Nepal police kill 3 in fresh anti-charter clashes

Kathmandu - Nepal police said Thursday they fired on demonstrators, killing three, after fresh violence erupted in the country's southern plains where ethnic minority protesters have mounted a months-long battle over a new constitution.

Clashes broke out in the southeastern district of Morang Thursday afternoon when hundreds of protesters armed with batons, knives and petrol bombs tried to disrupt a meeting of activists from the ruling CPN-UML party.

"Three were killed in Morang in two clashes today," police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam said, adding that the victims included a 65-year-old woman, one of two killed at the activists' programme venue.

A 25-year-old man also died when police opened fire on protesters as they attempted to stop a public bus.

"The police were forced to fire after the protests became violent," Bam told AFP.

More than 50 people have been killed in clashes between police and people protesting against the Himalayan nation's new constitution, which demonstrators say leaves them politically marginalised.

Demonstrators from the Madhesi ethnic minority, mainly from the southern plains, have led a months-long blockade of a key border crossing, causing a crippling shortage of fuel and other vital supplies across the landlocked country.

In a bid to break the deadlock, parties tabled a bill to amend the constitution and increase the Madhesi presence in government bodies through proportional representation.

But protesters say the bill, currently under discussion in parliament, is incomplete and does not address their main demand to revise the federal state borders laid out in the charter.

The constitution, the first drawn up by elected representatives, was meant to cement peace and bolster Nepal's transformation to a democratic republic after decades of political instability and a 10-year Maoist insurgency.

But several rounds of talks between the government and the protesting parties have failed to reach an agreement.