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Prepared: 08 May 2006
The following information has been prepared by World Expeditions for the benefit of travellers visiting Nepal in the coming weeks and months.
Following two weeks of protesting which was widely publicised in the international media, the people of Nepal celebrated a victory for democracy when on 26 April 2006 the King reinstated parliament by Royal Proclamation. Nepal’s Cabinet declared a ceasefire on 3 May with Maoist rebels (after Maoists announced a 3 month ceasefire) and urged them to open peace talks, also opening the way for the democratic process to begin. The Maoists are to join the mainstream political process to draft a new constitution which is great news for Nepal after 10 years of instability. Within hours of the Kings proclamation there were victory celebrations on the streets of Kathmandu and business trade returned to normal after over a week of strikes and the supply of goods again began to flow into the Kathmandu Valley. The outlook for Nepal is positive.
The following information provides a short account Nepal’s recent political history.
Nepal has been under the rule of a monarchy for most of its known history. It introduced democratic powers in 1991, however, these have been factionalised and inconsistent, leaving the country without any real leadership.
Over the last decade there has been an on going conflict, between a group known as the Maoists, with the Monarchy and the associated Government. The Maoist uprising has its origins in the far west of Nepal. Over a long period of time vital funding to the region was eroded as it passed through transitional provinces. This blatant corruption led to a deep-rooted resentment of the Royal Family and the Government, and it is easy to understand why activists under the ‘Maoist’ flagship evolved. Since July 2002, the Maoists have increased their activities in the western stronghold regions and beyond. Clashes in various parts of the country, but largely in remote areas, are not uncommon.
In February 2005 King Gyanendra sacked the government, which was led by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, and assumed full power. This was because of Prime Minister Deuba’s failure to achieve the deadline for peace talks with Maoist leaders. For most of Nepal’s population, this move was considered to be anti-democratic, and over the last year support grew in all parts of the community for the country to return to democracy. In harnessing support there were widespread demonstrations not limited to the capital.
During April 2006, the situation turned, largely due to the actions of the seven party coalition which opposes the King. The coalition, together with the Maoists, insisted that the people be given a proper democratic state. During a period of two weeks the political parties took their protests to the streets with greater conviction than ever before. Strikes occurred resulting in the temporary closure of businesses. It is the case though that tourist hotels and transportation between the city hotels and the airport were not affected.
World Expeditions had over 150 travellers in the country during this time. We took steps to contain people from freely moving around the capital and main centers as a precautionary measure. Reports from our travellers have been extremely positive.
Ray (UK) – Best of Annapurna Dhaulagiri -
“Just to let you know how pleased I was with this trip. This was my fourth trek in Nepal and was by far and away the best one yet. It took in so many aspects of what I like about trekking; village life, good walking, meeting the locals, the scenery and plenty of local colour and culture. The local landscapes, especially the fields and villages were worth every step of the way and really suited my photo requirements.
Throughout …(the strike period)… our guide, Bir Singh Gurung was great, always ready to answer questions and very knowledgeable and proud about his country... I have travelled with him before and he is both a credit to World Expeditions and proud to be part of your organisation.
On the down side, I was saddened to see so few trekkers generally in Nepal. Their absence is really noticeable and my heart went out to the local people…. They have that look in their eyes of the starving waiting for rain, wishing it would come. I don’t know what influence you have, I am sure that the travel industry must have a considerable one, but I urge you to use it both with the government of the UK and Nepal to continue to encourage travel to Nepal; it isn’t as bad as the media make out and again I urge you to convince them of the up side of travelling to what remains a very beautiful and welcoming country. The very disjointed and sensational reporting of recent events in Nepal and especially Pokhara and Kathmandu, which bore little resemblance to my experiences, cannot have helped matters.”
Our staff in Kathmandu and all over Nepal maintain that our trekking regions are secure. We have been operating treks in Nepal for over 30 years and have staff in every district of Nepal who report to our Kathmandu office regularly with local feedback. From head office we are also in contact with our Kathmandu management four to five times daily while the demonstrations and strikes continue.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the past six months has advised travellers to ‘reconsider their need to travel to Nepal’. You can view their advice on the following address http://www.smartraveller.gov.au which was for a period of 3 days upgraded in light of the heightened demonstrations and political movement.
Should you have queries in respect to the situation in Nepal, please do not hesitate to contact your nearest World Expeditions office. Finally, the safety of our staff and clients will continue to be our highest priority.