South Asia News
Maoists resume extortion drive against tourists
Oct 5, 2007, 4:50 GMT
Kathmandu - Maoist former rebels resumed an extortion drive against tourists visiting a popular trekking destination in western Nepal after stopping the practice for nearly a year after signing a peace deal with the government, local news reports said Friday.
The Maoists once again imposed a 'tourism tax' from tourists and mountaineering expeditions in the Myagdi district, about 200 kilometres west of Kathmandu, The Kathmandu Post reported.
The Young Communist League, the Maoist youth wing, is 'forcibly collecting 15 US dollars from each tourist visiting the region,' the newspaper quoted local police as saying.
The Maoists said they were levying the charge to maintain a trekking route to the Mount Daulagiri base camp, the newspaper said.
The Maoists stopped collecting money from tourists and local people after signing a peace deal with the government in November, which outlawed such activities and made them a criminal act.
Until then, the Maoists forcibly collected money they called 'donations' to fund their armed revolt to establish a communist state in Nepal.
The collection of money from tourists comes at a time when the country's tourism industry, hit hard by the decadelong conflict, showed signed of robust growth and the number of tourists visiting the Myagdi district increased significantly this year.
On Thursday, Nepalese officials said tourist arrivals in the country rose 32 per cent in the first nine months of the year over the same period last year.
The government said it believes the number of visitors would surpass a half-million in 2007 but cautioned that extortion or instability would harm efforts to revive Nepal's tourism sector.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur