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Treat MH370 tragedy rationally

31 March 2014 By Mei Xinyu (China Daily) (Note this is a change of tone from China which had previously supported/encouraged protests at the Malaysian Embassy).

Trying to force someone to do what something they are unwilling to do usually tends to make things more difficult, a more feasible way is to use official channels and promise not to disclose such information to the public and third parties, so as to have access to more sensitive information.

We should know that the government will do its best to safeguard the rights and interests of Chinese citizens and there is no reason to doubt that the government is not taking pains to deal with the crisis.

Public opinion should not blame the Malaysian authorities for deliberately covering up information in the absence of hard evidence. Whether by official channels or follow-up civil litigation, we still need to speak with evidence and act according to the law, rather than through "making a noise" or indulging in aggressive or irrational behavior.

China is a great power and our government attaches great importance to the incident. After flight MH370 went missing, the Chinese government not only carried out intense diplomacy, it also deployed the largest rescue team in its history of maritime search and rescue operations, including coast guard vessel 3411, South China Sea Rescue 101 and 115, the amphibious landing ship Jinggangshan, the guided missile frigate Mianyang, the guided missile destroyer Haikou, the amphibious landing ship Kunlunshan, the warship Qiandaohu, the guided missile destroyer Changchun, the guided missile frigate Changzhou and integrated supply ship Chaohu. They carry several helicopters, about 1,000 marines, and dozens of professional divers and medical teams. In addition, China has also redeployed about 20 satellites to hunt for the wreckage, which is unprecedented. Even though there are such and such doubts, since the country has mobilized so much manpower and resources, why cannot we be patient and just wait until they find the wreckage and get the evidence.

We should acknowledge that in the face of the tragedy of flight MH370, Malaysia did not pass the buck, and the whole of Malaysian society showed their deep sorrow and shame. Malaysian citizens, media and scholars all openly criticized the authorities for their misconduct in handling the case. Their public opinion did not claim that the incident was masterminded by an individual that does not represent Malaysia and its people and they did not retort to outside criticism and pressure. Chinese people should refrain from inciting criticism and instigating boycotts against Malaysia so as to avoid hurting the majority of people in Malaysia.

All Chinese people sympathize with the relatives of the passengers on board MH370 and share their sufferings. But we should also remember that a time of adversity is no excuse for trampling on social norms.

We can understand and tolerate those victim families' emotional catharsis as long as their behavior doesn't violate social norms.

We hope that those whose voices are being heard can carry forward rationality, self-discipline and law-abiding consciousness, rather than fermenting irrational, individualistic activities that trample on laws and ethics. The basic line is not violating laws and ethics as the way to safeguard rights; this is a basic manner and behavioral standard of human society, and to abide by it does not require high academic qualifications or high level of knowledge.

China is a highly civilized country and the Chinese government is fully capable of maintaining order and making objective and rational decisions. The rest of society should likewise take a rational attitude.

The author is a researcher at the International Trade and Economic Cooperation Institute of the Ministry of Commerce.

Malaysia can take lessons from MH370 but not all the blame

31 March 2014 The Financial Times

“We would not have done anything differently,” declared Malaysia’s defence and acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, when asked about his country’s handling of missing flight MH370.

In the three and a bit weeks since the Malaysian Airlines aircraft mysteriously disappeared on a routine flight to Beijing, critics have feasted on missteps and muddle as Malaysia has struggled to get to grips with what has become the biggest riddle in commercial aviation history.

On Monday, a multinational search in the ocean off Western Australia for the Boeing 777 – with 239 on board – continued, after multiple sightings by satellite and the naked eye of hundreds of pieces of debris. Still, nothing.

Malaysia, not used to being in the glare of global attention, has faced some tough questions. Why did the country’s air force not scramble jets the moment it was clear from radar that an unidentified aircraft was recrossing Peninsular Malaysia in the opposite direction to MH370’s scheduled route?

Why was a week apparently wasted searching in the South China Sea, when it later emerged that investigators had data showing the aircraft was likely somewhere off the Strait of Malacca?

Even after the investigation had settled into a routine of daily news conferences, Malaysia’s messaging was fumbling. The first few featured officials who had probably never faced journalists before, and military brass who bristled in sometimes inadequate English at what was being asked.

Mr Hishammuddin’s claim that the country would not have done anything differently rings hollow when there have been identifiable errors of judgment.

But the analysis should not stop there. Malaysia was, and remains, faced with an aviation disaster that is unprecedented on almost every level. The last commercial aircraft disappearance – that of an Air France flight off Brazil – turned up as debris fairly quickly; relatives were able to begin mourning, even if it took a further two years to locate the aircraft’s black box.

The airliner was filled with mostly French passengers, and the responsibility for the search lay cleanly with France. This case has involved a Malaysian aircraft carrying mostly Chinese citizens, in a complex effort that at one point involved 26 countries searching an area covering 2.3m nautical miles of ocean and land.

Few countries could have handled that flawlessly, not least China, one of Malaysia’s biggest critics. Its state apparatus has excelled in recent years in mismanaging a succession of big crises, starting with the attempted cover-up over contaminated milk in 2008 to a high-speed rail crash that killed 40 people.

And as one Malaysian cabinet minister said last week: “I would not rate too highly the handling of the US government of Katrina,” a reference to former US president George W Bush’s ineffective response to the hurricane that devastated New Orleans in 2005.

Mr Hishammuddin, a UK-trained lawyer, has been polished and assured. He likely understands the imperative of treating China with care; Malaysia’s population of almost 30m is about the same as that of the Chinese city-province of Chongqing. China is Malaysia’s biggest trading partner.

The lessons from MH370 go far beyond Malaysia. The airline industry will probably need to speed up the deployment of the latest satellite navigation systems to improve air traffic management. “People are beginning to file away some questions that this episode raises,” says Andrew Herdman, director-general of the Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines.

Yet Malaysia cannot escape the need to learn its own lessons. Its opaque political system – dominated since independence 50 years ago by a single party – is not instinctively self-critical.

Already there are worrying signs of foot-dragging over a proper commission of inquiry into the handling of MH370. With US president Barack Obama set to visit Malaysia later this month – the first by a sitting US president since Lyndon Johnson in 1966 – Kuala Lumpur now has a chance to show it can behave differently.

Schedule for Dubai

30 March 2014

Sat Apr 19 (20 ovs)
14:30 local | 10:30 GMT
Indian Premier League
Royal Challengers Bangalore v Mumbai Indians
Sat Apr 19 (20 ovs)
18:30 local | 14:30 GMT
Indian Premier League
Kolkata Knight Riders v Delhi Daredevils
Wed Apr 23 (20 ovs)
18:30 local | 14:30 GMT
Indian Premier League
Rajasthan Royals v Chennai Super Kings
Fri Apr 25 (20 ovs)
14:30 local | 10:30 GMT
Indian Premier League
Sunrisers Hyderabad v Delhi Daredevils
Fri Apr 25 (20 ovs)
18:30 local | 14:30 GMT
Indian Premier League
Chennai Super Kings v Mumbai Indians
Mon Apr 28 (20 ovs)
18:30 local | 14:30 GMT
Indian Premier League
Royal Challengers Bangalore v Kings XI Punjab
Wed Apr 30 (20 ovs)
18:30 local | 14:30 GMT
Indian Premier League
Mumbai Indians v Sunrisers Hyderabad

Nok Air's flawed message

25 March 2014

From the runway girl network

With some EK staff recently joining Nok Air I have been thinking about just how much the Thai based LCC uses pictures and press briefings of and with pretty girl crews to help it sell its business in Thailand.

I remembered reading some comments from the Singapore Airshow when the airline's CEO places an order with Boeing. Nok's CEO, Patee Sarasin, appeared to forget that he was addressing an international audience rather than his home audience which is far more used to companies using "pretties" as a large part of their marketing strategy. The message is know your audience.

One day in Thailand there will be no place for ageism or sexism; but I fear that is a long way into the future.

After the Singapore airshow this was written by a reporter for the RunwayGirl network:

"Imagine you’re a female journalist covering an important airline press event at an air show.

The CEO steps up to the podium to announce a new Boeing narrowbody order. Flanked by the carrier’s attractive female flight attendants, he faces a room of mostly men, quips about the fact that there is a lot of media in the room, and says it’s good he brought women along who are as “good looking as our planes”.

Then he proceeds to reveal the carrier’s intention to offer inflight connectivity on its new aircraft so that passengers can share on social media that the female flight attendants are “not old”.

When asked to take a picture with Boeing’s sales chief, John Wojick, he says: “Bring on the women!”

This is what Flightglobal journalist Ghim-Lay Yeo and other scribes witnessed this week during Thai budget carrier Nok Air’s media briefing to announce a new order for 15 Boeing 737s.

Ghim-Lay bravely relayed Nok Air CEO Patee Sarasin’s messaging to her social media network via a series of tweets.

“Nok Air CEO Sarasin says a lot of press in room, good that airline brought along women (the flight attendants). Uhmm right. #sgairshow“

“Nok Air CEO Sarasin says airline will offer wi-fi, so pax can use Facebook to show that airline’s female FAs are ‘not old’. #sgairshow“

“Knew all along that aviation is a male-dominated industry, but have never seen women quite as objectified as during this Nok Air presser.”

“Nok Air CEO Sarasin says: ‘Bring on the women!’ when asked to pose for pix with @BoeingAirplanes‘ Wojick #sgairshow”

Apparently Sarasin didn’t get enough love from Wojick because he took his show over to Bombardier, where in addition to firming options on Q400 turboprops, he tweeted via his @Patee122 handle: “I am hugging a lot of women lately hehe @Bombadier_Aero.” He included this instagram photo.

