Nepal's child fighters' lives to be finally rebuilt


Tihar Jail
Jun 16, 2009
Nepal's child fighters' lives to be finally rebuilt
TNN 16 July 2009, 06:57pm IST

KATHMANDU: They were honourably discharged from the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) three years ago after the guerrillas signed a peace
agreement with the government and laid down their arms. But the nearly 3,000 fighters, who were recruited when they were still minors and survived the 10-year "People’s War" were never freed from the cantonments where they had to stay along with the PLA.

But now, the mentally and physically scarred child soldiers of Nepal would be finally looking forward to a new life as free men and women as the new government Thursday said their discharge process would start from Friday.

The Peace and Reconstruction ministry said altogether 4008 ex-PLA fighters, who were disqualified during a headcount conducted by the UN in 2007, would be discharged by Nov 2. They include 2,973 people who were recruited when they were still minors, and 1035 who were inducted after 2006 in violation of the peace pact.

The ministry said it would formulate a time-bound action plan to discharge the 4008 from their cantonments and manage their return to civilian life and rehabilitation into society with the support of the UN agencies working in Nepal. A rehabilitation and monitoring committee formed under the ministry and including the UN agencies as well as Maoist representatives will be formed to support, coordinate and monitor the process.

Former PLA deputy commander and Maoist lawmaker Barsha Man Pun Ananta told TNN that the party had already sent a PLA commandant Tej Bahadur Oli to Nawalparasi district in western Nepal. Oli and other Maoist representatives will take part in the on-the-spot assessment that starts in the Nawalparasi cantonment Friday when the government team accompanied by UN officials arrive.

The government has arranged transit centres where the discharged soldiers will stay for a maximum period of 45 days. The release from the barracks will be followed by training and other rehabilitation programmes to make their return to normal life after years of bloodshed easier.

The earlier Maoist government had failed to discharge the child soldiers even after repeated assurances to the international community and the UN. The process was expected to have started last year on the eve of UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Nepal in October.

Once the 4008 fighters are dealt with, the government will face the trickier question of what to do with the PLA, whose strength is over 19,600. The Maoists are demanding their wholsesale induction into the army while army chief Rookmangud Katawal has bluntly refused the plan.

The question became even trickier this year after a secret videotape revealed Prachanda as admitting that there were only about 7,000-8,000 PLA combatants. The rest, he indicated, were falsified in order to have a stronger presence in the army.

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