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03KATHMANDU2469 2003-12-19 07:05:00 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Kathmandu
Cable title:  

NEPAL: A/S ROCCA AND CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF DISCUSS

Tags:   PARM PHUM PGOV NP 
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					  S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 KATHMANDU 002469 

SIPDIS

NOFORN

DEPT FOR SA/INS AND SA/RA, LONDON FOR POL/GURNEY, NSC FOR
MILLARD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/17/2013
TAGS: PARM PHUM PGOV NP
SUBJECT: NEPAL: A/S ROCCA AND CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF DISCUSS
THE INSURGENCY AND HUMAN RIGHTS

REF: A. (A) KATHMANDU 1805

B. (B) KATHMANDU (DOTI)

C. (C) KATHMANDU (TACTICS)

Classified By: Ambassador Michael E. Malinowski for reasons 1.5 (b,d).

-------
Summary
-------



1. (C) On December 17, Christina Rocca, Assistant Secretary
of State for South Asia, met with Nepal's Chief of Army
Staff, General Pyar Jung Thapa, to discuss the army's
counter-insurgency efforts and human rights. The two also
touched upon the possibility of Nepal providing peacekeepers
in Iraq, U.S. military assistance and elections. Ambassador
Malinowski accompanied the Assistant Secretary to the
meeting. Following the meeting, Rocca was given a detailed
briefing by Thapa's General Staff, reported septel. End
Summary.



--------------------------


Operations in Iraq


--------------------------





2. (C) On December 17, Christina Rocca, Assistant Secretary
of State for South Asia, met with Nepal's Chief of Army
Staff, General Pyar Jung Thapa, to discuss the army's
counter-insurgency efforts and human rights. General Thapa
opened his meeting with A/S Rocca by congratulating the
United States on capturing Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Nepal
values U.S. leadership in fighting terrorism worldwide, he
said. Thapa expressed support for U.S. operations in Iraq,
claiming that the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) is ready to send
troops for peacekeeping, but that the decision must be made
politically. (Note. In Rocca's meeting with de facto
Foreign Minister Bekh Bahadur Thapa, she was told that the
provision of RNA troops to Iraq is under consideration. End
Note.) COAS Thapa suggested that the army had been ready to
send a battalion to Iraq, but other peacekeeping duties in
Liberia and Sierra Leone and ongoing anti-insurgent
operations at home have reduced the RNA's commitment to a
company. Once the RNA's tour of duty in Sierra Leone is
complete in December 2004, Thapa would be willing to
contribute a full battalion to Iraq. Thapa appreciated U.S.
moral and material support in the RNA's fight against the
Maoist insurgency, noting that the M-16 rifles have helped
considerably to raise army morale and that the army needs to
increased mobility offered by Huey II helicopters.



--------------------------


Progress on Countering the Insurgency


--------------------------





3. (C) Thapa claims a loss of legitimacy within the Maoist
movement. He believes that the Maoist use of terrorist
tactics has alienated the people. Thapa perceived a
disconnect between the Maoist military and political wings,
with the military side beginning to dominate the political
one.



4. (C) Thapa noted that Maoist extortion has increased
dramatically this year. As an example, Thapa described how
one citizen in Kathmandu had informed the RNA that Maoists
had demanded he pay them NRs 500,000 (roughly USD $6,750).
Based on the information this person provided, the army was
able to arrest the Maoists involved. Continued Maoist
intimidation and abuse, he said, has caused large numbers of
able-bodied Nepalis to flee the countryside. Some, Thapa
claimed, have committed suicide in an attempt to escape the
Maoist threat. In instances where local villagers have
managed to fight off the Maoists, the RNA hoped to establish
base camps nearby in order to prevent the insurgents from
returning, he said. Based on prisoner questioning, Thapa
believes that many Maoists have become demoralized and
disillusioned because of the increased use of terrorist
tactics, while at the same time the movement's leaders remain
outside Nepal comfortably distant from the action.



