Monk's self-immolation planned, police

Xinhua, April 23, 2011

Police in Aba County of southwest China's Sichuan Province said Friday that the self-immolation of a monk in Kirti Monastery last month was carefully planned and aimed at triggering disturbances.

Rigzin Phuntsog, a 16-year-old monk at the Kirti Monastery in Aba County, died on March 17, after setting himself on fire on March 16.

Police said the self-immolation was a carefully planned and implemented criminal case, which aimed at triggering disturbances.

Investigations showed that in the evening of March 15, Rigzin Phuntsog, accompanied by Lhadan, a monk in the monastery, bought three bottles of gasoline at a parking lot of Laolongzang Road, police said.

At around 9:00 am on March 16, Rigzin Phuntsog told Lhadan and other monks that he was ready and would set fire on himself on the day.

In the afternoon, Rigzin Phuntsog set himself on fire after making sure that the monks had finished reciting scriptures and many of them would be on street.

After police on patrol put out the fire, a group of monks from the Kirti Monastery forcibly took Rigzin Phuntsog away and held him for nearly 11 hours.

After hours of negotiation, the monks agreed to allow Rigzin Phuntsog to be taken to hospital at around 3 am on March 17, but he died in hospital due to cardiorespiratory failure, according to the county government.

Soinam, head of the People's Hospital in Aba County, said Rigzin Phuntsog died from serious burns that caused heart and lung failures, and no gunshot wounds or injuries from blunt utensils or sharp tools were found on his body during treatment or post-mortem examination of body surface.

If Rigzin Phuntsog were sent to hospital timely, he could have been saved, Soinam said.

Local law experts said that the monks, fully aware that Rigzin Phuntsog was seriously burned and might die without immediate medical treatment, refused to send him to hospital. As Rigzin Phuntsog died due to delayed treatment, those monks were on suspicion of intentional homicide.

The local government of Aba County of Aba Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture said in a circular issued early Friday that the government decided to give legal education in Kirti Monastery and the decision was made in light of the "problems" in the monastery as well as illegal activities committed by some of its monks over the years.

The monks would study the country's laws and regulations as well as religious disciplines and commandments, it said.

The county government said a small number of monks in the monastery have, for a long time, repeatedly disrupted social order. Since 2008, some monks in the monastery have been found possessing guns and ammunition, committing criminal activities involving beating, smashing property, looting and arson, and carrying out self-immolation.

According to the circular, some monks in the monastery had repeatedly violated Buddhist disciplines and commandments and were found visiting prostitutes, getting drunk and kicking up rows, and being engaged in gambling. And some even disseminated pornographic videos.

Those activities "have corrupted social values and tarnished the image of Tibetan Buddhism," the circular reads.