MAOISTS EXTORT EXPEDITION "TOURIST TAXES" IN NEPAL

Posted on: October 10, 2007


Dhaulagiri I (8167m), the seventh highest peak in the world. During the Maoists' armed rebellion in Nepal, "donations" were extorted from mountaineering and trekking expeditions until November, 2006, when a cease-fire was brokered with the Nepalese government. Such activities were specifically criminalized; the recent fee marks the first report of extortion by Maoists since. [Photo] Courtesty of Kogo Benutzer

Trekkers and mountaineers in the Upper Dolpa region of northwestern Nepal report that Maoists have begun forcibly requiring them to pay a fifteen US Dollar "tourism tax." Police say that the parties involved in the extortion are a youth wing of the Maoist party called The Young Communist League. Upon demanding the funds, the Maoists indicate that the money will be used to maintain the trekking route to Dhaulagiri base camp at Naur Cliff.

Deputy Superintendent of Police, Ramkripal Shah, indicated that police had already been asking Maoists not to collect the tax. "I have informed Maoist District In-Charge Govinda Poudel over the matter," he said, adding that "they will definitely stop such tax collection."

During the Maoists' armed rebellion that began in 1996, they frequently collected "donations" from mountaineering and trekking expeditions. In the November, 2006, cease-fire that was brokered with the Nepalese government, such activities were specifically criminalized, and it has been almost a year since any reports of extortion by the Maoists.

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Nepalese government officials expressed that while the country had seen a significant rise in tourist traffic to the country since the stabilization of the government, reports of extortion or increased instability would hurt efforts to continue that trend.

In response to the depressed tourist numbers the ten year conflict has created, the Nepalese government recently proposed cutting climbing fees substantially, particularly for Mt. Everest (8849m), during the autumn and winter climbing seasons. Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association has suggested that financial incentives also should be given for other, less well known peaks. The Nepalese government restricts climbing to 326 of that country's 2,000 Himalayan peaks.

Sources: Environmental News Network, Monsters And Critics.com, www.kantipuronline.com, www.newkerala.com

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