Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ex-army men to approach UN

Want money ‘grabbed’ by NA from UN peace-keepers back

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, November 14[2007]:

Former Nepal Army personnel who had served in various UN peacekeeping missions have decided to demonstrate in front of the UN Complex in Kathmandu after they failed to get back nearly Rs 65 billion that the Nepal Army has “illegally grabbed” from them.
Since1973, Nepal has sent as many as 61,000 army men to dozens of countries around the world on UN missions. The Nepal Army collects as much as 90 per cent of the salary the peace-keepers get from the UN.
“We don’t know where the money is. Our gross calculation is that the government has grabbed as much as Rs 65 billion out of our sweat money,” said Ambar Bahadur Thapa Magar, the chairman of the Nepal National Free Ex-Army Council. According to the council, a soldier got only $110 out of the $500 provided by the UN as monthly salary during the missions from 1973 to 1977. He got only $150 out of the $680 from 1977, $300 out of $950 from 1980 and $800 out of $1,028 from 2001.
The Nepal Army kept the rest of the money and kept saying that it has been deposited in the Army Social Welfare Fund.
The peace-keepers do not get a penny from the $2,000 they get along with the medals, $1,000 for clothing, $1,000 for training, $1,000 for family support and $950 as support for one extra month. It is estimated that the Nepal Army chops off Rs 500,000 from each soldier serving six months in any peacekeeping mission.
Thapa said the government gave a deaf ear to their pleas to give the money back to its rightful owners.
The Council has decided to stage demonstration and hunger strike in front of the UN Office from November 21, after holding a relay hunger-strike at Maitighar for nine days.
“We have heard that the money is in Nepal Army’s possession. It is used for studies of high-class army officers abroad and wedding parties of their children.” He claimed few senior army officers have opened a bank by using this money, while others have begun real estate business in Pokhara and Itahari.
Despite a Supreme Court decision, the government has not paid the sum back to the soldiers. The SC had ordered the government to make the money public and distribute the “confiscated” money to the soldiers.

Money will not be returned: Army
KATHMANDU: Nepal Army spokesperson Ramindra Chhetri said the army collects some percentage of the perks the peacekeepers get from the UN and it has been deposited in the Army Social Welfare Fund. He said the interest coming from the money is being used in various welfare programmes. “The money we take from the soldiers is utilised in education, health and other welfare of soldiers’ families. It is transparent. As the fund is being run with the government’s consent, the money will not be returned,” he said. — HNS