It’s not uncommon for Asian operators to be accompanied by young, female flight attendants at press briefings. I’ll always remember when Air Asia X CEO Asran Osman-Rani announced plans for new IFE with a bevy of female attendants in tow. Of course parts of Asia require that their flight attendants meet qualifications that westerns would balk at today (Singapore Airlines is renowned for its skin checks of prospective applicants!) So there are cultural differences to consider. And, Sarasin certainly doesn’t have a lock on irreverent comments in the budget carrier world (hello Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary).

But it seems that in making both sexist and ageist comments at a press briefing, he may have gone too far for even the most open-minded of journalists.

Ghim-Lay, a Singaporean working in Washington DC, notes in a FaceBook update: “When I began covering the aviation industry more than four years ago, I knew I was stepping into a world dominated by men, from the CEOs at the top to the journalists themselves writing about the sector.

“But I’ve never seen women quite as objectified as during today’s press conference. I would like to think that my gender is so much more than the token faceless flight attendants and public relations managers in the aviation industry.”

Ghim-Lay wasn’t the only person appalled by Sarasin’s comments.

She later tweeted: “Thanks to those who expressed solidarity w/ us ladies in aviation after the sexist remarks of an airline CEO at #sgairshow.”

I suspect that many will see Sarasin’s act as merely a tired marketing ploy in a long litany of tired marketing ploys. From O’Leary’s racy charity calendars to Air New Zealand’s latest safety video with Sports Illustrated swimsuit models to Skymark’s decision to fit its A330 flight attendants with super short mini skirts, this type of marketing could be condemned for its lack of originality. And, if more women held executive-level positions in aerospace – and if more women journalists were present at airline media briefings – Sarasin would be forced to consider another way of insulting people for attention.

Personally, I think we should adopt his quote as a rallying cry for aerospace. “Bring on the women! Bring on the women!” It’s time."

As for the ex-EK crew joining Nok Air, I think they will find it a very different experience and working culture.

Flight 370 Families to Malaysian Government: You're 'Executioners'

25 March 2014

The families of those lost aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 have joined together to issue a scathing statement accusing the Malaysian authorities of murder.

"If the 154 passengers did lose their lives, Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian government and military are the real executioners who killed them," the statement reads. It also accuses the authorities of "deceit," "delay," and "shameless behavior."

The statement, which was announced by one of the passenger's relatives in front of a phalanx of reporters and cameras, was issued by the joint Chinese Family Committee in in Beijing.

At 10 p.m. on March 25, the Malaysian prime minister sent a statement to the families of MH370 passengers without any direct evidence that MH370 crashed in the south Indian Ocean and no people survived.

From March 8 when they announced that MH370 lost contact to today, 18 days have passed during which the Malaysian government and military constantly tried to delay, deceive the passengers' families and cheat the whole world.

This shameless behavior not only fooled and hurt the families of the 154 passengers but also misguided and delayed rescue actions, wasting a large quantity of human resources and materials and lost valuable time for the rescue effort.

If the 154 passengers did lose their lives, Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian government and military are the real executioners who killed them. We the families of those on board submit our strongest protest against them.

We will take every possible means to pursue the unforgivable crimes and responsibility of all three.

The statement came mere hours after Malaysian Prime Minster Najib Razak said in a press conference that Malaysia Airlines flight 370 "ended" in the Indian Ocean, effectively putting an end to speculation that survivors could still be found.

As if there were any doubt, Malaysia Airlines also sent a text message to families after notifying them of the news: "Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived."

MH370 theories

22 March 2014 - Flight Global

Based on the observed first part of Malaysia Airlines’ Flight MH370, Malaysia’s acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein has said that the focus remains on deliberate action as the cause of the Boeing 777-200ER’s deviation from its planned flight path and subsequent disappearance.

The last confirmed sighting of the aircraft was on Malaysian military radar to the west of the Malaysian peninsula about 90min after its 8 March take-off from Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing.

Since then, a number of potential sightings of the aircraft have emerged and been rapidly dismissed – for instance on 19 March an alleged eyewitness report from the Maldive Islands of a low-flying passenger jet was discredited by the Malaysian investigators. Then, on 20 March, a satellite sighting of debris off western Australia was described by the Malaysian authorities as “credible”, but as Flight International went to press there had been no location or verification of the object by a fleet of ships and aircraft dispatched to find the more than 20m (65ft) long object.

Assets allocated by a multi-national search force co-ordinated via Malaysia with US National Transportation Safety Board advice include 18 ships and 29 aircraft, according to official sources in Malaysia. They face a problem of where to concentrate efforts. By 20 March attention was being diverted away from the “northern corridor” – one of two sweeping arcs defined on 15 March by satellite communications data – which would mostly have involved overland searches. The focus has shifted toward the oceanic south, but without allocating unreasonable resources to the far south in case of another false alarm.

Australia has deployed four aircraft – three Lockheed Martin P-3 Orions and a Boeing P-8 – to the area, some 1,350nm (2,500km) southwest of Perth. A C-130 was also dispatched to deploy marker buoys to assist with ocean current drift modelling. Rapid deployment of such buoys was one of the recommendations which emerged after the loss of Air France flight AF447 over the South Atlantic in 2009.

Poor visibility in the area will complicate search efforts, says the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). John Young, general manager of AMSA’s Rescue Coordination Centre – Australia, says that satellite pictures analysed by the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO) have identified two objects, one of which is 24m in size. “This is close enough to the National Transportation Safety Board’s assessed area to be a possible sighting, and we want to find them and want to work out what they are,” he said on 20 March. "This is a lead. It is probably the best lead we have right now, but we need to get there."

Although the location is within the southern corridor identified earlier, it is at the limit of MH370's range, given the likely amount of fuel remaining on board.

A number of theories about the causes of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappearance have circulated on the Internet – mostly launched by professional airline pilots. However, none have been embraced by any official agencies, with one constant throughout the search for the missing jet being the Malaysian authorities' belief that events early in the flight indicate “deliberate action by a person or persons on board” to divert the Boeing 777-200ER from its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flightpath.

Deliberate action

The aircraft was taken deliberately off course and flown away from its intended destination.

For: The aircraft made a turn off its course precisely at the point where it had been handed over from Malaysia air traffic control to Vietnam control – a move calculated to maximise the time taken before either ATC raised the alarm. There was no emergency call. Also, shortly before the airspace boundary, the aircraft’s ATC transponder was switched off to erase its contact from civilian radar screens, so the turn to the west was not witnessed. The aircraft’s technical aircraft communications addressing and reporting system (ACARS) datalink had also been disabled, although there is uncertainty as to when this took place.

Against: There is no proof that the equipment was deliberately switched off rather than accidentally deprived of power, and the loss of contact on the airspace boundary may have been coincidental.


There was a sudden depressurisation at cruising altitude. The crew were slow to don their oxygen masks and fell unconscious, and the aircraft flew on autopilot until it ran out of fuel.

For: This would explain the lack of an emergency call. The aircraft turned as if aiming for an alternate landing site – Langkawi has been repeatedly mentioned – but did not land, instead continuing across the peninsula.

Against: With no intervention from the flightcrew the aircraft would normally follow the flightpath programmed into the flight management system, but it did not do that. A decompression does not explain the loss of transponder and ACARS. Also, the record of crews worldwide dealing successfully with sudden decompression events is almost 100%.

Electrical fire

Fire breaks out, knocking out communications and eventually leading to unconsciousness of the crew and passengers.

For: An electrical fire might explain the loss of all communications, if it were allowed to propagate for enough time without any response. It could eventually asphyxiate crew and passengers.

Against: Signs of fire (smoke and smell) since the Swissair 111 disaster in 1998 has caused crews to act particularly fast, both to communicate the emergency to ATC and to land as soon as possible. There was no communication. Also, if an electrical fire were to propagate in the avionics and communications bay area under the flightdeck it would disable the flight control systems – so the autopilot would not be able to continue to fly the aircraft for 5-7h after the crew had been disabled. Satellite systems detected continued flight for that length of time.

Constitutional Court throws out Thailand's February election

21 March 2014
The Constitution Court has quashed the February 2 election results in Thailand after it ruled today on a complaint filed by Kittipong Kamolthammawong, a law lecturer at Thammasat University, who claimed the election was unconstitutional mainly because it was not organized on a single day nationwide, as stated in the country’s law.

The ruling will further delay the formation of a new government after months of street protests aimed at bringing down Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The court said the vote did not take place on the same day across the country and that violated a clause in the constitution.

It was unclear if and when a new vote could be held.

The court voted 6-3 that; they said that there were not elections in the 28 constituencies and there were not even candidates so it can be deemed that on February 2 there was not an election on the same day nationwide.

The 28 electoral districts where there was no voting are in eight southern provinces, stronghold of the opposition Democrat Party, which boycotted the poll and did not have contestants. Party members were unable to register their candidacies in those districts due to blockades by antigovernment protesters.

Where voting did take place, protesters led by the People's Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD) blockaded numerous poll stations, besieged election registration venues, obstructed the transportation of ballots, and forced the officials of Election Commission (EC) to suspend their duties.

Now the relevant part of the Constitution is Section 108 which states:

The King has the prerogative to dissolve the House of Representatives for a new election of members of the House.

The dissolution of the House of Representatives shall be made in the form of a Royal Decree in which the day for a new general election must be fixed for not less than forty-five days but not more than sixty days as from the day the House of Representatives has been dissolved and such election day must be the same throughout the Kingdom.

The dissolution of the House of Representatives may be made only once under the same circumstance.

