PAKSE : Friends and relatives of the five Thais who perished in last week's plane crash in Laos have pleaded with authorities in Pakse to keep searching for bodies.
GRIM TASK: A Thai navy worker uses sonar to search for the wreckage of the Lao Airlines flight which crashed into the Mekong River near Pakse on Wednesday. TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD
Lao authorities confirmed a total of 36 bodies and nine body parts have been recovered from the crash scene, but none belonged to the Thai victims.
Attempts to find bodies and the plane fuselage are continuing, but the Thai relatives are concerned Vientiane may stop searching due to strong currents in the Mekong River.
The Thais, who were among 44 passengers and five crew on board Lao Airlines flight QV 301, were Yangyong Apaanan, Nipol Mengsee, Kanueng Chartkasamchai, Phakkhawat Atiratanachai and Veekij Busarawuthanu.
The plane crashed into Don Khor islet in the Mekong River in Champassak province's Pakse district on Wednesday after it failed to land at Pakse International Airport. The airline has suggested bad weather was to blame.
Ratchadaporn Atiratanachai, 49, the wife of Phakkhawat, said she still hopes her husband's body can be recovered.
Mrs Ratchadaporn and her two teenage children have been waiting for news about her husband's body since arriving in Pakse on Thursday.
If it is found, they want the body to be sent to a Chinese temple in Pakse, she said. The family left Songkhla's Hat Yai district on Thursday after hearing Phakkhawat's name read out on the news.
"I have never thought before this could happen to me," Mrs Ratchadaporn said.
"Please carry out more searches until the body of my husband and other missing people are retrieved."
Suchai Jirayunont, 58, a friend of Phakkhawat, said the victim travelled to Laos with Veekij and Kanueng. The three were businessmen who went to Vientiane in search of investment opportunities in preparation for the establishment of the Asean Community in 2015.
Mr Suchai accompanied the family of Phakkawat to Pakse, hoping to bring the three bodies of his friends back for funeral rites in their home provinces in Thailand. "I pray to God to help find the three bodies and believe that I will get good news shortly," he said.
Mr Suchai urged Vientiane to speed up the search for the missing bodies.
Yingyot Chalito, a representative from PTT Public Company Limited, said: " I pray to the holy spirit to help find the bodies of my two younger colleagues [Yangyong and Nipol] because I want to bring them home."
Mr Yingyot said he has been helping Lao authorities search for the bodies.
Laos National Television director Boonjom Wongpetch said he believed the Vientiane government would not halt their operations to search for the missing bodies.
Authorities are still searching for the flight data recorder and the plane's fuselage, but the operation has been hampered by strong Mekong currents.
Mr Boonjom said French divers believe they know where the flight data recorder is but the currents have made it impossible to reach the spot.