A pastor in Laos has been found dead just a few days after disappearing, with villagers alleging that he was murdered for his faith.
One resident of Donkeo village in Nakai district, Khammouane province, said that he saw three men bundle Pastor Sy Seng Manee, 48, into an unmarked black truck and take him away.
Pastor Sy’s body was discovered on Sunday 23 October alongside his motorcycle, at a roadside near to the village. The pastor appeared to have been badly beaten.
“His death was due to his belief in Christianity,” claimed one resident, who alleged that the Pastor Sy had been arrested and killed by the Nakai district authorities.
Another resident repeated the allegations, saying, “They don’t like the Christian religion, so that’s what they do.”
A Christian villager appealed to the police to arrest Sy’s murderers swiftly, saying, “If the murderers are not arrested, it will strongly affect the Christian community.” Police are still investigating the death.
Pastor Sy had previously been arrested in August 2018, while he was conducting weekly meetings in his house. He refused to sign a document renouncing the Christian faith and promising to stop preaching, and received a three-day jail sentence and a fine. He had recently resumed preaching.
“Each district is different in terms of other religious beliefs,” said a pastor in Nakai district, “Some provinces are strict and some are loose when it comes to harassment.”
The country’s Law on the Evangelical Church, introduced in December 2019, gives Lao Christians the right to conduct services and preach throughout the country, and to maintain contacts with believers outside Laos. However, locally Christians are often subjected to harassment and violence, especially in rural areas, while the government imposes onerous registration requirements on churches.
In March 2022 a Christian family of 12 were driven from their home in Savannakhet province because of their faith, and pressured to remove social media posts describing their ordeal.