Two young Tibetan men die after self-immolation protest in Ngaba region

  • Two young Tibetan men who were related died after self-immolating
  • Three self-immolation protests have now taken place in Dzamthang county, 25 in Ngaba prefecture
  • Local Tibetans prevented security forces from taking the bodies. Security forces stationed in the area are responsible for the shooting death of a peaceful Tibetan protestor on January 26

Two Tibetan men in their twenties set fire to themselves today close to a local government office in Barma township near Jonang Dzamthang Gonchen monastery in the Tibetan area of Dzamthang (Chinese: Rangtang) county, Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan. The two Tibetans were named by two exile Tibetan sources as Choepak Kyap and Sonam. Although paramilitary troops were deployed immediately, local people managed to prevent them from taking away the bodies of the two Tibetans, who had died following the self-immolation, according to the same two sources. According to the exile Tibetans, who are in contact with Tibetans in the area, the bodies were taken to the monastery in order to carry out prayers, and many other Tibetans are gathering there. It is expected that a cremation and funeral services will be held soon.

At the time of the self-immolations today, local military deployed troops immediately in the street, but they had to back off as local people continued to gather, the Tibetan exile sources told ICT. Sonam and Choepak Kyap were related, and were both from herder families living in a rural area.

Two months ago, hundreds of Tibetans gathered in the same area to pay their respects to an 18-year old Tibetan layperson called Nangdrol who set fire to himself and died in Dzamthang on February 19 (ICT report, Tibetans gather in Dzamthang for vigil after self-immolation: Lhasa crackdown deepens in buildup to Tibetan New Year – 19 February 2012). Nangdrol, a lay person, cared passionately about Tibetan culture and language and had urged fellow Tibetans to be united, and to preserve their cultural and religious identity.

On January 26, police fired into a crowd of Tibetans, resulting in the death of a Tibetan student in Dzamthang. The young Tibetan, identified as a 20-year old student named Ogyen, was part of a crowd of Tibetans who had gathered to protest the detention of another young Tibetan, identified as Tarpa, who had posted leaflets earlier that day stating that the self-immolation protests that have taken place in Tibet were calls for Tibetan freedom and for the return of the Dalai Lama, and that the self-immolations would continue until authorities met these demands. Tarpa included his name and a photo of himself on the leaflets, stating that the authorities could arrest him if they wished. Ogyen, the student who was shot on January 26, was a schoolmate of Tarpa, and had been seeking to prevent his arrest, according to exile Tibetan sources (ICT report, Tibetan student killed, several injured, after police open fire in Ngaba; news of two more prayer vigils for New Year – 27 January 2012).

Dzamthang is one of the most remote corners of Ngaba prefecture, and 600km from the provincial capital of Chengdu. The journey from Barkham (Chinese: Ma’erkang), the capital of Ngaba county, into Dzamthang county marks the transition from the Tibetan areas of Kham to Amdo. According to Steve Marshall and Susette Cooke in their CD-Rom “Tibet Outside the TAR”: “In the past, Dzamthang lay on an important Amdo-Kham trade and communications route between Pema in the Golog territories and Draggo and Kartse in Kham, along which many pilgrims and religious teachers, traders and caravaneers travelled over the centuries. A rugged, richly forested mountain region carved by the deep upper Dadu watershed, Dzamthang was remote and alien to the Chinese when they invaded Kham and Amdo in 1950. It was not made a county until 1958, a measure of the Chinese occupiers’ difficulty in deciding how to deal with such an unknown quantity.” (Section from “Tibet outside the TAR,” archived here)

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