Five years on, five theories about MH370’s disappearance

Five years ago, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, a Boeing 777, had gone missing while over the South China Sea with 239 people on board. (File/AP/Vincent Thian)
Updated 08 March 2019
0

Five years on, five theories about MH370’s disappearance

  • Only a few fragments of the jet have been found, all on western Indian Ocean shores, and search efforts ended last year
  • The disappearance has spawned a host of theories — some credible, some outlandish

KUALA LUMPUR: On March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, triggering the biggest hunt in aviation history.
Only a few fragments of the jet have been found, all on western Indian Ocean shores, and search efforts ended last year.
The disappearance has spawned a host of theories — some credible, some outlandish. Here are five of them:
Much attention has focused on the possibility of a mechanical or structural failure. Some experts have put forward the theory that a fire could have broken out in electronic components, which produced smoke that filled the plane and led to the passengers and crew falling unconscious.
The plane then continued on autopilot over the Indian Ocean, where search efforts have been focused, before running out of fuel and crashing, the theory goes.
The idea of a so-called “mass hypoxia event” — “hypoxia” refers to a lack of oxygen — has been supported by a number of analysts.
In a 2014 report setting out details of a search area, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau — which led the main hunt for the jet — said that an “unresponsive crew/ hypoxia event” appeared to fit the final stage of MH370’s flight.
MH370 pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah has been the subject of intense speculation, and some believe he may have intentionally taken the Boeing 777 off course and crashed it.
In the months after the plane vanished, media scrutinized everything from his political beliefs to his mental health for clues as to what could have happened.
Unconfirmed reports said he may have been distraught over marital woes or the controversial conviction of Malaysia’s then opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges just hours before MH370 took off.
But family and friends of Zaharie — a highly respected veteran pilot — strongly reject such claims as baseless.
In 2016, Malaysian officials revealed he had plotted a path over the Indian Ocean on a home flight simulator but stressed this did not prove he deliberately crashed the plane.
There have been a slew of theories — none of them substantiated — that the plane was hijacked as part of a terror plot.
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has been among those who backed the idea. In a bizarre tweet soon after the plane disappeared, he suggested it was “stolen” and “effectively hidden, perhaps in Northern Pakistan, like Bin Laden.”
He was referring to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a US Navy Seal raid in Pakistan in 2011.
There has also been a suggestion that the plane was commandeered to be used as a “flying bomb” headed for US military installations on the Diego Garcia atoll, and was shot down by the Americans. The United States has dismissed this.
Some have speculated the plane may have been taken over remotely to foil a hijacking.
According to reports, Boeing was in 2006 awarded a US patent for a system that, once activated, could take control of a commercial aircraft away from the pilot or flight crew in the event of a hijacking.
One of the leading supporters of the idea is Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who told The Australian newspaper last year — before he was elected — that: “The capacity to do that is there. The technology is there.”
One of the wackiest theories appeared in an article in New York magazine by US aviation expert Jeff Wise in 2015.
He suggested MH370 was commandeered and taken to a Russian facility in Kazakhstan, possibly an effort by President Vladimir Putin to intimidate the West amid an escalating crisis in Ukraine, or to gain access to a certain passenger or item in the hold.
“There’s no way to know. That’s the thing about MH370 theory-making: It’s hard to come up with a plausible motive for an act that has no apparent beneficiaries,” he wrote.


France’s Macron forced to curb his ambitions for Europe

Updated 19 May 2019
0

France’s Macron forced to curb his ambitions for Europe

  • His pro-Europe vision has collided with populists and national interests across the continent
  • In his country, his political vision has given rise to France’s raucous yellow vest uprising over his government’s pro-business policies

