Belgian minister taxed by Nepal Maoists

About five years ago, the Belgian government gave a hard time to Nepal`s Maoist guerrillas by selling sophisticated firearms to the Royal Nepalese Army to battle the insurgents. Now, by a quirk of fate, a Belgian minister found himself taxed by the insurgents while coming to the country on a trekking holiday.

Kathmandu, Jan 11: About five years ago, the Belgian government gave a hard time to Nepal's Maoist guerrillas by selling sophisticated firearms to the Royal Nepalese Army to battle the insurgents. Now, by a quirk of fate, a Belgian minister found himself taxed by the insurgents while coming to the country on a trekking holiday.

Vincent Quikenborne, Belgium's General Administration Minister, had to pay an unspecified amount as "tourist tax" to the communist rebels while on a trip to western Nepal recently to go trekking in Myagdi district, Nepal's official media said.

The minister told the state-run Rastriya Samachar Samiti news agency that such Maoist action, after signing a peace pact with the government and agreeing to stop extortion, was not good for Nepal's image.

According to the local media, NRS 100 (USD 1.4) is being imposed as "tourist tax" daily by a regional rebel organisation, the self-styled Tamuwan Autonomous People's Republic, in western Kaski district.

Westerners heading for treks and climbs in the famed Annapurna mountain range area have no option but to pay up.

A German trekker, D Bradler, said he had paid NRS 800 for an eight-day trip and had been issued a "receipt" by the rebels.

A group of five Koreans paid NRS 45,000, the state media said.

Asked about the "tax", a Maoist leader said the party had decided to levy it as long as the Maoists were not included in the government.

This, he said, was his party's way of keeping up pressure on the government and combating ploys by forces loyal to King Gyanendra to delay the move.

Bureau Report

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