FIVE Tibetan farmers received prison sentences of between 13 and 15 years for their part in a protest in a Tibetan village last year, according to unofficial reports from Lhasa. One man did not even take part in the actual protest, according to the reports. The sentences, which were handed down by a Lhasa court on November 1 last year but never publicly announced, are the longest recorded for political offences in Tibet since 1990. Information about rural unrest in Tibet is scarce, and this was the first time details of punishments imposed on Tibetans involved in protests outside Lhasa have reached the outside world. The unusual severity of the sentences appeared to reflect Chinese concern about the increasing political involvement of lay Tibetans in the countryside. The arrests followed a pro-independence demonstration involving at least 100 people last June in the Gyama district of Meldro Gungkar county, a rural area 60 kilometres east of Lhasa. The incident began when four men, all of them 23-year-old farmers from Dashar, one of the villages within Gyama district, interrupted a political education meeting by marching on to the platform and displaying the Tibetan national flag. ''They were shouting pro-Tibet slogans such as 'Tibet is Independent','' according to an eyewitness report. ''The meeting was disrupted as some people followed the protesters, pretending to be spectators, while some were just shocked and others ran away to avoid dangerous consequences.'' The witness said the four farmers took over the meeting. The leader of the protest, Konchok Lodro, and two of his associates, Sonam Rinchen and Sonam Dorje, are said to have been sentenced to 13 years in prison. The fourth flag-bearer, named as Lhundrup Dorje, was given 15 years. During the protest he had tried to resist attempts by armed police to pull the flag away from the demonstrators. According to the eyewitness, Lhundrup was badly injured with a rifle butt. One of the longest sentences appeared to have been given to a man who did not take part in the flag-waving incident. Thupten Yeshe, a 41-year-old farmer from the same village, was arrested after six vehicles carrying security officers and legal cadres from Lhasa arrived in Dashar and searched the houses of the arrested men. Thupten was arrested ''on the charge of co-operating with the demonstrators'', according to a local source.