The clause does NOT explicitly state the the election must be the same day; it does say that the election date must be fixed (or set) as the same date. These are markedly different things.

For example, the government and the EC clearly could not set the election date to be February 2 in some provinces and then a different date in other provinces. That would clearly be unconstitutional. This is not what happened.

However, the election date was set nationwide for February 2. It was the role of the Election Commission to organise the election. The fact that the poll could not go ahead in some districts due to the protests should not be unconstitutional. It is the prevention of balloting that is unconstitutional.

The verdict could have disastrous implications. Now if a party knows it is going to lose, it can simply move to block elections. Except I am sure that the court will not deem this to be a precedent. If voting in a single constituency is blocked or the voting cannot take place, does this result in an election being nullified? The ruling appears to invalidate the current electoral law which allows for elections in individual constituencies to be delayed.

The Democrats have already said they may boycott a fresh election. They will boycott any election until they know that they can win.

What the court has ensured is that the remaining 50 parties, as well as 20 million people who turned out to vote on February 2 are now paying for abiding by the law while the court ruling rewards those who protested and boycotted the vote.

Can there be a new election; this may take some time as the Electoral Commission position is that there needs to be stability and agreement first although.

In this vacuum it is likely that there will be further court rulings against the Prime Minister, Puea Thai and coalition MPs over the constitutional amendments regarding the origin of Senators and over the rice-pledging scheme. Then we will either see an unelected appointed PM and cabinet or an election run by and for the Establishment with the Democrats as the only potential winners.

The Folly of Thinking We Know

The Painful Hunt for Malaysian Airlines 370 By Pico Iyer

21 March 2014 - New York Times

We've most of us, surely, heard all the figures: Humanity now produces as much data in two days as it did in all of history till the year 2003 — and the amount of data is doubling every two years. In the time you take to read this piece, the human race will generate as much data as currently exists in the Library of Congress. For that matter — yes, your inbox and Facebook page would reflect this — 10 percent of all the pictures ever taken as of the end of 2011 were taken in 2011. Yet as we think about how an entire Boeing 777 has gone missing for almost two weeks now, we’re also painfully reminded of how much we can’t — and may never — know, even in the Knowledge Economy.
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The Nobel Prize-winning economist and psychologist Daniel Kahneman has noted, after decades of research, that it’s our nature to overestimate how much we understand the world and to underestimate the role of chance. And it’s our folly to assume we know very much at all. There’s “a highly objectionable word,” he writes, “which should be removed from our vocabulary in discussions of major events,” and that word is “knew.”

I think of this as I watch one expert after another offer informed guesses about the fate of the missing plane, even as all we know about it so far is how provisional — and contradictory — our speculations have been. I also recall how the words that most convey authority and credibility whenever I listen to any pundit speak are “I don’t know.” Whatever the field of our expertise, most of us realize that the more data we acquire, the less, very often, we know. The universe is not a fixed sum, in which the amount you know subtracts from the amount you don’t.

As Gardiner G. Hubbard, the first president of the National Geographic Society, said in 1888, when his magazine set out to chart everything in the known universe, “The more we know, the greater we find is our ignorance.” And it can often seem as if nature — or something beyond our reckoning at least — intrudes every time we’re tempted to get above ourselves. Whenever we begin to assume we can command or comprehend quite a bit, some Icarian calamity pushes our face, tragically, in the limits of our knowledge.

It’s been humbling, as well as horrifying, to see the entire globe, in an age of unprecedented data accumulation, up in the air, more or less, but poignantly aware that, whatever we do learn, a grief beyond understanding is likely to be a part of it.

We imagine how those with loved ones on the plane must be trying to fill the absence, of knowledge as well as of their sons or wives, and how they may fear, even if at times they long for, certainty. We imagine the people on the aircraft, whose not-knowing might have been felt on the pulse, accelerating, as the vessel suddenly changed course. We translate the story into our own lives, and think about how the things we don’t know haunt and possess us as the things we do seldom can.

Even if we do learn more about the fate of the airliner, it’s unlikely that all of our questions will ever be answered. And the memory of how much we didn’t know — and how long we didn’t know it — ought to sober us as we prepare for the next sudden visitation of the inexplicable.

We’re all grateful that we know as much as we do these days, and enjoy lives that are safer, longer, healthier and better connected than those of any generation before ours. Yet each day that passes, Malaysia 370 keeps hovering like a terrible blank in our minds, more visible the longer it’s out of our view.

Pico Iyer is the author, most recently, of “The Man Within My Head” and a distinguished presidential fellow at Chapman University.

MH370 - has debris now been found?

21 March 2014

It is possible that debris being investigated by Australia, the USA and a Norwegian car transporter in the South Indian Ocean could be from MH370; now 13 days on from the day the plane was lost.

If this location is  valid it would eliminate some of the wilder theories about what happened to the plane and suggests an emergency on the flight, an attempt by the crew to turn back and complications that caused them to fall into unconsciousness leaving the plane on a ghost flight until it ran out of fuel.

While some sort of botched hijacking that led to the pilots being killed cannot be ruled out entirely, it seems very unlikely given the southerly, open ocean location of the possible wreckage.

Far more plausible is the theory that the pilots had an event on board that took out the communications and led to a slow or rapid decompression which rendered the crew incapable of making an emergency landing. Pilots have only a few minutes to bring a plane down to below 4000 metres before the passengers and crew will become disoriented, then unconscious and eventually die.

Speculation on the cause of a disaster has focused on:

Corrosion around the satellite antenna which caused it to break, cutting off communications, and causing a slow decompression that left the crew confused by the time the cabin pressure alarm went off. The satellite antennas on Boeing 777s had been the subject of an airworthiness directive issued by the National Transport Safety Bureau in November 2013.

An explosion of the flight deck crew's emergency oxygen supply, in a bay under the floor which also includes communications systems. In 2008 an emergency oxygen tank exploded on a Qantas 747, causing a hole in the fuselage, decompression, and an emergency landing.

A fire, which might explain why the plane initially climbed before descending. The crew may have been attempting to extinguish the fire by depriving it of oxygen, but then were overcome by smoke and fumes, leaving the plane to continue on autopilot.

There are too many problems with the onboard fire theory; most of all the lack of communication from the flightdeck (SR111, which Chris Goodfellow quotes in his long analysis that has gone viral online as a comparison, was in extended communication with Moncton and then Halifax ATC. Similarly UPS6 at Dubai in September 2010. Both awful events.

But a fire that instantly took out the airliner's communications systems but left the plane undamaged enough to fly for 6 hours seems unlikely.

That said I have no better theory - though I have been on a 772 which decompressed about 30 minutes after take off from HKG - back in 2001 on Continental. Not an explosive decompression. Clearly the pilots were aware of the problem - the masks deployed and we made a very rapid descent to 10,000 feet, dumped fuel and landed back in HKG.

An incident such as Helios 522 could be possible - it does explain the rapid return towards Malaysia but really does not explain the transponder and ACARS failure.

Several pilots familiar with Asian air routes have speculated the new route programmed into the plane's computer was consistent with it heading for Langkawi, which has a large airport and easy terrain. Though if that was the case I am surprised they did not make for the closer airfield at Hat Yai.

The possibility of pilot suicide cannot be ruled out, but in the last two cases where it was suspected, the planes were flown into the ground. The notion of a pilot disabling the communications systems and waiting for the plane to run out of fuel in eight hours' time seems far-fetched. It only makes sense if the pilot killed himself and the passengers and crew by depriving them of oxygen after setting a course on autopilot.

Finding the debris in the South Indian ocean will go a long way to confirm that the crew were seeking to save the airplane and its passengers rather than being subject to some form of hijacking.

Crimea: Mr Putin's imperial act

19 March 2014 The Guardian

So it has happened. Crimea has been annexed. A strutting Russian president sealed the fate of the once-autonomous Ukrainian republic with a speech to parliament yesterday in which he sought to wrap himself and the Black Sea peninsula together in the flag of his country. It was a bravura performance from Mr Putin, largely free of the ad hoc ramblings he indulged in at his press conference on 4 March, but nevertheless filled with purple rhetoric.

Without apparent irony he invoked his namesake St Vladimir in Russia's cause. It was in Crimea, Mr Putin said, that Vladimir, the Grand Duke of Kieff and All Russia, acquired the Orthodox Christian roots that would spread throughout Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. It was in Crimea that the noble Russian soldiers lay in graves dating back to the 1700s. It was Crimea that had given birth to Russia's Black Sea navy, a symbol of Moscow's glory. In his people's hearts and minds, he said, Crimea had always been a part of Russia.

Quite how, then, his dimwitted predecessor Nikita Khrushchev had managed to hand it to Ukraine in 1954 was unclear, but that act had been a "breach of any constitutional norm" and could thereby be ignored. And by the way, Mr Putin intimated, Moscow had only failed to raise the issue of Crimea's sovereignty during previous negotiations with Ukraine because it hadn't wanted to offend its friendly neighbour. Now the west had cheated on a range of issues – Nato's expansion into eastern Europe, the "coup" in Kiev, the unnecessary prolonging of discussions over visa waivers for Europe – Russia felt inclined to accept a willing Crimea back into the fold.

So the self-justifications went on. There have been few clearer-eyed critics of Soviet-era propaganda than Milan Kundera, who once wrote that "The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." Watching members of the Duma wildly applaud Mr Putin, the phrase felt newly appropriate. In the modern struggle of memory, we should recall that when Mr Putin was asked two weeks ago if he considered that Crimea might join Russia, he replied "No, we do not." We should recall his assertion that the troops without insignia on Crimea's streets could have bought their Russian uniforms in local shops. And we should remember Kosovo.

