Breaking curfew to cover Nepal's protests

By Dan Rivers

Breaking a curfew is not a particularly easy or safe thing to do Nepal.

Our CNN team was confined to our hotel, under a sort of unofficial house arrest, with the city locked-down. But we were determined to find out what was going on, and had to get out onto the streets.

Our first attempt was quite comical, struggling to climb over the back gate of the hotel gardens. We were spotted by a security guard, who marched us back into the lobby.

next we tried the obvious: What about walking straight out of the front gate? The security guards protested and remonstrated, but seemed unwilling or unable to stop us. Together with a Channel Four News team, we vaulted over the gate and were free to walking off down the main road in Kathmandu, the protests of the guards echoing up the street.

The key was not to look back — and not to stop.

Walking through the deserted city was weird. Grey, squat armoured personnel carriers were parked at key junctions around the royal palace, soldiers looking nervously around.

As we walked through the city, we passed tourists, bewildered that their vacations have suddenly become news. It took us two and a half hours to walk to the city’s ring-road. Our route circuitous, as we try to avoid numerous road-blocks.

Finally we stumbled on a huge protest, a chaotic scene with tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators chanting and throwing stones at lines of riot police.

There was a crimson, sticky pool of blood where one protester had paid with his life. Witnesses say he was shot in the head by the police. And scattered like jewels among the rubble were spent rifle cartridges — the detritus of a violent clash between the state and the people.

We start filming, but the atmosphere is tense and volatile, at one moment good humoured, then suddenly violent and angry. Periodically, the groups of young protesters flee in panic thinking the shooting is about to start again.

After an hour, I decided it was time to go. At one point, the stone throwing was aimed at me and I worried that if we had stay much longer we might have become the focus for the angry mob.

The only way to get back to the hotel is to walk that long, quiet route home. Ambulances sped past with sirens blazing; they are the only traffic on the streets.

We managed to sneak back into the hotel and immediately went live on CNN to describe what we’ve seen. After filing my report, I eventually managed to get to bed a little after 3am. Up again at 7am to start all over again!

Dan Rivers is CNN’s Bangkok correspondent.

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