- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

POKHARA, Nepal, March 21, 2008 (AFP) - A US-trained former Tibetan guerrilla who waged a long campaign against the Chinese says peaceful protests and international pressure are the only ways to end the deadly unrest in Tibet.

“The Dalai Lama will never change his ‘middle way’ (of more autonomy but not independence) and or the path of non-violence,” 73-year-old Norbu Dorje, who was trained by the CIA nearly half a century ago, told AFP.

“Most Tibetans will follow what the Dalai Lama says, but there are many young people who want to demonstrate violently. But this will not work,” he said.

A year before the Dalai Lama fled Tibet after a failed uprising against the Chinese in 1959, Dorje joined the fledgling Tibetan resistance movement at the age of 23.

Twelve months after joining, he was selected to be clandestinely taken to a training camp in the United States where he said he was trained by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents in communications and guerrilla warfare.

Dorje spent 14 years waging a war from inside Nepal’s border with Chinese-controlled Tibet, but these days he is a firm believer that trying to fight the Chinese will achieve nothing.

He hopes instead that countries might stay away from the Olympics due to be held in Beijing in August.

“I think people should boycott the Olympics,” said Dorje, who recently retired as head of a Tibetan refugee camp in central Nepal.

“People have seen now what the Chinese are doing in Tibet and I think what people are seeing will increase our support. Those who love peace should support us,” he said.

Dorje is from Kham, a province in Eastern Tibet long known for its fierce locals who — because of the remote, mountainous terrain and lawlessness — developed a fearsome reputation as horsemen, fighters and bandits.

For hundreds of years, Khampas were bodyguards to generations of reincarnations of the Dalai Lama, a tradition that continued until the Tibetan spiritual leader’s flight into exile in India in 1959.

In dramatic footage by Canadian TV shown on Wednesday, over 1,000 Tibetans, some on horseback, charged into a remote Chinese town in Gansu, attacking a government building, clashing with soldiers, and hoisting their national flag. It was not immediately clear where the attack took place or when.

The footage showing Khampas in traditional dress on horseback staging the protest was an emotional moment for Dorje who has not seen his home province in half a century.

“When I saw them (Khampa protesters) rip down the Chinese flag and put up the Tibetan flag, I was very very proud,” Dorje said.

But the former guerrilla is fearful of what will happen to those who protest.

“The Khampas (who protested) and all Tibetans are in a very dangerous situation,” he said.

“China is not letting any journalists into Tibet so those who continue to protest could be killed or imprisoned and nobody will know,” he said.

In 1958, as hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops flooded into Tibet, resistance leaders decided they needed a base outside the country and the harsh and remote area of Upper Mustang in Nepal was ideal.

Geographically part of Nepal, but culturally and linguistically a part of Tibet, Upper Mustang became the operations base for Dorje and up to 10,000 of his compatriots for nearly a decade and a half.

“From 1960 to 1965 our lives up there were really miserable. We nearly starved to death and had very basic accommodation,” Dorje told AFP.

CIA-trained guerrillas like Dorje were clandestinely parachuted back into Tibet, and once based in the arid alpine desert of Upper Mustang, cash and weapons continued to be dropped in by the Americans.

The Nepal-based guerrillas faced an formidable foe in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army of the 1960s.

Vastly outnumbered and outgunned, the Tibetans waged a long campaign of hit-and-run raids in Tibet.

A condition of Richard Nixon’s rapprochement with China was that the US stop funding and arming the guerrillas in northern Nepal. Officially US help ceased in 1968, but the Tibetan guerrillas fought on.

“When America stopped its support, we carried on ourselves. Their stopping support did not bother us. We had their training and their weapons,” said Dorje, adding though that the revolt sputtered out in the face of overwhelming odds.

With China now attempting to control all information coming out of the region, Dorje hopes that his countrymen inside Tibet are not abandoned again.

“China should give Tibet more autonomy, but so far they are not going in the right direction,” the former guerrilla said.

“Even though they are very big and powerful, what they are doing is illegal. We need other nations to support us strongly.”

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