Nepal: Maoists apologize for atrocity; repression continues

Violence continued in Nepal June 7, with 14 soldiers and six Maoist guerillas killed in a clash in the southwest, even as the rebels publicly apologized for killing 38 civilians in a land mine blast the day before. The civilians were killed and 70 others wounded in the worst attack on civilians since the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or CPN(M), launched its armed struggle in 1996. The rebels said they had intended to attack a passing army convoy, but instead hit a bus carrying civilian passengers.

“It was a serious mistake that a landmine placed by a contingent of our people’s liberation army, targeted at the royal army, exploded causing loss to the public,” rebel chief Pushp Kumar Dahal, alias Prachanda, said in a statement.

Prachanda said his forces were investigating the incident to ascertain if the blast had been carried out by some “infiltrators” or sympathizers of King Gyanendra, who seized power in February this year after dismissing the democratically elected government.

The Nepalese people were outraged by the bombing. Newspapers published pictures of the mangled bus and mutilated bodies of victims strewn across the site.

The independent Human Rights and Peace Society described the attack as “deplorable, cowardly, and a violation of international humanitarian laws”.
(ISN Security Watch)

King Gyanendra’s ongoing attack on the press, meanwhile, is meeting some resistance from the judiciary. Nepal’s Supreme Court June 8 overturned a royal government order to close a communication centre which was supplying programmes to several radio stations in the country. The ministry for information and communications directive asking the “Communication Corner” to stop operations was illegal, the court said yesterday. The Communication Corner had been catering to the needs of over a dozen FM and community radios prior to King Gyanendra’s seizure of power on Feb. 1.

However, after the government banned FM radios from broadcasting news-related programs, the Communications Corner had limited itself to entertainment and health related issues. The communications firm had petitioned the court to reverse the order, which was served May 27 as part of the media crackdown.

Meanwhile, dozens of journalists were detained June 8 in Kathmandu as they prepared to defy a ban on protests and hold a demonstration for restoration of press freedom in Nepal. “Fifty-three journalists were dragged into vans and driven to a police club where they are detained,” Dipak Rijal, a local journalist, said, after the demonstrators were detained. (Calcutta Telegraph, June 9)

See our last post on Nepal.