Nepal: King declares state of emergency

Nepal's King Gyanendra dismissed the country's government Feb. 1, and declared a state of emergency, closing off his Himalayan kingdom from the outside world as telephone and Internet lines were cut, flights grounded and civil liberties suspended. This is the second time in three years the king has taken control of the constitutional monarchy, a throwback to the era of absolute monarchy before King Birendra, Gyanendra's brother, introduced representative government following a popular pro-democracy movement in 1990.

The king suspended several provisions of the constitution, including freedoms of the press and peaceful assembly, the right to privacy, and the right against preventive detention, according to a statement from Narayanhiti Palace. Government troops surrounded the homes of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and other government leaders.

"We will oppose this step," said Deuba from house arrest. "The move directly violates the constitution and is
against democracy."

The Nepali Congress, the country's largest party, is said to be calling for demonstrations--even as armoured vehicles patrol the streets, phone lines in Kathmandu have been cut, and long lines form at grocery stores and gas stations as worried residents stock up on supplies. (AP, Feb. 2)

Mainstream accounts did not emphasize that the move was related to the Maoist insurgency which is fast gaining ground among Nepal's peasants, and has turned much of the country into a war zone. Amnesty International last week issued a report alarmed at killings and abuses of civilians by both sides. (See our last blog post on Nepal).