Two Tibetan Cousins Self-Immolate


The fatal burnings come amid calls by the Dalai Lama to Beijing to take a serious approach to resolving the Tibet question.

Updated at 12:15 p.m. EST on 04-19-2012

Two Tibetan cousins died after burning themselves Thursday in protest over Chinese rule in a Tibetan-populated area of China’s southwestern Sichuan province, according to exile sources.

They self-immolated in the afternoon near a monastery in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture's Dzamthang (Rangtang) county, said Tsangyang Gyatso, head of the Jonang Buddhist Association in India's Dharamsala hill town, where Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, lives in exile.

"Local Tibetans and monks tried to douse the flames and took the two to their homes...," he said, identifying the two as Choephak Kyab and Sonam. "But the two died several hours later."

Their bodies were taken to the Dzamthang Jonang monastery for funeral prayers conducted by monks amid a clampdown by Chinese security forces, Gyatso said.

"Security forces in seven vehicles converged to the area," he said, adding that Tibetans living near the monastery had tried to provide immediate medical treatment to Choephak Kyab and Sonam but the two succumbed to their burns.

The burnings on Thursday came 20 days after the last reported Tibetan self-immolation on March 30.

It brought to 35 the number of Tibetans who had burned themselves since February 2009 to back demands for an end to Chinese rule and for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet. Twenty-seven of them have died of severe burns.

Bloody protests

Dzamthang was among at least three Sichuan counties where bloody protests occurred in January in which rights and exile groups believe at least six were killed and 60 injured, some critically.

Aside from Sichuan, the burnings also triggered street protests in the other Tibetan-populated provinces of Qinghai and Gansu as Tibetans questioned Chinese policies which they say are discriminatory and have robbed them of their rights.

Hundreds of monks have been detained from monasteries since March last year. Chinese authorities have also jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting Tibetan national identity and civil rights, exile sources said.

The Dalai Lama last week blamed Beijing's "totalitarian" and "unrealistic" policies for the wave of self-immolations, saying the time has come for the Chinese authorities to take a serious approach to resolving the Tibetan problem.

He called on the Chinese leadership to adopt a "holistic view" in resolving the Tibetan crisis instead of a "self-centered" approach, backed by power and wealth, to suppress the Tibetans.

Chinese authorities have labeled the self-immolators as terrorists, outcasts, criminals, and mentally ill people, and have blamed the Dalai Lama for encouraging the burnings which, they say, run contrary to Buddhist teachings.

Reported by Chakmo Tso for RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.