Mr Putin made much of the parallel between Kosovo's secession from Serbia and Russian actions in Crimea. In fact the differences between the two cases are stark. In Kosovo in the 1990s, a majority ethnic Albanian population was being persecuted by the government of Slobodan Milosevic. The region's autonomy had been revoked, ethnic Albanians had been ousted from government jobs, their language had been repressed, their newspapers shut, and they had been excluded from schools and universities. By late 1998, Mr Milosevic's ethnic cleansing was reaching a climax: Serbian army and police units were terrorising and massacring groups of Albanians in an outright attempt to drive them out. The Kosovans' plight was the subject of intense diplomacy, which was rebuffed by Mr Milosevic's government.

In Crimea, by contrast, despite Mr Putin's characterisation of the emergency government in Kiev as "anti-Semites, fascists and Russophobes" whose tools are "terror, killings and pogroms", there have been no pogroms, little terror, no persecutions of Russian-speaking citizens bar a bid, now dropped, to rescind Russian's status as an official language. The historic atrocities in Crimea were committed by Moscow, which starved and slaughtered tens of thousands Crimean Tatars in the 1920s, before deporting them en masse in 1944. Almost half the deportees died from malnutrition and disease.

As Moscow takes a historic bite of Ukraine, Mr Putin would rather the world misremember Kosovo, or discuss the legality of the US-led invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan. The world has debated those wars before and should do so again. Today, let us see Russia's move for what it is: an illegal, neo-imperialist act.

Malaysia's series of errors

16 March 2014

The New York Times has a strong article on how a series of errors in Malaysia allowed MH370 to continue its diverted and presumably hijacked flight unchallenged and unmonitored. These are the key points:

The radar blip that was Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 did a wide U-turn over the Gulf of Thailand. It then moved past at least three military radar arrays crossing northern Malaysia, even flying high over Penang, one of the country’s biggest cities before heading out over the Strait of Malacca.

Yet inside a Malaysian Air Force control room on the country’s west coast, where American-made F-18s and F-5 fighters stood at a high level of readiness for emergencies exactly like the one unfolding in the early morning of March 8, a four-person air defense radar crew did nothing about the unauthorized flight.

“The watch team never noticed the blip,” said a person with detailed knowledge of the investigation into Flight 370. “It was as though the airspace was his.”

“The fact that it flew straight over Malaysia, without the Malaysian military identifying it, is just plain weird — not just weird, but also very damning and tragic,” said David Learmount of Flightglobal.

The New York Times reports that senior Malaysian military officers became aware within hours of the radar data once word spread that a civilian airliner had vanished. The Malaysian government nonetheless organized and oversaw an expensive and complex international search effort in the Gulf of Thailand that lasted for a full week. Only on Saturday morning did Prime Minister Najib Razak finally shut it down after admitting what had already been widely reported in the news media.

With so much uncertainty about the flight, it is not yet possible to know whether any actions by the Malaysian government or military could have altered its fate. Responding to a storm of criticism, particularly from China, whose citizens made up two-thirds of the passengers, Mr. Najib continues to say that Malaysia had not concealed information, including military data.

Aviation experts said that a trained pilot would be the most obvious person to have carried out a complicated scheme involving the plane. Yet for a week after the plane’s disappearance, Malaysian law enforcement authorities said that their investigation did not include searching the home of the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah.

They have now changed that story to saying today that they searched the pilots' homes last weekend.

The Malaysian air force base at Butterworth sits on the mainland across from the island of Penang at the northern reaches of the Strait of Malacca. The four-person crew watching for intrusions into the country’s airspace either did not notice or failed to report a blip on their defensive radar and air traffic radar that was moving steadily across the country from east to west, heading right toward them.

Neither that team nor the crews at two other radar installations at Kota Bharu, closer to where the airliner last had contact with the ground, designated the blip as an unknown intruder warranting attention, sources told the NYT.

The aircraft proceeded to fly across the country and out to sea without anyone on watch telling a superior and alerting the national defense command near Kuala Lumpur, even though the radar contact’s flight path did not correspond to any filed flight plan.

As a result, combat aircraft never scrambled to investigate. The plane, identified at the time by Mr. Najib as Flight 370, passed directly over Penang, a largely urban state with more than 1.6 million people, then turned and headed out over the Strait of Malacca.

The existence of the radar contact was discovered only when military officials began reviewing tapes later in the morning on March 8, after the passenger jet failed to arrive in Beijing. It was already becoming clear that morning, only hours after the unauthorized flyover, that something had gone very wrong. Tapes from both the Butterworth and Kota Bharu bases apparently show the radar contact arriving from the area of the last known position of Flight 370.

Gen. Rodzali Daud, the commander of Malaysia’s Air Force, publicly acknowledged the existence of the radar signals for the first time on Wednesday, well into the fifth day after the plane’s disappearance.

The failure to identify Flight 370’s errant course meant that a chance to send military aircraft to identify and redirect the jet, a Boeing 777, was lost. And for five days the crews on an armada of search vessels, including two American warships, focused the bulk of their attention in the waters off Malaysia’s east coast, far from the plane’s actual path.

The NYT added that "General Rodzali went to the Butterworth air force base the day that the plane disappeared and was told of the radar blips, the person familiar with the investigation said. The Malaysian government nonetheless assigned most of its search and rescue resources, as well as ships and aircraft offered by other nations, to a search of the Gulf of Thailand where the aircraft’s satellite transponder was turned off, while allocating minimal attention to the Strait of Malacca on the other, western side of Peninsular Malaysia."

There will be some serious repercussions in Malaysia when an investigation is eventually launched into the loss of MH370.

MH370 - accusations and at last some honesty

15 March 2014

The Malaysian Prime Minister gave a press briefing at about 3pm KL time today; he took no questions. The regular 5.30pm press briefing and question and answer session was then cancelled.

In summary he basically confirmed the Reuters and Wall Street Journal stories of the last two days:

•  Last signal from MH370 was five hours later than previously thought. Implying the airplane was in the air for nearly 7 hours.
•  Diversion of MH370 was a deliberate act - the transponder and ACARS communications devices were both disabled.
•  The missing aircraft could be as far north as Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan or as far south as the Indian Ocean.

The conclusions are based on raw satellite data and military radar. It is clear that the plane was still flying long after it lost contact with air traffic control at 1.22am on Saturday 8 March with 239 people on board. But the PM said that the data could not be used to determine the aircraft's exact location, which he said was on one of two possible flight corridors: a northern corridor stretching from Kazakhstan, in central Asia, down to northern Thailand; and a southern corridor stretching from Indonesia towards the southern Indian Ocean.

Effectively a week has been lost looking in all the wrong places.

What is concerning is that it has taken officials a week to confirm that MH370 wasn't heading to PEK. This was widely considered likely on PPRUNE last weekend. It is time for people to tell what they know.

Xinhua news agency, speaking for the Chinese government has been blunt tonight: “Due to the absence -- or at least lack -- of timely authoritative information, massive efforts have been squandered, and numerous rumors have been spawned, repeatedly racking the nerves of the awaiting families. Given today’s technology, the delay smacks of either dereliction of duty or reluctance to share information in a full and timely manner. That would be intolerable.”

MH370 - summary of a very confused week

15 March 2014


12.40am Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 leaves Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for Beijing, China, with 239 people on board.

1.20am Plane’s communications with civilian air controllers disabled before aircraft reaches east coast of Malaysia.

8.11am Last confirmed signal between the plane and a satellite (confirmed by Malaysian PM at press briefing on 15 March)

Vietnamese planes spot two large oil slicks near the plane’s last known location, but proves a false alarm.


Malaysia says it is investigating potential terror link to the jet’s disappearance.

It also reveals for the first time that the aircraft may have veered dramatically off course, turning west back towards Kuala Lumpur for no apparent reason

Meanwhile, Interpol confirms that at least two passports recorded as lost or stolen in its database were used by passengers, adding that it is “examining additional suspect passports”.

Investigators narrow focus on disastrous scenario that the plane disintegrated mid-flight.


China admonishes Malaysia, saying it should accelerate its investigation.

The United States review of American spy satellite imagery detects no evidence of mid-air explosion.

Malaysia despatches ships to investigate possible sighting of a possible life raft, but only flotsam is found.

Speculation mounts over whether a bomb or hijacking could have brought down the airliner.


Authorities identify the two men with stolen passports as young Iranians who are believed to be illegal immigrants, rather than terrorists. Interpol says that the more information they obtain the less likely it appears that a terrorist incident has occurred.

Search area widens to include areas significantly removed from the flight’s scheduled route, including territory on the Malaysian peninsula and the waters off its west coast.

A US company asks internet users to scour satellite images of more than 1,200 square miles of open seas for any signs of wreckage.


It emerges that US regulators warned months ago of a problem with “cracking and corrosion” of the fuselage skin on Boeing 777s that could cause a mid-air break-up.

The search is expanded again, this time to an area stretching from China to India.

Malaysia’s air force chief reveals that an unidentified object was detected on military radar north of the Malacca Strait early on Saturday March 8 but is stilll being examined.


Malaysia deny US reports that cite investigators saying that they suspect the plane flew for four hours after its last known contact.

Authorities in Kuala Lumpur also dismiss Chinese satellite images of possible debris in the South China Sea as yet another false alarm.


Malaysia refuses to comment on fresh reports quoting US officials saying the plane’s communication system continued to contact a satellite hours after it disappeared, suggesting it may have actually travelled a massive distance.

White House also refers to “new information” that the jet may have continued flying after losing contact.


Prime Minister Najib Razak reveals at a press conference that the aircraft’s communications systems were deliberately disabled and that its last signal came more than six hours after takeoff. Police search home of plane’s pilot.

