First self-immolation in Tibet Autonomous Region reported

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said Dec. 1 it has received reports from exiled Tibetans in India of the self-immolation of a former monk in Chamdo (Chinese: Changdu or Qamdo) prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). The reports, that have been micro-blogged and uploaded on Facebook accounts in Tibetan, indicate that the former monk, named as Tenzin Phuntsog, survived and has been hospitalized. At least one source stated that the former monk was from a monastery in Chamdo township, named as Karma monastery, which some sources say was under lockdown following a rumored bomb blast at a local government building on Oct. 26.

If the accounts are correct, this would constitute the first self-immolation to occur within the TAR—and the 13th since a monk identified by the name Tapey set himself on fire on Feb. 27, 2009 near the Kirti monastery in Sichuan province. The self-immolations have mainly occurred in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) and Qiang autonomous prefectures in Sichuan (in the region known to Tibetans as Amdo), with three in neighboring Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (the Tibetan area of Kham).

Radio Free Asia’s Tibetan service reported that the former monk set himself ablaze in Khamar township in Chamdo, that his wife¹s name is Dolma, and that he has two sons and a daughter. The nearby Karma monastery, on the eastern bank of the Dzachu River, was founded in the 12th century by the First Karmapa, leader of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Rumors of a bomb blast in a government building near the monastery in October could not be confirmed at the time. One source, a Tibetan exile in India, told Radio Free Asia that monks from Karma monastery had not been allowed to leave the monastery at the time.

Chamdo has been described by the official Chinese media as the “frontline” of the “patriotic education” campaigns imposed by authorities in response to the unrest in Tibet. The Chinese government regards Chamdo as a strategic bridge between the TAR and the neighboring provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Qinghai. (See map of China’s provinces and map of Tibet’s prefectures.) (ICT, Dec. 1)

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