01/02/2006, 00.00
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Evangelical clergyman killed in Laos

For the government, money or personal motives were behind the murder, but the opposition suspects religion played the key role. The murdered clergyman had already spent a year in jail for his activities.

Vientiane (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A Protestant Evangelical official, Pastor Aroun Voraphom, was killed in central Laos on December 22 but official confirmation came only today. The reasons for the murder, which was first reported by an overseas Laotian organisation, remain murky.

In Vientiane, Laotian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yong Chantalangsy said that "the nature of the crime appears clear: It was perpetrated to steal money."

The police inquiry is focusing on money or personal reasons. "I don't think it is about religion," he added.

For the Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR), which opposes the ruling Communist regime, religion seems to be behind the killing of the pastor in Pakading, Bolikhamsai province.

In a press release, the LMHR stated that "the pastor was struck several times with a knife in the heart area, and his throat was cut" after leading a religious service with local Christians. "His face was swollen and bore the marks of having been beaten."

The LMHR has demanded that "the authorities of the LPDR [Lao People's Democratic Republic] put an end to the repression campaign led against religious and ethnic minorities in Laos" and called for "an impartial and independent investigation".

In its press release, the LMHR noted that Pastor Aroun Voraphom had already been arrested in 1996 and detained for more than a year in a Vientiane prison for his religious activities.

The Laotian government has not yet released any statement about the claims made by the LMHR.

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