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SOS Rhino : In the News : Maoists tell top resort in Nepal to close
 

Maoists tell top resort in Nepal to close

  Copyright 2004 Telegraph Group Limited
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH(LONDON)
September 09, 2004, Thursday

Maoists tell top resort in Nepal to close
By Thomas Bell in Kathmandu

MAOIST rebels have dealt a blow to Nepal's tourism industry by demanding the indefinite closure of the exclusive Tiger Tops resort and 34 other businesses.

Talks between Sher Bahadur Deuba, the prime minister, and trade unionists sympathetic to the Maoists broke up last night without any resolution.

Mr Deuba then left for India where he will seek security assistance in Nepal's eight-year-old civil war.

A spokesman for Tiger Tops said yesterday: "You don't take these things lightly. If the threat isn't lifted tomorrow, then we will have to close. We haven't a clue [why we've been targeted] but Tiger Tops has always been quite a high-profile company."

The resort has become a byword for safari chic. The rich and famous, from Henry Kissinger to Mick Jagger, have visited Tiger Tops to see tigers and rhinoceros in the Royal Chitwan national park. Prince Philip has also visited the park.

"Kate Moss walked down those steps topless," Jim Edwards, the owner, recalled last year. "None of the staff batted an eyelid. I think she was a bit disappointed."

The Maoist threat was emphasised on Tuesday when bombs were thrown at the Malla Hotel in Kathmandu, another of the businesses on the latest list. The order to close businesses comes three weeks after the rebels forced 12 companies to suspend operations.

The rebels said in a statement: "Since the government and industrial enterprises have not fulfilled demands presented by our organisation so far, we announce indefinite closure of an additional 35 industries from Sept 10."

The Maoists have accused firms on their lists of exploiting workers but many see the closures as an attempt to undermine the Kathmandu government by weakening the economy.

Tiger Tops has been a target of the Maoists before. In 2002 a bomb exploded in its Kathmandu office, and in April this year guerrillas destroyed the control tower at the resort's airfield.

Previously rebels raided a leading hotel in the resort of Pokhara and demanded "contributions" to the cause from guests. So far they have not deliberately harmed tourists. Other businesses on the latest blacklist range from a hydroelectric plant to a turpentine manufacturer which employ a total of 25,000 workers.

The 12 already forced to close employ 5,000 and are said to be suffering combined daily losses of pounds 2.25 million.

Deepak Mahat, president of the Trekking Agents' Association, said about 19,000 Britons visited Nepal last year but numbers are much lower so far this year.





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