Tibetan Middle School in Machu

The Tibetan Middle School in Machu. Sealed off by authorities, families have not been allowed to contact their children and students were questioned individually about 19-year old Tsering Kyi’s self-immolation. (ICT)

A Tibetan student in Machu and a widowed mother in Ngaba set fire to themselves and died in two separate incidents on Saturday (March 3) and Sunday (March 4), according to Tibetan sources in exile. The two were the first laywomen to self-immolate in Tibet, with teenage student Tsering Kyi being the first in the Tibetan area of Gansu province, bringing the total number of self-immolations in Tibet since February 2009 to 25.

Authorities have blockaded the school Tsering Kyi attended in Machu (Chinese: Maqu) county, Kanlho (Chinese: Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu province (Tibetan area of Amdo), and have imposed a tight military lockdown in the area following the incident, with people’s cellphones being investigated in an attempt to prevent dissemination of any images or footage that may have been taken of the self-immolation.

Tsering Kyi, a 19-year old student at the Tibetan Middle School in Machu, set fire to herself on Saturday afternoon (March 3) in the vegetable market of Machu town. Chinese vegetable traders nearby threw stones and soil on her body in an attempt to extinguish the flames, according to a Tibetan from the area who currently lives in exile in India and has been in contact with several Tibetans in the Machu region. The same sources said that police on the scene beat her as they attempted to put out the flames and that she died on the spot.

A day later (March 4), a Tibetan mother of four named Rinchen self-immolated near a military camp in the vicinity of Kirti monastery in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) town in Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan (the Tibetan area of Amdo). Rinchen was in her early thirties, and was married to a Tibetan man who had died (details of when he died and the circumstances are not clear). The youngest of Rinchen’s four children was several months old, and the oldest in their early teens.

According to Tibetan monks from Kirti monastery who are now in exile, as she set herself ablaze, Rinchen shouted “Return His Holiness to Tibet” and “We need freedom.” She died soon afterwards, according to the same sources. Rinchen was the eldest of eight siblings in her family, from Jiashang township in Ngaba.

Security in both Ngaba and Machu has been tightened considerably since the two self-immolations during the weekend.

In Machu, a meeting was convened among local officials on the evening of Tsering Kyi’s self-immolation (March 3) and the Middle School in Machu (pictured above) was sealed off by troops. According to one Tibetan source in the area in contact with Tibetans in exile, families were not allowed to contact their children and students were questioned individually about Tsering Kyi’s self-immolation. Internet cafes in the local area were also closed down.

Tensions in the area are already high in the approach to the March 10, the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising and anniversary of the protests that swept across Tibet from March 10, 2008 onwards.

On the second anniversary of the protests and riots in Lhasa on March 14, 2008, around 20-30 students from the Machu Tibetan Middle School began a peaceful protest after the authorities intensified security measures and refused to allow students to leave the school grounds in advance of March 10, 2010. Around 20-30 Tibetan students were soon joined by more than 100 local Tibetans (some sources say several hundred), in marching along the main street of Machu, calling for a “Free Tibet,” “Long life for His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” and resolution of the Tibet issue through dialogue. (ICT report, Tibetans mark Uprising anniversaries despite crackdown: Lhasa like a “war-zone”).

Machu Tibetan Middle School has a junior and a senior section; Tsering Kyi was studying in Class Nine of the Senior Middle School. She had three brothers and sisters.

Tibetans pay respects to 18-year old Nangdrol

It has been confirmed that 18-year old Nangdrol, who set himself on fire on February 19 in Dzamthang county, Ngaba, was a layperson and not a monk as previously reported, according to Tibetan sources. According to Tibetans in the area who are in contact with Tibetans in exile, Nangdrol cared passionately about Tibetan culture and language and had urged fellow Tibetans to be united, and to preserve their cultural and religious identity. In the past few weeks, Tibetans have traveled from many different areas to pay their respects to Nangdrol, who set fire to himself while shouting “May His Holiness the Dalai Lama live 10,000 years!” and “Freedom for Tibet!” according to Tibetan monks now in exile in India.

Nangdrol self-immolated in an area between Barma township and the Jonang Dzamthang Gonchen monastery in the Tibetan area of Dzamthang (Chinese: Rangtang) county, Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan. (ICT report, Tibetans gather in Dzamthang for vigil after self-immolation: Lhasa crackdown deepens in buildup to Tibetan New Year)