By Kalsang Rinchen
Phuntsok set himself ablaze on March 16, 2011, exactly 3 years after bloody crackdown on Tibetans of Ngaba on March 16, 2008. He succumbed to his injuries at 3AM (Beijing time) on March 17, 2011
Dharamsala, March 17 – Sources have confirmed the passing away of Phuntsok, the Tibetan monk of Ngaba Kirti monastery who set himself ablaze yesterday. Phuntsok breathed his last around 3AM (Beijing time) Thursday at a hospital. The hospital authorities refused to see Phuntsok without approval from the local Chinese authorities compelling the Tibetans to submit to the Chinese authorities in trying to save Phuntsok’s life.
At the time of this report going online, Phuntsok’s body has still not been handed over to his family. The authorities have told the family that an important government official was to pass through the town Thursday and that the body will be handed over only after the official’s departure, said the source.
Meanwhile, outside the main gate of Ngaba Kirti monastery, nearly 1500 monks were stopped yesterday by around 300 lay Tibetans as the monks were trying to walk towards the town to demand the release of the monks arrested in the aftermath of the self immolation by Phuntsok. The lay Tibetans were concerned about the safety of the monks saying it could be dangerous as it would give an excuse for the authorities to adopt more stringent measures including indiscriminate firing. Later, the monk administrators of the monastery called the local authorities and negotiated the release of the monks. The monks and the lay people were asked to disperse and return to their homes. However, the monks again gathered at the central courtyard inside the monastery saying prayers amid sea of butter lamps until midnight Wednesday.
In the wee hours of Thursday, authorities brought back to the monastery 7 monks of which 4 were arrested yesterday and 3 had been arrested before March 16. However, the source said that the monks say there still are more monks of other monastery and lay people in police custody. The released monks are Tashi (Shitah), Kontse from Yushul, Palden from Yushul, Tashi from Charu, Senge from Choejema, Tentse from Khangsarma and Kunchok Tsultrim.
Authorities have cordoned off the Kirti monastery and blocked all roads leading out from Ngaba county, said the source who added that the internet and telephones lines also seem to have been jammed.
"The crossroads to the monastery (is) blocked by police," an employee at a hotel near the monastery told AFP
"People are allowed to enter but the monks are not allowed to go out. Yesterday, the stores in this street were all closed," said the man who declined to give his name.