UN starts locking up Nepal Army arms
Apr 10, 2007 - 2:01:16 PM

Kathmandu, April 10 - As a trust-building measure, Nepal's army Tuesday began replicating a gesture made by the Maoist insurgents earlier, locking up an equal number of arms and ammunition under United Nations supervision.

An arms monitoring committee headed by UN official Jan Erik Wilhelmsen Tuesday arrived at the barracks of the Nepal Army in Chhauni in Kathmandu to lock up the same quantity of arms laid down by the Maoists' People's Liberation Army last month.

Last year, the then seven-party government of Nepal signed an arms agreement with the Maoists and the UN to facilitate ongoing peace negotiations.

According to the December pact, PLA - soldiers were to be barracked in seven sites in Nepal till the election in June. To ensure that the poll would be free and fearless, the guerrillas also pledged to keep their arms locked up in their camps under UN supervision.

Aided by surveillance cameras and sirens, UN officials have been keeping a vigil at the arms storage sites since March to ensure the Maoists do not put them to fresh use.

As a reciprocal gesture, the government also pledged that the army, once the Maoists' bete noir, would lay down arms under UN supervision.

Though initially the rebels had wanted the army to lock up its entire arsenal, it had to yield ground and be content with the army's gesture of laying down a matching number and set of arms.

The compromise comes after fears that the rebels could still be retaining secret weapon caches outside the camps.

According to the UN, Maoists locked up 3,475 arms, besides ammunition and improvised explosive devices.

After the fall of King Gyanendra's government, Nepal's army was regarded with wariness for its earlier support for the coup staged by the king.

During the 15-month royal regime, the army was used to brutally suppress anti-king protests. It was also used to try to root out the Maoist insurgency and acquired a reputation for arbitrary arrests, torture in custody and extra-judicial killings.

However, since King Gyanendra stepped down, the army has pledged to obey the new multi-party government, which includes the Maoists.

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