Nepali Times Asian Paints

Why is the Burmese general here?

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 8.17.59 PM

BBC Nepali, 12 December

The Burmese Army Chief who is accused of masterminding ethnic cleansing on his country’s Rohingya people is in Kathmandu on a four-day visit. The Nepal Army said he was here to study Nepal’s peace process, especially the demobilisation of the rebel fighters.

Several human rights activists have criticised the visit of someone accused to gross human rights violations, and said the timing was not right. However, Nepali officials maintain that the Rohingya issue is Burma’s internal affair and had nothing to do with Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s visit to Nepal.

Some 600,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh since August, which the United Nations has characterised as a ‘textbook case of ethnic cleansing’. This has brought widespread international criticism of Burma’s democracy warrior and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi.

“The visit exposes Nepal’s lack of adherence to its responsibility to uphold international law, and shows support for gross violations of human rights,” said activist Govinda Bandi. Other activists say Nepal should have been much more sensitive to the fact that it has just been voted into the UN Human Rights Council.

Nepal Army spokesman Nainraj Dahal said: “This visit was solely intended to improve bilateral relations, and there has been no discussion at the level of the Nepal government or Nepal Army about the international reaction.”

Former Nepal Army General Balananda Sharma who has worked on the Burmese peace process agreed that Gen Haing’s visit should not be seen from the perspective of Burma’s internal affairs.

Gen Sharma was in charge of the secretariat managing the integration of Maoist fighters into the Nepal Army and added: “They also need to end their 70-year-old insurgencies, it is good he is here to hear about our experience in the peace process.” Of the insurgent groups in Burma, the government has a peace agreement with eight and efforts are on to bring 13 others into a truce.

This is not the first time that senior Burmese officials and political leaders have visited Nepal to meet the prime minister and politicians.

Nepali activists say officials here should alert Burmese military personnel about the need to investigate war crimes. But others also say that the process of Burma’s efforts to ensure transitional justice should not be derailed by its Rohingya crisis.

The rise of the red

Saturday, December 9th, 2017
Photo: Bikram Rai

Photo: Bikram Rai

The Left Alliance between the UML and the Maoists was expected to win parliamentary and provincial elections, but not so thunderously.

After two nights and one day of vote counting, it looks like the Left Alliance will not only win an absolute majority, but could also secure a two-thirds.

As of Saturday morning, the UML and the Maoists have altogether won 28 and are leading in 77 constituencies – nearly two thirds of 165 parliamentary seats under the First Past the Post (FPTP) system.

The Left Alliance may fall short of winning a two-third under the FPTP system, but it could make up for it by winning most of the 110 seats under the Proportional Representation (PR) system. If that happens, the Communists will not only rule Nepal for the next five years but could also amend any clauses of the Constitution.

The UML alone has already won 23 seats and is leading 49 constituencies. The Maoists have won 5 seats and are leading in 27 seats. These early results show that they will also win an overwhelming number of PR votes.

The ruling Nepali Congress is trailing behind the Maoists, and not the UML. It has won just 4 seats so far and is leading in 20 constituencies – a number just slightly better than the combined performance of two Madhes-based parties. The Federal Socialist Forum Nepal and the Rashtriya Janata Party Nepal are leading in 9 and 8 constituencies respectively.

While most NC candidates bit the dust at the hands of UML-Maoist candidates in the hills, it was the Madhesi parties that pushed them to a corner in the Tarai. Even in the elections for provincial assemblies, the so-called Democratic Alliance between the NC, the Madhesis and the royalist RPPs is lagging far behind the Left Alliance.

The rise of the Communists and the fall of the NC means that people have voted for political stability and economic prosperity – a promise the UML-Maoists made ahead of elections. It also shows that the people did not believe the NC’s warnings that the UML-Maoists would hijack democracy and impose authoritarian rule.

Analysts say the main reasons for the NC’s decline were its role during the Indian blockade, support for corrupt leaders, lack of an appealing slogan, anti-incumbency factor and weak party organisation.

On the other hand, the Left Alliance understood what the people wanted after decades of turbulent transition. UML Chair KP Oli’s nationalist image also worked in their favour. Most importantly, the UML’s party organisation was much stronger than the NC’s, and it was consolidated when it forged an alliance with the Maoists.

