October 8, 2011
Two former monks from the embattled Kirti monastery set fire to themselves today in Ngaba county town, according to exile Tibetans in contact with Tibetans in the area. There have been five self-immolations in Ngaba county town in less than two weeks, and seven since February, 2009.
The two Tibetan teenagers, Choephel, age 19, and Kayang, age 18, staged their protest this morning on the main street in Ngaba county town, Ngaba county, Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province (the Tibetan area of Amdo), according to exile Tibetan sources.
The two young men clasped their hands together and set fire to themselves before security personnel extinguished the flames and took the two to the county’s government-run hospital, according to the same sources. Their current whereabouts and well-being has not been confirmed, but according to at least one source, Choephel may have died shortly after the protest.
Kayang and Choephel were both former monks at Kirti monastery in Ngaba, but have since disrobed, according to exile Tibetan sources. The Ngaba area has been under military lockdown since major protests were held in the area following the spread of protests across the Tibetan plateau beginning in March, 2008.
In one major demonstration in Ngaba in 2008, at least 10 Tibetans were shot dead by security forces. According to the Tibetan exile sources, Kayang’s cousin, a Tibetan named Tashi, was one of the Tibetans killed in the Chinese government crackdown in Ngaba in 2008.
Dharamsala-based Tibetan researcher Zorgyi, who works for International Campaign for Tibet, said, “This sort of committed decision (self-immolation) can only be made under such suffering and pain caused by the Chinese government’s restrictions and repression. Normally, these people would not have taken this sort of action. Therefore, through their decision to self-immolate, we can understand what sort of situation Tibetans in Tibet are in. Tibetans are deeply religious, and they are willing to pay the ultimate price for their religion and freedom.”
The Ngaba region has faced intense security pressure since protests occurred across the Tibetan plateau in 2008 and were quickly followed by a military crackdown by Chinese officials. More recently, monks at Kirti monastery in Ngaba have faced particularly harsh security measures following the self-immolation by a monk named Phuntsog, who died after setting fire to himself in a protest earlier this year on March 16.
Protests by local Tibetans in the area have been violently put down, including one incident in which two elderly Tibetans were killed by paramilitary police on April 21 while they took part in a standing vigil at the gate of Kirti monastery by a group of laypeople – mainly in their sixties or older – in an effort to prevent monks from being taken away by security forces in a raid on the monastery.
For a detailed history of the suffering of Tibetans in the Ngaba region of Chinese-occupied Tibet, and to learn how you can help, link to: