KATHMANDU: Nepal's former king has warned that national unity is under attack, making a rare public statement after protests sparked by proposed changes to new federal borders.
Gyanendra Shah, the last king of Nepal, was deposed eight years ago following a Maoist revolution and has since largely refrained from public comment on the country's fractious politics.
He broke his silence with a statement late on Wednesday in which he warned of growing divisions between the communities that inhabit the southern plains and the central hill areas of the Himalayan country over suggested changes to internal borders.
"Social harmony among Nepali people is waning and efforts are being made to break the bonds of unity between the plains, the hills and the mountains," Shah said in a statement.
Shah accused "temporary powers" who he said were "gaining strength under the influence of outside forces" of creating these divisions.
He did not say who he was referring to, but neighbouring India has made clear its displeasure over the federal borders laid out in Nepal's new constitution, which many believe will disadvantage communities living in the plains with close cultural ties to India.
Gyanendra stepped down from the throne in June 2008 after parliament voted to abolish Nepal's 240-year-old Hindu monarchy, transforming the country into a secular republic.
Commentators said the former king, whose reign was not popular, was likely using the current period of political instability in Nepal to reassert his authority.
"As the country faces political instability and protests on federal issues, the former king has taken a chance to show that he is active," said Lok Raj Baral, chairman of the Nepal Centre for Contemporary Studies.
"It is (due to) the weakness of the political leadership that the regressive forces want to raise their heads right now."
Nepal's lawmakers began work on a new national constitution after the abolition of the monarchy and it was finally passed in September 2015 on a wave of national solidarity following a deadly earthquake.
But the new federal borders proved highly controversial and led to violent protests in the south in which more than 50 people were killed.
The proposed amendments are intended to address that, but some opposition parties are opposing them, arguing that they will create a divide between communities living in the hills and the plains.
The government has not yet tabled the amendments in parliament and it is doubtful that they have enough support to garner a two-thirds majority needed to pass the proposed legislation into law.