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March 2, 2024

Lao Christians fearful after police report no progress in pastor’s suspected homicide

Almost two months after Lao authorities found the badly beaten corpse of a pastor in the forest in Khammouane province, they are no closer to solving his case, and Christians in the area told RFA that they fear for their safety.

Pastor Sy Sengmany, a father of 8 children, rode his bicycle to a nearby town from his small village on Oct. 20. He never arrived, and police discovered his body in the woods shortly after. 

Sources said that two men visited his house earlier that day and a family member said that village authorities had earlier warned him to cease all his religious activities.

An officer from the provincial police department told RFA’s Lao Service that the investigation is still open.

A district level official responsible for religious affairs said he had heard about the case, but that police have not reported any progress.

“They must be working on it,” he said.

The lack of progress is unsettling for members of the local Christian community, who believe Pastor Sy was targeted for his faith, one adherent told RFA.

“Since the murder, we are fearful of our safety because the suspect is on the loose and we think the police are not very serious about the investigation or searching for the suspect in this case, because the victim is a Christian,” said the believer.

Another Christian wondered if the police were even actively trying to solve the case.

“If the suspect is still on the loose, he or she may harm other Christians as well. We all know that Pastor Sy was murdered because of his Christian activities,” the second Christian said.

A third believer said that Christians are now acting cautiously.

“When we go out, we must go at least in pairs. We’re scared,” the third Christian said. “They’re cracking down on us because of our religion. We’ve been told to stop our activities, and Pastor Sy was murdered because he went out by himself, all alone.”

Another Christian said that solving the case is necessary so that followers of the faith nationwide can feel safer.

Bounthone Chanthalavong-Wiese, president of the Germany-based Alliance for Democracy in Laos, told RFA that his organization is calling on the international community to “put more pressure on the Lao government to respect and protect the religious freedom of the Lao people.”

Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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