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Thousands attend funeral as Tibetan self-immolations touch 30

(TibetanReview.net, Mar18, 2012) The frequency and the number of Tibetans protesting against Chinese rule by immolating themselves continues to grow with a 43 or 44-year-old farmer named Sonam Dhargye setting himself ablaze on Mar 17 morning in Rebkong (Chinese: Tongren) County of Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) Prefecture, Qinghai Province. This was just a day after a 20-year-old monk named Lobsang Tsultrim of Kirti monastery in Ngaba County of Sichuan Province did so on Mar 16 evening. He in turn was preceded just a couple of days before by a monk named Jamyang  Palden, around 34 years old, who torched himself at Rongwo Gonchen monastery in Rebkong County. He had followed another Kirti monk, named Gepey, aged 18-19 years old, who immolated himself on Mar 10.

Sonam Dhargye, a father of three (two sons and a daughter), burnt himself to death at an intersection near the vegetable market in Rongpo town, said Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and democracy Mar 17.

RFA.org (Radio Free Asia, Washington) reported Mar 17 that he shouted slogans calling for an end to Chinese rule over Tibetans, the Dalai Lama’s return from exile and the Tibetan people’s right to their language.

Sonam Dhargay, the 30th Tibetan to protest with self-immolation since 2009, was reported to have gulped down mouthfuls of kerosene as well as poured the inflammable liquid over a padding of cotton he had wrapped himself in with the use of iron wire so that no one would be able to put out the flames. Before all that, he had taken a bath in a guest house owned by his nomadic community of Shadrag and then offered prostrations and prayers to a portrait of the Dalai Lama.

His charred remains were later taken to Rongwo Gonchen Monastery where several thousand Tibetans, including from neighouring villages and boarding schools, gathered to offer prayers during the funeral service.

Several hundred Chinese security forces who arrived at the scene were forced to pull back after being greatly outnumbered by the Tibetans while senior monks kept the crowd under control, the report said. Various sources put the size of the crowd at up to 8,000, the biggest Rongwo town had ever seen.

London-based Free Tibet said that after the funeral service, the crowd started a march from the cremation site to the Rongwo town centre, shouting for freedom and the Dalai Lama’s return and praying for his long life.

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The day before, on Mar 16, with flames blazing from his body, Lobsang Tsultrim ran on the main street near the Ngaba county office, shouting slogans against Chinese rule. Chinese police pursued and beat him, knocking him to the ground, and then threw him into an open truck, said Kanyag Tsering and Lobsang Yeshe of Kirti Monastery at Dharamsala who have been monitoring the situation in their hometown.

He was seen continuing to pump his fists in the air while being taken away. Though obviously seriously injured, his exact condition remains unknown.

The 29th Tibetan to protest with self-immolation since 2009 is the eldest of four children in his family and had joined Kirti Monastery at eight. He is said to be a bright student.

His fiery protest came exactly a year after a monk named Phuntsog from the same monastery staged a similar protest on the first anniversary of a mass Tibetan protest in the area, demanding the Dalai Lama’s return from exile and freedom for Tibet.

Free Tibet said Sonam Dargye was a close friend of Jamyang Palden, the monk who had immolated himself on Mar 14.

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Last updated on Mar 18, 2012 18:50:08