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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Jakarta fears the worst over MH370

Posted: 09 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

JAKARTA: The government will work with the Malaysian government to assist the families of seven Indonesians who were on board Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, lost en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Foreign Ministry director for legal aid and protection of Indonesian nationals overseas, Tatang Budie Utama Razak, said the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur had been working and sharing data with the Malaysian government since the plane was declared missing early on Saturday morning.

At the time of going to press, the search for the plane was still ongoing and the government feared the worst for all the Indonesian passengers.

Firman Chandra

"We will decide whether we are going to bring the families of the victims to Kuala Lumpur or cities near the location of the plane crash or directly send the bodies (in the worst case) of the victims to Indonesia when the exact location of the ill-fated plane is determined," Tatang said.

According to the flight manifest issued by Malaysia Airlines, seven Indonesians were aboard the missing aircraft. They have been identified as Ferry Indra Suadaya, Herry Indra Suadaya, Indra Suria Tanurisam, Willy Surijanto Wang, Firman Chandra Siregar, Lo Sugianto and Chynthia Vinny.

If the whereabouts of the Indonesian victims could not be located, Tatang said, the ministry would try to find the best solution to facilitate the families.

The Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has opened a command post for the families of the Indonesian passengers aboard the missing Boeing 777-200 aircraft. The embassy can be contacted by phone at +60321164016/4017, by fax at +60321417908 or by email at

Tatang said the ministry had assigned its officials in KL International Airport to keep in touch with Malaysia Airlines. He added that the ministry had received the passport numbers of all of the Indonesian passengers and contacted their families.

CH Siregar, the father of Firman Chandra, said in Medan that his son had just got a job with oilfield service company Schlumberger. He was supposed to be posted to Beijing for three years, media reports have said.

Johannes Sutrysno Pangaribuan, a former fellow student at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) said Firman Chandra was a diligent student and was active in ITB's North Sumatra Art Unit (UKSU).

"He was a representative council member of the UKSU. It is like the House of Representatives in the organisation, and we both had a pretty good interaction there," he said.

He said Firman Chandra was involved in many activities in the Electrical Engineering Union (HME). Both Johannes and Firman Chandra took the same sub-major, electrical power, as their focus of study.

Indonesian Air Force spokesman Air Commodore Hadi Tjahjanto said they would respond to any request to help search for the missing aircraft, using their base in the Natuna Islands, in Riau province.

Hadi said that the air force would be ready at any time to assist in the search operation.

"As soon as we receive a request, we could help the Malaysian government to search for the missing passengers. Our Natuna-based team is still observing the conditions in the South China Sea at the moment."

Transportation Ministry acting spokesman Bambang S. Ervan said that Malaysia Airlines was one of the most popular South-East Asian airlines for Indonesian international travelers.

Bambang said that the airline had been able to fill the gap in limited international capacity for air passengers in the country.

"Malaysia Airlines keeps expanding its business in Indonesia and it shows the strong demand for international travel services among people here," he said.

Malaysia Airlines has been operating in Indonesia for more than 40 years. At the end of 2012, they increased their Jakarta–Kuala Lumpur service from six to seven times daily. The airline also connects Malaysia's capital city to Medan, North Sumatra and Denpasar, Bali. — The Jakarta Post / Asia News Network

Singapore sends more help in search for plane

Posted: 09 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

SINGAPORE has sent more military planes and ships to help in the six-country search for the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) plane that went missing on Saturday.

Two military transport planes, a naval helicopter, two warships and a submarine support and rescue vessel are currently involved in the search, said the Defence Ministry in a statement yesterday.

These exclude the first military transport plane that had been deployed on Saturday which has since returned, the ministry added.

In a post on its Facebook page at about 9am yesterday, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) said that its missile corvette, frigate and Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk naval helicopter joined in the search for MAS flight MH370 at 2am.

All hands on deck: A combo picture showing the 'MV Swift Rescue' joining the search effort for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in the South China Sea.  -SINGAPORE NAVY VIA FACEBOOK

The naval helicopter – which can drop sonar underwater – is on board the RSS Steadfast, one of the navy's Formidable class of frigates – its most advanced warships that are designed for stealth, speed and manoeuvrability.

