Text Box: Xpedition 8000

Dispatch Thirty-nine: May 2nd, 2010

Annapurna Expedition 2010

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Day Thirty-nine: Maoist Clashes in NP; Total Shutdown of Infrastructure

Today, I woke up in Kathmandu after my first night’s sleep in a bed in close to a month. I had breakfast with Kinga, then headed back to the room to work on my computer. Everything is closed today and no cars are on the road thanks to Maoist demonstrations aimed at toppling the “puppet government” currently in power. They aim to shut down the country and force talks with the government and the resignation of the prime minister. Kinga and I headed over to the Hotel d’Annapurna for lunch (all the restaurants in Thamel and throughout Kathmandu are closed; only hotels are still open for meals for the tourists). Afterwards, we crossed the street and went to the Yak and Yeti to chat with Simone Moro (Italy) and Denis Urubko (Kazakhstan) who are here resting after acclimating on Everest. They will head back tomorrow via helicopter and rest a day before attempting the summit with their client. After our chat, we headed back to the Mala hotel past the hundreds of protestors on the street, rested for a bit, then headed back to the Yak and Yeti for dinner with Simone, Denis, Juanito, Carlos, Javier, and the rest of our expedition. We said our goodbyes to the Spanish, then walked the deserted unlit streets back to our hotel.

Excerpt from Aljazeera English regarding Maoist demonstrations:

At least 150,000 people have gathered in Kathmandu, the Nepali capital, demanding the Maoists return to power. Security was tight on Saturday, with about 15,000 riot police deployed across the city to stop any potential violence."The demonstration so far looks peaceful. We don't foresee any trouble but we're on alert," Lal Mani Acharya, a police official, said. Police estimated the crowd to around 150,000 demonstrators, much lower than the 600,000 people the Maoists said had gathered in the capital. The Maoist movement, formally called the Communist Party of Nepal, is calling for Madhav Kumar Nepal, the prime minister, to resign by the end of Saturday and disband the present government. "If there is no agreement reached by Saturday, then we will be forced to impose an indefinite general strike from Sunday,'' Baburam Bhattarai, the deputy leader of the party, said.


'Puppet government'


Demonstrators waved red flags and chanted "dissolve this puppet government and set up a national government." Shops and businesses were closed and residents were stockpiling food in fear that supplies might run short in the event of a national shutdown. As demonstrators were massing for the rally, the Maoists were meeting representatives of other major parties to try to break the political impasse. The protest and threat of a general  strike has raised concern of renewed violence in Nepal. Karin Landgren, the chief of United Nations peace mission in Nepal, said she had met Maoists leaders to appeal for peaceful resolution and had been assured Saturday's demonstrations would be peaceful. "I am deeply concerned that despite these peaceful intentions, potential spoilers of the peace process could provoke a clash," Landgren said on Friday.


The Maoists fought government troops until 2006 when they gave up their
decade-old violent uprising and joined a peace process. They briefly led a coalition government after winning polls in 2008, but resigned from government last year after the group's leader was prevented from dismissing the army chief. The Maoists still hold the largest number of seats in parliament.


Photos: Left: Thousands of riot police were deployed in Kathmandu in preparation for the demonstrations; Right: Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gather in support of the Maoists