RIKON, March 15: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has expressed concern for the health of three Tibetan hunger strikers who have been on an indefinite fast outside the UN headquarters since February 22.

“The secretary general affirms the right of all people to peaceful protest. He is, however, very concerned about the health of the hunger striking protesters,” Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky was quoted as saying by AFP.

Hours before Ban’s message of concern, Jamyang Palden, a 34 year-old monk from Rebkong, eastern Tibet set himself on fire raising slogans for the return of Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile.

Now into their 23rd day of fasting, the three Tibetans are appealing for UN intervention in the ongoing crisis inside Tibet.

The fiery wave of self-immolation protests in Tibet has witnessed 28 Tibetans torch their bodies demanding freedom in Tibet. Mass protests in recent weeks have been violently suppressed following a call for “war” on peaceful protests by senior Chinese leaders.

Ban’s statement came after a visit to the “Indefinite Fast for Tibet” venue by UN assistant secretary general Ivan Simonovic on Monday.

Ivan Simonovic had expressed his “deep concerns” for the health of the hunger strikers and said that he will “directly contact” Secretary General Ban and Human Rights Commissioner Navannethem Pillay regarding the demands of the hunger strikers.

The UN assistant secretary general had apparently met with China’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations and briefed Ban’s office on his talks with the hunger strikers as well as Tsewang Rigzin, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, the organisers of the fast.

However, no details have been made public of the meeting.

Rigzin, who heads the largest Tibetan pro-independence group in exile welcomed the UN statement but said, “it is not enough.”

“We want real UN support for the people of Tibet,” Rigzin told reporters.