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Bhattarai calls in troops to control Maoist camps

Baburam Bhattarai ordered the Nepal army to move in and take control of 15 cantonments

Written by Yubaraj Ghimire | Kathmandu | Published: April 11, 2012 1:14:43 am

Clashes erupted at several Maoist camps after combatants accused party leaders and commanders of “corruption” and bias in the process of their integration with the army. Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai Tuesday ordered the Nepal army to move in and take control of 15 cantonments — seven main and eight sub-camps — with immediate effect,two days before the scheduled time-frame.

Bhattarai swung into action soon after Maoist party chairman Prachanda informed him that the situation in the camps was getting out of hand. The prime minister briefed the high-powered Army Integration Special Committee about the prevailing situation and asked them to allow the army to be dispatched immediately.

Maoist combatants created unrest in at least four different camps in the past 48 hours alleging that pro-Prachanda commanders had amassed huge amounts of wealth through corruption and that the party high command was exhibiting bias in selecting the combatants to be “integrated” into the Nepal army.

In the past few days,the government has scaled up personal security arrangements for both the Prime Minister and Prachanda as well as at the Maoist party headquarters,as combatants have openly accused the central leadership of playing with their lives by “taking a cut from their hard earned salary”.

“This was not discussed in the meeting of the special committee today. All that we agreed is that the peace process has reached an important milestone,and that combatants’ arms and camps should come under the control of the Nepal Army with immediate effect. It was a unanimous decision,” Committee member Ram Sharan Mahat told The Indian Express when asked if the unrest at the camps was the reason for the army’s deployment there.

Lt. Gen Balananda Sharma,Chief of the Special Committee Technical Division,said that the process of screening 9,000 plus remaining combatants would be initiated by the army in a couple of days. “But if the number of qualified combatants exceeds the agreed 6,500 mark — the number agreed for integration — they will be given the option to voluntarily retire and avail a financial package,” Sharma said.

Tuesday’s development followed a meeting of senior Maoist leaders with seven divisional commanders of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). After the meeting the Prime Minister and Prachanda insisted the camps be handed over to the Nepal army so that any chances of unrest were reduced.

As per a Maoist assessment,an anti-Prachanda faction led by Mohan Baidhya,senior vice-chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists,comprised around 30 per cent of the total combatants. Baidhya and party general secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal hold the view that the way Maoist combatants are being retired or integrated,and their arms handed over amounts to “total surrender”.

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