Nepal has discharged all of the under-aged combatants from the army of the
former Maoist rebels. That is being hailed as the closing of a critical chapter
for the peace process in the poor, landlocked country between China and
More than 200 former child soldiers boarded buses in the rugged
highlands of mid-western Nepal for a ride back into civilian life.
and about 30 other late recruits into the Maoist army were officially
discharged, culminating a one-month process across the Himalayan country seeking
to rebuild after years of civil war.
The Representative in Nepal for the
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Gillian Mellsop, was on hand for the
ceremony in Rolpa. Speaking from there to VOA News, she hailed it as a "historic
day" for Nepal's peace process.
"This particular discharge was really a
sense of celebration. The chairman of the Maoist Party, Pushpa Dahal
[Prachanda], was here," said Mellsop. "He gave the farewell speech and asked
them to go out and reintegrate back into society."
and the United Nations are to provide the former child combatants, including
girls, with opportunities for formal schooling, vocational training, education
to become health workers and help setting up small enterprises.
the next four months, Nepal is supposed to integrate all remaining fighters of
the People's Liberation Army into the national security forces.
are still more than 19,000 Maoist combatants, who have been quarantined in
U.N.-supervised cantonments (camps) for the past three years. They are allowed
to continue training but most of their weapons are in storage containers
monitored by the United Nations.
Nepal's political leaders remain
divided over whether the former rebels should be integrated into the military
before or after the drafting of a new constitution. Some hard-line Maoists have
threatened to re-launch revolutionary action if the constitution is not to their