Asia

Nepal violence and arrests over new constitution

A constitution assembly member of an opposition party throws a chair during a meeting inside the Constitution Assembly building in Kathmandu January 20, 2015. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nepal's opposition MPs want discussions to continue until consensus is reached

Scuffles broke out in Nepal's parliament and police arrested protesters in the capital as tensions rose before a deadline to draft a new national constitution.

Opposition lawmakers threw chairs and microphones and attacked the parliamentary Speaker early on Tuesday.

The Maoist opposition accuse the ruling coalition of trying to push through their proposals without consensus.

Nepal's leaders have set 22 January as a deadline for the draft constitution.

The country's political parties have been trying to reach agreement on a new constitution since the former kingdom's first Constituent Assembly was elected in 2008. Deadlines have repeatedly been missed.

The 2008 elections followed a peace deal with Maoist rebels who had fought a decade-long civil war in which more than 12,000 people died.

The Maoist lawmakers argue that discussions on the constitution should continue until an agreement is reached even if that means missing another deadline.

But the ruling coalition has the support of two-thirds of the members in the 605-member assembly and could push through the new constitution without the support of the Maoists.

The Maoist-led opposition called a nationwide general strike in an effort to protest at the government's decision.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Police arrested more than 50 people who were trying to enforce a general strike and shutdown
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Thousands of riot police were on the streets in Kathmandu

Factories, schools and shops were shut on Tuesday and transport services hit, reports said.

Many streets in Kathmandu were empty during morning rush hour as people stayed at home. Thousands of police were deployed in the capital.

Some protesters set fire to vehicles still operating to try to enforce the shutdown, Police arrested more than 50 people.

Following chaotic scenes overnight, the Constituent Assembly did reopen for about an hour on Tuesday, reports BBC Nepali's Surendra Phuyal in Kathmandu.

But when opposition MPs chanted slogans against plans to vote on the proposed constitution, the Speaker adjourned proceedings until Wednesday.

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