Nepali Army Succeeds In Controlling Terror

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The Royal Nepalese Army welcomes your report on Nepal titled “Beyond Royal Rule” which gives your perspective of the conflict in Nepal and the recent political developments. We believe that the report should give your audiences and supporters a clear picture of the events in Nepal. However, having read the “Misdirected Military” section of the report which concerns the Royal Nepal Army (RNA), we would like to express our objections to parts of the report and set the records right.

We appreciate your analysis of the improvement of the security situation within the Kathmandu Valley since 1 February to date because we truly believe that we have been able to curtail terror activities of the Maoist on innocent citizens. With regards to the security situation in the countryside, it is true that we have not been able to have a security presence in all the villages in the country. This is largely because of the lack of manpower, but it is not true that little has changed in the security situation in the countryside. As the RNA’s force is strengthened due to the prevailing needs of the country, we will continue to provide more security bases in as many rural areas as we can do defensively deploy the army to provide security to the people.

You have mentioned in your report that the Maoists are militarily strong and control much of the countryside. In this reference, we would like to state that this statement is far from the truth as the army is deployed in all densely populated areas in rural areas. And we would like to assure you that the Maoists do not control any areas nor do they have any liberated areas. Analyzing the so-called unilateral cease-fire declared by the Maoists, the RNA believes that it was only a strategic move to strengthen their fractured and weakened militia, something past ceasefire records will prove. As you may be aware, national and international human rights organizations and the media have reported a dramatic increase in the forceful abduction of children and civilians ever since the Maoist declared their so-called ceasefire. Playing the devil’s advocate, could it not be that they are using their supposed ceasefire to forcefully recruit people into their militia because of their weakened fighting force. It is difficult for any Nepali citizen to believe that the Maoists have declared a ceasefire in good faith to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Nepal. If they were true to their words, they would have advocated for a dialogue with the state, something that is not mentioned in their reported ceasefire statement.

With reference to your report stating that you have the impression that the RNA is ‘licensed to commit systematic human rights violations’ we strongly object to this irresponsible statement because the RNA has never believed in any systematic violation of human rights. It is unfortunate that the media, in particular foreign media and international rights groups have loosely used the term “Systematic” and “Punitive” to refer to isolated cases of rights abuses by RNA personnel. It is true that there have been individual cases of abuse by soldiers but we are making serious efforts to address these abuses and have in many occasions taken stern action against our soldiers according to the prevailing laws, irrespective of their ranks. The RNA’s efforts have been welcomed by OHCHR on several occasions and its Chief in Nepal Ian Martin has gone public saying that the RNA was cooperating with his office.

Our commitment to human rights and transparency are clear when we welcomed the setting up of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and agreed to provide UN staff unconditional accesses to detention centers and army barracks. Today, we continue to provide unhindered access detention centers and army barracks to the National Human Rights Commission, OHCHR and the ICRC, something not even the largest democracies have dared to do in the northern and southern hemispheres. With regard to ICRC visits, we would categorically state that the RNA never called on the ICRC to suspend its visits and never denied them access to any detainees. We understand that you have used the Kantipur Publications as source material for some of statements in your report. Using the same source, we would like to bring to your attention and editorial in the Kantipur daily dated 19 August 2005 under the title “Hopeful Start” and The Kathmandu Post editorial titled “Army Court Verdict” on 29 September 2005 where the mass circulation dailies highlighted their opinion on how the RNA was on strides trying to improving and respecting human rights.

It is every human being’s right to defend their families and children from any threat to their lives. And this is no less true for innocent and helpless civilians in the countryside and rural areas of Nepal. They have the right to defend their children and their families from the Maoists who have been declared terrorist by the state and some countries including the United States and India. Hence the so-called “village militias” mentioned in your report and the terminology “Village Defense Force” used by the media and rights based organization are nothing more than self defense by local communities against the Maoist, their atrocities and their forceful recruitment of women and children and extortions. It is true that when people take law into their own hands the chances of anarchy increases in conflict affected societies. With this understanding in mind and the RNA’s commitment to the rule of law, the army took out a strong and unequivocal public statement on the 26th July 2005 asking people not to take law into their hands and to hand-over captured Maoists to the security forces or local administrations. The RNA is committed to see that the rule of the land prevails on all citizens irrespective of political ideologies and belief systems. Hence, the RNA would like to firmly state that it has not encouraged the development of “village militias” mentioned in your report, nor has it backed or supported any vigilante groups or the Village Defense Force.

With reference to allegations in your report that the “RNA has become more involved in administration and assumed a more nakedly political role” we strongly refute this accusation. The RNA is mandated to function under the government by the constitution and it was parliament’s decision on 26 November 2001 to use the RNA in the country’s fight against terrorism that we were given the responsibility to help bring law and security Statements in your report that the RNA is running the country’s administration and that local commanding officers had displaced civil administrators are baseless and unfounded. It is true that security operations under the unified command are being carried out under the leadership of the RNA, but we would also like to inform you that these operations are carried out under the jurisdiction and authority of the local and district administrations are carried out under the jurisdiction and authority of the local district administrations as in the past.

Your report stating that the RNA is an obstacle to peace and hostile towards democracy are malicious and does not in anyway reflect the values of your organization to prevent and resolve conflict by analyzing and assessing correct information. For records, it might be worth noting that the RNA was the leading state security mechanism which supported the Election Commission in 1991 and 1994 to hold free and fair parliamentary and local elections without any untoward incidents which was accepted by all political parties and the international community. Hence we would like to reiterate here that we are not against peace and democracy and we will provide the necessary security arrangements for the scheduled municipal and parliamentary elections in 2006 and 2007 respectively. In addition, had the RNA not been committed to democracy and fighting the Maoists, one can only imagine what the Nepalese people would have had to suffer under the Maoists totalitarian and authoritarian rule.

With reference to retired Generals being appointed ambassadors of the country. It is the right of every sovereign nation to appoint capable individuals to represent the country, a practice which has been practiced by all nations around the world. The practice of appointing retired Generals as ambassadors to represent Nepal is not something that was initiated recently, but a practice that has been carried out since the restoration of democracy in 1990.

Being a non-partisan entity of the state with mandates clearly defined in the constitution, the RNA would like to clearly state that we are not a politicized military and have not sided with any political party. It may be worth to note that the RNA does not function independently of the state irrespective of which political partly is running the administration. The Royal Nepalese Army functions under the mandate of the constitution and under the authority of government to protect the state’s integrity and independence.

In conclusion, we hope you will take our response to your report “Beyond Royal Rule” in good faith and provide a more truthful and fact based information to your supporters and the international community. Should your representatives visit Nepal in course of your field analysis, we would be happy to accommodate them and arrange meetings with army officials and soldiers to give ICG a better picture of the security situation in Nepal irrespective of the status.

Bahadur Singh is a Nepal-based journalist, who writes about the political goings-on in Kathmandu and other areas.