MH370: Distrust breeds conspiracy theories

21:46, Mar 24 2014
MH370 announcement
A relative of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines MH370 cries after watching a television broadcast of a news conference, in the Lido hotel in Beijing.
MH370 announcement
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (centre) makes an announcement on the latest development on the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane. "This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites. It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean."
MH370 announcement
A family member of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 falls down an escalator as he cries after the news that the plane crashed in the southern Indian Ocean and there were no survivors.
MH370 announcement
Selamat Omar (right), father of flight engineer Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat who was on board the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, sits next to his wife Rosila Abu Samah as he speaks on the phone at the hotel where he and other relatives of passengers are staying.
MH370 announcement
A family member of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries after watching a television broadcast of a news conference where Malaysia's PM announced the plane crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.
MH370 announcement
Medical personnel transport a family member who collapsed after hearing all hope was lost of finding survivors of MH370.
MH370 announcement
Family members of passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines MH370 look out from a room as they cry after watching a television broadcast of a news conference, in the Lido hotel in Beijing.
MH370 announcement
A man cries after hearing the Malaysian prime minister's announcement.
MH370
A family member of a passenger from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is cared for after fainting at the Lido Hotel.
MH370
A family member of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines MH370 shouts at journalists after hearing the news that all hope had been lost of finding survivors of MH370.
MH370 reactino
A family member of a passenger from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 leaves on a stretcher after fainting at Lido Hotel.
MH370 announcement
The man is comforted by another grieving family member.

Without any definitive evidence of the whereabouts of Malaysia's missing passenger plane, many Chinese families are fostering conspiracy theories.

Devastated relatives of passengers on missing flight MH370 were told today by Malaysia's prime minister that searchers must now assume the plane was "lost" and it had crashed in the Indian Ocean.

The families were called to meetings this morning to be told the fate of flight MH370, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people, including two New Zealanders, aboard on its way from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.

"This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites," Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said today.

"It is, therefore, with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that according to this new data flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean."

Families have been booked on chartered flights to Perth.

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But many families remain suspicious of the veracity of information from the Malaysian Government, after two weeks of theories, counter-theories and confused information.

"Why won't you tell us the truth, why don't you respect our families?" one young woman asked after the announcement.

Even as the news unfolded today, families across China who have been communicating via group messages on social media application WeChat were talking about protesting at the Malaysian embassy in Beijing and crowd-funding a campaign to uncover the "truth" about flight MH370.

Others had talked of the likelihood that Malaysian authorities were "hiding" the plane.

"They don't want to accept that they're gone, and the only way for them to maintain their sanity while not believing they're gone, is to have a theory that they think makes sense to hold them together," said Paul Yin, a grief counsellor.

"It's not really about believing it, it's about needing it."

Yin said at least some form of finality would enable families to begin the healing process but that Chinese families were taking it particularly hard for cultural reasons.

"In the Chinese culture, when a certain person gets to a certain age your meaning of life is basically all about the younger generation and your legacy," he said.

"With so many elderly couples, sometimes their children and grandchildren are all on board the plane. Potentially it could be confirmed they have no-one left."

But the distrust of information from Malaysian authorities could mean that finality may only arrive though firm evidence found in the intensifying multinational search being co-ordinated by Australia in the Indian Ocean.

Malaysia Airlines indicated it would fly families to Perth at their request if evidence of wreckage was discovered near there. Australian embassy officials in Beijing are understood to have made preparations to fast-track visa applications for this eventuality.

"They say my son is dead," one man told Fairfax Media quietly, his eyes barely leaving the floor as he left the hotel.

"I want to see the body before I believe it."

Sydney Morning Herald