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Mustang to Bar Tourists in Protest Against Nepalese Government

  • VOA Tibetan

Mustang residents said Friday they would bar tourist from entering the remote former kingdom in the Himalayan region to protest against the Nepalese government.

The protest is being held against the Nepalese government's failure to uphold their promise to spend 60 percent of the revenue collected from the tourists visiting Upper Mustang for local development.

Upper Mustang, which lies on Nepal's border with Tibet, is one of the poorest and least developed regions of Nepal.

Around 2000 tourists travel to the region, mostly to visit ancient former royal city of Lo Manthang, home to Mustang's former king Jigme Dorjee Palbar Bista who lost his royal title in 2008 after Nepal became a republic. Lo Manthang, high on the Tibetan plateau, was once a vital centre for trade between India and Tibet.

Bista told VOA Tibetan Service that when Upper Mustang opened to tourists in 1992, Nepal's then Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala had promised to pay 60% of the revenues collected from foreign tourists visiting the Himalayan region and to allocate the amount for cultural preservation, education, health and other developments for the region.

The region did not receive any amount collected from tourists visiting the area, who were required to pay 70 dollars per day, said Bista.

At present, the Nepalese government charges 50 dollar per day to each visitor against the previous fee of 70 dollar per day.

"We have appealed to the government to disburse the promised amount numerous times. But nothing resulted even after many requests to the government regarding the 60 percent revenue, "said Bista. "Therefore we have decided to bar foreign tourists from coming to the region if the government fails to respond to our demands."

A spokesman for the home ministry said no such promises had been made and criticized the decision to bar tourists saying it damage Nepal's reputation abroad, reports AFP.

Upper Mustang was annexed by Nepal in the late 18th century, but remained a separate principality ruled over by its own king until 1951.

Majority of the Upper Mustang residents practice Buddhism, speak Tibetan and are ethnically closer to Tibetans than to the Nepalese.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and The Himalayan Times

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