Many NC heavyweights have already bitten the dust and are lagging far behind UML-Maoist candidates. Although NC President and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is on his way to seal another victory in Dadeldhura, other NC leaders like Ram Chandra Poudel, Bimalendra Nidhi, Shekhar Koirala, Ram Saran Mahat, Prakash Sharan Mahat, Nabindra Raj Joshi and Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar have already lost or are losing.

In Kathmandu, the victories of Prakash Man Singh, Gagan Thapa and Rajan KC have spared the NC’s blushes. After securing a thrilling victory over his closest rival UML’s Rajan Bhattarai, Thapa said: “The NC will see even worse days if we do not reform the party.”

On the other hand, UML Chair KP Oli is winning by a huge margin. So are Madhav Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Subash Nembang and Yogesh Bhattarai. Maoist leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Barsaman Pun and others are also winning comfortably.

The poor performance of the pro-Hindu, royalist RPPs mean that people are against the idea of mixing politics with religion. Bibeksheel Sajha Party, an alternative force promising political reforms, has not won a single seat. But some of its candidates, especially journalist-turned-politician Rabindra Mishra, have given tough fights to NC and UML heavyweights. This shows that it may win a respectable total of PR votes.

In Gorkha-2, after initially lagging behind Maoist candidate Narayan Kaji Shrestha, NC-backed Naya Shakti party Chair Baburam Bhattarai is leading. But he may be the only candidate to win from Naya Shakti.

Om Astha Rai

Kathmandu hosts global animal conference

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017
(Right to left) Andrew Rowan, executive director of the Humane Society; Alex Mayers, the Donkey Sanctuary; and Chu Tseng-Hung, Taiwanese activist during the conference on Tuesday.

(Right to left) Andrew Rowan, executive director of the Humane Society; Alex Mayers, the Donkey Sanctuary; and Chu Tseng-Hung, Taiwanese activist. All photos: Ryan Chang


Hundreds of experts from the world’s leading animal welfare organisations concluded the three-day Asia for Animals Conference in Kathmandu on Tuesday. Held for the first time in Nepal, it drew participants from over 45 countries.

Hosted by the Jane Goodall Institute Nepal, renowned animal scholars and advocates such as Grace Ge Grabriel, Andrew Rowan, Suzanne Rogers and Chu Tseng-Hung spoke about saving endangered wildlife, preventing cruelty to animals and ways to manage urban fauna.

Hemanta Mishra RYAN CHANG

Hemanta Raj Mishra delivers a keynote speech at the Asia for Animals Conference, speaking about his decades-worth of experiences in Nepalese animal conservation.

Nepal’s own pioneering conservationist and founder of the Chitwan National Park, Hemanta Raj Mishra, opened the conference with a retrospective look at how the country’s nature conservation program survived a decade of civil strife.

“Despite political differences, and there really are too many political parties out there today, local communities wholly supported wildlife and displayed courage and competency in crisis,” he said. “It is encouraging to see that tiger poaching has gone down in recent years, while rhino numbers are increasing by the hundreds.”

Heartbreaking footage of dogs, cats, and donkeys being mistreated were shown during the sessions, alongside success stories and case studies of community involvement around the world to improve animal welfare.

The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Changing Human Behaviour’, and indeed that was seen as the key to caring for animals in a meaningful way. Experts emphasised educating local communities across Asia on scientific and humane methods to interact with animals.

Indian environmentalist and historian Nanditha Krishna said: “You cannot succeed by just issuing laws. The only way we can change human behaviour is by going to village by village and talking.”

Animal Nepal president Pramada Shah introduces the concept of “community dogs” in Nepal to an international audience.

Animal Nepal president Pramada Shah introduces the concept of “community dogs” in Nepal to an international audience.

Pramada Shah of Animal Nepal highlighted how Lalitpur and Kathmandu municipalities in Nepal have slowly changed their attitude towards what they used to see as ‘stray’ dogs. Municipalities that used to poison dogs are now supporting campaigns to splay and treat street canines.

Indeed, Kathmandu has made dramatic strides in reducing the population of its street dogs and also in their mistreatment. Volunteer groups have established ‘mobile vet’ hotlines and involved local communities to monitor the situation, and fewer injured animals are coming in from road accidents and infections.

“What we want is a cruelty free society. It’s innate in our culture.” said Shah. “I’m positive, in this day and age that Nepalis are a progressive people. ”

Nepal’s animal rights movement scored a major victory just days before the Conference with the Supreme Court of Nepal putting a ban last week on culling of street dogs, as well as the use of poison to control dog populations.

