Anti-India protests erupt in Nepal as fuel rationing bites

Updated 28 September 2015

Anti-India protests erupt in Nepal as fuel rationing bites

Katmandu: Protesters marched in Nepal’s capital on Monday, carrying an effigy of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing their giant neighbor of imposing an economic blockade and meddling in internal politics over the adoption of a new constitution.
Tension between the South Asian nations has spiked since Nepal adopted the charter last week. It has upset southern minority groups, who fear being marginalized in a new federal structure it lays out, dividing their homelands.
More than 40 people have been killed in protests in the landlocked Himalayan republic since August. Indian oil trucks stopped crossing into Nepal because of protests in the south, prompting authorities to try to limit use of cars and save fuel.
Marchers in Monday’s protest in central Katmandu carried an effigy of Modi and shouted, “Down with Indian expansionism! Down with Modi!” before police scattered them and confiscated the effigy.
“We are asking India, ‘Please, please open up the border and stop interfering in Nepal’s internal issues,’” said nursing student Amrita Baral, who was among 130 protesters in a second march headed for the Indian embassy in Katmandu.
A representative of India’s ministry of external affairs declined to comment on the new protests.
Nepal’s largest trading partner, India strongly denies a trade blockade, saying its trucks are unable to enter Nepal because protesters block the roads.
Nepal has asked China to hasten the re-opening of two border crossings, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
The crossings have been closed since two earthquakes struck this spring, killing nearly 9,000 people, leaving Nepal almost totally dependent on India for overland supplies.
India has been critical of Katmandu for rushing through the constitution, despite opposition from minorities living close to the Indian border.
Nepal started rationing fuel for vehicles on Sunday, said Nepal Oil Corp. spokesman Deepak Baral, after trade ground to a halt at crossing points on the India-Nepal border.
Hundreds of trucks carrying food and fuel lined up on the Indian side, while opposition protesters on the Nepal side sat on the road to block their path.
Nepali officials blame their southern neighbor for an unofficial blockade, but in a statement last week, India blamed the disruption on activity in Nepal.
Katmandu residents said there was no food or fuel crisis yet, but signs of a shortage were building.
In one neighborhood, dozens of taxis queued up outside a petrol station rumored to be scheduled for a fuel delivery.
“Apparently the tanker will arrive at 2 p.m.,” said Deepak Kshetry, a driver waiting since Sunday. “But let’s see.”


Seoul endorses aid to North Korea for coronavirus

A nurse takes the temperature of a woman at an entrance of a Pyongyang hospital. (AFP)
Updated 04 April 2020

Seoul endorses aid to North Korea for coronavirus

  • According to the Unification Ministry, South Korea is committed to spending about $5.7 million on aid to North Korea this year

SEOUL: South Korea has approved assistance to provide anti-viral supplies to its northern neighbor for combating COVID-19, although the regime claims that there is no single confirmed case of the virus overwhelming societies around the globe.
The approval was granted on Tuesday to a nonprofit organization, which will send hand sanitizers worth about $81,000 to the North, the Unification Ministry on North Korean affairs confirmed on Thursday.
“The civic organization met the requirements for North Korean aid,” a ministry spokesman told reporters, declining to share details on the identity of the private organization. “The supplies were funded by the group.”
This marked the first time this year that the South Korean government has allowed a civilian aid group to provide assistance to the poverty-stricken North, while inter-Korean relations reached a low-ebb with the prolonged stalemate over Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament effort.
International non-governmental organizations, including Doctors Without Borders, reportedly donated medical equipment to the communist regime, using a checkpoint in the border city of Dandong in China.
In March, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that $840,000 was needed to help North Korea during the coronavirus pandemic. UNICEF said that it donated glasses, masks, gloves and thermometers that could be used in North Korea to fight the spread of the virus.
The latest approval of the disinfectant shipment could set the stage for expanding assistance to the North at government level, said Cho Han-bum, a senior researcher at the state-funded Korea Institute for National Unification.
“I see the possibility that the level of assistance to the North would be expanded further,” the researcher said. “As Pyongyang appears to do its utmost to combat the spread of COVID-19, both Koreas would possibly be able to work together on health issues.”

HIGHLIGHT

The approval was granted to a nonprofit organization, which will send hand sanitizers worth about $81,000 to the North.

According to the Unification Ministry, South Korea is committed to spending about $5.7 million on aid to North Korea this year. The funds represent more than 60 percent of total global funding for aid to North Korea this year, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) website.
On March 1, President Moon Jae-in proposed cross-border cooperation in medicine and public health during his address marking the country’s Independence Day from Japanese colonial rule. In return, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un responded on March 4 by stating that he “wholeheartedly wished that the health of our brothers and sisters in the South are protected.”
But the North has conducted tests of short-range rockets and missiles three times since then, pouring cold water on relations with the South.
Experts have warned North Korea is vulnerable to the pandemic due to its weak health care system amid speculation that Pyongyang has covered up an outbreak.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s coronavirus cases topped 10,000 on Friday amid a slowdown in new infections. The country reported 86 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections to 10,062 and marked the 22nd consecutive day that new infections have hovered around 100 or fewer additional cases, according to health authorities.
The death toll rose by five to 174, with more than half of fatalities being patients aged 80 or over.