Laos authorities release Pastor jailed for holding worship services

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) - Authorities in Laos have released a pastor who was jailed early last year for refusing to halt worship services at the church he founded in the southeast Asian country, International Christian Concern reports. Pastor Sithon Thippavong was freed on April 9 after just over a year in prison.

Pastor Thippavong had been remanded in custody since his arrest; he was finally convicted by the Provincial People’s Court on April 6 on charges of “disrupting unity” and “creating disorder.” The charges relate to the pastor’s refusal to stop holding services at his church in Sinakbouly District, Savannakhet Province.

Although Laos passed a law in 2019 allowing Christians to practice their religion, many churches are still subject to persecution: Pastor Thippavong was accused of teaching religion without permission, ICC said.

“[Pastor Thippavong] was sentenced to one year and two months in jail and fined a total of four million kip [U.S. $426], with two million kip paid for each charge,” an official who asked to remain anonymous told Radio Free Asia. “Pastor Sithon has already served a little bit more than a year in prison, so the rest of his jail term will be a two-month suspended sentence,” the official added.

A member of Sithon’s church confirmed that the Pastor has been released and was on his way home, ICC said.