UN spotlight puts Maoist child soldier in peril

Sita became an instant celebrity when she was showcased at UNSC meeting.

Kathmandu: After rubbing shoulders with top UN officials in New York and basking in limelight, former Maoist child soldier Sita Tamang has to now pay the penalty for the indiscretion with her former comrades threatening her.

The 18-year-old, who was forcibly recruited by the Maoists five years ago when they were fighting to overthrow the royal dynasty of Nepal, became an instant celebrity last month when she was showcased at the UN Security Council meeting in New York as part of the UN success in getting nearly 3,000 child soldiers released from Maoist camps.

Tamang, who shared the stage with UN top brass like Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN special representative for children and armed conflict, told a fascinated international audience how she had been forcibly recruited by the guerrillas when she was 13 and taught to fire a gun.

Her harrowing tale included surviving on an empty stomach, gruelling marches through forests that at times lasted for 14 hours, doing heavy labour like digging ditches and watching her friends and peers take part in the "People`s War" in which some died and some became disabled.

Though she was given the alias of Manju Gurung by the UN to keep her identity secret, the measure proved singularly ineffectual as she was photographed several times over. Once the photos were released, Manju Gurung, UN`s show piece from Nepal, was revealed to be Sita Tamang.

On Sunday, after the former child soldier had returned to her parental home in southern Nepal and was hoping to pick up the pieces of her disrupted life once more, she received a rude jolt.

Tamang was visited by five members of the Maoists` People`s Liberation Army (PLA) to intimidate her into silence.

"They told me and my mother that anything can happen to me," Tamang told the Republica daily.

The former child soldier is now living in fresh terror, four years after the insurgency ended, this time going in fear of her own comrades.

Tales of Tamang`s intimidation comes even as the Maoists are jockeying to form a new government under their leadership, following the resignation of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal last month.

However, none of the major parties are ready to support the former insurgents, saying the Maoists have not given up violence even after signing a peace agreement in 2006 and taking part in an election two years later.

There have been other tales too of freed child soldiers being pressured to return either to the PLA barracks or join the Maoist party.

The Maoists, whose armed insurrection resulted in the killing of over 14,000 people in the course of 10 years, are also accused of killing a militant Hindu leader last month for supporting monarchy and attacking a Maoist protesters` makeshift camp in the past.

Though the former rebels deny the accusation, one of their local leaders has been arrested in connection with the murder of Hindu leader Kashinath Tiwari.

The Tamang incident comes at a time Nepal`s other major parties have been expressing growing criticism of the UN.

Though the cantonments where over 19,000 Maoist soldiers have been confined are supposed to be under UN supervision, there have been frequent cases of the combatants sauntering out, at times with arms.

A businessman, who was close to the Maoists, was beaten to death inside one of the barracks but the UN monitors failed to stop the killing or report it to the authorities.


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