Thousands attend Ngaba monk's cremation amid hightened security

Dharamsala, March 19 – Tension ran high Friday as thousands of Tibetan residents of Amdo Ngaba paid their last respects to Phuntsok, a 20 year old monk of Kirti monastery who died after he set himself ablaze on Wednesday, marking the third year since deadly crackdown on protesters in Ngaba on March 16, 2008. 

 The local Chinese authorities handed over Phuntsok’s body to his family around 5PM (Beijing time) on Thursday and demanded that the body be cremated immediately that day. However, on assurance of the monastery administration the authorities extended the deadline for cremation till Friday. The Tibetan astrological calculations for Phuntsok had shown March 19 (15th day of the first month of the Tibetan lunar calendar) as the actual cremation date. 

 On Thursday night, monks of Ngaba Kirti monastery held prayers for Phuntsok in front of his monastic quarter even as armed Chinese security forces kept constant watch on the monastery. 

 At 8.30 AM on Friday, Phuntsok’s classmates brought out his body draped in Khatas (Tibetan traditional scarf) from the moratorium to a waiting van. Thousands of Tibetans including monks, nuns, men and women said prayers as they walked behind the vehicle carrying Phuntsok in his last journey. 

 Several policemen and soldiers in civilian dresses had mingled in the public during the funeral procession while armed soldiers patrolled along the road leading to Rebhung Crematorium, 3 miles north of the Ngaba Kirti monastery. 

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