By Ed Johnson, Bloomberg
Sydney: Nepal’s business leaders called an indefinite strike that will close hotels, banks and stores across the country unless rebels stop a campaign of intimidation and extortion.
Hundreds of business owners rallied in the capital, Kathmandu, in protest yesterday after members of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) allegedly abducted and tortured a hotel owner for refusing to pay a “donation,” Nepalnews.com reported.
The government has done nothing to “curb such vicious activities” by Maoist cadres, the Internet Service Providers Association said in a statement yesterday after cutting access to the Internet for one hour, Nepalnews.com reported.
The Maoists signed a peace accord with the government in November, ending a decade-long civil war that killed 13,000 people in the Himalayan kingdom. Business leaders say Maoist members continue to extort money, even though the party is joining an interim government. Dev Gurung, the deputy Maoist leader in parliament, denied party cadres were involved in the attack two days ago, Nepalnews.com reported.
The Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries said the strike will end all commercial activities across the country from today, including banks, transport and air services, Nepalnews.com said.
The strike will continue until Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and the eight leading parties make a formal commitment to tackling Maoist extortion and attacks on entrepreneurs, the organization said, according to the report.
Tourists will be asked to leave their hotel rooms over the next week and no further guests will be checked in from tomorrow unless the government provides security assurances, Agence France-Presse cited Prakash Shrestha, the president of Nepal’s Hotel Association as saying.
“There will be zero occupancy in all the leading hotels unless the government addresses our demands,” AFP cited him as saying yesterday.
Hari Shrestha, owner of the Woodlands hotel in Kathmandu, told reporters yesterday that Maoist members abducted him after he refused to pay 10 million Nepalese rupees (Rs6,215,451) and provide them with free rooms, AFP reported.
“When I said I could not meet those demands they abducted me and severely beat me,” AFP cited Shrestha as saying, adding he was tied to a chair and blindfolded. “I was scolded with hot water and many people beat and kicked me.”
The Maoist-affiliated All Nepal Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union denied its members were involved in what it said was a dispute between former workers and hotel management, Nepalnews.com reported.
Nepal, located between India and China, is one of the world’s poorest countries and depends on tourism for foreign exchange. The country is home to Mount Everest, the world’s tallest peak, and attracts climbers and trekkers from around the globe.
The Maoists, who follow the ideology of China’s former leader Mao Zedong, want Nepal’s monarchy to be scrapped and replaced with a Communist republic.
Elections are planned for June for an assembly that will draw up a new constitution for the nation of 27 million people and decide whether the country will become a republic.