Kathmandu, April 18 (Reuters): Anti-monarchy protesters kept up the pressure in the Nepali capital today despite bad weather as diplomats said the movement against King Gyanendra appeared to be reaching a climax.
It was the 13th day of a general strike and protest campaign launched by a seven-party political alliance which wants the king to restore multi-party democracy. Hundreds gathered in various parts of Kathmandu and attempted to start a procession, but police blocked them. No one was hurt.
Outside the capital, police fired rubber bullets to break up protests in two towns, injuring about a dozen, witnesses said.
At least five people have been killed and hundreds wounded in police action against protesters during the campaign, which has brought the impoverished nation to a standstill. Food and fuel in the capital is running short and anger against Gyanendra is mounting.
Diplomats said time appeared to be running out for the monarch. “We could see him toppled if he doesn’t do something in the next few weeks or days,” said one. “I am very afraid we are moving into a revolutionary situation.”
One flashpoint could come on Thursday when the parties have called for mass rallies, and have vowed to bring out hundreds of thousands of people on the street. The king held talks with the US, Chinese and Indian ambassadors on Sunday, and indicated he could meet some of the protesters’ demands. Diplomats said they knew of no specifics.
“He has to hand over power to the political parties,” the diplomat said. “And if he does not, it’s not looking good.”
Although the powerful army remains loyal to the king, protests are spreading from the street to the civil service. Home ministry officials held a demonstration at their offices today and about a dozen were arrested, witnesses said.
The president of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Haruhiko Kuroda, urged the international community to remain engaged with Nepal and said it would be premature for donors to consider any suspension of aid to the impoverished kingdom.
“I don’t think we can decide lightly on this very serious issue,” Kuroda said in Manila, while acknowledging that the instability had made the ADB’s work in Nepal more difficult. “We have to be very careful because people are suffering.” King Gyanendra sacked the government and assumed full power in February 2005, vowing to crush a decade-old Maoist revolt.