Nepal’s political parties have begun to remove one of the biggest blocks in the peace process – the stalled integration or rehabilitation of fighters from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). On 22 January, 19,600 former Maoist guerrillas were ceremonially handed over to government control at Shaktikhor PLA cantonment in Chitwan district.
The issue has not really been resolved, however, as the PLA ex-combatants have not been integrated into the Nepali security forces, as promised in the comprehensive peace accord of 2006. They have only been placed under the authority of a multi-party “special committee”.
The Nepali army gives little sign of being willing to admit significant numbers of former PLA soldiers, who for the time being retain their existing command structure.
The Maoists claim to have reached an agreement with the current government that will see the rehabilitation or integration of former PLA fighters within three months.
The United Nations mission in Nepal (UNMIN) finally left the country on 15 January. It had been opposed by the Nepali army and by the other main political parties, and supported only by the Maoists, whose forces it monitored.
Crucially, UNMIN was opposed by India, which regarded UN involvement in its backyard as unwarranted interference. In the post-UNMIN environment, India apparently hopes to isolate and break down the Maoists.
As PN went to press, the political parties in Nepal were promising, once again, that a government of national unity was just about to be formed. Nepal’s new constitution is due by 28 May.