Maoist encounters spring season commentary. Insecurity for people throughout Nepal due to an armed rebellion by Maoists, who have become especially active in the more remote areas of the country, was encountered separately by two teams, one Swiss and the other Spanish and Italian, on their treks in April to Makalu base camp. It is not certain whether the teams met genuine Maoists or Nepalis posing as rebels. In any case they were stopped by armed men who demanded money and cameras. No one was injured in these incidents, but they were certainly not pleasant experiences.
The six-member Spanish-Italian expedition, led by Edurne Pasaban from Spain, had their encounter before they had reached Tashigaon, the last village on the trail to Makalu. Here six young men or boys armed with rifles, pistols and grenades, took Rs.5,000 (worth about $64) and a camera from each member.
The Swiss were just two men led by Norbert Joos, and they were stopped at Tashigaon itself. The Nepalis carried rifles but were not in Maoist uniforms; they demanded from each person Rs. 10,000 plus one camera. They produced handwritten receipts, but the Kathmandu trekking agency helping this team told Joos that real Maoist receipts are issued on printed forms and rubber-stamped, and that they had probably been robbed by some other people.
Trekking groups in remote areas of Nepal, notably in the far western hilly regions, have occasionally also been forced to surrender money and cameras to armed men claiming to be Maoist insurgents. As a result, the number of trekkers has dropped in recent seasons, especially this spring. Could climbers, too, go elsewhere in the future? Could the number of people dreaming of standing on the top of Everest decide to make their bids from Tibet, despite the fact that many prefer to climb from Nepal?
Elizabeth Hawley, Nepal