* Student anger over fuel price hike of up to 7.6 percent
* Biggest protest so far against new centre-left coalition
By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU, March 19 Maoist student activists led
a partial strike in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu and stoned or
set fire to a dozen vehicles on Wednesday, demanding that the
newly elected government cancel a fuel price rise.
State-run Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) increased petrol and
diesel prices by up to 7.6 percent earlier this week, saying the
move was needed to reduce its losses.
On Wednesday, the student protesters marched through the
streets of the capital, disrupting rush-hour traffic and
shouting: "Roll back the fuel price increase."
As part of a general strike demanded by the student union,
schools and colleges were closed, some businesses shut and
public transport was thin. The protesters stoned some vehicles
that defied their shutdown call.
A police spokesman said three vehicles were set on fire and
10 were stoned and damaged. He said police detained more than
100 activists for trying to enforce the closure of shops,
transport, schools and colleges. No one was reported injured.
The student union is affiliated with former Maoist rebels
who fought a decade-long civil war before joining the political
mainstream under a 2006 peace deal. They trailed as the third
biggest group in parliament in elections last November.
On Tuesday, the Maoist opposition and some lawmakers from
the ruling centre-left coalition opposed the price rise in
parliament, saying the government should look at ways to cut
costs at NOC. The government says there was no alternative to
the increase, with NOC losses estimated at $17 million a month.
Nepal imports about one million tonnes of petroleum products
from India annually, and owes millions of dollars to the Indian
state-run Indian Oil Corporation, the sole supplier of
fuel to the Himalayan country.
Student leaders had rejected a government offer for a
partial rollback of the fuel price increase on Tuesday,
demanding a complete reversal. In 2008, the government was
forced to cancel a fuel price increase after protests crippled
life for two days across the country.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)