Wall Street Journal suggests extended MH370 flight

13 March 2014

Completely contrary to any of the evidence from Malaysian officials the Wall Street Journal is reporting today that U.S. investigators suspect that Malaysia Airlines 3786.KU -2.04% Flight 370 stayed in the air for about four hours past the time it reached its last confirmed location.

The implication is that the plane could have flown on for hundreds of additional miles under conditions that remain murky.

Aviation investigators and national security officials believe the plane flew for a total of five hours based on data automatically downloaded and sent to the ground from the Boeing Co. BA -0.99% 777's engines as part of a routine maintenance and monitoring program.

That raises a host of new questions and possibilities about what happened aboard the widebody jet carrying 239 people, which vanished from civilian air-traffic control radar over the weekend, about one hour into a flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.

U.S. counterterrorism officials are pursuing the possibility that a pilot or someone else on board the plane may have diverted it toward an undisclosed location after intentionally turning off the jetliner's transponders to avoid radar detection, according to one person tracking the probe.

But the huge uncertainty about where the plane was headed, and why it continued flying so long without working transponders, has raised theories among investigators that the aircraft may have been commandeered for a reason that appears unclear to U.S. authorities. Some of those theories have been laid out to national security officials and senior personnel from various U.S. agencies, according to one person familiar with the matter.

At one briefing, according to this person, officials were told investigators are actively pursuing the notion that the plane was diverted "with the intention of using it later for another purpose."

As of Wednesday it remained unclear whether the plane reached an alternate destination or if it ultimately crashed, potentially hundreds of miles from where an international search effort has been focused.

In those scenarios, neither mechanical problems, pilot mistakes nor some other type of catastrophic incident caused the 250-ton plane to mysteriously vanish from radar.

The latest revelations come as local media reported that Malaysian police visited the home of at least one of the two pilots.

The engines' onboard monitoring system is provided by their manufacturer, Rolls-Royce, and it periodically sends bursts of data about engine health, operations and aircraft movements to facilities on the ground.

Rolls-Royce couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

As part of its maintenance agreements, Malaysia Airlines transmits its engine data live to Rolls-Royce for analysis. The system compiles data from inside the 777's two Trent 800 engines and transmits snapshots of performance, as well as the altitude and speed of the jet.

Those snippets are compiled and transmitted in 30-minute increments, said one person familiar with the system. According to Rolls-Royce's website, the data is processed automatically "so that subtle changes in condition from one flight to another can be detected."

The engine data is being analyzed to help determine the flight path of the plane after the transponders stopped working. The jet was originally headed for China, and its last verified position was half way across the Gulf of Thailand.

Once again, clarity is needed as soon as possible and if Rolls Royce has this data then it needs to be analysed and shared and made public. The bereaved families deserve that clarification.

Chaos and confusion from Malaysian authorities

12 March 2014

With today's press conference in Malaysia already delayed for 2.5 hours many questions are being asked about the competence of the Malaysian authorities and whether they are being completely open in their information. There are plenty of rumours emerging. Some maybe significant. None confirmed.

The only thing we know for certain about MH370 is that the Malaysian authorities are showing a worrying lack of competence across the board and a poor understanding of the importance of providing as much information as possible.

Reuters reported last night that the Malaysian military has radar data showing the missing Boeing 777 jetliner changed course and made it to the Malacca Strait, hundreds of kilometers (miles) from the last position recorded by civilian authorities, according to a senior military official.

Local newspaper Berita Harian also quoted Malaysian air force chief Gen. Rodzali Daud as saying radar at a military base had detected the airliner at 2:40 a.m. near Pulau Perak at the northern approach to the strait, a busy waterway that separates the western coast of Malaysia and Indonesia's Sumatra island.

"After that, the signal from the plane was lost," he was quoted as saying.

A high-ranking military official involved in the investigation confirmed the report and also said the plane was believed to be flying low. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

This morning the Malaysian air force chief denied making the statements attributed to him. Reuters does not make stories up.

The search for the plane was initially focused on waters between the eastern coast of Malaysia and Vietnam, the position where aviation authorities last tracked it. No trace of the plane, which was carrying 239 people, has been found by than 40 planes and ships from at least 10 nations searching the area. That search has taken five days so far.

It’s bad enough for a widebody jet to go missing with 239 people on board, but then for the responsible country’s government and aviation agencies to handle the associated information with total incompetence is unforgivable.

The Malaysian military has primary radar to provide surveillance of surface and airborne activity off its coasts and borders. That is how it defends its nation.

There are so many information sources that do not appear to have been used effectively in this case.

As a result the families of the missing passengers and crew are being kept in the dark, and the search areas now extended to both sides of the peninsula have become so wide that it is clear that tracking information on the aircraft has not been used effectively. Nothing has been said about the 777′s ACARS system (airborne communications addressing and reporting system), a datalink that provides technical information about the health of aircraft systems to Malaysian Airlines’ base.

The increasingly international fleet of search vessels are clearly doing their best. But they can only work with the information that they are given. There is an all-pervasive sense of a chaotic lack of coordination between the Malaysian agencies which has hindered the establishment of an effective search strategy.

Meanwhile the failure to provide timely information when simple facts have been established shows a total lack of consideration for the families of those who are missing

The action moves to the courts as anti-government protests fizzle

9 March 2014 The Economist

(With most of the world suddenly focused on events in the Ukraine people have post interest and patience with the continuing unrest in Thailand - the Economist provides a timely update).

At last it looks as though the street protests designed to oust Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, are running out of steam. After more than four months of relentless sit-ins and government shutdowns, the leader of the insurrection, Suthep Thaugsuban, has dismantled most of his various protest sites around the capital, retreating to a single encampment in central Bangkok. His supporters are dwindling in number, and so is their appetite for further confrontation. Yet Ms Yingluck is by no means home and dry. The courts may yet succeed where Mr Suthep has not.

Lumpini Park is the new headquarters of Thailand's failing people’s revolution. Self-appointed guards protect the tented city. As in Mr Suthep’s previous makeshift sites there are tea stalls, showers, television-viewing areas, a medical centre and a shortage of lavatories. Well-off Bangkok residents distribute food from luxury cars to the protesters, many of them bused in from southern Thailand. Although the protests no longer occupy the same locations as before—a posh shopping district and the sites of public monuments—the slogans are unchanged. “Evolution before elections” reads one sign affixed to a tent; “This corrupt government must be overthrown”, another.

Rhetorically, at least, Mr Suthep and his People’s Democratic Reform Committee remain as defiant as ever. Many protesters vow that they will pack up and leave only when all traces of Ms Yingluck and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister ousted in a coup in 2006, are removed from the body politic. But their hopes now look forlorn of using protest power to force on Thailand a “people’s council” to replace the elected government. The government appears to have outsmarted the protesters. By refusing to confront them directly, the government largely averted violence and avoided giving the army a pretext to intervene on Mr Suthep’s behalf to “save” the country, democracy or anything else.

Some have suggested that the two sides may now sit down together to negotiate a way out of the impasse. But that ignores how little Ms Yingluck—along with Mr Thaksin, who pulls the strings from exile in Dubai—has to gain from talks. The prime minister’s position has been buttressed by victory in a recent snap election. Her supporters in the Shinawatra family’s political heartland in the north and north-east have been steadfast. With Mr Suthep’s power on the wane, she may calculate that there is no need to give him the renewed political significance that talks would confer.

Ms Yingluck now has more reason to worry about the courts than about Mr Suthep. The judiciary has brought down Thai governments before. Given the number of legal challenges being mounted by opponents of the prime minister and her government, it would be surprising if one or other of them did not hit home.

Take, for instance, the February 2nd general election, which was boycotted by the main opposition Democrat Party. One legal challenge attempted to have the whole election declared invalid. The government survived that. But protests prevented elections being held in 18 of 77 provinces—and attempts to rerun those votes are going less well. Five provinces managed to hold elections on March 2nd. The remainder are planned for next month, but these are now the subjects of court procedures. Legal scholars and others challenge the right of Ms Yingluck’s current “caretaker” government to carry on ruling much longer without an official quorum convened in parliament.

More pressingly, Ms Yingluck has until March 14th to defend herself before the National Anti-Corruption Commission on criminal charges over alleged dereliction of duty arising from the government’s disastrous scheme to help farmers by subsidising rice. She has sent lawyers to the commission to hear charges, but has yet to offer her account of the facts. If the commission does indict her, she may have to step down. The government has said that in such an eventuality another minister could take over her job. Still, for Mr Suthep and his supporters it would undoubtedly be a welcome fillip.

370 - sadness and mystery

9 March 2014

It has now been 48 hours since the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, but there is still no clear answer what happened.

Families of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members are grieving for their loss without any explanation as to what may have happened.

Flight 370 was the overnight Boeing 777-200 flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It had reached its cruising altitude of 35,000 feet when about an hour after take off it disappeared from radar. There was no emergency call from the flight deck and no suggestion of any problems with the flight.

Malaysia, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia and several other countries have dispatched a large number of SAR aircrafts naval ships and merchant fleets to the region in the South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam but so far no wreckage has been found.

People from 14 nationalities were among the 227 passengers, including at least at least 152 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians, four French and three Americans.

Chinese state media said 24 Chinese artists and family members, who were in Kuala Lumpur for an art exchange programme, were aboard. The Sichuan provincial government said Zhang Jinquan, a well-known calligrapher, was on the flight.

I have avoided tweeting on the story or commenting upon it until now.

Eventually the wreckage will be found and given the remarkable thoroughness of the investigative process an explanation will be found. The likelihood is that there was a sudden and catastrophic disintegration of the airframe.

