violating the Maoist's strike, in Kathmandu, 3 May 2010
A merchant locking his shop to avoid getting caught violating the Maoist's strike, in Kathmandu, 3 May 2010

Multimedia

Audio

A power struggle in Nepal between the government of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and the Maoists, who hold the most legislative seats, is seeing the local folk and foreign tourists caught in the middle. Since May Day, most of the country has ground to a halt with a Maoist-initiated strike intended to force the collapse of the year-old government.

In the middle of an intersection in Kathmandu, villagers from the remote northwest mountainous Karnali zone -- one of the poorest in Nepal -- sing and dance in a circle around a traffic control post.

While riot policemen sit nearby, paying little attention to thousands of Maoist supporters and spectators milling in the avenues deserted of vehicles, the Karnali villagers sing a Maoist-inspired ditty calling for the prime minister to resign.

This is part of what one Maoist leader calls a "peaceful war" to install a people's government in Nepal.

Markets here are only permitted by the Maoists to open two hours per day in the evening for people to buy food and other necessary supplies.

Only a few shops, restaurants or hotels in the capital are willing to defy the ban on commerce.

Some merchants in the Thamel tourist district signal furtively to passing foreigners that they are potentially open for business.

A row of shuttered shops
A row of shuttered shops

The shutters go up to allow the customers to enter and then are quickly brought down again.

Stick-wielding Maoist cadres can be seen patrolling for violators. Merchants say those who defy the ban and do not pay extortion money to the Maoists are often being threatened with violence.

At the front desk of the Hotel Mandap, manager Binaya Thapa Magar was asked by VOA News how long his establishment could hold out before suffering a financial disaster.

"Five more days or six days. It's difficult but somehow we'll survive, I hope. If this political situation would not be solved, the situation would be the worst. This must be solved," Magar said.

The Maoists say the strike will continue until the prime minister quits. But they have also issued a long list of other demands in recent days.

Chinese tourist Vianne Cai sits in a bicycle rickshaw, one of the few means of transport around the capital. She's visiting with two girlfriends from Beijing. Cai says they've never experienced anything like this.  Cai says because it's such an unusual situation it is a bit exciting, but there is confusion and the inconvenience of not being able to easily move around the city or visit any shops.

Richard Gardner and his wife, Samanthi Selva, from Sydney Australia, walk on a nearly deserted lane usually bustling with tourists and hawkers. They just returned from a trek to the Mount Everest base camp and had planned to spend five days in the capital.

"There's really nothing we can do," he said. "We can't really do any sightseeing, it's a bit of a hassle to try and plan to go to Pokhara (200 km west of Kathmandu) or anywhere else in the country at the moment."

"You can see nothing is open, so, yeah, all our plans at the moment are kind of hindered in the fact that there's a strike on," Selva stated. "Unfortunately, not much to do. And we're not very happy, but what can we do?"    

The Maoists have ordered all motorized forms of transport off the roads -- except for ambulances, water delivery and garbage removal trucks and diplomatic and media vehicles, as well as special airport buses for the stranded tourists.

Some visitors say they are giving up, unsure how long the strike will continue.

Tourism officials confirm thousands of foreigners are trying to fly out of Nepal early, taking with them spending money this poor Himalayan nation's struggling economy, so dependent on tourism, desperately needs.

You May Like

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid