Nepal abolishes monarchy

ABC Radio Australia, 29 May 2008

The Himalayan nation of Nepal has declared itself a republic, with a special assembly voting to abolish the controversial monarchy.

Presenter: Liam Cochrane

Speakers: Krishna Pahadi , human rights activist; Santi Raj Prasain, civil servant; G.P Koirala, outgoing Prime Minister of Nepal

(music and singing)

COCHRANE: The day started with celebrations. Hundreds of people gathered to sing and dance, painting their faces with Nepali flags and republican slogans.

They gathered outside a convention center where a special assembly was due to meet and pass a vote to abolish the monarchy.

For human rights activist and republican, Krishna Pahadi, it was a long awaited day.

PAHADI:I mean, it's a dream come true, anyway, and it's unprecedented day. It's a victory to the people of Nepal and we would like to thank everyone who has contributed And especially we would like to pay homage to the martyrs, those who lost their lives to achieve these goals.

COCHRANE: Civil servant Santi Raj Prasain was another of the revelers, and was getting a slogan painted on his arm.

PRASAIN: We Nepalese are very much happy because it is going to be the end of this long history of the kingdom of Nepal and we are going to enter into the republic of Nepal, so we are very much happy.

COCHRANE: And what have you got written on your arm there?

PRASAIN: Republic of Nepal

COCHRANE: Nepal's first national monarch united the many small Himalayan kingdoms in 1769 to form what we now know as Nepal.

For 239 years, the monarchy survived blood feuds and countless palace intrigues. But the beginning of king's downfall came in 2001, when most of the royal family was killed in a hail of bullets inside the palace. The royal massacre was blamed on the crown prince but many in Nepal believe a conspiracy theory linking the current king, Gyanandra, to the bloodbath.

King Gyanendra lost even more favour with his subjects when he sacked the government in 2005 and seized control of the country, as a Maoist insurgency raged in the hills and mountains. One of the Maoists' main aims was to get rid of the king and two years after signing a peace deal, they won the largest share of seats in the Constituent Assembly in last month's election. But when the day finally arrived for the assembly's first meeting, the country was kept waiting for ten hours by political squabbles over how much power the president and prime minister would have in the new republic. As the top leaders talked behind closed doors, the crowds grew from hundreds to thousands, and began to get frustrated.


Security was tight, with more than a thousand riot police surrounding the venue. A brief clash between republican supporters and police left at least two people injured. Police fired tear gas into the crowd to regain control. Later, a small bomb exploded outside the venue, but nobody was injured. But in between the violence, was some comedy, with performers singing songs and making speeches ridiculing the king.

(speech and laughter)

Eventually, the Constituent Assembly came together and passed the motion declaring Nepal to be a republic.

COCHRANE: The outgoing Prime Minister, G.P Koirala, said this moment would transform the nation and urged the members of the Constituent Assembly to honour the memory of those who died struggling for a republic.King Gyanendra reportedly spent the day inside the palace meeting with advisors. There was no sign of extra security around the palace, but the king has a standing royal guard of around three thousand soldiers. King Gyanendra and his family will now have 15 days to leave the sprawling pink palace in central Kathmandu. Political leaders have announced plans to turn the palace into a national museum.

Liam Cochrane reporting for Radio Australia, Kathmandu, Nepal.


637 words