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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Mustang region of Nepal threatens to bar tourists

August 29, 2010

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
August 27, 2010

KATHMANDU -- Residents of a remote former kingdom
in the Himalayas that has been part of Nepal for
more than two centuries said Friday they would
bar tourists from entry to protest against the government.

Upper Mustang, which lies on Nepal's northern
border with Tibet, only opened to tourists in
1992 and remains a restricted area, with visitors
required to apply for a special 500-dollar pass to enter the remote region.

Around 2,000 tourists now travel there every
year, mostly to visit the ancient city of Lo
Manthang, home to Mustang's former king Jigme
Dorje Palbar Bista, who lost his royal title in
2008 after Nepal became a republic.

But residents of the region, who practise
Buddhism rather than the more widespread Hinduism
and are ethnically closer to Tibetans than to
Nepalese, say they see few of the benefits of the influx of tourists.

"Upper Mustang has been left behind because the
government does not care about development in
this region," said local youth leader Lopsang Chhomphel Bista.

"We will bar foreign tourists from coming from
October 1 in protest against the government's failure to address our demands."

Bista said the government had broken a promise to
spend 60 percent of the revenue from the tourist
passes on Upper Mustang, one of the poorest and
least-developed regions of Nepal.

However, a spokesman for the home ministry said
no such promise had ever been made and criticised
the plan to bar tourists, saying it would damage Nepal's reputation abroad.

Upper Mustang was annexed by Nepal in the late
18th century, but remained a separate
principality ruled over by its own king until 1951.

The former royal city of Lo Manthang, high on the
Tibetan plateau, was once a vital centre for trade between India and Tibet.

Around 500,000 foreign tourists visit Nepal every
year, mostly from neighbouring India and China,
and the government recently announced an
ambitious plan to double that number to a million in 2011.
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