updated 1/18/2007 6:58:08 PM ET 2007-01-18T23:58:08

U.N. monitors have begun collecting weapons from former Maoist rebels at two large camps in south Nepal and were expected to expand their efforts to all seven of the main camps by next week, officials said Thursday.

Ian Martin, the top U.N. official in Nepal, said the registration and collection of rebel arms had begun Wednesday in camps in the towns of Chitwan and Nawalparasi. He declined to specify the type or number of weapons collected so far.

“The beginning of the registration process has gone smoothly,” Martin said.

The rebels barred journalists from camps where weapons are being collected, but U.N. officials in the capital of Katmandu showed journalists video and photographs of the process.

Under an agreement between the rebels and the government, the Maoist fighters will be confined to the seven main camps and 21 smaller ones until a planned special assembly decides on their futures.

The special assembly, to be elected later this year, will also write a new constitution to determine what type of political system the impoverished Himalayan nation — a longtime constitutional monarchy — will have.

Meanwhile, a rebel leader announced the guerrillas would shut down what they called their people’s government, which operated courts, jails and tax offices in the rural areas controlled by the rebels during the decade of conflict.

“As per the historic agreement and understanding we formally end operating people’s administration and people’s courts,” said Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal, in a statement.

Several human rights groups had urged the rebels to halt what they called vigilante justice, allegedly including abduction and torture.

The Maoists entered mainstream politics Monday, when 83 former guerrillas were sworn in as lawmakers in Nepal’s 330-seat interim Parliament — making them the second-largest bloc in the legislature.

The guerrillas’ decade-long rebellion left 13,000 people dead. It ended in a cease-fire in April 2006 after mass demonstrations against the monarch, King Gyanendra.

Gyanendra took the throne in 2005, dismissed parliament and seized sole power, saying he would bring order to a chaotic and corrupt political scene and quell the insurgency.

But the insurgency grew, the economy faltered and Gyanendra banned criticism of himself, his government and the army.

In the months since April’s unrest, Gyanendra has been stripped of his powers, command over the army, and his immunity from prosecution.

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