Deported US citizen recalls TIA ordeal

Kathmandu, June 30

Penpa Tsering, who was deported to the US from Tribhuvan International Airport on suspicion of being an agent of exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, says that he still feels traumatised by the June 22 incident.

In an email interview with THT today, the 53-year-old Nepal-born American national said the incident left him feeling shocked, helpless and traumatised.

On June 22, he approached immigration desk at TIA for entry visa, but to his shock, when officials were scanning his passport a letter from China popped up on the computer screen, instead of his details, he recounted. “The letter contained Chinese characters at the top with some English characters below. The immigration official then asked me whether I was the speaker of Tibetan Parliament-in-exile. I said, ‘No,’ and wondered why the officer was asking that.

“The officer then told me about the letter from China. I told him that I was not the Penpa Tsering they were looking for,” he told THT.

At the same time a number of immigration officials came to have a look at him and gave him suspicious looks, he said. “Then two cops in civvies came and started asking me questions in a very rude manner as if I was a criminal. I suspect they were doing so because of my Tibetan origin,” he added.

Officials also snatched his mobile phone to prevent him from making any calls.

“When I tried to stand up to stretch and move a couple a steps to release my tension, they didn’t even let me do that,” he added.

As if that was not enough, he was told to buy a return ticket to the US. “I was shocked to learn that I was being deported. I was frightened and feeling harassed,” he said, “I paid for my return ticket but authorities later claimed that I was deported at Nepal government’s expense.”

Penpa had planned to be in Nepal for five days before moving to India to spend the remainder of his month-long vacation. In Nepal, he was to visit Buddhist places and meet relatives, he said.

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Penpa blamed his ordeal on China and Nepali immigration officers who acted on behalf of China. “I felt sorry for the Nepali people because Nepal seemed to be under China’s control like Tibet. Moreover, one can easily assume how innocent Tibetans are suffering under China’s occupation.”

Penpa said he would suggest that other Tibetans by the name of Penpa Tsering should think twice before going to Nepal. “Check with the Nepali embassy in your country so that you won’t get deported from airport in Nepal.” According to Penpa, his family immigrated to America in 2007 in a family reunion programme. He is now settled in New Mexico, has a family and often longs to visit relatives and friends in India and Nepal.

The US Embassy in Kathmandu has already sought clarification from the government regarding Penpa’s deportation.