KATHMANDU Nepal Nepalese Maoists On a Roll by Richard S. Ehrlich
Published in Washington, D.C.
June 14, 2001
Nepalese Maoists 'on a roll'
By Richard S. Ehrlich
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
America's ambassador to Nepal warned yesterday that armed Maoist guerrillas are advancing with "no viable opposition in the rural areas" and trying to exploit the vacuum left by the murdered royal family.
"The Maoists are on a roll. They have no viable opposition in the rural areas. The government has either been forced out or withdrawn in many areas," U.S. Ambassador Ralph Frank warned in an interview.
An estimated 4,000 to 5,000 guerrillas, mostly in the mountains of western Nepal, are battling security forces in a five-year-long insurgency that has left more than 1,600 people dead on all sides.
The anti-monarchy guerrillas are meanwhile trying to take advantage of the killings that occurred in Kathmandu's royal palace on June 1, Mr. Frank said.
"I think a vacuum has been created, and they are moving quickly to try to fill that," the ambassador said.
"Do they believe in Mao as an ideology? Most reports you see, that's not the case. But the top-level leadership does believe the Cultural Revolution was the best thing that came down the block," the ambassador said.
In China, under the late Communist leader Mao Tse-tung, the 1966 to 1976 Cultural Revolution was a fanatical, bloody and ultimately failed attempt to level all economic classes and control society in highly politicized collectives.
Today, Nepal's Maoist guerrillas also display severe restrictions on people under their control.
"Already you can see evidence in areas where they are. Where they do control the power, they have already instituted controls where people are not allowed to gather without their permission. "
Mr. Frank urged Nepal's government, along with the constitutional monarchy and the security forces, to tackle the guerrillas so that the Maoists find adequate incentive to come to the negotiating table. "Right now they don't have that incentive."
Nepal, sandwiched between India and Tibet, is one of the poorest nations on earth.
King Birendra was worried about using the army to exterminate the Maoists, the ambassador said.
"King Birendra was very concerned about the army being turned on its own people...He wanted to win the people back from the Maoists, not go out and eliminate the Maoists."
Mr. Frank said he was optimistic that the power vacuum would end "once the mourning period is over and King Gyanendra establishes himself and his relationship again with the people and with the government."
King Gyanendra is the brother of slain King Birendra, and was coronated on June 4.
Mr. Frank insisted: "What has happened has not driven the people away from the monarchy. It is still a revered institution in this country."
Eyewitnesses to the June 1 massacre say King Birendra's drunken son, Crown Prince Dipendra, opened fire with an assault rifle while stalking room to room, repeatedly shooting at pleading family members. The crown prince then turned the gun on himself and died a few days later.
The government says the massacre, in which nine persons died, was an accident.