News and Views on Tibet

Noted writer, intellectual Thupten Samphel passes away at 65

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Late Thupten Samphel at Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamshala (Photo/VOA)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, June 5: Well-known intellectual and novelist Thupten Samphel has passed away on Saturday morning at his residence in Bylakuppe, South India. In addition to his role in shaping the CTA run think tank Tibet Policy Institute as its first Executive Director, he was also an accomplished writer with two novels under his name; Falling through the Roof published by Rupa & Co. 2009, and Copper Mountain published by Blackneck Books, 2021.

Samphel, 65, was one of the members of the fourth and last fact-finding delegation to Tibet in 1985. He had served as the secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations from 1999 to 2012. He wrote extensively through articles, commentaries, and reports on the Tibetan issue for the global public.

Thupten Samphel (L), Ngabo Ngawang Jigme (C) and Atisha Tenzin Phuntsok (R) during the 4th fact-finding delegation visit to Tibet in 1985 (Photo/DIIR)

As Tibetan netizens in exile received the news of Thupten Samphel, many took to social media to offer their condolences to his family and expressed sadness over his passing.

“While honouring the tall legacy of Kungo Samphel for his dedicated service, inspiring personality and huge contribution to the Tibetan cause through different portfolios, most especially in the DIIR, we offer our heartfelt prayers and sincere condolences to the family members in this time of grief and loss,” DIIR Kalon Norzin Dolma remarked on Saturday, as the CTA staff mourned his death with an official prayer service.

The co-founder of Tibet Writes, an imprint of Blackneck Books, Bhuchung D. Sonam on the social media handle of the publication wrote, “We are devastated with the news about the passing away of Thupten Samphel, a true gentleman and a wonderful writer. We were absolutely honoured to publish two of his books. This is terrible news, such a colossal loss for Tibet and the world of literature. Our deepest condolences to the family members.”

The reputed intellectual was born in 1956 in Lhasa, and escaped Tibet at the age of six to India with his elder brother. Samphel pursued his BA and MA degrees in History from the prestigious St. Stephen’s College in Delhi University. In 1988, he was among the first group of Tibetan Fulbright scholars sent to the US, where he pursued Masters in Journalism at Columbia University, New York. Samphel subsequently served as the editor of the Tibetan Bulletin at DIIR. On November 2 in 2018, he retired after 38 years of service at the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamshala.

4 Responses

  1. I am really saddened and shocked with the passing away of Samphel la who dedicated his entire professional life in the service of Tibetan community. With his educational and professional background, he could have easily sought a greener pasture anywhere but he did not do so. This makes him one of the truly dedicated and rare CTA civil servants. He was assigned a variety of CTA positions and was relocated to several places to fulfill his responsibilities. He served in all these positions with integrity, dedication, and professionalism. He was, therefore, an exemplary civil service personality worthy of emulation and admiration. He will be truly missed by the community.

  2. A terrible loss. Thupten la was my junior in St Stephen’s College and even at that young age showed glimpses of the heights he would reach. A scholar who combined knowledge and wisdom. He will be missed.

  3. Rest in peace, fellow Stephanian. Your life enriched many. Your memories will remain cherished. Valson Thampu, 12th Principal of St. Stephen’s and fellow Stephanian.

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