Former Maoist child combatant Lenin Bista barred from flying to Bangkok

Kathmandu, August 24

Lenin Bista, a former Maoist child combatant, was stopped by immigration officers from flying to Bangkok today ‘for not seeking permission from any government agency for his travel’.

Bista, whose trip and accommodation were sponsored by Bangkok-based Asian Resource Centre, was going to participate in a seminar titled ‘Youth in conflict areas: Healing in peace building through social engagement’.

“The government may tell a government official to seek prior permission from it for a foreign tour, but why does it want a private citizen like me to take such a permission?” he wondered.

Nimrita Subedi, who was also going to attend the same programme, was, however, allowed to fly.

Bista said he was scheduled to fly with RA 401 at 9:50 am but was prevented by immigration officers from flying and was told that he had been blacklisted.

“Immigration officers seized my documents and returned them only after the plane had left for Bangkok,” he said.  He has filed a complaint at the National Human Rights Commission demanding justice and compensation for ‘violation of his right to freedom of movement’.

Stating that he feared security threat from the government, Bista urged the rights body to provide him security.

Bista has been campaigning against the recruitment of child soldiers. “Recruiting child soldiers is a war crime and if the ruling party is scared of such criticism that I often make, then why did it make the mistake of recruiting child soldiers during the conflict?” Bista wondered.

Bista said the government should make enough provisions for rehabilitation of child combatants.

A letter issued to Bista by Immigration Office, TIA, states that he was stopped from flying to Thailand because he had not taken permission or recommendation from any government agency for the programme.

A National Human Rights Commission member, Mohna Ansari, said prima facie it appeared that the government had violated Bista’s fundamental right to freedom of movement. “We’ll look into it and come up with our conclusion,” she said. Director General of Department of Immigration Ishwor Raj Poudel said he had no information regarding the incident and what had to be said was said by TIA-based Immigration Office.

Bista said he had booked a new ticket for Sunday to travel to Bangkok. He said the Maoist party had falsely implicated him in the past and the government had jailed him for a year in a false case and he feared reprisal from the government and the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).

Bista, a resident of Kavrepalanchowk district was recruited as a child soldier by the rebels during the conflict and served the Maoist party for seven years before the party signed a peace deal with the government in 2006.

He was among 2,973 child combatants declared unfit for integration by the United Nations Mission in Nepal.