News / Asia

Defense Chief, Lao Officials Die in Crash

A rescue worker makes his way past the wreckage of an air force plane at its crash site near Nadee village, in Xiang Khouang province in the north of the country, May 17, 2014.
A rescue worker makes his way past the wreckage of an air force plane at its crash site near Nadee village, in Xiang Khouang province in the north of the country, May 17, 2014.
Ron Corben
The Lao defense minister was among more than a dozen people reported killed early Saturday when a military aircraft crashed in the northern part of the country. Analysts now see a major reshuffle within the governing Communist party.

Local television showed images of smoldering debris from the Ukrainian-made AN-74 aircraft after it crashed into a forest on approach to landing in the northern Laos province of Xiangkhouang, 470 kilometers from Vientiane.
 
FILE - Laotian Defense Minister, Douangchay Phichit, is seen during a visit to Moscow.FILE - Laotian Defense Minister, Douangchay Phichit, is seen during a visit to Moscow.
x
FILE - Laotian Defense Minister, Douangchay Phichit, is seen during a visit to Moscow.
FILE - Laotian Defense Minister, Douangchay Phichit, is seen during a visit to Moscow.
Defense Minister Major General Douangchay Phichit, who was also a deputy prime minister and member of the powerful inner circle politburo of the Lao Communist Party is among the 17 dead.

Other senior officials to perish include the minister of public security and the mayor of Vientiane, as well as family members who were traveling to attend a ceremony and reception.  

News of the tragedy was initially confirmed through the Thai Foreign Ministry which has long-standing close ties with neighboring Laos.

The tragedy comes just seven months after a Laos Airlines domestic aircraft crashed in southern Champasak province claiming the lives of 49 passengers and crew. The official report into the Lao Aviation ATR-72 turboprop crash is due to be released in the coming months.

Aviation concerns

Panitan Wattanayagorn, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, says the crash adds to concerns about aviation safety in Laos.

"Lao aviation safety has been problematic for many years," he noted. "And this just confirms another problem they are not able to fix or solve yet. Although in the past two years they have brought in external experts to help their aviation industry and also military air force (personnel). But still the problems persist."

Laos-based analysts told VOA the tragedy marks a major blow to the ruling Communist Party. Defense Minister Douangchay was also seen as having close ties with neighboring Vietnam. The Lao government has long juggled diplomatic and economic relations between China and Vietnam.

Major reshuffle expected

Carl Thayer, a defense analyst with Australia's University of New South Wales, says following the accident a major reshuffle within the government is expected.  He says Douangchay was a powerful player within the politburo.  

"[Douangchay] is one of the most important political elites in Laos. The military plays an extraordinarily powerful role in that country - both officially and then through the network of retired generals that inhabit the upper echelons of the party," Thayer explained. " Who becomes the defense minister comes from a very tiny circle anyway so it is going to be one of them that the insiders know so it's not going to be a surprise person that's going to change policy drastically."

But Thayer says while a reshuffle will take place, he does not foresee any instability within the closely knit Communist government that has ruled Laos since 1975. Nor, he says, will the already close working relations between Laos and neighbors Vietnam and China likely change.
 
  • Rescue personnel work at an air force plane crash site near Nadee village, Xiang Khouang province, Laos, May 17, 2014.
  • Rescue workers search an air force plane crash site near Nadee village, Xiang Khouang province, Laos, May 17, 2014.
  • A rescue worker makes his way past the wreckage of an air force plane at its crash site near Nadee village, in Xiang Khouang province, Laos, May 17, 2014.
  • A rescue worker makes his way through the debris at an air force plane crash site near Nadee village, Xiang Khouang province, Laos, May 17, 2014.
  • Rescue workers search an air force plane crash site near Nadee village, Xiang Khouang province, Laos, May 17, 2014.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: ya her from: sacamento
May 17, 2014 8:04 PM
These people killed thousands of Hmong in the last 40 years...thousands died in the plain of jars...a place of restless hmong souls crying out for revenge n righteousness. At least there is a god...taking these 5 five demons back to the original place where they set n still setting evil plots against the hmong. The will have no remorse.
In Response

by: xay from: Phnom Penh
May 17, 2014 11:03 PM
I agree with ya her. Its time for redemption for the many killings of the Hmongs by this government.
In Response

by: htinlinaung from: Yangon,Myanmar
May 17, 2014 10:19 PM
Dear friend,
It isn't evil plot. Engine damaged.

by: Shirleypittman from: tavaresfl
May 17, 2014 9:50 AM
Is this the plane TNA they has been looking for.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs