Police kill protester in Nepal as king struggles with how to respond to demonstrations | VailDaily.com

Police kill protester in Nepal as king struggles with how to respond to demonstrations

Associated Press Writer

KATMANDU, Nepal – Police fatally shot a protester demanding the restoration of democracy Wednesday as Nepal’s king faced the choice of taking a hard line or making concessions after days of violent demonstrations.Hundreds of protesters in the town of Parasi, 125 miles southwest of the capital, Katmandu, were pelting police with stones and bricks when the officers opened fire, killing one and injuring five others, an official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.Protests gripped towns and cities across Nepal but authorities foiled pro-democracy activists’ plans for a mass rally in the heart of Katmandu.At least 29 journalists were arrested in Katmandu at a protest of the government’s crackdown on the media since King Gyanendra seized absolute power.Gyanendra has remained relatively silent throughout the crisis, spending his days in the resort town of Pokhara, and making a single statement that called for calm but did not directly address the protesters’ demands.The king is expected to make a major speech Friday, the Nepali New Year. Gyanendra returned to Katmandu on Wednesday and was meeting with his ministers in the palace to discuss how to handle the crisis, according to local media.”He is nervous and he understands that things have not gone right and things are not getting better,” said a Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.Once known as Shangri-La, the Himalayan haven for hippies and mountain climbers looking to scale peaks like Mount Everest has been transformed by scenes of bloody, ragged protesters hurling bricks and stones at police and soldiers through clouds of tear gas. Many demonstrators have been beaten by baton-wielding officers, who also have used rubber bullets.The United Nations has accused police and soldiers of using excessive force, and the United States has called the king’s takeover “an abject failure.”Nepal’s seven-party opposition alliance – backed by a separate communist insurgency – is organizing the protests, which have thrown the country into its worst crisis since Gyanendra seized power 14 months ago.Gyanendra said he took control to stamp out political corruption and end a communist insurgency that has left nearly 13,000 people dead in the past decade. Criticism of the king, the government and security forces has been banned, along with independent reporting on the communist rebellion, which wants to replace the monarchy with a communist state.A nationwide general strike called by the opposition stretched into its seventh day Wednesday. The government announced it was banning strikes in essential services, such as transportation, hospitals and communication, and that violators would be punished.Officials lifted a curfew in Katmandu that had kept the capital in virtual lockdown for days, although curfews remained in Pokhara and the city of Bharatpur. Protests were reported in both cities Wednesday.Protesters in Katmandu had planned to converge in the capital’s center for a mass rally that was to be the week’s largest, defying the royal government’s ban on demonstrations.But a heavy police and army presence on the streets of the capital – and the arrest of 20 protesters – stymied the plan.Across Katmandu, residents streamed into the streets to work, shop or just enjoy life outside their homes.Gopal Shrestha was back at his small makeshift roadside stand where he sells sunglasses, relieved he’d been able to return to work.”People inside don’t need sunglasses,” he said.—Associated Press reporter Binaj Gurubacharya contributed to this report.Vail, Colorado

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