“Three other recent cases offer further insights into those committing self-immolation, but there is no single profile to unite them: Tsering Kyi was a 20-year-old school student of nomad origins from a small village near the town of Machu in Gansu province. Jamyang Palden was a 34-year-old monk at the monastery in Rebkong or Tongren county, also in the eastern Tibetan zone. Sonam Dhargyal was a 44-year-old farmer from Rebkong. Each of them followed their own path to self-immolation.
As with others who become involved in extreme acts of political or religious violence, searching for personal traits or clues in their lifestyle to explain their actions may be the wrong approach. Mapping the places where the incidents have occurred – almost all within a short distance from the self-immolators’ homes – may be more helpful.
What then becomes clear is how these events have largely clustered in a few specific areas.
This can in part be attributed to environmental factors such as where repression by the authorities has been particularly acute and also where a marginally more permissive regime allows freer access to the internet and thus higher levels of awareness of protest elsewhere.
[…] As those studying other forms of extremist spectacular violence have found, such acts are part of a culture that becomes established in a given institution or community, often on a very small scale.
A momentum is generated leading to the spread of that particular form of behaviour, encouraged by the support of peers, elders and others. The local reaction to each death, rather than the international reaction, either encourages or discourages others.
Endorsement and example flows through social networks. For the moment, the self-immolators are seen as tragic but admirable martyrs worthy of the pride of their friends and family. There are likely to be many more of them.”