Three dead after setting themselves on fire in Tibet

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

In three separate cases in Tibet, three people have died in the past two days after they set themselves on fire in protest of Chinese occupation of Tibet.

Yesterday, Pema Dorje, 23, and Kunchok Phelgye, 24, died after they set themselves on fire in front of monasteries in northeastern and eastern Tibet. Then today, Bhenchen Kyi, 17, died after she set herself on fire in the Tsekhog, Rebkong region.

The deaths are described as self-immolations, where a person or persons set themselves on fire as a form of protest, often resulting in death. The first Tibetan reported case happened in 2009 when a monk named 'Tapey' set himself on fire in Kirti Gompa. He survived the incident. Since then, reportedly at least 95 people have attempted self-immolation, 28 of those in November of this year.

Authorities say the self-immolations may be incited and as a result, have arrested two men believed to be connected to the cases. Today, Chinese authorities announced the arrests of Lorang Konchok, 40, and his nephew Lorang Tsering, 31, who were arrested in August. Konchok is a Monk working at a monastery in Sichuan. In a confession Konchol claims he was working on orders from the Dalai Lama and his followers. He also says he recruited Tsering to help instigate the incidents, telling potential individuals they would be "heroes" if they went through with the immolation. Authorities say the two men were attempting to persuade more people to go through with the immolations, but those people backed out after police, family members, and government officials intervened.

Lobsang Choedak, a spokesperson for the Tibetan government in exile in India, denies the allegations against Konchok and Tsering saying, "We believe [the suspects] have been forced to make these confessions. We would welcome the Chinese government investigating whether we are instigating these immolations."


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