Discharge of 3000 PLA Soldiers Complete
Posted by Ka Frank on February 11, 2010
This article appeared in Thaindian on February 8, 2010.
Nepal Maoists free all child soldiers
Assisted by the UN and its partner agencies, Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas Monday finally released the last of the child soldiers they had recruited in the course of their 10-year war to overthrow the royal dynasty.
The discharge of nearly 3,000 child soldiers and other illegally recruited combatants ended Monday in Rolpa, the remote western district that had been the cradle of the Maoist insurgency, with a farewell ceremony attended by Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, top Maoist leaders and UN officials as well as EU envoys.
The discharge process started Jan 7 and ended Monday after covering seven cantonments where the Maoists’ Peoples Liberation Army soldiers have been barracked since the end of the revolt in 2006.
“You who are now leaving the cantonments are no longer in the Maoist army chain of command,” said Karin Landgren, chief of the UN Mission in Nepal that has been supervising the PLA cantonments. “The period of your life dedicated to armed struggle is now in the past. You have a role in helping make Nepal a country that is just, equitable, democratic and peaceful.”
The UN, donors and the government are offering rehabilitation packages for the discharged soldiers, many of whom feel let down and were close to tears. The child soldiers can return to school, opt for vocational training or set up small businesses.
“The conclusion of the discharge process is a positive step in Nepal’s peace process at a time when building confidence and trust amongst the parties is all-important,” Landgren added.
After the discharge of child soldiers and late recruits, Nepal now faces the thornier task of integrating the PLA with the state army Though the ruling parties had agreed to do so at the time of signing the peace pact, now they have been baulking, saying the political PLA would affect the neutrality of the army.
Though Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal’s government has drawn up a time-bound plan for the resettlement of the PLA soldiers, who number over 19,000, the Maoists are now demanding that the process be halted till the new constitution is promulgated in May.