Maoist camps busted in Bhutan, eight rebels captured

February 21st, 2008 - 1:35 pm ICT by admin  

By Syed Zarir Hussain
Guwahati, Feb 21 (IANS) Bhutan’s security forces have busted two Maoist militant camps and have captured at least eight rebels with weapons in a crackdown that began last week, Bhutanese authorities said Thursday. “Our security personnel have busted two Maoist rebel camps last week, one each in the district of Serphang and Samdrup Jongkhar, and captured eight rebels with weapons and incriminating documents,” Bhutan’s Deputy Chief of Police Kipchu Namgyel told IANS by telephone from capital Thimphu.

Namgyel said the rebels belong to the Nepal-based Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxist-Leninist), a little-known group that is said to have carried out five bomb explosions in the otherwise peaceful Himalayan nation in less than a month.

The busting of the two Maoist camps in southern Bhutan districts, bordering the northeastern Indian state of Assam, has worried authorities in the Buddhist nation of 700,000 people, getting ready for its first parliamentary elections March 24.

The Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) has held the Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxist-Leninist) responsible for the Feb 4 bombing in the southwestern Samtse district and four other explosions in January.

One person was injured and some government as well as private buildings damaged in the serial blasts.

“Investigators recovered Communist Party of Bhutan leaflets from the site of the Feb 4 blast in Samtse district,” a RBP official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

The Communist Party of Bhutan has also threatened to disrupt the March 24 elections to Bhutan’s National Assembly or the lower House of parliament that would formalise the nation’s transformation from an absolute monarchy to parliamentary democracy.

The country had witnessed a pro-democracy agitation in the 1990s with a section of Nepali-speaking residents in its southern parts rising in revolt against the monarchy.

The crackdown that followed led thousands of Nepali-speaking people from southern Bhutan to flee to Nepal. Now an estimated 100,000 people are sheltered in relief camps.

There are reports that the Maoists have been formed from aggrieved refugees now based in Nepal.

The busting of the Maoist camps in areas bordering India’s Assam state raises speculations on the possibility of the rebels sneaking into the poorly-policed Himalayan nation through the porous border along Assam.

Recent reports say that Maoists from eastern India may have forged links with a rag-tag Assam-based rebel group called the All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA), whose cadres are drawn from the state’s tea workers’ community.

The Assam Police have claimed to have information about some AANLA leaders based in the state of Jharkhand, known to be a Maoist stronghold.

The Maoists’ entry into Bhutan and the ensuing violence has caused much concern among observers in the placid nation, currently on the fast track to democracy.

“We have the discomfort of knowing that the trend is trying to take roots here. If we look at the history of war-torn regions in the world, many began with a single blast. We do not need to lose lives before we start worrying,” Kuensel, Bhutan’s state-controlled newspaper, said in an editorial.

“It is a movement based outside the kingdom,” Kuensel said.

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