April 18, 2006

Nepal violence claims sixth victim

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - A woman who was hit on the face by a
tear gas shell has become the sixth person to die in Nepal's
two-week long protest campaign against King Gyanendra,
officials said on Wednesday.

The woman, who was injured on Tuesday during a protest in
the town of Nepalgunj, 500 km (300 miles) west of Kathmandu,
died while being taken to a hospital in the Indian city of
Lucknow, they said.

Hundreds of people have been wounded and hundreds of others
arrested in the campaign to force King Gyanendra to restore
multi-party democracy. The monarch is also under severe
international pressure to relent.

One flashpoint could come on Thursday at mass rallies
called by a seven-party alliance spearheading the campaign,
which has vowed to bring out hundreds of thousands of people on
the streets.

The United States and India, Nepal's giant neighbor, have
both called repeatedly for the restoration of democracy.

King Gyanendra came under further pressure on Tuesday when
three top human rights groups called for international
sanctions against the monarch and top Nepali officials,
accusing them of being "impervious to the suffering" of the
Nepalese people.

"He (the king) and his officials have been responsible for
serious human rights violations, including the arbitrary arrest
and detention of thousands of critics, torture and
ill-treatment of detainees ...," Amnesty International, Human
Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists said
in a statement.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is sending a special
envoy to hold talks with the king on Wednesday.

The envoy, Karan Singh, is the scion of the royal family of
Kashmir and is related to King Gyanendra by marriage.

"The purpose of my going there really is to meet with the
king, to meet with the leaders of the political parties, to
assess the general situation which, as you say, is
deteriorating very rapidly," Singh told the Indian TV channel

"It is not our intention to interfere in the internal
affairs of another country but the last thing that we would
want is for Nepal to dissolve into chaos because India's vital
security interests are involved. Our human interests are
involved, there's an open border between Nepal and India and
our commitment to parliamentary democracy is there."

King Gyanendra sacked the government and assumed full power
in February 2005, vowing to crush a decade-old Maoist revolt in
which more than 13,000 people have died.

He has offered to hold elections by April next year, but
activists say he cannot be trusted and should immediately hand
over power to an all-party government.