Defence Minister Among 14 Dead in Lao Air Force Plane Crash

A Russian-made Antonov aircraft sits on the tarmac of an airbase in Pakse, Laos (DPA).

By Boonmee Chaiyan and Peter Janssen (DPA)

VIENTIANE — The defence minister of Laos was among 14 people killed Saturday when an air force plane crashed, rescue teams said. Three people survived.

The Russian-made Antonov plane went down at 6:15 am (2315 GMT Friday) in the north-eastern province of Xiangkhuang. The crash killed Defence Minister Duangchay Phichit, a source close to him said.

He was also a deputy prime minister and member of the Politburo of the ruling Lao People's Revolutionary Party.

Also killed were Public Security Minister Thongban Saengaphon, Vientiane Mayor Soukan Mahalat and party propaganda chief Chuang Sombounkhan, sources said. The three men were senior members of the communist party's central committee.

"The bodies will be brought back to Vientiane today," an Aviation Department official said Saturday on the condition of anonymity. "Three people survived the crash."

The group was en route to a ceremony marking the 55th anniversary of the 2nd Battalion's victory over royalist forces.

Laos has been under communist rule since 1975.