Dozens arrested as Nepalese protest fuel price rise

KATHMANDU - Nepalese students protesting at fuel price rises torched a parked bus and attacked other vehicles Wednesday during a strike in the capital Kathmandu, leading police to make nearly a hundred arrests.

The city-wide strike, called by student unions to protest over an increase last week in the price of petrol, diesel, kerosene and aviation fuel, saw schools and colleges shut and most government vehicles stay off the roads.

Some 2,000 police patrolled the streets, detaining protesters as they tried to enforce the strike by stopping vehicles.

In one incident demonstrators stopped a car and forced the two men inside it to step out before setting fire to the vehicle, police said.

"We have arrested 94 people for trying to stop vehicles and for acts of vandalism," police spokesman Ganesh KC told AFP.

"Protesters also set a parked bus on fire, but no one was inside it," he said.

Kathmandu's roads, usually packed with traffic, were largely deserted, with many commuters walking to work due to the lack of public transport.

Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat decried the strike, tweeting that it would "only raise production cost and make our economy uncompetitive".

Student unions affiliated with the opposition Maoist party attacked the government for using "excessive force" and warned of escalated protests in the days ahead unless the government reverses the price increases.

"Police have used excessive force to overwhelm a peaceful protest, we strongly condemn their actions," said Himal Sharma, president of the UPCN (Maoist) student union.

A cluster of student unions called the strike after the government refused to roll back increases of up to 7.6 per cent in fuel prices to offset the rising cost of oil imports.

The Himalayan nation imports fuel from its southern neighbour India, itself an oil importer battling surging costs and high inflation.