Rekha Shrestha

Kathmandu, May 5:

Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) has rejected the claim of Maoist bases in remote mid-western districts after security forces penetrated the areas in “special operations.” “The Maoists claim themselves to be a conventional force with bases in mid-western districts including Rolpa and Rukum, but when our troops reached there, the rebels were unable to react,” said Brigadier General Rajendra Bahadur Thapa, spokesperson of the RNA. However, Thapa could not divulge details about the sweep operations. Because the RNA is now decentralised, even the army headquarters in Kathmandu is hardly aware of the impact of the ongoing operations until their completion. Western Division Headquarters is conducting the operations in which the army’s special forces like the Rangers have been mobilised since the past week. Several army helicopters are being used and troops deployed to show “the presence of the security forces in every nook and corner” of the remote hills.

“The main aim of these operations is to pressurise the Maoists psychologically and its impact can’t be visible instantly.” When asked if the army has been able to create its base in the remote hills, the spokesperson said, “Establishing a base is not an easy task, it needs a lot of resources which the RNA lacks.” According to him, the ongoing operations will continue at least for few more weeks because it is “huge” and is being conducted at the right time. “The security forces can influence them as this is the time for the people to return to the hills from the plains,” he said, adding, “It would be difficult to conduct similar operations once the rainy season begins.”

But he hastened to add that security forces won’t relax once the operations wind up. “It depends upon the situation and such operations will be launched phase-wise,” Brigadier General Thapa said. However, the Maoists are yet to react to the RNA operations. Meanwhile, reacting to NHRC chief, Nayan Bahadur Khatri’s recent statement that the army was acting like a government by conducting press briefings, Thapa asked, “Is it appropriate for the RNA to react to his comments at this critical juncture?” However, he added that the comments did hurt the sentiments of the soldiers who are committed to protect the human rights of the Nepalis.”

“It’s a difficult time and misunderstandings do occur which can be solved by contacting the RNA directly. In case the army has taken any wrong steps, the NHRC could have even contacted the government,” he said, adding, “The RNA will now onwards contact the NHRC more frequently to clear misunderstandings.” “We have been receiving positive responses to our press briefings, and communication with the press, helps us to maintain transparency.”