Department of Livestock Services Secretary Bala Ram Thapa asks the panel on how the government can support more humane slaughter of buffaloes and cross-collaboration between organisations.

Department of Livestock Services Secretary Bala Ram Thapa asks the panel on how the government can support more humane slaughter of buffaloes and cross-collaboration between organisations.

Efforts to stop illegal wildlife trafficking were mentioned, as Dr Bala Ram Thapa from the Government of Nepal brought up an arrest in October of six persons smuggling chimpanzees and exotic birds through Tribhuvan International Airport.

“Make no mistake,” Thapa said of the incident, “the criminals will be in jail for 20 years.”

Andrew Rowan, executive director of the Humane Society of the United States, said that although animal welfare in Nepal has improved there is still much more work to be done.  He says that animal groups in Nepal should be working more closely together, and under the backing of standardised government law.

“There are many drafts of laws being made today, but the next step is to pass them.” said Rowan.

The conference ends with a trip on Wednesday to Chitwan National Park, where endangered mammals such as Bengal tigers and one-horned rhinoceros are kept.


Future imperfect

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017
Photo: Gopen Rai

Photo: Gopen Rai

The future of more than 200 Nepali medical students in Bangladesh hangs in the balance as their colleges are either unregistered or black-listed.

In the first week of October, Nepal’s ambassador to Bangladesh, Chop Lal Bhusal, sent a memo to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), along with the list of 37 black-listed Bangladeshi colleges where Nepali students have been enrolled.

Nearly two months later, despite receiving the letter from the MoFA, neither the Ministry of Education (MoE) nor the Nepal Medical Council (NMC) has initiated any efforts to ‘rescue’ them. If not transferred to other colleges, these students will be barred from applying for internship, and will not become doctors.

That ambassador Bhusal’s memo from Dhaka has not prodded Nepali authorities is not surprising. What is surprising is that they allowed Nepali students to be duped by unscrupulous education consultancies even after being informed that the Bangladesh government has black-listed dozens of medical colleges. 

Last year, Nepal’s then ambassador to Bangladesh, Dhan Bahadur Oli, had sent a memo about four black-listed Bangladeshi medical colleges. He had also warned that more medical colleges were likely to be either shut down or black-listed for not complying with regulations and taking more foreign students than their actual quotas. 

After Oli’s memo from Dhaka, the MoE was mulling a moratorium on Nepali students’ entry into Bangladesh for medical education. But education consultancies, protected by politicians, forced the MoE to back off. 

NMC Chair Dharma Kanta Banskota says: “We initially barred students from going to Bangladesh for medical education, but then Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal himself put pressure on us to not stop them. So we had to relent.” 

Since then, as many as 328 Nepali students have gone to study MBBS and BDS in Bangladesh, after obtaining No Objection Certificates from the MoE and Eligibility Certificate from the NMC. And more than 200 of them have landed in colleges not recognised by the Bangladesh government. 

Ambassador Bhusal accuses the MoE and the NMC of being influenced by education consultancies and risking the future of Nepali students. “Everyone is interested in the kickback, and no one cares for students,” he says.

Last year, the Nepal Embassy advised the MoE and the NMC to allow Nepali students to come to Bangladesh only after monitoring all Bangladeshi medical colleges. Neither the MoE nor the NMC heeded the embassy’s advice.

NMC member Bishwa Dawadi says: “It is practically not possible to monitor each and every medical college in Bangladesh, and monitoring will not guarantee that no student faces risks there.”

Around 3,500 Nepali students are currently studying in 74 medical colleges in Bangladesh. They spend anything between Rs 3.5 million to Rs 6 million to be doctor, and they have to pay at least Rs 500,000 to consultancies.

Ramu Sapkota

Reaction from Dharamshala

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Julia Thomas in DHARAMSHALA

dalai lama

Before moving from Bhaktapur to work in his uncle’s business in Dharamshala one year and a half ago, Shishan says that he did not know about the Dalai Lama. He knew about Buddha’s birth place and the practices of Buddhism, and today identifies as both a Buddhist and Hindu, but was not aware of the figurehead of Mahayana Buddhism as a leading figure.

Mani Rajthapa, a Nepali born and raised in Dharamshala, is going with his wife in the coming days to receive a blessing from the Dalai Lama.

“I am very excited, I feel very lucky,” he said. “When I see the Dalai Lama, I feel very good.”

