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WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 - A Lao evangelical pastor was shot to death in Laos's northwestern province of Sayaboury, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Dec. 6. Thongla Sengpaseum, an evangelical minister based in Sayaboury, was shot and killed in November while riding his motorcycle with his son, according to a U.S. official in Laos who asked not to be named. Sengpaseum's son survived the shooting, but no further details were available. Sengpaseum "was on his motorcycle and taking his son home from school when he was shot," the official said, adding that the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane had voiced concern about the shooting to the Lao government. Sengpaseum was arrested on one occasion in the 1990s, according to another U.S. official. He was also shot and wounded once last year. Christians constitute at most 1.5 percent of the Lao population, which numbers around 5.2 million, according to the U.S. State Department's 2001 International Religious Freedom Report. While the Lao constitution provides for freedom of religion, the government restricts this freedom in practice, regarding worship and conversion as a potential source of instability, and frequently forces churches to close, the report says. Radio Free Asia (RFA) is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting news and information to listeners in those Asian countries where full, accurate, and timely news reports are unavailable. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA aims to deliver such news reports - along with opinions and commentaries - and to provide a forum for a variety of voices and opinions. RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan, and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest journalistic standards and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.


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