2/01/2005

Emergency in Nepal

Caught this on NPR as I was driving in to work this morning, and CNN is also reporting on the state of emergency in Nepal.

King Gyanendra says he has dissolved the government of Nepal and has declared a state of emergency as he takes control of the Himalayan kingdom.

Speaking on state-run television, the king accused the government of failing to conduct parliamentary elections and restoring peace in the country.

It is the second time in three years the monarch has taken such a drastic move.

The monarch, who is also the supreme commander of the 78,000-strong Royal Nepalese Army, said security forces would be given more power to maintain law and order.
Understandably, I am suspicious when a national leader dissolves the government and more or less puts the military in control. However, the particulars of this situation bear more scrutiny.
  • The king has been pressing the Prime Minister to hold elections.
  • The PM has deferred them several times.
  • The Maoist rebels have promised massive violence if the elections are held at all. Some 11,000 people have already died in the Nepalese People's War.
Nepal is nestled in between India and China (map here), and thus is of strategic interest to both of those nations. It doesn't take much thought to conclude that China would like to see the rebels succeed and may even be supporting them.

As an old-school Cold Warrior, my reflex is to support any move that opposes communism; doubleplus so if it specifically opposes China's communist tyrants. However, we must take a dim view when any person declares himself "maximum leader" and sacks the civilian government, no matter the motivation.

The king appears to genuinely want elections; it remains to be seen if his actions will bear that impression out.