Nepal army 'completes' peace process with Maoists

Members of the Mohan Baidya faction of the United Communist Party of Nepal protest against the handover of cantonments
Image caption Some Maoist factions have protested against the handover

Nepalese soldiers have moved into camps where thousands of former Maoist rebels have lived for more than five years.

The former rebels have now come under control of the army in what is seen as a key step to securing peace six years after the end of Nepal's civil war.

About 9,000 former fighters have been confined to camps since 2006, awaiting a political settlement.

About 6,000 of them are to be integrated into the army. The remainder will get a financial settlement.

Containers holding thousands of Maoist weapons are also being handed over to the army, officials say.

However, the BBC's Surendra Phuyal in Kathmandu says that the much-awaited Maoist-army integration process - the last hurdle in the peace process - could take months to complete.

But our correspondent says that officials remain upbeat that the former rebel force and the national army will become one unified entity.

Maoist military chief Nanda Kishor Pun told the BBC that the two forces have been introducing and welcoming each other.

"It's final now. The peace process is over. The armies have merged now," he said.

Officials say that about 3,000 former combatants may opt for voluntary retirement within the next three to four days.

Opposition parties have welcomed the development saying it has transformed the Maoist party from a military force into a civilian one.

But Maoist hardliners have sharply criticised their party leaders' decision. They say the move amounts to a surrender.

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