Mon, Jan 23, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Protests continue to rock Nepal

UNDETERRED Vowing to continue their anti-royalist protests, an alliance of seven parties issued a call for a nationwide strike to be staged this Thursday

AGENCIES , KATHMANDU

Riot police charge with batons to disperse pro-democracy activists during a demonstration in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

Police kept tight security in place in Nepal's capital yesterday, as political parties vowed more protests against King Gyanendra's rule despite hundreds of arrests in recent days.

An alliance of seven parties has called for a nationwide strike on Thursday.

On Saturday police arrested more than 230 people after anti-royal demonstrators in Kathmandu clashed with officers who used tear gas and carried firearms in place of their usual bamboo batons.

"Most of the people detained during Saturday's clashes were released late on Saturday night, and 61 remained in custody," said a police officer on condition of anonymity.

Around 150 political and human rights activists who were rounded up on Thursday and Friday remained in detention, the police officer added.

Opposition politicians vowed to keep up the protest program, calling a nationwide general strike for Thursday and planning district-level protests in an attempt to disrupt planned municipal elections.

"The people's movement has come to a new height and will not come to an end unless full democracy is restored," Shobhakar Parajuli, secretary of the Nepali Congress Party, said.

Another opposition leader condemned the government's use of force.

"The effects of the protests are getting very strong because the government is indulging in unnecessary actions by using excessive force," said K.P. Oli, a senior leader of the Nepal Communist Party (United Marxist Leninist).

"The government is suppressing people and we don't have any alternative but to continue protests," said Oli, who is under house arrest.

The parties have called for a boycott of local elections planned for Feb. 8 by Gyanendra, who is under increased international pressure to restore democracy after he sacked the elected government almost a year ago.

On Saturday groups of stone-throwing protesters clashed with police in running battles around Kathmandu's main square after a larger pro-democracy rally was banned.

Police arrested 236 people, an officer said later. Journalists and other eyewitnesses reported that some 300 demonstrators were rounded up and bundled into police vans.

Meanwhile, Maoist rebels and government forces clashed overnight in a village in southern Nepal, killing 14 militants and six security forces, the royal army said yesterday.

The gunbattle began on Saturday night after the insurgents attacked a security patrol in Phapar Badi village, 160km south of Kathmandu, an official at the Royal Nepalese Army headquarters said.

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