Meanwhile as a shocking example of someone who should know better Rupert Murdoch tweeted that: provoked controversy by tweeting that:

Rupert Murdoch ‏@rupertmurdoch·3 hrs
777crash confirms jihadists turning to make trouble for China. Chance for US to make common cause, befriend China while Russia bullies.

Clueless - there is no evidence to support his claim and he, more than most, should know better.

Now it is Etihad on the rack

6 March 2014

Another day; another foggy morning. This time the fog was across the UAE with long delays  and diversions at Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

But Abu Dhabi had a far bigger problem as the ILS system failed.

@EtihadAirways and @EtihadHelp were a bit slow responding but they have tried to provide information using twitter and to respond to passenger concerns.

It was after 11am that the airline posted seven successive messages starting with  "All flights into #AbuDhabi this morning have been diverted to other airports in the region due to a technical failure at the airport (1/7)" adding that "The weather at #AbuDhabi is improving and the airport has started to accept traffic. (2/7)"

But the @EtihadAirways account then disappeared offline for six hours until around 5.30pm in the evening. Then came a slew of apologies as the airline replied to unhappy passengers; After 7pm the airline noted that "Of the 37 inbound flights diverted this morning to other airports in the GCC this morning, 35 have now returned to Abu Dhabi"

The trouble is while the airline went off line people were telling their messages:

EtihadAirways My brother is stuck on your Flight EY 867 for last 6 hours sitting on Runway at Al Ain. No food in the plane and it's a mess.

@EtihadAirways what a shambles stuck at transit desk and staff have no idea what they are doing

@EtihadAirways we are stuck in the plain more than 4 houers and now in Mascat airport without any info or care!!
U r the worest flights :@

@EtihadAirways no organisation at all people pushing from economy into business class

@EtihadAirways - i am waiting at muscat airport (ey205) and i hav to catch EY131 for IAD. Ders no one to help at muscat. Plz repky wht to do

@EtihadAirways where are the managers when they are needed someone needs to take control of transfers

@EtihadAirways @EtihadHelp EY18 from Heathrow, what the hell is going on? 7 1/2 hours stuck in middle of nowhere. Demanding a full refund

@EtihadAirways @EtihadHelp Near to a mutiny on board, no one knows what's happening. Will my transfer to Bangkok wait? #neverflyingetihad

@EtihadAirways @EtihadHelp - Que está acontecendo? What is the happening? Fly EY 867 stopped in desert! Passenger abbandoned? @TIME?

@EtihadAirways I understand you have major problems at Abu Dhabi, but being stranded for 7 hours in Muscat with no updates is pitiful.


@EtihadAirways well at least be transparent with the passengers and give an exact timing and some compensation! We ve been here since 7am!

@EtihadAirways #worstairlineever! After 5h delay got sent to a line for 3h and info of 20h delay without hotel!

The trouble is even when the airline did respond it could say little more than we are sorry and we are working on the problem! the messages kept coming.

@EtihadAirways sadly there has been no evidence whatsoever of this effort for the past nine hours.

@EtihadAirways the big #disappointment is the total lack of communication from you guys about what is going on since 05.30 this morning

@EtihadAirways waiting 6 hours in the airport for the delayed flight, then another two hours in the airplane #NeverFlyWithEttihad

@EtihadAirways @EtihadHelp This is the worst service I have ever experienced......8hr delay and no idea whats happening from the staff

@EtihadAirways so far 12 hours delay (inc 8 sat on a plane) in Abu Dhabi with no word of sense from any of your staff.

So what does all this mean. Well using two accounts may not help. Most passengers vented their frustration to the @EithadAirways account where there are 48,000 followers - @EtihadHelp has just 3,700 followers. If the airline wants to maintain a twitter presence it probably needs to do so with just a single account.

Being able to tweet the airline may help relieve passenger frustration but it seems to very rarely provide any sort of resolution. What is a guy or a girl on a laptop in Abu Dhabi going to be able to do to help folks stuck on the ground in Muscat or waiting for flight information in Manchester.

The answer has to be to have people on the ground better trained and better prepared to handle crisis situations and better briefed about what action is being taken. They also need to be empowered to be generous in helping stranded passengers. This applies to their own ground staff as well as any handling agents acting on their behalf.

The answer is also that someone has to take charge. It is not just about the airline; it is about co-ordination with the airport authority, with ATC and with ground handling. Emirates, dnata and Dubai Airports failed miserably to manage their own fog crisis two weekends ago. Management were conspicuous by their absence; well it was the weekend. And there were simply not enough staff on the ground to help passengers. 

Maybe Emirates has this right; the airline does not use its twitter account and does not respond to messages sent to the account. Etihad today looks like an the poor little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke. He/she is trying valiantly but is being overwhelmed by the flood and appears to have no other resources to use.

For supposed premium airlines both Etihad and Emirates have disappointed too many people in the last two weeks. Passengers do understand bad weather; they understand technical delays. But they want information as frequently and in as much detail as possible.

Qatar versus the GCC

5 March 2014

In a move that is unprecedented across the Gulf region Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have recalled their ambassadors from the Gulf nation of Qatar over its alleged breach of a regional security agreement among Gulf Arab countries not to interfere in each others' internal affairs.

This seems a bit strange given in particular Saudi involvement in Bahrain. And it suggests more deep-rooted problems.

The unprecedented move by the three states was announced on Wednesday in a joint statement on state media.

It's the clearest sign yet of the rift between Gulf Arab nations and Qatar, which has been a staunch supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have been calling for increased military and diplomatic union within the six-member GCC, which also includes Qatar, Omar and Kuwait.

However, Qatar and Oman have so far resisted increased integration in these fields.

Qatar has also denounced last year's ouster of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood.

Qatar is also home to the influential al-Jazeera news network, which broadcasts across the world and has been critical of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

Abu Dhabi and Riyadh said the decision was made after Qatar failed to uphold its end of an agreement on security and stability of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

Regional stock markets have not reacted well; “it’s a surprise to everyone and we are trying to understand where this is coming from these are usually sensitive issues,” a Dubai-based trader spoke on anonymity.

In diplomatic circles this is a very strong message to Qatar which might suggest that there is more happening behind the scenes than is being said.

Among many comments on twitter this one from academic and Middle East commentator Dr. Ulrichsen was on the mark: " Qatar's new leadership is paying the price for 'backing the wrong horse' in the Arab Spring when for a time it seemed Doha could do anything."

Etihad versus flydubai

3 March 2014

Since both Etihad abd flydubai announced full year 2013 results today lets have a look at how the two airlines financial performance compares.

Neither Etihad or flydubai release comprehensive financial results, unlike rivals Emirates and Turkish Airlines, which means that a comprehensive analysis of overall finances cannot be undertaken.

As usual the local media has faithfully reported the results without any analysis. It is hard to work out the impact of Etihad's equity investments. The airline reported US$820 in partnership revenues; but what about it's share of equity loss/profits?

Etihad has equity investments in Virgin Australia, Jet Airways in India and Aer Lingus in Ireland as well as Air Berlin, Air Seychelles, Air Serbia and Darwin Airline in Switzerland. As far as I can tell none of the partner airlines are profitable. Etihad gets some cost synergies and other benefits from inter-lining and feeding passengers into the Abu Dhabi hub but at the same time it must be taking its share of the net losses of its partners.

The full year net profit of both airlines is almost identical; but Etihad has six times flydubai's revenues. So the Etihad net profit margin is painfully thin at just 1%.

The comparison is interesting. And to be honest flydubai looks like a better standalone business while Etihad benefits from investors with deep pockets.

All in US$ millions ETIHAD flydubai
Full year revenue 6,100 1,000
    of which partnership revenues 820 n/a
    cargo revenues 928 146 (all ancillary revenues inc. cargo)
Full year net profit 62 61
Net profit margin 1.0% 6.1%
Number of passengers carried 11.5m 6.82m
Annual increase in passengers carried 12% 38%

Etihad Airways 2013 profit rises 48%

3 March 2014

Etihad Airways also announced full year profits today with net profit reaching $62 million as sales grew 27 per cent to $6.1 billion. Partnership revenues also rose by 30 per cent to $820m, representing 21 per cent of total passenger revenues.

“Our codeshare partnerships have been an important part of our business performance for the last seven years,” said James Hogan, president and chief executive of Etihad Airways. “But it is our equity investments which are really taking off now, allowing us to build integrated networks and schedules, develop common products and services and most importantly, identify business and cost synergies.”

Etihad’s growth strategy has relied heavily on expanding its route network through “equity alliances,” in which it invests in carriers that help it to expand its global reach in strategically important regions. In 2013, Etihad grew its equity alliance to seven – comprising Air Seychelles, Air Berlin, Virgin Australia, Air Serbia, Ireland’s Aer Lingus, India’s Jet Airways and Etihad Regional — formerly known as Darwin Airline (based in Switzerland).

The latest addition to this growing family of equity alliances could be Alitalia, the loss-making Italian flag carrier. Etihad said last month that it was conducting due diligence on a possible investment.

The Arabian Gulf carrier ordered 199 aircraft and 294 engines at the Dubai Airshow, worth some $67bn.

Etihad passenger numbers surged by 12 per cent in 2013 to reach nearly 11.5 million, as 1.8 million passengers were carried via codeshare deals and other equity alliances.

The addition of seven new codeshare deals in 2013, brought the total number of such partnerships to 47.

Etihad’s aggressive growth plans include adding more than 30 routes by 2020. In 2013, Etihad launched routes to Sana’a in Yemen, Amsterdam, Belgrade in Serbia, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Sao Paulo and Washington DC.

