Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Responsibility for casualties in Nepal's civil war

An article from the journal of The Workers party of NewZealand

Responsibility for casualties in Nepal's civil war

Jared Phillips

The Spark 28 July 2006

This article is concerned with disproving the assertion that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)-led insurgency has, itself, killed 13,000 or more people since 1996. The mainstream media consistently implies that the Maoist Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) is responsible for 13,000 deaths in Nepal. However, such media are unable to state categorically that Maoists are responsible for the majority of the deaths. In fact, the PLA is not responsible for the majority, or even half, of these deaths.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international NGO, stresses that "Most - about two-thirds - of those killed were victims of targeted or indiscriminate attacks and summary executions by the Royal Nepal Army (RNA)." Similarly, according to Nepal-based Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), referring to the year 2005, "over 1,500 people have been killed this year with roughly two-thirds of those killed by government troops and the rest by rebels."

Most of the deaths caused by the PLA are accounted for in the removal of RNA and Nepal police posts from the rural districts, and in the assassinations of government officials and district commanders. The CPN(M) publishes estimations of military, police, and government casualties in publicly available War Reports. It has made public apologies for civilian deaths it has caused. It has also invited human rights organisations to investigate those incidents.

The RNA, by contrast, has remained silent on the killing of non-combatants, and the mainstream media has reproduced that silence. This silence - what is not said about casualty responsibility and civilian casualty rates - is one indicator that the PLA is not primarily responsible for the civil war deaths in Nepal.

In the year from the January 2005 state of emergency declaration, journalists lost legal protections gained in 1991, and more than a thousand journalists lost their jobs. In that same period 273 journalists were arrested and 147 were physically assaulted. Since 1996 this type of repression has distorted news reports on which casualty estimations are based.

In 2002, the United States Congress approved $US12 million to train RNA officers and supply 5,000 M-16 rifles. Since 2003, it has become difficult to keep track of the precise amounts of Western financial and military support for the RNA, but the army of the state has been consistently provided with the capability for efficient killing.

Lastly, unlike the Nepalese state, killing is not a part of the CPN(M)'s political programme. In January 1995 the CPN(M), then in parliament, announced that if 40 basic reforms were not initiated for peasants, workers, and minorities in 1995, a revolution would be initiated. To bolster its human rights claims against the CPN(M) the mainstream press has invoked the words "Khmer Rouge" (the murderous regime in Cambodia in the late 1970s). Unlike the Khmer Rouge, however, the CPN(M), however, is pro-industrialisation, has improved literacy, and has actively protected intellectuals in Kathmandu. The CPN(M) also has been quick to point out that it was the US state that supported the Khmer Rouge and is still behind the killing and torturing of tens of thousands around the world, including in Iraq.

It is unfeasible to imply that the Nepalese Maoists have killed 13,000 people in the civil war. A proper deconstruction of casualty responsibility shows that the Maoists have inflicted much fewer fatalities than the RNA. The Maoists' honesty about casualties they have inflicted makes them a more credible source than the RNA. Moreover, the implication that the Maoists have carried out the majority of killings is discredited by the fact that Nepalese journalism, from which the mainstream press draws its figures, has been repressed.

The existence of abundant weapon supplies to the RNA also suggests that the RNA has inflicted many casualties. These points of evidence substantiate the claim that the Maoist PLA should not be held responsible for the majority, or even half, of the casualties inflicted in Nepal's civil war.

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