Police kept tight security in place in Nepal's capital yesterday as political parties vowed more protests against King Gyanendra's rule despite hundreds of arrests in recent days.
An alliance of seven parties has called for a nationwide strike on Thursday.
On Saturday police arrested more than 230 people after anti-royal demonstrators in Kathmandu clashed with officers who used tear gas and carried firearms in place of their usual bamboo batons.
"Most of the people detained during Saturday's clashes were released late Saturday night, and 61 remain in custody," said a police officer on condition of anonymity.
Around 150 political and human rights activists who were rounded up on Thursday and Friday remain in detention, the police officer added.
Opposition politicians vowed to keep up the protest program, calling a nationwide general strike for Thursday and planning district-level protests in an attempt to disrupt municipal elections next month.
"The people's movement has come to a new height and will not come to an end unless full democracy is restored," Shobhakar Parajuli, secretary of the Nepali Congress Party, told AFP yesterday.
Another opposition leader condemned the government's use of force.
"The effects of the protests are getting very strong because the government is indulging in unnecessary actions by using excessive force," said K.P. Oli, a senior leader of the Nepal Communist Party, Marxist-Leninist.
"The government is suppressing people and we don't have any alternative but to continue protests," added Oli, who is under house arrest.
The parties have called for a boycott of local elections planned for February 8 by Gyanendra, who is under international pressure to restore democracy. He sacked the elected government almost a year ago, citing its failure to halt a Maoist revolt.
On Saturday groups of stone-throwing protesters staged running battles with police around Kathmandu's main square after a larger pro-democracy rally was banned.
Police arrested 236 people, an officer said. Journalists and other eyewitnesses reported some 300 demonstrators bundled into police vans.
Citing the threat of Maoist violence, the government last week banned street protests, cut mobile telephone services, imposed a daytime curfew on Friday and arrested hundreds of activists.
Several party leaders, including former prime minister G.P. Koirala, were placed under house arrest.
The Maoists - who have fought a decade-long "people's war" which has claimed more that 12,000 lives - have so far not joined the protests. Dozens have been killed since they ended a four-month ceasefire in early January.
The United States, the European Union, India, Britain and Japan have all voiced concern at the royal government's actions over recent days and called on the king to start talking to the parties.
Oli said the continued heavy police presence, including an extended night curfew, would not deter this week's strike. "There are not enough troops to halt demonstrations everywhere," he said.