On the hot and humid morning of 10 August a group of Nepali soldiers with the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) was ordered to move into the Beko area. This had been a trouble spot where some 30 anti-Independence militants were reported to be hiding, and the Nepalis had been trying to flush them out with the help of the Fijians.
The search lasted the whole day, but no militants were found. But suddenly, another team of Nepalis travelling in a convoy to relieve their compatriots was ambushed at 5:20 in the evening. The 14 Nepali UN peacekeepers in the convoy returned fire. Riflemen Devi Ram Jaisi and Dilliraman Kafle were hit. Devi Ram was shot on the chest and died in a UN helicopter while being evacuated, and Dilliraman is recovering from his wounds at a Dili hospital.
Devi Ram\'s body was brought home to Kathmandu last week and handed over to his family who were flown in by helicopter to Kathmandu from their home in Dailekh district. Among those who came to Kathmandu were Devi Ram\'s 22-year-old wife, Krishna Devi, who is still recovering from the birth of their son only two weeks earlier. The Jaisis have another two-year-old son.
The UN announced a compensatory payment of $50,000 (c. Rs 3.5 million), while the Royal Nepal Army is going to provide a further Rs 400,000 to the bereaved family. Devi Ram\'s wife will also get a life-long pension and the two boys\' education will be taken care of till they are 16.
The fatality in the Kewal Jung Company of the Royal Nepal Army in East Timor was a tragic reminder that although Nepal has benefited immensely from sending its troops to take part in UN peacekeeping forces around the world, things can turn nasty when the rote of the UN is not properly defined or there is no peace to keep.
At present, the Army has more than 810 soldiers serving in Lebanon, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Congo, Eritrea, Kosovo and Cyprus. The biggest contingent, consisting of 631 men, is in Lebanon, and East Timor has the second biggest Nepali deployment with 164 soldiers. "Nepali peacekeepers have earned a reputation for being extremely disciplined, and also for being tough under fire in Lebanon," says a retired army general.
Besides soldiers, Nepali policemen are also under the UN flag in various conflict situations. There are 137 Nepal Police personnel in Bosnia, Iraq, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, while East Timor also has a contingent of nearly 50 Nepali Police.
Peacekeeping for the UN affords both soldiers and policemen wonderful opportunities to earn substantial incomes in a short time. There is therefore stiff competition to be included as peacekeepers and although both institutions claim that their selection process is fair, complaints about being overlooked is common.
At present, the daily allowance for Police peacekeepers range from $70-136 depending on the nature of assignments, area deployed in and rank. Police personnel have to take care of their accommodation from this allowance, whereas soldiers live in their own barracks.
Police peacekeepers contribute up to 19 percent of their allowance for a welfare fund which is used for emergency relief back home in Nepal. The Nepal Police says it has constructed six schools with money from the welfare fund.
The Royal Nepal Army is very secretive about its remuneration, and official figures are difficult to get hold of. However, according to an army officer who formerly served in Lebanon, commissioned officers get something to the tune of $1,000. Out of that around 30 percent is deducted for the army\'s welfare fund, which provides for the army hospital and the army school.
More than 35,000 Nepali troops have served in various UN peacekeeping operations in the past 43 years. Thirty-six of them have died in the line of duty and 46 have been injured. Army sources say the benefit for Nepal is exposure of soldiers to international conflict situations, but for the individuals concerned there is no doubt that it is the income that is most important.