The slogan ‘Buddha was born in Nepal’ appears widely across Nepal as car stickers and signage on walls, and is a strong point of pride for the many Nepalis. The Dalai Lama’s remarks about Buddha’s enlightenment to a group of children in Meerut in India on 16 October were interpreted by many Nepalis to mean that he was born in India rather than Nepal, eliciting outrage on social media.

Some even responded with strong rhetoric and images expressing violence against the Dalai Lama, while others saw the incident as one created by lack of clarity and listening carefully to the actual recording of the Dalai Lama’s statement. Some Nepalis and Tibetans living in Dharamshala, the residence of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan government in exile, saw the strong response as one exacerbated by distance.

“People posted this video on Facebook without listening carefully,” Lhakpa Dolma, a Tibetan living here, “I saw some very horrible pictures of the Dalai Lama, but some people didn’t listen well to the video and commented very bad things. But they don’t know what the Dalai Lama actually said.”

According to a recording in circulation on YouTube, the Dalai Lama answered a student’s question with a nod to Buddha’s influence across Asia.

“Buddha was born in Lumbini,” he said, “so Buddha was Nepalese, not Indian. That’s nonsense I think. He is born of a small kingdom there, big dharma. In any way, Buddha, in India, he’s teaching. Eventually he’s teaching whole Asia, his teaching reaches whole Asia. Firstly China, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Laos. Through China, Korea, Japan, then to north, Tibet, Mongolia, some republics in Russia … So Buddha is not Tibetan, not Chinese, not Indian. Ancient time, I think [he was] one great Indian master of teaching that reached all of Asia.”

The Central Tibetan Administration issued a statement on to clarify that the Dalai Lama was referring to Buddha reaching enlightenment and giving some of his most profound teachings in the land today labeled as India.
‘We are concerned to know there was misunderstanding of the intent of his answer, and would like to clarify that His Holiness meant no disrespect towards his Nepalese brothers and sisters,’ reads the statement, which also clarified the Dalai Lama’s acceptance of Lumbini as the birth place of Buddha. ‘What he wanted to emphasize in contemporary terms is the importance of understanding what the Buddha taught and the scope of his influence throughout Asia.’

Tara Air crashes in Humla

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017
Pic: Twitter

Pic: Twitter

Tara Air’s twin otter crashed during take-off at Simikot Airport in Humla on Tuesday morning. The plane 9N-ABM heading to Surkhet from Humla was carrying 13 police personnel who were returning after the elections, and three crew members.

According to Laxmi Basnet, Chief District Officer of Humla, the tire of the plane burst while trying to take-off and the nose of the aircraft has suffered damages. Although no casualties were reported, three crew members including the pilot and co-pilot were injured in the accident. The injured are being treated at the District Hospital.

Losing ground in Madhes

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Pic: Deepak Gyawali

Ex-minister Om Prakash Yadav Guljari led a campaign to bar UML leaders from entering Rupandehi district during the Madhes movement in 2015. In every rabble-rousing speech, Guljari always referred to the UML as an anti-Madhesi force.

But, days before the nomination day of the parliamentary elections, Guljari quit the Madhes-based Rashtriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJPN-N) and joined the same party that he vigorously vilified: the UML. He is busy campaigning as a UML candidate in Rupandehi-4.

Many other Madhesi leaders who were at the forefront of the Madhes movement have joined the same parties whom they dubbed ‘anti-Madhesi’ until recently. As a result, the RJP-N has become weak in the plains districts of Province 5.

Hridayesh Tripathi, who quit RJPN-N to contest elections under the UML’s banner in Nawalparasi-1, says they distanced themselves from RJPN because of the RJP-N’s double standards: “The RJPN’s decision to boycott local elections elsewhere but take part in it in Province 2 proved to be costly.”

Elections in Mustang

Only two weeks remain for the first phase of parliamentary and provincial polls, but there is still no sign of any election fanfare in the trans-Himalayan district of Mustang. The folks here are not boycotting elections, they just don’t show their enthusiasm in public like elsewhere.

No candidate has put up posters, distributed pamphlets or carried out rallies because they know it would be pointless. People in Mustang choose their candidates mostly on the basis of personal relations and what their Mukhiyas  tell them. Ideologies or party manifestos do not matter much.

The NC’s Romi Gauchan and UML’s Prem Prasad Tulachan are in the election race in Mustang. Instead of knocking on the door of every voter, they are trying to outsmart each other to win the support of as many village Mukhiyas  as possible

Dipak Gyawali and Mukesh Pokharel