Nepal’s ruling Maoists refuse to hand over illegal arms

December 31st, 2008 - 4:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Dec 31 (IANS) Two years after signing a peace pact and now heading the government, Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas Wednesday rejected an ally’s plea to hand over their weapons to win the trust of the international community as well as other parties.Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who led a 10-year savage insurrection to overthrow Nepal’s royal family but relented in 2006 and agreed to fight an election instead, ruled out his guerrilla army handing over its arsenal.

Prachanda held a meeting Wednesday with Madhav Kumar Nepal, senior leader of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), whose support had enabled him to win the premiership race in August.

The meeting was called to seek Nepal’s advice for reconciliation with the main opposition party, former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC).

The NC is the second-largest party in Nepal’s interim parliament and the government has been floundering to draft a new constitution as well as merge the guerrilla People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with the national army due to the NC boycotting parliament over a dispute with Prachanda.

After the meeting, Nepal told the media that he had advised the Maoist chief that his PLA should hand over their arms to the state authorities in a bid to win the trust of the parties and the world that they had really given up violence.

According to a headcount by the UN, there are over 19,000 PLA combatants corralled in UN-monitored cantonments. After the end of their People’s War in 2006, the PLA laid down their weapons which are also stored in the cantonments.

Kept under lock and key, there are about 3,500 PLA weapons and an unspecified number of explosive devices.

The Maoists have also been allowed, as per an agreement with the other parties, to keep some firearms with themselves for personal protection.

This agreement came under fire after a Maoist government was sworn in this year. Critics say that the state security forces are sufficient to ensure the security of the PM and other Maoist ministers and the services of PLA combatants as bodyguards are no longer needed.

Nepal’s advice however was turned down by Prachanda.

Nepal said the Maoist chief had told him that he had taken note of the suggestion. However, it was not possible to follow it immediately.

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