SI PHAN DON, Laos — They might not be as adventurous as Flipper, but every couple of minutes the light gray head and back of a freshwater dolphin breaches the surface. These aren’t trained sea mammals in a theme park. We’re in southern Laos on the mighty Mekong, Southeast Asia’s powerhouse river. Globally, it’s second only to the Amazon in fish diversity. The Mekong is also the natural habitat of the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin — at least until construction begins on a massive dam later this month.
Dozens are believed dead after a Lao Airlines plane crashed as it approached Pakse airport near the Thai border on Wednesday afternoon, in an incident likely caused by poor weather.
A total of 49 people — including 44 passengers and five crew members — were in the ATR 72 aircraft when it crashed into the Mekong River, according to CNN.
If the nine young defectors are deemed ideological enemies of the state, three generations of their families will also be arrested or exiled to the remote countryside, while the offenders themselves could live out the last of their days in one of six penal colonies.