5. (S/NF) Thapa reported that the RNA recently captured a
Maoist battalion commander, who had been traveling from the
western to the eastern division in an effort to shore up the
weaker Maoist presence in the east. According to Thapa, the
Maoist commander was surprised to find himself still alive
after several days of incarceration. The rumor among the
Maoist cadre is that the RNA will kill or brutalize any
Maoist found alive, which Thapa clearly said was not true.
The commander, he said, appeared on Nepali television, which
later led to the surrender of another Maoist battalion
commander. Thapa also confided that the army has captured
the sub-commander of the Maoist Kathmandu Valley special
operations assassination/bombing unit. Under the eye of army
staff, the commander continues to use his cell phone to
communicate with other Maoist leaders and is, therefore,
providing valuable intelligence to the RNA. With this
information, Thapa appeared hopeful that they would soon
capture other high-level insurgents, including those
responsible for the murder of two U.S. Embassy security
guards in 2001 and 2002. In Pokhara and Kathmandu, Thapa
claimed, the army have taken into custody several Maoists
working in the special operation branch. Additionally, the
intelligence gathered by these detainees has led to the
seizure of significant amounts of explosives, truck loads of
Maoist propaganda and 13 Chinese-made pistols in recent
weeks. The RNA also has defused one bomb in a popular
shopping arcade in Kathmandu that would have killed over 200
people, Thapa said. (Note. The assertion that a Maoist
explosive could kill over 200 people is somewhat exaggerated.
The highest casualty from a single Maoist improvised
explosive device (IED) that we are aware of to date killed 10
members of the security forces. End Note.) Ambassador
Malinowski emphasized USG desire for catching the Maoists
responsible for ordering the killing of two Nepali guards of
the U.S. Embassy. Thapa replied in the affirmative. The
army, through intelligence gathering, has successfully
prevented the Maoists from disrupting life in Nepal's urban
centers, he concluded.



6. (C) Ambassador Malinowski suggested that the RNA could use
the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help
get the message out that the army is not mistreating
detainees. Thapa responded that the army does not want to
hold prisoners, but problems within the judicial system gives
them little choice. He worried that the release of Maoist
prisoners during the cease-fire had demoralized his troops,
suggesting that he does not want to see the same thing happen
again. (Note. The GON draws a close connection with the
release of the Maoist prisoners and the assassination
attempts on two army colonels in August. End Note.)
According to Thapa, the RNA would like to hold prisoners
without informing civilian authorities in order to avoid
divulging identities of Maoists who are providing the
intelligence to the army. He said he is working with the
Attorney General's office to get legal permission to hold
prisoners for three months, vice 24 hours. (Note. Under the
Terrorist and Destructive Activities Act, the RNA already has
authority to hold prisoners incommunicado for 3 months as
long as they inform the relevant Chief District Officer. End
Note.)



7. (C) Thapa claimed that dozens of female Maoist fighters,
among them twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls, have
surrendered to the army. One such girl had lost her hand in
combat and reportedly had been raped by her fellow Maoists.
Thapa indicated that the Nepali NGOs that provide shelter to
victims of violence have refused to take in these former
Maoists for fear of reprisal by the insurgents.



--------------------------


Human Rights Abuses


--------------------------





8. (C) A/S Rocca steered the conversation towards human
rights, noting that human rights abuses, if left unchecked,
could undermine U.S. security assistance to Nepal. She
explained that U.S. laws require a demonstrable commitment to
human rights as a condition for U.S. security assistance.
Thapa prefaced his comments on human rights by highlighting
the RNA's long history, including its role in uniting Nepal,
fighting both the Chinese and British armies, in the 19th
century, participating in both World Wars on the side of the
Allies, and contributing to many peace keeping operations,
such as Haiti, Somalia, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Thapa
emphasized the importance of civilian control over the army,
the mission of which is to serve and defend the people. "We
are fighting for democracy and security for the people," he
said.



9. (C) Thapa said that although no innocent people should be
killed, incidents sometimes occur. He reported that roughly
17 incidents of alleged human rights abuse have occurred and
provided A/S Rocca with a summary of the status of the RNA
investigations. Thapa offered to provide the Embassy with
details in Nepali for any specific investigation. According
to Thapa, he has conveyed to his troops the importance of
respecting human rights and has provided human rights
training, through ICRC, the U.S. and others. The RNA's human
rights cell has conducted investigations into 17 cases of
human rights abuse and, in some cases, the soldiers
responsible have been punished. In the Ramechhap incident
(reported ref A), those killed by the RNA were among the top
Maoist commanders in the East, he said. Thapa believes that
the deaths of these leaders significantly set back the Maoist
campaign in Eastern Nepal. According to the National Human
Rights Commission report on the incident, said Thapa, all 17
dead had their hands tied and were shot at close range.
(Note. The NHRC report indicated 19 people were killed while
the RNA suggests only 17 died. End Note.) The RNA
investigators, however, found only 5 had been tied up and
shot while the other 12 were killed in an ambush. Thapa
intimated that the local villagers are not willing to speak
to the army against the Maoists for fear of reprisal. The
insurgents recently killed a health worker of Doromba
claiming she was an army spy, he said. Thapa noted that an
RNA Major had led the joint patrol, which included army and
armed police personnel. An RNA Captain, however, is under
investigation for the incident. Since the incident, the army
has established a camp in Doromba to allow "life to return to
normal."



