UPDATE MARCH 5, 2012: It has been confirmed that 18-year old Nangdrol, who set himself on fire on February 19 in Dzamthang county, Ngaba, was a layperson and not a monk as previously reported, according to Tibetan sources. According to Tibetans in the area who are in contact with Tibetans in exile, Nangdrol cared passionately about Tibetan culture and language and had urged fellow Tibetans to be united, and to preserve their cultural and religious identity. In the past few weeks, Tibetans have traveled from many different areas to pay their respects to Nangdrol, who set fire to himself while shouting “May His Holiness the Dalai Lama live 10,000 years!” and “Freedom for Tibet!” according to Tibetan monks now in exile in India.
Nangdrol self-immolated in an area between Barma township and the Jonang Dzamthang Gonchen monastery in the Tibetan area of Dzamthang (Chinese: Rangtang) county, Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan.
UPDATE February 22, 2012: According to new information received from the same exile sources, it appears that Nangdrol may have been a layperson and not a monk. If this is the case this would be the first case of the self-immolation of a layperson who was not previously a monk. Details will be updated as soon as information is available.
Hundreds of Tibetans have gathered in Dzamthang today (February 19) to keep watch over the body of 18-year old monk Nangdrol, who set fire to himself today. On Friday (February 17) a Tibetan monastic official self-immolated during a prayer ceremony in a remote region of Qinghai province, according to exile Tibetan sources. The self-immolation of Nangdrol today took place between Barma township and the Jonang Dzamthang Gonchen monastery in the Tibetan area of Dzamthang (Chinese: Rangtang) county, Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan. Eighteen year old Nangdrol set fire to himself while shouting “May His Holiness the Dalai Lama live 10,000 years!” and “Freedom for Tibet!” according to Tibetan monks now in exile in India.
Nangdrol was the fourth of eight children, and is from Choeje village, Barma township, Dzamthang, the Tibetan area of Amdo. The same sources reported that he died, and his body was taken back to the monastery where traditional Buddhist rituals were carried out for him. According to the same sources, monks did not comply with police orders to hand over the body, and this evening (February 19), more than 1000 people had gathered to hold vigil.
For the first time, a monastic official self-immolated on Friday (February 17) in Themchen (Chinese: Tianjun) county in Tsonub (Chinese: Haixi ) Mongolian and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai province. Thirty-eight year old Tibetan monk Damchoe Sangpo was a member of Bongthak monastery’s Democratic Management Committee, the government-established body that runs the monastery, according to Tibetan exile sources. Voice of America Tibetan Service, which published a picture of Damchoe Sangpo at: VOA, Tibetan Monk Dies of Self-Immolation, reported that he died after setting himself ablaze after monks were banned from marking a religious ceremony, while other sources reported that he had objected to a rigorous “patriotic education” campaign at his monastery. Radio Free Asia Tibetan Service cited an India-based senior Tibetan monk named Shingsa as saying “After the Tibetan New Year, which in Qinghai’s Amdo region coincides with the Chinese New Year, Chinese officials banned the [monastery’s] Monlam religious gathering and sent armed security forces there. Damchoe objected to this, and told the Chinese officials that if they didn’t withdraw their troops from the monastery, the monks should not be held responsible for any incident that might follow,” he said.(RFA, Monk Burns to Protest Monastery Intrusion).
It is not known whether Damchoe Sangpo self-immolated at the monastery itself or in the local town. Intensified crackdown in Lhasa in buildup to Tibetan New Year, March 10 anniversary of the 1959 uprising. The crackdown in Lhasa has intensified, with detentions of Tibetans returning home after attending the Kalachakra teachings by the Dalai Lama in India last month, and state media announcements of a “war against secessionist sabotage.” This coincides with the unrest and 23 self-immolations in areas of Kham and Amdo, and the tensions linked to upcoming Tibetan New Year (Losar) and the March 10 anniversary. The state media reported last week that the Tibetan government had been ordered to recognise the “grave situation” in maintaining stability and to ready itself for “a war against secessionist sabotage” (Tibet Daily, February 10).
Tibet Autonomous Region Party Secretary Chen Guanguo has warned that “irresponsible officials” … “found guilty of dereliction of duty in maintaining stability” shall be removed from the posts, or worse – a warning to all officials and cadres must enforce the hardline Party line, and that there is no space for moderate or measured handling of the situation. ICT has monitored the following: The detention of hundreds of Tibetans who traveled to the Kalachakra in Bodh Gaya in January, with a particular focus on elderly people – indicating an intensified anti-Dalai Lama campaign and a resolve to send a message to Tibetans that they should not even attempt to see the Dalai Lama in the future. Many couples and families have been separated, with some elderly people denied medication. They have been held in detention centers, including one created in a school and one in an army camp. There are reports that many of them are even being charged daily fees of hundreds of yuan. The detainees are being compelled to undergo ‘legal education,’ creating severe psychological and financial pressure on families and communities. There has been a buildup of troops and special forces as Tibetan New Year (Losar) approaches. Tibetans say they will mark the New Year by mourning for those who have self-immolated, and others killed in unrest since 2008 and in recent weeks. Over the past week, officials have called at homes in the Barkhor area of Lhasa, which according to some reports are linked to people who may not have returned yet to Tibet from the Kalachakra. There is an increasing fear by local Tibetans of seizure of personal belongings with any link to the Dalai Lama such as photographs as the lockdown intensifies.