Monday, May 26, 2008

Maoists, authorities mobilise for end of monarchy in Nepal

KATHMANDU (AFP) — Nepal's Maoists said Monday they were pouring tens of thousands of members of their feared youth wing into the capital ahead of this week's anticipated abolition of the monarchy.

The mobilisation comes as authorities said they were boosting security in Kathmandu to enforce a ban on demonstrations -- both for and against the embattled King Gyanendra.

A top Maoist official said the former rebels only intended to "celebrate" the king's demise and would respect security restrictions -- which would bar them from attempting to lay siege or storm the royal palace.

"We are going to bring in 50,000 Young Communist League members to celebrate the declaration of a republic on Wednesday," said Sagar, the head of the Maoists' youth wing, who goes by one name.

"This is going to be a celebration and a display of our strength and our victory. But we will stay away from prohibited areas," he told AFP.

Authorities in the capital said they have banned demonstrations and mass meetings in four places around Kathmandu and are planning to deploy an extra 5,000 security personnel.

"The government has announced special prohibitory orders from today that forbid rallies or protests in certain sensitive areas including the royal palace and the constituent assembly venue," said Kathmandu police chief Sarbendra Khanal.

A new constitutional assembly -- which the Maoists won the most seats in during elections in April -- is due to formally abolish the monarchy on Wednesday.

The end of the 240-year-old Shah dynasty will be a major victory for the Maoists, who launched a "people's war" in 1996 aimed at toppling the monarchy and establishing a communist republic.

But tensions are still high, with the king seen as enjoying some support in the national army and the country's ruling elite.

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