Gary Leupp writes: The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) announced yesterday that its guerrilla  forces, the New People's Army, will observe a three-month ceasefire. This is particularly significant in that the move is a unilateral one. The regime might decide to respond in kind, and reign in the Royal Nepali Army, which is reportedly unhappy with the war and the king. But the Maoists, who will defend themselves in any case if attacked, seem less concerned with the government's response than with the reaction of the mainstream political parties sidelined and abused since the king's February 1 coup.

There have been two ceasefires since the People's War began in 1996 -- from June to November  2001 and January to June 2003. But these were declared by both sides, and accompanied by peace talks with the regime. This time, having bested the RNA in at least one recent major battle, the Maoists control about 80% of the country. They already operate as a government (of the People's Republic of Nepal) and from a position of strength have simply announced that they will conduct no offensive actions through November.      

In past peace talks, the Maoists' insisted on the convening of a national assembly to fashion a new constitution as their condition for ending the revolutionary war. They shelved their initial demand for the abolition of the monarchy, but talks deadlocked when the king and the parliamentary parties refused to abandon the current constitution. Persistent conflict between the legal political parties and the king, greatly exacerbated since King Gyanendra seized absolute power, has allowed the Maoists to play the two off against one another. Even before February the Maoists, noting that the parties lacked political clout, demanded direct talks with the king. But after seizing power, declaring martial law and unleashing a wave of terror against his mainstream political rivals, Gyandendra proposed  holding talks with the Maoists only to find them no longer interested. "Gyanendra has pushed the country into darkness -- there is no justification for immediate talks," stated CPN(M) leader Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal). At the same time, the Maoists offered the parties facilities in liberated zones to  conduct their own organizing efforts against the king. [READ]