10. (C) Regarding the Doti incident (reported ref B) in which
four students were killed when an RNA patrol attacked Maoists
at a local school, Thapa suggested that the Maoists used the
students as hostages and human shields. With the commander
of the security patrol absent that day, the second-in-command
did a "fairly good job," he said. Thapa explained that the
army had stormed the school building from the roof in an
effort to take the teachers and students out of the building.
However, the Maoists, pretending to be students, tried to
escape and were shot. According to Thapa, it later was
discovered that some of those shot were not Maoists, but
students. (Note. The results of an investigation by a group
of NGOs differ in some respects from the RNA's account. End
Note.) The RNA investigation concluded that the security
patrol should have used more common sense, but had not
committed deliberate human rights violations.



11. (C) Thapa admitted that an incident in Khotang, in which
one school teacher and two others were killed, "looks bad."
According to the RNA's ongoing investigation, a group of
locals had identified the three individuals as Maoists.
After apprehending the three, the RNA patrol decided to untie
them and let them go. It was decided that if the group ran,
they were guilty, and if not, they were innocent. After
being released, the group ran and were shot by the soldiers.
Thapa added that if the investigation shows that this was the
case, those responsible will be punished.



12. (C) Rocca asked whether the results of these inquiries
have been publicized. Thapa replied quickly, "Yes.
Definitely." (Note. While its true that the RNA has
provided the Embassy with the results of its findings, the
RNA has not publicized them within Nepal. End Note.) Thapa
emphasized that no army soldiers have been able to go home
since the cease-fire's collapse in August. Although Maoists
are threatening, and in some cases killing, families of army
personnel, he explained, RNA policy prohibits soldiers from
targeting Maoist families. "We hold our troops to a higher
standard," he said. Thapa unequivocally stated that the army
has not participated in any torture or extrajudicial
killings. Thapa averred that, generally, the RNA's record is
nearly equal to any army working under similar conditions.
Without army involvement against the insurgency, Nepal "could
have been a failed state," he concluded.



--------------------------


U.S. Military Assistance


--------------------------





13. (C) Thapa reiterated his appreciation for U.S. military
assistance, claiming it has helped raise the morale of his
troops, and looked forward to continued bilateral
cooperation. Thapa noted the need for additional
helicopters, specifically the Huey II, to enhance army
mobility. Rocca explained that providing helicopters would
depend largely on Nepal's FMF appropriations in the U.S.
budget. "We would like to assist in any way within our
budget constraints," she added. Thapa asserted that Nepal
will be a success story. The high quality of troops and
well-trained officers make it just a matter of time before
Nepal returns to peace and democracy, he said.



--------------------------


Elections


--------------------------





14. (C) Lastly, Thapa mentioned that Nepal's Election
Commission needs to direct the RNA on its appropriate role
for elections, which Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa has
committed to hold as soon as possible. In the past, the
Election Commission has tasked the army with printing,
transporting and securing the election ballots, he said.
Thapa believed that municipal elections could be held now,
whereas village- and district-level elections would have to
be conducted in phases across the country, perhaps in a year
or so.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





15. (C) Thapa's prognosis for the Maoist insurgency's future
is optimistic -- probably too optimistic. While we agree
that the Maoists have undermined their credibility by
resorting increasingly to terrorist tactics, the insurgents
have managed to broaden their area of operations and continue
to have significant influence through intimidation and
threats (Maoist tactics reported ref C). While the Maoists
have been unable or unwilling to launch large scale attacks
against the army since the end of the cease-fire, the area of
Nepal's territory under Maoist influence -- and in which no
effective GON presence can operate -- has expanded.



16. (C) While we welcome Thapa's endorsement of human rights
principles, we remain eager to see this verbal commitment
translated into more standardized action. Thapa's
unequivocal statements that the army has neither tortured or
killed extrajudicially any innocent Nepalis also gives the
impression that the army is not ready to fully examine
critically its human rights record. In the past week alone,
the press has carried allegations of five extra-judicial
killings, including one of a 15-year-old girl, in three
different districts. These reports, if true, indicate that
the RNA has not yet succeeded in inculcating the high moral
standards endorsed by the COAS into the troops in the field.
Post recommends developing additional strategic and training
programs to help the RNA to continue to improve its record.
End Comment.
MALINOWSKI