Thailand Shares MH370 Radar Data That Could Have Been Really Helpful a Week Ago

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 18 2014 11:03 AM

Thailand Shares MH370 Radar Data That Could Have Been Really Helpful a Week Ago

477575851-indonesian-navy-pilots-conduct-an-aerial-search-for-the
Indonesian Navy pilots conduct an aerial search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the waters bordering Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand on March 10, 2014

Photo by ATAR/AFP/Getty Images

Thailand on Tuesday said that its military radar had detected a plane that may have been missing flight MH370 just minutes after the plane's communications went dark 10 days ago. It's unclear whether the aircraft spotted on the radar was in fact the missing jetliner, but its recorded flight path—across the Malaysian peninsula and over the Strait of Malacca—matches up nicely with the current working theory for the initial portion of the 777's off-course trip.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The news itself won't dramatically impact the current search efforts, but it does highlight one of the major problems that has plagued the search to date, namely the failure of all the different countries involved in the international effort to play nice with one another. Thailand's explanation for why it waited more than a week to share its information, for example, basically amounts to (and I'm paraphrasing here), "no one specifically asked us for the information no one knew we had," via the Associated Press:

When asked why it took so long to release the information, [Air Vice Marshal Montol Suchookorn] said, “Because we did not pay any attention to it. The Royal Thai Air Force only looks after any threats against our country, so anything that did not look like a threat to us, we simply look at it without taking actions.”
He said the plane never entered Thai airspace and that Malaysia’s initial request for information in the early days of the search was not specific. “When they asked again and there was new information and assumptions from (Malaysian) Prime Minister Najib Razak, we took a look at our information again,” Montol said. “It didn’t take long for us to figure out, although it did take some experts to find out about it.”
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With only its own radar to go on, meanwhile, it took Malaysian officials a full week to confirm that the jetliner had likely made its way to the Strait of Malacca, a key development that dramatically shifted the search effort from the South China Sea to the strait and, since, on to the Indian Ocean and beyond.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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