News / Asia

    Vietnam Frustrated as Missing Plane Search Moves West

    A helicopter takes off Tuesday from Vietnam's southwest Phu Quoc Island to search for the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.  (Photo: Lien Hoang for VOA)
    A helicopter takes off Tuesday from Vietnam's southwest Phu Quoc Island to search for the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. (Photo: Lien Hoang for VOA)
    Vietnam temporarily scaled back its search for the missing Malaysian Airlines plane Wednesday morning while blasting Malaysia for ignoring multiple requests for updates.

    When asked if Vietnam was disappointed with Malaysia's silence, Vice Minister of Transport Pham Quy Tieu suggested that Malaysia hasn't done enough for passengers.

    "In order to answer this question, I think you should ask the families of the people on that flight, they could better answer that," he said at a press briefing on this tourist island off the southwestern edge of Vietnam, where rescue teams had launched their searches.

    Change in direction

    Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
    x
    Click to enlarge
    Click to enlarge
    The suspension of full scale operations followed press reports Tuesday that the Malaysian military tracked flight MH370 to the west coast of Malaysia, far from where the plane lost contact with air traffic control Saturday. The jet was carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it disappeared from radar screens in the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam.

    Vietnam said it reached out to Malaysia twice for information but has not heard back.

    "We're waiting to see if they need anything," Tieu said. "But we think, between last night and this morning, there's been a lot of information from the world media, but officially Malaysia has not been responding."

    Besides China, whose citizens make up the majority of passengers, Vietnam has been a key search partner for Malaysia. As a precautionary measure, Vietnam will continue to monitor its air space for notable activity because Malaysia has not officially announced whether it's found flight MH370. Still, most of Vietnam's efforts are at least on pause.

    "Today we announce that all air and naval forces now engaged in the airplane rescue mission have halted," said Pham Van Long, vice director of Vietnam's Southern Aviation Authority, also speaking at the command center here on Phu Quoc Island.

    While Vietnam did not say the search was ending permanently, it is unlikely to resume looking for an aircraft that is believed to be near the Strait of Malacca. For Vietnam, the sudden tension with Malaysia could be a bittersweet coda to an aviation mystery that has perplexed the world.

    Notable contribution

    After flight MH370's disappearance, Vietnam jumped to help in the pursuit of the missing jetliner’s whereabouts. Its efforts were a point of pride for the country, which carried no blame for the crisis but had a chance to make a notable contribution.

    “It’s the responsibility of Vietnam to do its best to support our friends in this search," Tieu said at an earlier briefing.

    Vietnam started with naval searches from islands and coastal points to the south, before moving to the air. In addition to airplanes, rescue teams donned orange life-vests and piled into a yellow Russian-made helicopter that took off twice daily for four-hour search missions from Phu Quoc Island. In the air, the team members scoured the waters through two open doors on either side of the chopper.

    News that MH370 vanished also brought out rare positive public opinion in Vietnam toward China, which ruled Vietnam for 1,000 years. That has made Vietnam’s response to the Malaysian Airlines crisis all the more noticeable. Vietnamese joined the global outpouring of sympathy for the Chinese and other MH370 passengers’ plight with comments on news stories and social media. “I’ve constantly refreshed Twitter and news sites for updates,” one Vietnamese tweeted. “My heart goes out to all the families. #PrayForMH370.”

    But as the search wore on, Vietnam began to attract criticism for a series of false leads, including its reported sightings of debris and oil slicks that turned out to be unconnected to the Malaysian aircraft.

    At the airport in Beijing, the daughter of a Chinese passenger slammed Vietnamese authorities. "We hope the Chinese government sends search teams as soon as possible,” she told a crush of journalists. “We don't trust the Vietnamese people. They're not very capable.”

    Empty-handed and exhausted

    Vietnam started to lose confidence in the mission too, emerging from eight-hour searches empty-handed.

    “From all the assessments so far, we anticipate very little hope of any good news for this flight,” Tieu said before news broke that the jetliner might actually be nowhere near Vietnam. He also said authorities were preparing for the worst-case scenario, should rescue teams find bodies instead of survivors.

    While Vietnam is scaling back its efforts as attention shifts to western Malaysia, it is still pursuing possible clues as they are reported.  On Wednesday, authorities dispatched an aircraft to investigate a burning object spotted by an oil rig worker off Vung Tau.

    With the search shifting to include  the Straits of Malacca, Malaysian authorities will be under more pressure to produce results.

    “When you’ve got the world media breathing down your neck, you can’t be seen to be doing nothing,” said Owen Geach, commercial director of the International Bureau of Aviation. He added, "They have to leave no stone unturned."

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora