Laos defense minister dies in plane crash

By Kyle Johnson,

Laos' defense minister died in a plane crash on Saturday morning, which also killed 17 other people who were reportedly on board, including other high-ranking government officials.

The military aircraft, carrying Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Douangchay Phichit and his wife, crashed into a forest in the northern Xiangkhouang province, reports BBC News.

A spokesman for Thailand's Foreign Ministry, Sek Wannamethee, said that other government officials on the plane include Vientiane Gov. Sukan Mahalad and Thongbanh Sengaphone, who was the public security minister.

The loss of several senior officials could be huge as the country's Communist party struggles to keep control of Laos.

According to The Associated Press, the AN-74TK300 air force aircraft was heading to the 55th anniversary of Laos' 2nd Battalion victory at the Plain of Jars. Nipat Thonglek, the permanent secretary of Thailand's Defense Ministry, said the plane was descending when it went out of control and crashed.

The small country lost another plane back in October when a Lao Airlines aircraft crashed after flying in a heavy storm. All 49 people on that flight were killed.

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