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DESPITE investigation, Nepalese unhappy with new king

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Police moved Tuesday to avert more riots against new King Gyanendra, imposing a 12-hour curfew and warning Nepalese _ who are infuriated by a lack of explanation of a royal massacre _ that anybody going out could be shot.

An investigation into the shooting spree that killed the king and queen and eight other royals failed to start by Tuesday afternoon as planned. Members of the panel quarreled over how to proceed _ a delay that could heighten tensions.

About two dozen people, their heads shaven in a traditional Hindu show of respect for the dead, were arrested as they marched toward the royal palace carrying flags and demanding answers about the Himalayan nation's tragedy.

Although there was no rioting immediately reported on Tuesday, police clamped down with a noon-to-midnight curfew, just six hours after an earlier curfew was lifted.

Nepalese who ventured into the streets for their six hours of freedom were full of criticism for Gyanendra, who took the throne Monday after Crown Prince Dipendra allegedly killed the royals Friday.

Many here say Gyanendra lost credibility by blaming the incident on ``accidental'' automatic weapon fire.

``There is no king,'' said artist Pradeep Chrikar, one of many who are declining to accept Gyanendra as the rightful monarch. ``There is no one on the throne. This is unbelievable, a kingdom without a king.''

The centuries-old monarchy in Nepal, an impoverished nation of 22 million that sits between China and India and is home to Mount Everest, made way for democracy in 1990. The king remained head of state with influence but little power, while governments came and went _ 10 over a decade.

During Monday's unrest, two people were killed, apparently by police gunfire and at least 19 were injured. Some protesters chanted ``Dipendra is innocent'' and ``punish the real murderers.''

Tensions flared Tuesday when dozens of people lining up to sign a condolence book at the royal palace were turned back.

``We can't even grieve and mourn anymore,'' said shopkeeper K.P. Rauniar. ``We have been restricted. This is terrible.''

Katmandu was calm in the early morning, and many businesses stayed shut during an official-five day mourning period. But soldiers with machine guns ringed the royal palace, on watch for any repeats of Monday's rioting that police stopped with clubs, gunshots and the curfew.

When radio warned people of the second curfew, Nepalese began scurrying through the capital's narrow streets to get home safely. It was unclear whether anger would keep building, or whether the curfews could calm those who remain unaccepting of their new monarch.

Gyanendra went on national television Monday night, calling for calm, and saying he had ordered a three-day investigation into the killing of their beloved King Birendra, the queen and the others.

``We need to be united at this hour so that no one can take undue advantage of the situation and harm the independence and democracy of the nation,'' the king said, showing no emotion.

He promised a public explanation, but will have a tough time convincing citizens.

``A king is like a father,'' said Madhav Prasad Pujasaini, a shopkeeper heading back to work on Tuesday. ``We don't know who this king is. Nobody believes him.''

Gyanendra suggested that a statement he issued Sunday, when he was the acting king, about ``accidental'' automatic weapons fire had been flawed, because of ``legal and constitutional hurdles.''

Officials here have said privately that Crown Prince Dipendra was the gunman _ angered when his mother refused his choice of a bride _ and that after he sprayed the royal family with gunfire he shot himself.

But Dipendra did not immediately die. He became a monarch on life support who died early Monday, clearing the way for Gyanendra to become king.

Since Dipendra was technically the king over the weekend, he was above reproach under Nepal's constitution and by tradition _ so accusing him of murder would have been out of the question.

The committee investigating the deaths is headed by the Supreme Court's chief justice and includes opposition leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, a communist who refused to take part Tuesday, saying constitutional procedures dictates Cabinet consent for the probe.

Some Nepalese in the street were also skeptical of the investigation.

``How can you say it is impartial or independent?'' said Sundar Chhetri, a 30-year-old dairy worker.

Nepalese are insisting on answers to their national tragedy. The slain King Birendra was held in such esteem that many viewed by many as an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu _ and many Nepalese cannot believe that his son Dipendra would kill him.

Amid a dearth of official information, people have gathered on street corners, exchanging gossip and conspiracy theories that may have helped fuel public anger.

Some blame Maoist rebels, or a political or military conspiracy for the deaths. The rebels, who launched an insurgency in 1996 and are seeking to eliminate the monarchy, pointed to a ``grave political conspiracy.''

Some noted that Gyanendra and his son, Paras Shah, a source of embarrassment for the royals because of his trouble with the law, were absent from the dinner that ended in bloodshed, while Gyanendra's wife, whom he crowned Monday as queen, was wounded but survived.

The independent Katmandu Post editorialized that Gyanendra had ``allayed fears and doubts'' by affirming his commitment to the constitution and multiparty democracy.

Meanwhile, the State Department warned Americans in Nepal to remain indoors because of the disturbances. In Thailand, the Foreign Ministry urged it residents to avoid traveling to Nepal, citing the violence.
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