By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, April 4: A 81-year-old Tibetan man, Tashi Phuntsok, also called Taphun has set himself on fire around 5 am local time on March 27, in front the Public Security Bureau office at Kirti monastery in Ngaba County in the traditional Amdo province, reportedly to protest against the repressive policies of the Chinese government. According to a reliable source in exile, Phayul has learnt that as soon as the act was committed, police authorities were quick to take Taphun out of sight, to an undisclosed location, where he died later.
“This month, the authorities imposed extraordinary restrictions causing immense resentment among local Tibetans, and [the self-immolation] made this oppressive situation evident,” the source said, adding that the month of March has always been politically sensitive due to its historical significance, where the state usually imposes strict restriction on movement and surveillance.
The information received from the source revealed that the self-immolator has great concerns over the future of Tibet, as Taphun had told a gathering on his 80th birthday, “With the blessings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the sun of happiness is sure to shine over Tibet. To all young Tibetans, do not lose heart!” He lived in the nomadic camp no. 3 of Meruma town in Ngaba County in the so-called Sichuan province.
The Dharamshala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy called on the Chinese authorities to “allow Taphun’s family members to get immediate custody of his remains so that they can conduct proper funeral rites” and further demanded that “[his] family and friends must not be subjected to arbitrary detention and interrogation to obtain false confessions in an attempt to distort the real reasons behind the self-immolation.”
In the few months elapsed of the year 2022, three self-immolation incidents have already been reported from inside Tibet; the two identified individuals include 25-year-old singer Tsewang Norbu from Nagchu, and 81-year old Tashi Phuntsok from Ngaba. The third self-immolation of an unidentified male has also been reported from Kyegudo, Kham on March 30, but no information about his health condition or background has come to light as of now.
According to the official website of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Taphun is the 157th self-immolator who sacrificed his life through this radical form of protest against the Chinese Communist Party regime since 2009.