News Release

Crisis in Nepal: An Opportunity for Democracy

REESE ERLICH
Freelance foreign correspondent Reese Erlich just returned from Nepal on assignment for Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Radio and Australian Broadcasting Corp. Radio. He said today: “Nepal is on the verge of a democratic revolution. When the country’s political parties and Maoist guerrillas jointly supported a general strike two weeks ago, most analysts thought the protests would be short lived. But the demonstrations have tapped a deep vein that the established political parties can’t control. The king is increasingly isolated and will have a hard time continuing his authoritarian rule.”

Erlich added: “The Bush administration, while critical of the king, has strongly opposed the alliance of political parties and the Maoists. The U.S. should stay out of Nepali politics and allow the people to forge a broad coalition opposed to the king.”

MARY DES CHENE
Mary Des Chene is an anthropologist who co-founded the journal Studies in Nepali History and Society, where she is co-editor. A research associate at Washington University in St. Louis, she is fluent in Nepali and has been conducting research in Nepal for more than two decades. She said today: “The people of Nepal are in a peaceful struggle for their most basic right to sovereignty. Since 2002, when the king dissolved the parliament, the country has been under direct royal rule with military backing. That military, in turn, has been equipped and financed through foreign aid, primarily from the United States, the UK and India, despite its well documented record of torture and extra-judicial killings in custody, enforced disappearances, and other systematic violations of human rights.”

Des Chene added: “The ongoing insurgency in Nepal has been the proximate excuse for the monarchy to cry ‘terrorism’ and get rid of parliament and local elected government, for heavy press censorship, and for increasing repression against all civil society actors over the past four years. These actions have been countenanced by the international community until recently. Unfortunately, even while now condemning the king’s rule as autocratic and unacceptable, and calling for restoration of democracy in Nepal, foreign governments, particularly the U.S. and India, continue to discount the political accords forged by the people of Nepal. They continue to call for the king to ‘restore democracy’ rather than supporting the people’s ongoing struggle for a republic.”

DANIELA PONCE
In 2003, Ponce volunteered at the Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies in Nepal, where she worked against political violence against civilians in the western towns of Butwal, Palpa, and Bhairawa. The following year she returned to Nepal to complete her graduate research on the emergence of the pro-democracy and abolitionist student movement in Kathmandu. She said today: “Unless the brutal king steps down and allows a democratically elected constituent assembly to draft a new constitution, there will be no peace in Nepal. Unfortunately for the Nepalese, he won’t do either unless the United States cuts all forms of aid.” Ponce, who works at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., is co-founder of www.FreeNepal.org. She was born and raised in Chile, and experienced the early years of Chile’s transition to democracy as a student activist.
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
David Zupan, (541) 484-9167; or Cynthia Skow, (415) 552-5378