In Reversal, Nepal to Allow Cremation of Tibetan Monk

Katmandu, Nepal — Nepal’s government announced on Tuesday that it would allow the funeral and cremation of a revered Tibetan Buddhist monk to take place in the country, reversing an earlier refusal seen by some as resulting from sensitivity to China.

The decision came after Prime Minister Sushil Koirala returned from the United States following treatment for lung cancer and held an emergency cabinet session to overrule his deputy prime minister, Bam Dev Gautam. The body of the monk, Shamar Rinpoche, was brought Tuesday from Bhutan to the Shar Minub Monastery on Katmandu’s outskirts.

“The cabinet meeting endorsed a policy to cremate a foreigner’s body in Nepal if they have cultural and religious ties to Nepal and wish to be cremated here,” said Minendra Rijal, a government spokesman.

The religious leader, who was 62, died of a heart attack in Germany on June 11, and he had expressed wishes to be cremated in Nepal.

Mr. Gautam, a senior leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) who is also Nepal’s home minister, had decided against allowing the monk’s followers to bring his body to Nepal, saying he was a Bhutanese citizen. Relations between Bhutan and Nepal have long been strained, but many saw the decision as related to fears that the funeral would spur anti-China protests amongst the thousands of expected mourners.

Nepal does not allow Tibetan exiles to protest against China, and the country has been deeply concerned about self-immolations by Buddhist monks that have embarrassed China.

The cremation is to take place Thursday on top of the Shar Minub Monastery.