A Laos air force plane carrying senior government officials has crashed, killing at least five people including the country’s defence minister, Thai officials said.
The Russian-made plane, believed to have had about 20 people on board, left the capital, Vientiane, early on Saturday on its way to an official ceremony in the north-eastern province of Xiangkhoung, about 290 miles away, said a Thai foreign ministry spokesman.
It crashed in a forest area in Xiangkhoung province, near one of Laos’ major archaeological sites, the Plain of Jars.
Among those confirmed killed in the crash are defence minister Douangchay Phichit and his wife, said an official.
Mr Douangchay was also one of the country’s deputy prime ministers and a high-ranking member of Laos’ politburo, the main decision-making body for the nation’s ruling Communist Party.
Also killed was the governor of the capital of Vientiane, Sukhan Mahalad. The official said he was given the information by authorities in neighbouring Laos who did not immediately release details of the other passengers.
The cause of the crash was not immediately known.
Images of the aircraft in a wooded area with smoke rising from its remains were shown on TV.
Thailand’s Thai Rath newspaper identified the plane as a Russian-made Antonov AN-74.