Death of Karmapa’s General Secretary Damchoe Yongdu – not suspicious at all

Posted on Posted in Historie

(excerpt from ” His Masters voice #8 ” which was published here earlier)

Brown then retails the most serious charge of all, Tenzin Namgyal’s claim that Topga Rinpoche murdered his stepfather, the Karmapa’s General Secretary Damchoe Yongdu. First, Brown describes how Topga and Damchoe had disagreements about title deeds for two of the Karmapa’s properties. Then, he tries to implicate Topga in the death of Damchoe:

In December 1982, Damchoe traveled to Bhutan, to check on the accounting of the Karmapa’s business interests and to seek a loan from the Bhutanese government to complete the building of KIBI in Delhi. Traveling with him were his assistant Gompo and two other attendants. On 10 December, Damchoe visited Topga at his home. Gompo and the two attendants were shown into a waiting room upstairs, while Damchoe took tea with Topga in another room. Less than an hour later, Damchoe was dead. A doctor was summoned who declared that the general secretary had died of a heart attack. “There was talk,” said Tenzin Namgyal, choosing his words carefully, “of suspicious circumstances.” It was said that blotches could be seen on Damchoe’s body, perhaps consistent with the use of certain poisons. (115-116)

This story is filled with errors. Two main points stand out, Dronyer Ngodrub and Dechang Nagu, speaking in their twin roles as brothers of Damchoe Yongdu and members of the Karmapa’s administration.

First, Tenzin talked of blotches on Damchoe’s body as possible signs of poison. But poison leaves more obvious signs than this and is generally very easy to detect by physicians. Second, the family had the body at home and did pujas over it for a week. During that time there would have been plenty of opportunity to schedule an autopsy. However, the family felt no need to do this.

“We knew that our brother had died of a heart attack,” said Dronyer Ngodrub, “none of us had any suspicions that anyone had had a hand in his death.” “To this day, we are certain that our brother died of natural causes,” said Dechang Nagu. “It is quite painful then for our family to hear accusations made about murder. Tenzin Namgyal has hurt us deeply with his groundless charges.”

Damchoe Yongdu’s two brothers tell a different version of the story of the death of their brother. “I was in Thimphu, Bhutan assisting my brother. It was December, and my brother was staying at a small dry goods shop in Thimphu run by our brother-in-law, Lodro Choden,” Dechang Nagu explains.

Damchoe had made an appointment to meet the Bhutanese finance minister at 10:30 am at his office in the main government building in Thimphu. At 8 o’clock, before setting out, Damchoe met with Topga Rinpoche and his wife Princess Ashi Chokyi at their residence in the city. From Topga Rinpoche’s house, Damchoe left for his meeting with the finance minister. It took about one hour for the meeting, then Damchoe came back to the shop at lunchtime. Lodro Choden was working downstairs, and Damchoe was in the guest room upstairs.

Suddenly, Lodro Choden heard a sudden loud thump on the ceiling above him. He went upstairs to see what had happened, and Damchoe was sprawled on the ground, collapsed. Lodro Choden ran downstairs to summon a doctor. Within a few minutes, a local doctor arrived. Dechang was out walking in Thimphu on the morning of his brother’s death. When he returned to his brother-in-law’s house, he found the doctor there and his brother dead. They talked, and the doctor explained that he had done an examination of Damchoe’s body, which showed all the signs of a heart attack. This was no surprise to Dechang.

“For years, my brother had suffered from high blood pressure,” Dechang says. “In New Delhi, he had been going to the Chogla clinic, and Dr. Chogla had put him on a diet and prescribed some medicine to bring his blood pressure down. My brother had been taking this medicine, a red liquid, for some time. The bottle was sitting on the table in my brother’s room when he died. Lodro showed this bottle to the Bhutanese doctor, who confirmed that it was indeed heart medicine.”

But Damchoe’s condition had not improved. Indeed, after a recent separation from his wife, Damchoe was depressed and in low spirits, which had raised Damchoe’s blood pressure. Coming to Bhutan from the hot plains of northern India had not helped his condition either. “The doctor explained that traveling from India to the below-zero degree area of Thimpu was very dangerous for someone who had high blood pressure and the shock of this change had finally been too much for my brother’s heart.”

“I am sure that my brother died of a heart attack,” Dechang explains. “I saw his body right after he died. I talked to the doctor. There was never any doubt for me or for anyone in our family.”

Damchoe’s older brother Dronyer Ngodrup adds that “I saw my brother’s body a week after his death when it was brought to Rumtek for the funeral. It was clear to me that he had died from natural causes.”

“Tenzin Namgyal wasn’t even in Thimphu, as I was,” Dechang says. “Nor was he part of our family. Where in the world did he get this story?”

“I can only think that Tenzin invented this slander as revenge against Topga Rinpoche. Topga had fired Tenzin from Rumtek in the late eighties. He told the whole staff there why he had sacked Tenzin—for playing politics and spreading slander. Ever since, Tenzin has been angry and has been looking for a chance to avenge himself on Topga.”