Interviewee Profile

Name: Sonam Tsomo
(Alias: No)

Gender: Female

Interview Age: 65

Date of Birth: 1945

Birthplace: Banja, Utsang, Tibet

Year Left Tibet: 1959

Profession: Herding

Monk/Nun: No

Political Prisoner: No

Interview Details

Interview No.: 45M

Date: 2010-04-13

Language: Tibetan

Location: Doeguling Settlement, Mundgod, Karnataka, India

Categories: Oppression and Imprisonment

Keywords: childhood memories, Chinese -- first appearance of, Chinese -- oppression under, Chinese rule -- life under, escape experiences, refugee in India -- life as, taxes, thamzing/struggle sessions, Utsang


Sonam Tsomo's parents were farmers and paid taxes to the government in the form of butter, grains and flour as well as medicinal plants that they acquired from tribesmen living on the border between Tibet and India. She explains that taxation was often an overwhelming burden passed down from one generation to the next. Many people struggled to meet the taxes and could face punishment by the tax collector if they could not make full payments.

Sonam Tsomo describes the first appearance of Chinese in her region, who originally came with wives and children, but were gradually replaced by soldiers. As a child she witnessed the thamzing 'struggle session' of her aunt, who hailed from a rich family. She speaks about how her aunt and other wealthy villagers were subjected to beatings by their own servants, who received strict instructions to do so by the Chinese. Her aunt was forced to wear her maids' clothing and move into the servants' quarters, while the former servants occupied her home.

Sonam Tsomo's family decided to escape and she recounts their strategy in leaving their belongings in the house as if they were still living there to escape the prying eyes of the watchful Chinese soldiers. Their escape journey was wrought with difficulties, which included crossing a bamboo bridge that swung dangerously and a short airplane ride.

Interview Team:

  • Rebecca Novick (Interviewer)
  • Ronny Novick (Videographer)
  • Namgyal Tsering (Interpreter)
Interview Video

Link: Watch On Youtube

Topic: Interview with Sonam Tsomo on 4/13/2010

Length: 00:54:29

Short Videos

Link: Watch On Youtube

Topic: Wealthy Tibetan Beaten and Possessions Confiscated

Length: 00:01:58

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