DHARAMSHALA: Kunchok Sonam, an 18-year-old monk of Thangkor Sogtsang monastery in Zoege county in Ngaba region in eastern Tibet, has died after setting himself on fire, media reports and human rights group say.
Kunchok Sonam set himself on fire around 8:00 am (local time) Saturday (20 July) while returning from the monastery after a daily prayer service. Today is a special occasion for the local Tibetans to hold incense burning ceremony (Tib: Sangsol) in the morning. But on hearing reports of self-immolation, thousands of Tibetans rushed towards the monastery.
The local Tibetans prevented the police from taking away the body, which one report says was then consigned to the nearby Machu river. Another report says the body was taken inside the monastery and a prayer service is being held.
The situation in the region remains tense. The authorities have deployed a large number of security forces at the monastery and cut off the telephone and Internet lines.
The Central Tibetan Administration is verifying the details of today’s incident. It will provide updates on the situation as more details become available.
Over 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in Tibet calling for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and freedom for Tibetans. (Fact sheet on self-immolations in Tibet)
Why Tibet is burning
The Central Tibetan Administration had issued a white paper on the underlying causes of the increasing number of self-immolations that are currently engulfing Tibet.
“The reason lies in China’s massive policy failure in Tibet over the course of more than 60 years of its rule. The revolution that is brewing in Tibet is driven by political repression, cultural assimilation, social discrimination, economic marginalisation and environmental destruction,” noted the white paper titled “Why Tibet is burning” released this January. (Read full text)
The International community, including the UN and EU Parliament, have strongly urged the Chinese government to address the Tibetan people’s genuine grievances and end its policies which are pushing Tibetans to take drastic actions.
But the Chinese government has responded to the crisis with more repressive measures such as deployment of massive security forces in the Tibetan areas and meting out death and harsh prison sentences to Tibetans on trumped-up charges.
The Central Tibetan Administration has repeatedly appealed to Tibetans not to take drastic actions, including self-immolation.