Former army chief stopped from exiting Nepal
May 13, 2007 - 2:27:33 PM

Kathmandu, May 13 - Gen Pyar Jung Thapa, a former chief of Nepal's army who had supported the royal coup in 2005, was Sunday prevented by the new government from flying out of the country with his wife.

Thapa, whose support had enabled King Gyanendra to seize power two years ago and impose an authoritarian rule for 15 months, received a dose of his own medicine when he and his wife Kamala Thapa were stopped at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu.

They were stopped from boarding a Qatar Airways flight to Doha, from where they planned to head to Europe. The intervention was ordered by a high-level commission probing Thapa's involvement in abetting the royal regime.

The Commission for Investigation of the Abuse of Authority is investigating the involvement of several royal accomplices, including former royalist ministers and bureaucrats.

It was a moment of grim reckoning for Thapa whose officers had in the past stopped the king's opponents from leaving the country and unleashed a reign of terror with arbitrary arrests, torture in custody and extra-judicial execution of prisoners.

Thapa's tenure saw the image of the then Royal Nepalese Army reach an all-time low with UN agencies threatening to bar Nepali soldiers from joining UN Peacekeeping Forces for its appalling record of human rights violations.

His term also saw Nepal's major arms donors, India and the US, stop arms supplies to Nepal.

After the fall of King Gyanendra's government due to a nationwide revolt in April 2006, the new seven-party government that came to power formed a commission to bring to justice the people responsible for the atrocities of the regime.

The Rayamajhi Commission, headed by a former judge, recommended action against Thapa and other heads of security wings. Though the government punished the heads of the police and armed police, Thapa, who was due to retire, was let off unscathed.

Thapa last year entered into a matrimonial alliance with the former royals of India's erstwhile princely state Baroda with his daughter Praghyashree marrying Mumbai-based Pratapsinhrao Gaekwad, nephew of Baroda's last ruler Fatehsinhrao Gaekwad.

Praghyashree, a doctor in the army, wedded the Indian tycoon in an opulent ceremony in the capital just a month after the royal regime fell and royalists were in disgrace.

Besides Thapa, the new government has also banned former royalist ministers from leaving Nepal. This includes Bollywood actress Manisha Koirala's father Prakash Koirala, who was science minister in the royal cabinet.

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