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NEPAL: Government urged to do more to curb small arms

KATHMANDU, 2 September 2007 (IRIN) - Activists and human rights campaigners in Nepal believe the government and political parties could do more to control small arms, which continue to maim and kill innocent people.

“The flow of small arms is out of control and the government has failed to do anything… Arms continue to pose a huge threat to most civilians,” arms control activist Bishnu Upreti told IRIN on 1 September.

In 2007 over 135 people were killed by small arms used by various pro-Madhesi militant or Maoist groups, according to human rights non-governmental organisation (NGO) Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC).

The decade-long armed conflict between the Nepalese government and Maoists led to the deaths of over 14,000 people due mainly to the use of small arms.

Rights and anti-arms activists hoped the November 2006 peace agreement would lead to action to rid the country of small arms: The UN-supervised disarmament of former Maoist soldiers was a great opportunity for the government to ban the use of small arms country-wide, said rights activist Jagdish Dahal, who is also a member of the Asia Small Arms Network (SASANET), a regional group lobbying to control weapons proliferation.

Border controls

Activists, who are unable to put a figure on the number of small arms in the country, say the key to reducing their proliferation is to step up controls on the border with India.

Most of the guns are allegedly smuggled via the adjacent Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

“We need to start a collaborative action with the Indian police so that criminals are not able to smuggle in the arms and deliver them to militant groups easily,” said Upreti.

Dahal said activists were at risk of being targeted by armed factions and criminals involved in gun-running. “A lot of people have become victims and been abducted, killed or threatened by the use of small arms… especially in the Terai,” he said.

“We are also very worried and the government is still trying to ban small arms but it is not easy given the current situation,” said a senior government official, requesting anonymity.

“The situation of arms getting into the hands of militant groups and criminals is really a matter of serious concern because it is unarmed civilians who are most at risk,” said a local businessman in Birgunj city, 250km south of the capital, requesting anonymity. He said hundreds of businessmen had been threatened and/or told to pay protection money.

The small arms include pistols, muzzle loaders, 12-bore and 22-bore guns, air guns, rifles and shotguns, as well as raw materials for improvised explosive devices (IEDs), according to local NGO Friends for Peace.

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Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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