Friday, December 5, 2008

For the first time in 7 months the US Embassy has issues a new warning about travel to Nepal. While I don't know all of the particulars that prompted the Embassy to take this step I do believe it reflects the weakening of security and the progressive audacity of the youth leagues that are harassing the citizenry here.

The warning was written on November 21 but only emailed to us today.
I provide it, for the historical record, in it's entirety below.

I am not having any problems, personally, so don't worry about me. Just please do worry about all of my Nepali friends and the country as a whole.
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NEPAL
November 21, 2008

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Nepal and urges caution when traveling in country. The Department of State remains concerned about the security situation in Nepal and urges American citizens to obtain updated security information before they travel and to be prepared to change their plans on short notice. This replaces the Travel Warning for Nepal dated May 7, 2008 and updates safety and security information following the formation of the coalition government in August, 2008.

Despite the recent smooth transition of government, some unrest remains. The Young Communist League (YCL), a Maoist Party subgroup, continues to engage in extortion, abuse, and threats of violence, particularly in rural areas. Youth groups from the other two main political parties, the Nepali Congress (NC) and the United Marxist-Leninist Party (UML), have also formed and clashes continue among these political rivals. Violent actions by multiple armed splinter groups in the Terai region along the southern border with India remain a significant concern.

While protests and pre-election localized bombing incidents have decreased, demonstrations and disruptions still occur. During demonstrations, protestors have used violence, including damaging vehicles, throwing rocks, and burning tires to block traffic. Given the nature, intensity, and unpredictability of disturbances, American citizens are urged to exercise special caution during times when demonstrations are announced, avoid areas where demonstrations are occurring or crowds are forming, avoid road travel, and maintain a low profile. Curfews can be announced with little or no advance notice. American citizens are urged to consult media sources and to register with the Embassy (see instructions below) for current security information.

Crime in the Kathmandu Valley, including violent crime and harassment of women, continues to rise. Police resources to combat such crime are limited. Police have reported a number of robberies by armed gangs, sometimes resulting in injury to the victims. The U.S. Embassy reports an increase in crime in some popular tourist areas such as Pokhara and the Thamel area of Kathmandu. Visitors to Nepal should practice good personal security when moving about, especially at night, and avoid walking alone after dark, carrying large sums of cash, or wearing expensive jewelry. In several reported incidents tourists have had their belongings stolen from their rooms while they were asleep. Solo trekkers have been robbed by small groups of young men, even on some popular trails. Some Young Communist League members extort money from foreign tourists along some popular trekking routes, and have threatened physical violence to Nepalis and non-Nepalis alike for violating localized strikes.

Travel via road in areas outside of the Kathmandu Valley is hazardous due to erratic drivers and frequent road accidents. Public transportation, such as microbuses and tuk tuks, should be avoided because they are often overfilled, driven unsafely, and mechanically unsound. American citizens should use taxis with meters or negotiate a price with the taxi driver before starting a trip.

Most U.S. official travel outside the Kathmandu Valley, including by air, requires specific clearance by the U.S. Embassy’s Regional Security Officer. As a result, The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens may be limited. Active duty U.S. military and Department of Defense contractors must obtain a country clearance for official and personal travel to Nepal.

The U.S. Government’s designation of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” organization under Executive Order 13224 and its inclusion on the “Terrorist Exclusion List” pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act remain in effect. These two designations make Maoists excludable from entry into the United States without a waiver and bar U.S. citizens from transactions such as contribution of funds, goods, or services to, or for the benefit of, the Maoists.

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