21-year-old Phuntsog was the first monk to self-immolate in Tibet since 2009.
Phuntsog set himself on fire on March 16, 2011, which was the third anniversary of the demonstrations in 2008, when police shot dead at least 13 protestors in Ngaba Town. He was heard calling for the return of the Dalai Lama during his protest.
Military build up
Phuntsog died in hospital the next day. According to an eye witness, over 1,000 monks sat outside the gates of Kirti monastery in Ngaba, joined by between 300 to 400 lay people in the evening.
Butter lamps were lit and prayers were offered for Phuntsog as rumours spread that he had died.
In the following few weeks, information was received of a military build up at the Kirti Monastery in Ngaba and the forcible removal of monks. Several monks were detained, some charged with ‘separatism’ but for many of the monks the reason for their arrest and place of detention were not known.
Restrictions on communication and movement
On 4 April 2011, reports showed that a large number of troops were sent in to enforce a blockade of the Kirti monastery. Security was tightened considerably, preventing even the elderly monks from moving about freely. In addition to forbidding monks from leaving, lay people from Ngaba were also not permitted to enter the monastery.
Free Tibet also received reports of various restrictions on communication and movement in Ngaba County: anyone using public telephone facilities to make international calls was required to provide identification; the sale of petrol in Ngaba County was restricted; following the Dalai Lama’s statement on 10 March, monks at Kirti monastery were told that satellite dishes would be removed from the monastery.
China claimed that the situation in Ngaba following the self-immolation was ‘harmonious’ but video footage was released by Free Tibet which disproved this statement.