April 20, 2006

Tires burn in Nepal capital ahead of curfew

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Anti-monarchy protesters in Nepal
burned tires and threw logs and barbed wire across the streets
of the capital Kathmandu on Thursday ahead of a curfew imposed
to prevent a march on King Gyanendra's palace.

Black smoke rose in the air from several places in the city
of 1.5 million people as protesters tried to block the movement
of police and troops before the 11-hour curfew came into force
at 9 a.m. (0315 GMT).

On Thursday, police opened fired on tens of thousands of
protesters trying to violate the curfew and march into the city
from the outskirts. At least three people were killed and up to
100 injured.

Political parties vowed to bring out another massive rally
on Friday and authorities responded by re-imposing curfew.

"So many people have come out on the street despite the
curfew and crackdown," said Krishna Prasad Sitaula, a leader of
the Nepali Congress, the country's largest political party.

"It's an indication that our movement has succeeded. Only
the result has to be announced. We will continue this until the
result comes in favor of the people."

A seven-party alliance has been agitating since April 6 to
force King Gyanendra to restore multi-party democracy. In all,
12 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in police
action against protesters since then.

The latest death was of a woman wounded during a protest in
a district town on Wednesday, who died in hospital.

Local reports say the king is likely to name a former prime
minister, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, to the post in an effort to
appease the protesters.

But Bhattarai has apparently indicated he will only take
the post if it is acceptable to the seven-party alliance.


Thursday's crackdown on the protesters appeared to have
focused even more anger on the monarch.

"This way the king cannot rule," said Goma Parajuli, a
woman selling vegetables from a basket as residents flocked to
stalls and markets in the capital to stock up on food.

Armed police stood nearby, while some taunted them.

"You live on the people's taxes," shouted one man. "You
can't kill the people."

Demonstrations involving 100,000 people and above have also
been staged in district towns, bringing the landlocked kingdom
to a standstill.

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

He has vowed to hold elections by April 2007, but the
parties say he is not to be trusted and must hand over power to
an all-party government immediately.

An Indian envoy who visited the king on Thursday said the
monarch would soon make efforts to defuse the situation.

"I am hopeful that very shortly some sort of announcement
will be made by him which will help considerably defuse the
situation," Karan Singh, an Indian lawmaker, told reporters in
New Delhi on his return from Kathmandu.

"Now the ball is squarely in the court of the king."