As you may have gathered from my previous post, the problem in Thamel isn’t finding a Korean restaurant, but selecting one from the many on offer. Having the good fortune of being married to a lovely Korean woman, I feel that I am something of a Korean food connoisseur, and therefore, I know how wrong it can go when non-Koreans attempt to imitate it. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised when we managed to find a pleasant rooftop restaurant that not only gave us a nice view over Thamel, but also served up a mean bibimbap and kimchi jigae.
While quaffing the last sip of my Everest beer, a group of men suddenly ran through the streets below, shouting and carrying torches. My friend and I exchanged puzzled and bemused looks, but as the group had disappeared from sight, we proceeded to resume eating. Five minutes later, the torch bearers were back, emerging from several different directions, they converged on a spot just a few yards down the road. Throwing their torches into a pile, a large bonfire appeared, as did a large crowd of almost two hundred people. We grabbed our cameras and proceeded to shoot as the crowd shouted slogans, whistled and jeered.
At one point a speaker stood on a nearby rickshaw and began to deliver an angry diatribe in Nepali. Whatever it was he said, we decided it couldn’t be that threatening, as most nearby shops remained open and we even spied a Western tourist in the middle of the fray taking photos of the speaker. It seems that even fiery street protests can’t substantially disrupt life in the bubble of Thamel. I’m starting to wonder what, if anything, could.
Just as quickly as the seemingly impromptu demonstration began, the crowd dispersed and the fire died down. A few minutes later the military showed up to pour water on the smoldering ashes, and make a call (presumably) to headquarters.
It wasn’t until the next day at the office that we learned that over 60 of these torch demonstrations had occurred simultaneously throughout the Kathmandu valley, and that the protesters were the Young Communist League (YCL), a shadowy organization affiliated with the Maoists which has recently recently come to play an increasingly dominant role in Nepali political developments. It remains ambiguous just exactly who the members of this organization are. What is unambiguous is what the organization has done over the past few months…
Posted By Jeff Yarborough
Posted Jun 10th, 2007