Government monitors reached seven camps spread across Nepal by Friday to begin asking 19,000 former rebels whether they will join the army or leave with cash to start new lives, five years after ending their insurgency to join a peace process.
The process was long stalled over the future of the rebels. Maoists wanted all their former fighters integrated into the army, which military leaders and other political parties resisted. Nepal's main political parties finally reached agreement this month.
Since ending their bloody revolt in 2006, the former Maoist fighters have lived in huts in the camps surrounded by barbed wire. The United Nations supervised the fighters, whose weapons stayed locked in metal containers inside the camps. Some fighters married and have children living with them, though child soldiers left the camps last year.
Monitors reached the seven camps Thursday and Friday and will start questioning the former fighters Saturday, chief monitor Balananda Sharma said. Decisions on who will enter the army and who will leave the camps are expected to be finished within 10 days.
The agreement allows for 6,500 former rebels to be taken in the national army in non-combat roles. The rest will get a rehabilitation package with up to 900,000 rupees ($11,500) cash.
After the U.N. peace mission left Nepal in January, the fighters were closely monitored by a special government committee.
The agreement on the rebels' future now puts pressure on the coalition government to overcome political paralysis and finish a constitution that will determine how Nepal develops after years of civil war and upheaval. The document was due originally in 2008.