Maoist threat: security tightened along Assam-Bhutan border

February 22nd, 2008 - 11:40 am ICT by admin  

Guwahati, Feb 22 (IANS) The Assam government has tightened security along its border with Bhutan and expressed serious concern over reports that Maoist rebels from Nepal were going through the state to enter Bhutan and set up bases in the Himalayan kingdom. “We are aware of the recent developments regarding movement of Maoist rebels and are taking the reports very seriously. We are stepping up security measures,” Asasm Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told IANS Friday.

Bhutan’s security forces have busted two Maoist militant camps and have captured at least eight Communist rebels with weapons in a crackdown that began last week.

“Our security personnel have busted two Maoist rebel camps last week, one each in the districts 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 concerned authorities in the Buddhist nation of 700,000 people that is getting ready for its first parliamentary elections March 24.

Paramilitary troopers of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) have stepped up vigil along Assam’s 262 km unfenced border with Bhutan in view of reports of cross-border movement of Maoist rebels.

“We are taking adequate steps in view of the reports to ensure that Maoists are not able to set up any bases in Assam,” the chief minister said.

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 and private buildings damaged in the serial blasts. 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 formalize the nation’s transformation from an absolute monarchy to parliamentary democracy.

Bhutan 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 are recruiting among aggrieved refugees now based in Nepal. 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 reports about some AANLA leaders based in the state of Jharkhand, known to be a Maoist stronghold.

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

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