Shirley is sending messages now as she expects communcations to be cut off:
20/04/2006, From Shirley Blair, Director, Shree Mangal Dvip Boarding School, Nepal
It’s 2 o’clock in the morning and curfew has started again in Kathmandu until 8 o’clock this evening. We just finished a round of picking up as many street kids as we can and getting them into shelters. The reason the curfew has been done is because there are big demonstrations planned in Kathmandu tomorrow (where demonstrations are banned) and the king’s government is getting desperate.
Yesterday 4 demonstrators were shot dead in Jhapa bringing the total to ten protestors killed in demonstrations over the last two weeks. In the past people have ignored the curfews to demonstrate and it seems that this time there may be a serious response from the government.
In the past press and Human Rights agencies are issued with curfew passes to travel during curfew and monitor the situation. This time none have been issued up to now, not even to OHCHR the UN human rights monitoring body. And it seems unlikely they will issue in the morning (how can you collect a curfew pass if you can’t travel in curfew anyway). So this would indicate that the security forces plan strong action tomorrow and they do not want any witnesses. Hence the urgency to get kids into centres.
We managed to get all the kids we could find who sleep out (an extra 40), and the majority have been staying in NGOs for the last few weeks anyway. So tomorrow we just have to see what happens and hope for the best. It is possible (or even likely) that all communication (mobile and landlines) will be cut. And we just have to stay at home and see what state television misinforms us.
Today we managed a meeting with the alliance of street organisations, UNICEF and OHCHR to get some steps ready… but time has been limited. The most positive thing is that UNICEF was able to have a meeting with the second rank police commander to register complaints about abuse of street and working children and got to some extent a positive response, as well as an agreement in principle to refer kids to organisations instead of arresting them or beating them (the usual response). This is only a small step as practical issues have to be organised also, but at least this is in the police’s mind to some extent.
Also this does not address in anyway the issue of rights violations by the army. When the curfew stops we will be straight out to check on the situation of the kids and especially to see if any have disappeared. In this time we have had a very good support and relationship with CPCS (top frontline service provider for street kids in KTM - they have now approximately 200 kids in their shelter), UNICEF and OHCHR.
There are concerns here that if the situation gets worse these kids will be targeted more and more. We are monitoring this and working to protect the kids as much as we can, while trying to engage with the authorities (police) and not put them in a corner where they won’t care anymore and become even more repressive (a note for publicity on these issues…). If organisations start having to pull out, after also demonising the police etc. it could leave the kids more vulnerable than ever.
I hope this is all just an over reaction from me, but just thought I should write to you now in case communications are cut and the worst case scenario materialises. I’m perfectly safe here and will be at home for the curfew, unless we get passes, and have lots of rice to eat. Take care.