"Biggest gathering I have ever seen"

Saturday, 17 March 2012
A crowd gathers to pray in front of Sonam Dargye's body

Self-immolation leads to mass protests in Rongwo Town again.

Sonam Dargye, a father-of-three in his 40s, self-immolated and died in Rongwo Town today.

His self-immolation has led to large protests in Rongwo Town, in scenes similar to that witnessed earlier this week when Jamyang Palden set himself on fire.

Friend of Jamyang

Sonam was a very close friend of Jamyang Palden, who is believed to be alive but critically ill. The two had travelled on pilgrimages together.

Sonam travelled the 20-minute journey from his village into Rongwo yesterday and stayed in a hotel overnight. On waking he washed himself, prayed and then drank petrol.

He walked out of the hotel, shouted: “Let His Holiness return to Tibet” and then set himself on fire.

See the full list of self-immolations

Fighting with Chinese forces

A group of monks and Tibetan lay people carried Sonam’s body to Dolma Square and paraded it around the Tara statue in the centre of the square. It was then laid down in the square (above right).

Paramilitary Armed Police (PAP) trucks arrived near the gathering and some of the lay Tibetans ran at them and tried to fight with PAP. Other Tibetans tried to mediate between them.

Faced with such a large and angry crowd, the PAP trucks withdrew.

Thousands of Tibetans

Thousands of Tibetans are now at the site. One eyewitness said: “It is the biggest gathering of people I have ever seen in this place. People are pouring in from villages.”

A huge prayer assembly has taken place with Tibetans chanting mantras, despite the efforts of PAP trying to stop people from joining.

Return of the Dalai Lama

Sonam Dargye was from Shabrang Village, Nyanthok Township.

In recent years he had been heard to say “His Holiness the Dalai Lama must return to Tibet. If he returns, issues of Tibet will be solved. If not, the future of Tibet is unsure. So we have to make our best effort for the return of His Holiness.”

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