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron sees himself as Europe’s savior and next week’s European Parliament elections as a make-or-break moment for the beleaguered European Union.
But Macron is no longer the fresh-faced force who marched into a surprising presidential victory to the rousing EU anthem two years ago. His pro-Europe vision has collided with populists and national interests across the continent. And at home, his political vision has given rise to France’s raucous yellow vest uprising over his government’s pro-business policies.
Macron wanted the May 23-26 European Parliament elections to be the key moment that he could push his ambitions for a stronger Europe — but instead, nationalists and populists who criticized the 28-nation bloc could achieve unprecedented success.
They argue that EU leaders have failed to manage migration into the continent and remain out of touch with ordinary workers’ concerns.
“We have a crisis of the European Union. This is a matter of fact. Everywhere in Europe, when you look at the past five to six years, in our country but in a lot of countries, all the extremes, extreme-rights, are increasing,” Macron said Thursday, making an unexpected appeal for European unity on the sidelines of a technology trade show.
“On currency, on digital, on climate action, we need more Europe,” he said. “I want the EU to be more protective of our borders regarding migration, terrorism and so on, but I think if you fragment Europe, there is no chance you have a stronger Europe.”
In person, the 41-year-old Macron comes across as strikingly, sincerely European. A political centrist, he’s at ease quoting Greek playwrights, German thinkers or British economists. France’s youngest president grew up with the EU and has been using the shared European euro currency his whole adult life, and sees it as Europe’s only chance to stay in the global economic game.
Macron has already visited 20 of the EU’s 28 countries in his two years in office, and while he acknowledges the EU’s problems, he wants to fix the bloc — not disassemble it.
Macron won the 2017 presidential election over France’s far-right, anti-immigration party leader Marine Le Pen on a pledge to make Europe stronger to face global competition against the Unites States and China. Since then, he’s had to make compromises with other EU leaders — and clashed with some nations where populist parties govern, from Poland to neighboring Italy.
Four months after his election, Macron outlined his vision for Europe in a sweeping speech at Paris’ Sorbonne university, calling for a joint EU budget, shared military forces and harmonized taxes.
But with Brexit looming and nationalism rising, Macron has had to reconsider his ambitions. He called his political tactics with other EU leaders a “productive confrontation.”
“In Europe, what is expected from France is to clearly say what it wants, its goals, its ambitions, and then be able to build a compromise with Germany to move forward” with other European countries, Macron said last week.
Macron stressed that despite her initial reluctance, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed last year to create a eurozone budget they hope will boost investment and provide a safety mechanism for the 19 nations using the euro currency.
In March, Macron sought to draw support for a Europe of “freedom, protection and progress” with a written call to voters in 28 countries to reject nationalist parties that “offer nothing.”
And he proposed to define a roadmap for the EU by the end of this year in a discussion with all member nations and a panel of European citizens.
“There will be disagreement, but is it better to have a static Europe or a Europe that advances, sometimes at different paces, and that is open to all?” he asked.
France and Germany are the two heavyweights in Europe, and Macron can also count on cooperation from pro-European governments of Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and others.
He has made a point, however, of not yet visiting Hungary or Poland, two nations led by populist leaders whom Macron accused last year of “lying” to their people about the EU.
France has also been entangled in a serious diplomatic crisis with Italy over migration into Europe. Italy’s anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has repeatedly criticized Macron and is backing his rival Le Pen’s National Rally party in the election this week that aims to fill the European parliament’s 751 seats.
Macron has little chance to repeat Europe-wide what he did in France: rip up the political map by building a powerful centrist movement that weakened the traditional left and right.
The campaign for Macron’s Republic on the Move party is being led by former European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau under a banner called “Renaissance.” The party wants to associate with the pro-market ALDE alliance to create new centrist group at the European Parliament.
But across the continent, the centrists are not expected to come out remotely on top but rank third or even lower behind the parliament’s traditional two biggest groups, the right-wing European People’s Party and the left-wing Socialists and Democrats group.
Even at home, Macron is far from certain of being able to claim victory in the European vote. Polls suggest his party will be among France’s top two vote-getters in the election, which takes place in France on May 26.
But its main rival, the far-right National Rally party, is determined to take revenge on Macron beating Le Pen so decisively in 2017.
Macron’s political opponents across the spectrum are calling on French voters to seize the European vote to reject his government’s policies.
While he won 64% of the presidential vote in 2017, French polls show that Macron’s popularity has been around half that for the past year.
It reached record lows when France’s yellow vest movement broke out last fall, demanding relief from high taxes and stagnant wages for French workers, then slightly rose as extensive violence during yellow vest protests, especially in Paris, dampened support for the movement’s cause.
Still, the yellow vests are not going away. New protests against Macron and his government are planned for the EU election day.