This year it is planning to fly to Jaipur in India, Los Angeles, Zurich, Yerevan in Armenia, Perth in Australia, Rome, Phuket in Thailand (this replaces the Air Berlin AUH-HKT flight), Dallas in the US and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

Cargo revenues increased 30 per cent in 2013 to $928 million.

Etihad expects to receive 18 new aircraft this year, including its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and Airbus A380, Both are scheduled for delivery in the fourth quarter.

Etihad also announced the creation of the Etihad Aviation Group, a new structure marking the transition from a single entity airline to a wider global aviation group.

The new Etihad Aviation Group structure, headed by James Hogan as Group President and Chief Executive Officer, distinguishes the functions relating purely to Etihad Airways and those required to interface with and support the growth and success of its subsidiaries, joint venture companies and equity partners.

A bit like Emirates then!

A new position of Chief Operating Officer Etihad Airways has been created to oversee the day-to-day running of the core airline. Recruitment for this position is ongoing and the successful candidate will oversee the major areas of Marketing, Sales, Operations, Technical, Cargo, Flight Operations, Guest Services, Guest Experience, and Safety and Quality.

In addition to the core airline, the Etihad Aviation Group also includes a division to coordinate and manage Etihad’s investment in its equity airline partners, and a new role of Chief Operating Officer, Equity Partners will be created within the new structure to ensure an ongoing interface between the airline and its equity partners.

The position will be responsible for leading the identification and realisation of synergy benefits across the equity alliance, as well as having direct responsibility for Air Seychelles and Air Serbia in which Etihad Airways has a management responsibility.

The group will also include the new Hala Group, led by Peter Baumgartner, formerly Chief Commercial Officer Etihad Airways. The Hala Group has been formed recognising the airline’s commercial opportunities which have grown beyond air travel across a variety of travel and hospitality businesses.

The Hala Group will bring businesses together to drive commercial value for Etihad Airways, for Abu Dhabi and for the airline’s equity alliance partners. It combines travel management provided by Hala Travel Management, destination management services of Hala Abu Dhabi, the internationally expanding wholesale and tour operating business, Etihad Holidays, and other major start-up initiatives such as a new global loyalty company.

It makes sense but it is not exactly innovative. Part of the problem is that Etihad is 100% owned by the Abu Dhabi government and its acquisitions are made by the government's investment fund on behalf of the airline.

Incidentally Etihad and flydubai have announced almost identical profits on very different revenues.

flydubai profits increase

3 March 2014

flydubai has reported its annual results for 2013. flydubai operates to a calendar year end unlike Emirates with a 31 March year end.

The basic numbers are revenue of AED 3.7 billion (USD 1.0 billion) and a full-year profit of AED 222.8 million (USD 60.7 million) an increase of 47 per cent compared to 2012.

Passenger numbers increased 6.82 million; a 38 per cent increase compared to 2012.

Seven new Next-Generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft joining the fleet last year. Together with the rolling retrofit programme a total of 14 aircraft are configured with a business class cabin.

The airline, which operates an average of 1,100 flights a week, launched 17 new routes during 2013 bringing the network to 66 destinations. It doubled its network in Russia to eight destinations; underlined the commitment to its network in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with 10 destinations, many of which have not previously had direct flights to Dubai, as well as Salalah in Oman. It ended the year with the first direct flights to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.

flydubai has strategically expanded its network within a five hour flying radius of Dubai and has opened up 46 routes that were previously underserved or did not have direct air links to Dubai.

Staff numbers grew to more than 2,250 employees including 499 pilots and 922 cabin crew.

Fuel expense remains the single largest operating cost and is 39.5 per cent of total cost. During the last quarter of 2013, flydubai started hedging and 29% of the total fuel requirements for 2014 have been hedged.

Ancillary revenue remained a significant component of total revenues and accounted for 14.6 per cent of total revenues in 2013. This includes cargo revenues and flydubai’s inflight entertainment, on board sales, seat preferences, checked baggage allowance, car rental, hotel bookings, travel insurance and visa facilitation services. 

At the 2013 Dubai Airshow, flydubai committed to ordering 75 Boeing 737 MAX 8s and 11 Next-Generation Boeing 737-800s, valued at $8.8 billion at list prices. In addition, the airline retains purchase rights for 25 more 737 MAXs. The first aircraft from this order, 11 Next-Generation Boeing 737-800s, will be delivered between 2016 and 2017. Deliveries of the first Boeing 737 MAX will commence in the second half of 2017 and continue until the end of 2023. The remaining aircraft from the order placed at the 2008 Farnborough Airshow will be delivered by the end of 2015.

flydubai noted that the operational climate in 2014 will remain challenging; however, the outlook remains positive due to the efficiency and flexibility of flydubai’s model and operations.

Shutting down the shutdown

3 March 2014 The Economist

Fifty-three days after anti-government protesters vowed to “shut down” the world’s most-visited city in a bid to “restart” Thailand, they have been forced to quit their programme. Or perhaps rather to “minimise” its window: from the city streets to a public park in Bangkok.

Suddenly, any relaunch of Thailand’s failed people’s revolution looks unlikely. Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of a series of anti-government protests, now in its fourth month, which has been aimed at ridding Thailand of the influence of the ruling Shinawatra clan, even apologised for the inconvenience that has been caused. Rally sites at key intersections in central Bangkok are to be dismantled, while some others are to be left in place, for now. This development will not, however, end the battle over the government’s legitimacy.

What it does show is that the risk of widespread social and economic failure has begun to register with the main protagonists: the army; the government; and finally Mr Suthep, the de facto leader of Thailand’s opposition. At least 23 people, including children, have been killed and hundreds more injured since the end of October. Earlier this week young men engaged in shoot-outs in central Bangkok. And everywhere incomes have been hit hard. One estimate puts the economic loss caused by the protests at $15 billion and warns that it could quickly double—by which point it would have destroyed income equal to the vast wealth of the royal palace.

The ugly truth at the centre of Thailand’s ideological conflict is that both sides would prefer to see the other side drop dead. And neither is about to commit suicide. In the past, the king could have told Mr Suthep to accept a compromise. But the monarch is old and frail. In his stead, the army, as the real power behind the throne, has taken action. Days before Mr Suthep’s apparent retreat, the army chief had in effect warned him and his sympathisers—in the military ranks, the civil service, the judiciary and the royal palace—that coups d’état are no longer on the menu.

For the army knows it is not welcome. Above all, it fears the sort of backlash that is already brewing among the more militant “red shirts”, the supporters of the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister. The mood among the reds has changed strikingly since February 19th, when a court ruled against them. Its judgment, that the anti-government protests were “peaceful” and that the police must not break them up, infuriated them; the ruling was a signal to their more radical factions that they might as well take up arms too. One red-shirt leader has vowed to recruit 600,000 young men for a new, pro-government Democracy Protection Volunteers Group. Whether or not he is regarded as a nutcase, he is not alone in drawing a hard line: there is to be no coup, military or judicial—or else. On March 1st unidentified men sprayed gunfire at the home of the mother of one of the protest leaders (who had, a few days earlier, chased the former wife of Mr Thaksin from a posh shopping centre).

Mr Suthep’s apparent climbdown comes only days after the red shirts began copying his tactics and laid siege to a government institution. On February 26th they built a wall of sand and crushed stones to block the gates of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), north of Bangkok. The NACC is set to impeach Ms Yingluck over her government’s signature policy, a lavish rice-subsidy scheme. If she were found guilty, Ms Yingluck and many senior figures in her Pheu Thai party could be removed from office and banned from politics for five years.

The case appears open-ended and its outcome uncertain. In that respect it is very much like the government’s bid to complete a national election, without which it cannot convene parliament and stay in power. For that matter, it is also like those assurances by the opposition Democrat Party, when it says that it favours elections over the anti-government protesters’ demand for an appointed “people’s council”. It was the same Democrats who boycotted the polls on February 2nd, and who stand in the way of the government’s attempts to build a quorum for the next parliament.

The entrance to the NACC is now the site of a rally for the red shirts, sealed off by their own armed guards. Street vendors sell paraphernalia with images of Ms Yingluck and Mr Thaksin. At present it is the reds’ only dedicated territory inside Greater Bangkok. They look poised to hold it, as a red line of sorts. In practice they are mimicking the anti-government protesters who built a cement wall earlier this month, brick-by-brick sealing the gates to Ms Yingluck’s office, Government House, so that she could not return “in this life or the next”.

The notion that Mr Suthep’s revolution is responding to a popular demand for better governance now looks bizarre, if not incomprehensible. In one of the thousands of tents staked in Lumpini Park, the new headquarters of the revolution, large letters printed in English seek to explain: “Western observers please understand that this is our democratic reform in progress. You had yours, let us have ours!”.

Were Mr Suthep’s revolution to regain its strength and to triumph, against the odds, it would be startling. But then the scale of the backlash against his movement could be even more shocking. Mr Suthep claims to want to protect the country and the monarchy. A less charitable view has it that he has been trying to protect the traditional elite’s political and economic control over Thailand’s resources—to defend the status quo that another revolution, the Siamese coup d’état of 1932, once tried but failed to overcome.

It appears that it has dawned on the army that Mr Suthep’s bid to preserve the role of the establishment might well backfire. Safer for everyone, then, that his insurrection should be boxed into a public park.

Russia Today's full scale propaganda

2 March 2014

Russia Today's priceless headline "Tea, sandwiches, music, photos with self-defense forces mark peaceful Sunday in Simferopol"

Worse is Russia Today describing an occupying army as a self-defense force. But say anything loudly enough and there will be someone who believes it.

