KATHMANDU – At least 40 former Maoist child soldiers, freed last year from camps, were detained Monday during a protest to demand better training to help them reintegrate into civilian life, police said.
They were among more than 4,000 minors who had served in the Maoist army during Nepal’s decade-long civil war and were discharged from UN-supervised camps last year after officials discovered they had been underage combatants.
“We detained the young people because they were blocking vehicles in public places. Around 100 protesters had gathered,” Kathmandu police chief Kedar Rijal told AFP.
Under the discharge scheme, the former child soldiers were supposed to undergo a government training program funded by the United Nations.
The program aimed to provide the young people with a choice of formal schooling, vocational training in such areas as tailoring, education to become health workers and help in setting up small businesses.
But the protesters said the training had left them “only half-skilled”.
“We can’t re-integrate into the society because we still face a stigma. We’re not properly trained for any job. The government must provide us with a long-term solution,” Krishna Prasad Dangal told AFP. “We are only half-skilled,” he said.
Police did not say when they expected to release the young people. The fate of the more than 19,000 older former Maoist fighters, who have been living in camps across the impoverished Himalayan nation since the civil war ended in 2006, is still unclear.
Nepal’s political leaders are split over whether to allow the ex-rebels to join the country’s military. Some Maoists have threatened to take up arms again if they do not like a new constitution which is due to be drafted.