- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2001

NEW DELHI — The massacre that wiped out most of Nepals royal family could give a boost to Maoist rebels who threaten the Himalayan kingdom and open a clear path into India for any future Chinese invasion, analysts said yesterday.
In the capital, Kathmandu, bewildered residents took to the streets demanding an explanation for the bizarre tragedy in which the presumed gunman, Crown Prince Diprendra, was declared king Saturday even as he lay comatose and on life support in an army hospital in Katmandu.
The 29-year-old Diprendra died today, a member of the State Council, a government body that deals with royal affairs, told the Associated Press.
A meeting of the State Council was called for later today to formally declare the death and proclaim Diprendras brother, Prince Gyanendra, as the countrys new king.
Gyanendra has been serving as acting king since the massacre, and many Nepalese have said they would accept him as king because they could not accept Dipendra, whom they blamed for the massacre.
Officials yesterday denied initial reports that Diprendra, despondent over an argument with his mother over his choice of a bride, had gunned down his parents and six others at their dinner table on Friday before taking the gun to himself.
Gyanendra was away at a holiday resort during the family dinner.
In an explanation that stretched the credulity of most weapons experts, the officials said the family members were killed or injured "when an automatic weapon suddenly exploded."
Amid the lack of a credible official account, wild rumors have taken root, including questions whether Gyanendra somehow planned it or the prince was connected to the Maoist rebels who are challenging the authorities for control in one-half the country.
The armed insurgents, who became active almost five years ago and have killed more than 1,000 people, have vowed to overthrow the countrys constitutional monarchy and establish a one-party state.
They have virtually paralyzed the police in much of Nepal. There are many districts in which Maoist cadres are running a parallel government and where government forces dare not enter.
"The Maoists could very well take advantage of the instability caused by the killings even if they are not directly involved themselves. It really depends on whether the government that has committed itself to dialogue with the rebels really wants to talk or not.
"But there are many people on the street today who are talking about how this is such a ripe situation for the Maoists," said Padmaratna Tuladhar, the convenor of the Peoples Committee on Peace, which aims for a dialogue between the rebel group and the government.
A Maoist takeover would also open a 1,000-mile land border including mountain passes between China and India.
"Not only will it revive the Indian nightmare of a Chinese corridor to the heartland of India, but compel India to defend a border not effectively policed," said defense analyst Manoj Joshi in the Times of India newspaper.
King Birendra, slain along with his wife, Queen Aiswarya, ruled the kingdom as an absolute monarch from 1972 until 1990 when he reluctantly gave in to apeoples movement. Even so, he was regularly brought in to help resolve constitutional crises that arose and he took up his new role with enthusiasm.
A graduate of Harvard University, the king tried to improve Nepals economic situation and help reduce poverty during difficult transitional times for the country.
"He believed in dialogue and, ironically, the people had more respect for him than they have for their prime minister, who has been accused of corruption. The people dont know whether the next king will have the same interest in the affairs of the state," said Chandra Prasad Mainali, a member of the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist) who accompanied the funeral procession of the dead royals to the cremation grounds.
While the country mourns the death of its royals in the worst mass killing of royalty since the assassination of the family Czar Nicholas in Russia in 1918, many critics of the monarchy believe its time for the "farce" to end.
"Perhaps its time for Nepal to finally be declared a republic, but I could never venture to say this in pubic as all political parties as well as the military are still staunchly supportive of the king. Time will probably take care of this," said Mr. Tuladhar.


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