PLA deserter Kul Prasad Bhattarai aka Kusum claims 1,000 combatants fled cantonments. He accused the camp leadership of embezzling money allocated by the government for the combatants and camp management. “They haven’t even provided the salary and allowances released by the government in our name,” he said. Pic by Binod Tripathi
By Binod Tripathi
BHARATPUR- A former Maoist commander has claimed that over 1,000 Maoist combatants in the fourth division at Jhyaltung Dada of Nawalparasi district have fled the camp in the last six months. Addressing a press conference in Narayangadh on Tuesday (31 July), Maoist fourth division platoon commander Kul Prasad Bhattarai aka Kusum, said, “Of the 1,500 combatants inside the main camp, there are now only 1,000 and 500 combatants from the three satellite camps have also fled.” He also claimed that the actual number of those who have fled the cantonments could be even higher. Kusum accused the camp (Maoist) leadership of embezzling money allocated by the government for the combatants and camp management. “They haven’t even provided the salary and allowances released by the government in our name,” he said.
He also claimed that combatants injured in conflict haven’t received medical treatment. “My repeated pleas to have bullets taken out from my legs have gone unheard,” Kusum said, showing a bullet that has remained inside his left leg. He claimed that he sustained the bullet injury during a battle in Kavre in 2004. He also alleged that combatants who raised their voice against camp leaders, were punished harshly. “Some combatants were even tied up with ropes for raising such concerns,” he said and claimed that he also was once tied with a rope. “I had joined the people’s war to fight against injustice, but now I am myself a victim of Maoist injustice,” he said. Kusum said he would now join the CPN-UML. He threw away his combat fatigues in front of the journalists at the press meet.
When contacted later, division commander ‘Pratikshya’ refuted Kusum’s claim and said almost 12 percent of combatants have left for vacation this month. “Combatants are allowed to go on vacation considering their needs,” Pratikshya said. Kusum’s claims hold significance as the UN verification team has found that 450 combatants have gone missing from the first cantonment site in Ilam. These combatants who had registered themselves during the first verification did not show up for the second verification interview. There were also reports that seven Maoist fighters of the Yangshila satellite camp in Morang had fled along with automatic rifles from the camp on 20 July for unconfirmed reasons. Meanwhile, the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) said it is investigating the report. “We are investigating the media report regarding Maoist combatants fleeing the camp [in Narayangadh],” said Kieran Dwyer, spokesperson of UNMIN. He said UNMIN is in contact with its monitors in the camp area and will investigate.