Christians in Laos are treating the killing of a Protestant pastor as a “cold-blooded murder” based on his profession.

“Local Christians ruled out robbery as a possible motivation for this ruthless and cold-blooded murder,” reports Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF). “They believe that his death was the direct result of his Christian faith and ministry of spreading that faith.”

For nearly 20 years, Rev. Singkeaw Wongkongpheng, pastor of a small village church in Na-ang, Luang Prabang province, had ignored government orders to stop preaching the Christian faith, even founding a church in 2000 during an intensive Laos crackdown. He was stabbed to death on 8 September, after five men broke into his home. One of the men is rumoured to have been a police officer.

HRWLRF has called on Laotian authorities to carry out a thorough investigation and ensure improved religious freedom for the country’s Christian minority, which comprises just 2 per cent of the population.