Tibetan Monk and Woman Die in Burning Protest

The Associated Press reports Lobsang Thokmey, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, set himself on fire at Kirti monastery on Saturday, one of two self-immolations in the past week. This self-immolation marks the fifth anniversary of the bloody crackdown on Tibetans in the area:

The monk set himself on fire Saturday inside his room in Kirti monastery in Sichuan province’s mountainous Aba county, RFA said. Carrying a Tibetan Buddhist prayer flag, he ran toward the monastery entrance before collapsing and was rushed to hospital where he died, the report said.

A man who answered the phone at Kirti said the monastery was open to the public, but hung up when questioned about the self-immolation report. Calls to local government and police offices rang unanswered.

The London-based advocacy group Free Tibet also reported Lobsang Thokmey’s self-immolation. It said a large force of security personnel at the county hospital had removed his body.

Confirming claims long circulating among Tibetan activists, the official Global Times newspaper last week said that family members of those who self-immolate were barred from retrieving their relatives’ bodies, while neighbors were not allowed to offer condolences and monks were barred from offering prayers for the dead.

Phayul provides more details on the monk’s self-immolation:

According to the Dharamshala based Kirti Monastery, Lobsang Thokmey doused his body with kerosene in front of his monastic quarters in the west of the Kirti Monastery and started running towards the east.

“Lobsang Thokmey was in flames as he began running with the Buddhist flag in his hands,” the Kirti Monastery said in a release. “Before he could reach the main gate, he fell on the ground.”

“A large number of Chinese security personnel arrived at the hospital soon after Lobsang Thokmey was admitted and later forcibly took away the deceased’s body to the regional headquarters of Barkham,” the same source said.

It is not yet known what slogans Lobsang Thokmey raised during his self-immolation protest.

Lobsang Thokmey is the 108th Tibetan to set himself ablaze since the beginning of the protests that began in February 2009. In the 109th case, a Tibetan woman has also self-immolated in Sichuan province’s Ngaba prefecture. These incidents come amid the continuing crackdown in Tibet. From Radio Free Asia:

Kunchok Wangmo, 31, set herself ablaze in Dzoege (Ruo’ergai) county just before midnight last Wednesday but news of the burning was hushed up by Chinese police who had grabbed her body, cremated it and handed over the remains to her family, the sources said.

Her husband, Dolma Kyab, was detained when he refused to comply with an order by the Chinese authorities who wanted to blame the self-immolation on a family squabble, one exiled Tibetan with contacts in the region told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

Kunchok Wangmo is the 15th woman to self-immolate since the burnings began in February 2009 aimed at challenging Chinese rule in Tibetan areas and calling for the return of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India.

The main road in Ngaba was declared last year as “Heroes Street” after it became the epicenter of the burnings.

See also Flames of Protest: The History of Self-Immolation, via CDT.

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