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Sunday, 11 March, 2001, 22:33 GMT
Gurkhas demand better pensions
Britain says Gurkhas receive their pensions earlier
By Alistair Lawson in Kathmandu

Gurkhas formerly employed as soldiers in the British Army have renewed calls for improved pensions from the UK Government.

The move came at the end of a three-day conference in the Nepali capital, Kathmandu, organised by the Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen's Association (Gaeso).

The aim of the conference was to secure better pensions for men who served in the British Army.

The Gurkhas say they are paid less than their British counterparts, and have threatened to take their case before an international tribunal if their pensions are not raised to the same level.

Equal pay

The place of honour during this conference was given to a former Gurkha soldier who was injured while fighting for the British Army during World War II.

Gurkhas in Kosovo
Gurkhas were among the first Nato troops in Kosovo
Organisers say that Durga Bahadur Sunar lost his leg fighting against the Japanese in Burma.

Mr Sunar carried a placard around his neck giving his name, rank and serial number. The sign said he had received no pension, gratuity or compensation from the UK Government.

Gaeso's General Secretary, Yam Bahadur Gurung, told the BBC that even though the UK Government had recently taken measures to improve pensions, many ex-Gurkhas still received up to 20 times less than their British equivalents.

Court threat

Gaeso has warned that unless the pensions of former Gurkhas are the same as those of retired soldiers in the UK, they will soon take their case to European and international courts.

The organisation is also demanding that Gurkhas who were held as prisoners-of-war by the Japanese receive the same compensation as their British counterparts.

In addition, they say the families of Gurkhas killed in active service should receive payments similar to those of a British soldier.

Britain, for its part, argues that while Gurkha pensions may be lower, they are paid seven years earlier.

The UK Government says it has recently made a series of pension increases, the most recent of which was announced last week.

But Gaeso leaders have dismissed this as a publicity stunt intended to divert attention from their conference.

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