President visiting Sri Lanka via Thailand during polls

Kathmandu, May 11

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and some key ministers will be out of the country during the first round of local level elections slated for May 14.

The head of state is embarking for a five-day visit to Thailand and Sri Lanka tomorrow — two days prior to the polls in provinces 3, 4 and 6. The second phase of local level poll is slated for June 14 in provinces 1, 2, 5 and 7.

Minister for General Administration Keshab Kumar Budhathoki will be accompanying her as minister-in-waiting.

On the same day, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara, along with two other cabinet ministers are all set to depart for China to take part in the One Belt One Road conference being held in Beijing on May 14 and 15. Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Ramesh Lekhak and Minister for Information and Communications Surendra Karki will join him during the trip. The Cabinet had endorsed both the visits on Monday.

Nepal has decided to become a signatory to OBOR, a signature initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping, which aims to enhance connectivity and cooperation among countries, primarily between China and the rest of Asia and Europe through land as well as maritime routes.

At the invitation of her Sri Lankan counterpart Mathripala Sirisena, President Bhandari is attending the concluding ceremony of International Vesak Day to be held in Kandy on May 14.

On her way to Sri Lanka, she will make a transit trip of Bangkok, where she will lay a wreath at the memorial site of late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away on 13 October 2016, according to the President’s foreign relations expert Madan Kumar Bhattarai. After spending a night in Bangkok, she will leave for Colombo on Saturday.

The President will grace as chief guest the concluding ceremony of the festival, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be chief guest in the opening ceremony in Colombo on May 12.

President Bhandari is set to return home on May 16.

Vesak — known as Buddha Jayanti in Nepal is a popular Buddhist festival celebrated in memory of the birth of Lord Buddha, his Enlightenment as well as his passing.

An official of the Office of the President said the head of state had already made up her mind not to cast vote — maintaining her political neutrality — even if she were at home during the polls.

The local elections are being held after a long hiatus of two decades. The last local poll was held in 1997.