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Nangpa La Shooting – an eye witness account
Phayul[Tuesday, October 10, 2006 19:13]
By Tenzin Choephel
Phayul Correspondent

Kathmandu, October 10 - A group of 41 Tibetan refugees including 2 guides arrived safely at the Tibetan Refugee Transit Center in Kathmandu, Nepal yesterday evening from Katari after escaping shootings by Chinese Border Security soldiers on the morning of 30th September 2006. According to an eye witness of the group, Kelsang Namtso, a 17 years old nun from Driru County of Tibet was shot dead just before the Nangpa La Pass, Kunsang Namgyal, a 20 year old boy from Kandze was hit by bullets on his leg, he could not escape and along with him 30 other Tibetans including 14 minor boys were arrested by Soldiers wearing camouflage dress and fur cap and they would be probably taken to Dringri County Town and detained. There were total 75 Tibetans including two guides who were trying to escape from Tibet via the Nangpa La Pass, Tibet-Nepal border.

After escaping the shooting, the group scrambled across the Nangpa La Pass. A total of 41 Tibetan Refugees and two guides escaped safely into Nepal territory. They walked for 9 days via Solukhumbu District and reached road head at Katari Town in east Nepal, took a morning bus and reached TRTC, Kathmandu at around 6:00 PM yesterday. All the 41 people are young from age 7-30 including children, monks, nuns and adults and seeking education in Tibetan schools or monasteries in India, as they either don’t get opportunity to go to school or could not bear religious repression in Tibet. A majority of them are from Driru County of Nagchu Prefecture in Tibet and the rest were from Tengchen County, Nagchu Town, Dranag County, Pasho County, Riwoche County, Sog Dzong County, Gyamda County, Dartsedo Town, Drakyab County and Kandze Town. The Nepali Authorities allowed them to travel safely from Nangpa La border to TRTC in Kathmandu without any major hindrance. The Guides refused to comment anything on the matter citing security reasons.

According to an eye witness, a monk from Gyamda County, “75 of us came together from Lhasa in a truck, drove for two days and reached a place from where we walked for about 20 days, when we reached near the Nangpa La Pass, we started walking early morning, we begged food from mountaineers and were eating when the soldiers arrived, they started shooting and we ran, it was around 8 AM (China time), there were 15 small children aged 8-10, only one escaped and rest were arrested, I just ran to save my life by praying to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I think the soldiers fired for about 15 minutes, there were five soldiers, three were chasing us and two were holding those who were arrested, the soldiers were shouting, probably warning us but I did not hear them as I was terrified, I just heard gun shots passing my ears, I was so sad that many got arrested, I paid 4500 Yuan for guide, I don’t exactly remember how many people were shot as we panicked, first 36 people escaped the gun shooting spree, and the rest came later, maybe they were hiding and came later, the Pass was about two hours and the snow on the Pass was knee deep, the nun was with us and she was shot and a boy from Kandze was shot on leg, we were the first group who were shot and there were people behind us who might be arrested, we don’t know because we crossed the Pass and reached Nepali territory, I saw that western mountaineers took pictures, I am sure they would have pictures, there were two men and a woman. Two of us were from Kongpo and I don’t know about rest, they were many from Driru County”.

According to another eyewitness from Riwoche County, “I saw the nun who was shot, she was shot on back by a single bullet, another boy was shot twice on leg, I was also shot but luckily the bullet only caught my pant. I tried to run but I could not run fast so some of us hide in the snow from 8 am to about 3 pm and then escaped, we were just about half an hour from the border when the incident happened. I saw the nun but I don’t know what happened to her body. I was in the middle of the group, most of the people ran as fast as they could, when soldiers came, children could not run and were arrested, there were adults too”.

People from Tibet usually escape in winter because it is easier for them to adapt to Indian weather and also probably due to severe weather condition on the Nangpa La Pass that makes it difficult for soldiers to patrol the border area. All these newly arrived Tibetan refugees would go to India soon with the help of UNHCR to seek an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and then proceed to Tibetan schools and monasteries.
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