Page last updated at 07:42 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Nepalese Maoists warn army leader

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Nepal army
Nepalese soldiers fought a decade-long civil war

The Maoist-led government of Nepal has stepped up the rhetoric in an ongoing war of words between itself and the country's army.

The army and the Maoists fought against each other for 10 years until 2006.

Now the Maoist defence minister has issued a fresh warning to the army chief to stop an ongoing process of recruiting people to the military.

The confrontation is the most serious between the two institutions since the Maoists won elections last year.


After that historic win in April, much of the Nepalese state has been turned upside down.

No relationship is more uneasy than that between Ram Bahadur Thapa - defence minister and former commissar of the Maoist rebel army - and Gen Rukmangad Katuwal, the army chief, who was actually brought up inside the palace of the now deposed royals.

Former Maoist fighters in Nepal
Suspicion still exists between the two sides

They meet regularly, but in recent weeks a row has arisen over the general's insistence that the military has the right to recruit new people to fill vacancies created by retirements.

The Maoists say this breaches one of the peace accords, which forbids either of the formerly warring sides to recruit "additional armed forces" without mutual agreement.

Maoist Defence Minister Thapa has now told a parliamentary committee that there will be "serious consequences" if the army recruitment is not suspended.

He said that the military "must obey" his instructions and if it did not, the situation would be tantamount to army rule.

The row is a symptom of the biggest unresolved issue of the peace process: whether and how to integrate the Maoists' own army with the national one.

Many of the 19,000 former rebel fighters, currently demobilised in camps, want to join the army.

But Gen Katuwal says he will not accept "politically indoctrinated soldiers" into its ranks.

The Maoist army, called the People's Liberation Army or PLA, wants some sort of union that allows its top commanders to keep high ranks, and keep a discreet PLA unit.

A separate hard line faction in the party wants to avoid integration altogether, keeping the PLA entirely intact.

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