First the Crimea and then?

2 March 2014 The Guardian - Masha Gessen

Can something be evident and incredible at the same time? Certainly, if you are in denial. Until Russian troops landed in the Crimea many Russians were in denial about Vladimir Putin. They believed he was all bark and no bite.

Not that Putin had kept his intentions secret. He has always denied the idea that the Soviet Union was a colonising power; furthermore, he called the breakup of the USSR "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of our time".

He has annexed chunks of Georgia, most recently by means of a military invasion in 2008. But there are two differences between now and the war in Georgia. Technically, it was not Putin but Dmitry Medvedev who was nominally president when Russia invaded Georgia. More importantly, Russian liberals were not rooting for their fellows in Georgia during that war; indeed, they were scarcely aware of the political struggles within the country.

Ukraine is different: for three months, Russians had been watching the stand-off, and the oppositionally minded were strongly identifying with the anti-Yanukovych forces in Kiev.

Perhaps the last time the Russian intelligentsia watched the internal struggle in another country this intently was in 1968 during the Prague Spring, when they hoped the Czechs would succeed in building what they called "socialism with a human face". They also believed it would hold out the promise of something better for life in the Soviet Union. In August 1968, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia, quashing the Prague Spring. In Moscow, seven people came out to protest against the invasion; they were arrested and the modern dissident movement was born.

The parallels end there. It's unlikely that what's happening in Ukraine will foment a new protest movement in Russia: the ongoing crackdown on civil society makes the cost of protest too high. Still, the Crimean invasion is a landmark in Russian domestic politics.

It signals a loss of innocence: no longer will Russians be able to think that Putin merely feels nostalgic for the USSR. It also signals ever greater polarisation of Russian society: in addition to all the other lines along which Russians are divided and across which civilised dialogue is impossible, there is now the chasm between supporters and opponents of the planned annexation. It also means the political crackdown in Russia will intensify further.

These clear and tragic consequences obscure the challenge the new Crimean war poses to Russia's post-imperial consciousness. "I can be reasonable about everything, but I cannot give up the Crimea," was a line from the late Galina Starovoitova, who as Boris Yeltsin's adviser on nationalities policy, oversaw Russia's first attempts at releasing its colonies.

She meant that, like just about every Russian, she felt the Black Sea resort area was part of her birthright, whatever the maps may say. Most, if not all, Russians harbour this Crimean exceptionalism, even if they belong to the minority that otherwise rejects Soviet nostalgia.

If Russia functioned as a society with rule of law and some common understanding of its complicated history, the inhibition against acting on this exceptionalist impulse would come from the top. But with the government sending troops into the Crimea, it is up to individual Russians to find the arguments and, even more difficult, the motivation to resist the aggression.

Masha Gessen is the author of The Man Without A Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin


A Crimea Primer

1 March 2014 from the Global Post

A vital piece of land on the Black Sea that's been claimed by some of the world's great empires, Crimea is no stranger to conflict.

The peninsula has been sacked by Huns, Greeks, Turks and Mongols. It was part of the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan and later the Ottoman Empire before it was absorbed by the Russian Empire under Catherine the Great in 1783.

Perhaps its bloodiest chapter came between 1853 and 1856 during the Crimean War.

An estimated 750,000 people died as Russia fought the Ottoman Empire in a conflict that also involved France, Britain and Sardinia.

The war gave us two cultural tropes: Florence Nightingale ushering sick soldiers to safety and the Charge of the Light Brigade that ended in disaster for British troops cut down in one of military history’s greatest blunders.

The poem “Charge of the Light Brigade” by Tennyson immortalized the episode this way: “Theirs not to reason why; theirs but to do and die.”

Under Soviet rule, Crimea belonged to the Russian republic, one of 15 Soviet republics, until Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to the Ukrainian republic in 1954.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Crimea flirted with independence, but that movement was quashed by lawmakers.

This week, tensions flared after months of protest finally ended with the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych last weekend.

Russian loyalists stormed the Crimean parliament and another government building on Thursday. Heavily armed, they raised the Russian flag in the Crimean capital of Simferopol.

On Friday, another armed group took control of two Crimean airports.

Although Moscow denies direct involvement, Reuters reported Russian aircraft flew into Ukrainian airspace and that Russian troops controlled at least one of the airports.

“Of course they are Russian,” said Maxim Lovinetsky, a 23-year-old volunteer militiaman who was blocking access to the airport. “They came last night.”

More from GlobalPost: In Ukraine the fight continues, and not just in Crimea (VIDEO)

About 2 million people live in Crimea, which is split between Russians in the south, Muslim Tatars in the center and Ukrainians in the north.

Ethnic Russians are the majority in Crimea, making up nearly 60 percent of the population. Together, Ukrainians and Tatars form just under 40 percent.

In the face of crisis, Tatars and Ukrainians appear united against the Russians, likely stemming from old wounds. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin scattered the entire Crimean Tatar population, some 200,000, in 1944 to various parts of the USSR for allegedly conspiring with Nazi Germany.

Nearly half of them died during the exile.

On the world map, Crimea appears almost an island, but it’s actually a peninsula connected by a thin tissue of land extending to Ukraine in the north.

Another arm reaches almost to Russia to the east, but is interrupted by the Strait of Kerch and the Sea of Azov.

Crimea extends deep into the Black Sea and provides easy access to European nations such as Romania and Bulgaria, as well as Turkey.

Some experts suggest Russian President Vladimir Putin wants Crimea back under his control. However, others say Putin risks international isolation and an expensive conflict if he intervenes in Crimea.

“Crimea in Ukraine and Transnistria in Moldova are just two of many possible future Russian targets,” Monica Duffy Toft writes for Foreign Policy. “But building an empire is an expensive undertaking. Russia’s appetite for expansion might only weaken it further.”


The Bangkok Post at its yellow worst

28 February 2014

The Bangkok Post is a poor newspaper - but its failure to a) understand democracy and b) understand that there is a Thailand beyond Bangkok does it huge discredit. This is how democracy is supposed to work trumpets the paper in the last sentence of yesterday's editorial.

The Bangkok Post has singularly failed to condemn the PDRC, an illegal movement that has its sole aim of forcing a democratically elected government from office. That is the issue that the Post should be dealing with.

There is an irregular army already established - by the PDRC in Bangkok. The police have been instructed not to interfere.

If there is a coup or if the PDRC takes over Bangkok and if the government then decides to set up its operations and ministries in for instance Chiang Mai then it is still the government - it is still the sole body elected by the people of Thailand. It is not a government in exile and it is not an alternative government,

The military government or the PDRC that try to take control of government in Bangkok would be the government in exile - the government that is not representative of the people.

The Bangkok Post assume that whatever happens in Bangkok is the government as though a government cannot function outside of the capital.

Given that Bangkok is being strangled by anti-democracy protestors it makes sense for democratic minded people to be considering alternatives.

A coupe government is not a legitimate substitute for an elected government and the Post fails to accept this is its haste to support  the coup plotters.

Tone down the rhetoric
27 Feb 2014 Bangkok Post editorial:

Thailand is one and indivisible kingdom. This is clearly stated in the first amendment of the constitution.  . So anyone who attempts to carve out territory from the kingdom is committing sedition which is liable to severe punishment.

In the far South, separatist groups such as the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) and new Pattani United Liberation Organisation have, for decades, waged unsuccessful and violent campaigns for a separate Malay-Muslim region from the Thai state.

Although a separate homeland or self-determination remains an aspiration, several separatist groups, including the BRN, have agreed to peace talks brokered by Malaysia  Unfortunately, the process has been suspended since the middle of last year.

Of late however, there have been talks among the hardliners within the red-shirt movement, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), and some members in the government about separatism  in retaliation against what they deem as extreme bias or injustice against the government from charter-mandated independent organisations such as the Constitution Court and the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Emotions ran high at the UDD’s rally held in Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday which was attended by the movement’s firebrands namely caretaker Deputy Commerce Minister Nattawut Saikuar and Jatuporn Prompan. Caretaker Interior Minister and Pheu Thai party leader Charupong Ruangsuwan was also present.

Loose talk about the creation of an irregular army of red shirts to protect the government and to fight the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), a government-in-exile and a separate homeland found voice on the rally stage.

In his address to the red-shirt crowd, Mr Charupong issued a threat, saying there are about 10 million guns in the hands of Thai people and these people cannot be looked down upon.

He also reportedly called upon the red shirts to get prepared for a make-or-break showdown which will result in bloodshed.

It is inconceivable how an interior minister could openly encourage people — in this case the red-shirt followers — to prepare for a bloody confrontation and, at the same time, condone talks about a government in exile, an irregular army and a separate homeland for red-shirt followers.

Mr Charupong’s conduct in this regard is unbecoming of a minister. It is indeed an irony that the government of which he is a part has charged PDRC leaders for sedition for leading protests to overthrow the government.

The protests have turned the government into a lame duck, unable to find a permanent home to do its work. Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has to keep her daily working schedules confidential for fear of harassment from protesters.

Yet these symptoms of a failed government are no excuse for a member of the government to engage in activities bordering on sedition, or incitement of hatred.

Fortunately, cool heads still prevail within the military top brass. Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha in his capacity as the deputy director of the Internal Security Operations Command has ordered all provincial governors to keep a close watch on any crowd movements from both sides of the conflict which are prone to political violence, to nip any potential violence in the bud.

Like the PDRC, the UDD has the right to stage protests as it feels fit so long as it does not resort to violence. It has the right to protect its beloved prime minister. But at the same time, it has a duty to obey the law and follow rulings from the courts of law. That is how a democracy is supposed to work.