Nepal: screw tightens
The crisis in Nepal has disappeared from the headlines since King Gyanendra suspended civil government in an "auto-coup" Feb. 1, but he continues to tighten dictatorial rule in the Himalayan kingdom. For the first weeks after the coup, newspapers ran blank space in their pages to let readers know that stories had been cesnored. But after the editors of four major newsweeklies were detained for several days and threatened with prosecution for implicitly criticizing the king, they pledged to halt the practice. (AFP, Feb. 26)
The King has released six political leaders--including three ministers from the ousted cabinet--but several opposition party leaders remain in prison or under house arrest. (BBC, Feb. 25) Among those detained are six journalists, and the government is said to be hunting for other reporters who have gone into hiding. Army troops are stationed at TV and radio stations to monitor programming. (Pakistan Daily Times, Feb. 26) Over 400 opposition activists have been arrested for attempting to hold public protests of the state of emergency, and extra-judicial killings of opposition figures have been reported. (New Kerala, India, Feb. 24)
India and Birtain have cut off military aid to Nepal since the coup, but the King refuses to bow to pressure, saying "They must say what they must say, and we must do what we must do," according to the website Nepalnews.com. (AP, Feb. 24)
The Maoist rebels have called a transport blockade in protest of the king's power-grab, shutting down roads with barricades in much of the countryside. Clashes between rebels and troops sent in to break up the blockades are escalating, with three dozen rebels reported killed Feb. 24. (Al-Jazeera, Feb. 25)
With protests frozen in Nepal, thousands of Nepalese immigrants and exiles marched in New Delhi Feb. 20 against the suspension of democracy in their homeland. (AFP, Feb. 20) King Gyanendra says it will likely be three years before democratic rule is restored. (AP, Feb. 26)
See our last blog post on Nepal.