The RSS Vigour belongs to its Victory class of missile corvettes, which are fast attack vessels with search capabilities that form what the navy calls "the backbone of the RSN's strike capability".

The RSN added that its submarine support and rescue vessel, the MV Swift Rescue, which had been preparing for the operation through the night, joined in later.

The submarine support and rescue vessel is equipped to search underwater and has divers on board.

In a tweet yesterday morning, the Singapore Army wished them success.

Earlier, on Saturday, the first Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) C-130 aircraft took off at noon to assist in the search, which the RSAF, Singapore Rescue Co-ordination Centre and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore are helping to coordinate.

It returned on Saturday night, and two other C-130 planes have since taken its place, the ministry said.

Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen called his counterpart, Malaysia Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, on Saturday night to convey Singapore's sympathies and offer assistance.

On top of the military transport plane, he also offered the use of the submarine support vessel, which Hishamuddin, who is also Acting Transport Minister, accepted.

On Saturday, both Singapore's Chief of Navy, Rear-Admiral Ng Chee Peng, and Chief of Air Force, Major-General Hoo Cher Mou, spoke to their counterparts, the Chief of the Royal Malaysian Navy, Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Haji Jaafar, and the Chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, General Tan Sri Dato Sri Rodzali Daud, to coordinate the details of the Singapore Armed Forces' assistance and offer additional assistance if required.

Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, China and the United States are also involved in the search for the missing plane. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Thai police target 'passport ring' in vanished flight probe

Posted: 09 Mar 2014 06:22 PM PDT

BANGKOK: Thai police said Sunday they were investigating a "passport ring" as details emerged of bookings made in Thailand with stolen European passports for the vanished Malaysia Airlines flight.

Two European names - Christian Kozel, an Austrian, and Luigi Maraldi of Italy - were listed on the passenger manifest of the flight MH370, but neither man boarded the plane, officials said.

Both had their passports stolen in Thailand over the past two years.

Malaysia has launched a terror probe investigating the suspect passengers and the United States has sent in the FBI to assist.

Flight information seen by AFP shows that tickets were booked in Maraldi and Kozel's names on March 6, 2014, and issued in the Thai city of Pattaya, a popular beach resort south of the capital Bangkok.

The e-ticket numbers for their flights are consecutive and both were paid for in Thai baht Each ticket cost THB 20,215 (US$625).

Kozel was booked to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, then on to Amsterdam and Frankfurt while Maraldi was booked on the same flights until Amsterdam, where he was to continue to Copenhagen.

Interpol confirmed that "at least two passports" recorded in its Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database were used by passengers on board the flight, which was carrying 239 people.

"The Austrian and Italian passports were added to Interpol's SLTD database after their theft in Thailand in 2012 and 2013 respectively," it said in a statement. "Interpol is also conducting checks on all other passports used to board flight MH370 which may have been reported stolen."

A senior Thai police official told AFP that authorities were probing a passport racket on the resort island of Phuket, where Maraldi's passport was stolen.

"A police team combined with local police and immigration are working to track down a passport ring," southern police commander Panya Mamen said.

A district official in Phuket said that Maraldi had presented himself to police there on Sunday.

"An Italian tourist, Luigi Maraldi, has met (the) southern police commander today in Phuket to say he was not on the plane and his passport had been stolen since last year," district police lieutenant colonel Akanit Danpitaksart told AFP.

He said they had no information on Kozel's passport but Austrian foreign ministry spokesman, Martin Weiss, said Sunday that it had been stolen on a flight from Phuket to Bangkok. 

'Too soon to speculate' 

The Interpol statement said no checks of the stolen Austrian and Italian passports were made by any country between the time they were entered into Interpol's database and the departure of the flight.

"Whilst it is too soon to speculate about any connection between these stolen passports and the missing plane, it is clearly of great concern that any passenger was able to board an international flight using a stolen passport listed in Interpol's databases," said secretary general Ronald Noble.

"This is a situation we had hoped never to see," he added. "For years Interpol has asked why should countries wait for a tragedy to put prudent security measures in place at borders and boarding gates."

Last year, passengers were able to board planes more than a billion times without having their passports screened against Interpol's databases. The SLTD database, created after the 9/11 attacks in the United States in 2001, now has more than 40 million entries. -AFP


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