Kathmandu facing food shortages

The Nepali capital, Kathmandu, is facing shortages of food and fuel as anti-monarchy protests continued for an eleventh consecutive day.

    Protesters scuffled with police during fresh demonstrations

    As protesters again took to the streets on Sunday, six people were reported wounded when police fired rubber bullets and used batons on thousands of stone-throwing demonstrators marching in Balkhu, on the edge of the capital.

    Elsewhere four protesters were arrested as more than 1,000 people marched on Sunday through Thamel, Kathmandu's tourist area, and further demonstrations erupted across the capital.

    Opposition leaders have also upped the pressure on the king by calling on Nepalis to withhold tax payments as part of their protest.

    Rising prices

    About 10,000 protesters had marched through Balkhu in an attempt to avoid a ban on demonstrations in the city itself.

    In response, the government announced it was extending the ban on protests to include the outskirts of Kathmandu and the suburb of Lalitpur.

    "We thought democracy was for politicians, but we made a mistake"

    Shiva Lamichhane, protester

    A general strike - also in its 11th day - left fresh food undelivered.

    Prices have risen and long queues have formed at petrol pumps in the capital.

    Bus services remained shut-down and most businesses closed.

    Raj Maharjan, a local vegetable seller, said: "We have not had a single truck come in the past 11 days. Whatever we are selling was what we had in stock, or grown locally in Kathmandu."

    About 20 people were also detained during a protest in the centre of the capital demanding press freedom.

    Krishna Prasad Sitaula of the Nepali Congress, the country's biggest political party, urged the security forces to join the protests.

    "We ask taxpayers not to pay any tax to the government, civil servants to disobey orders and security forces to take off their uniforms and join the people," he said.

    Tourist trade

    Pro-democracy activists had not previously marched through the Thamel area of the Kathmandu for fear of damaging the tourist trade.

    "We thought democracy was for politicians, but we made a mistake," said Shiva Lamichhane, a tour operator among the protesters. "For sustainable business, we need democracy."

    Thousands of protesters have been carrying out daily demonstrations across Nepal since April 6, in defiance of a government ban and daytime curfews.

    Four people have been shot and killed by the security services during the protests.

    King Gyanendra sacked the government and assumed power in February last year, a move he says was necessary to defeat the Maoist insurgency that has left about 13,000 people dead since it began in 1996.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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