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In 5 Months, 2 Lost Planes: Malaysians Struggle To Cope


Malaysians are struggling to understand how two tragedies could befall the country's national airlines in less than five months. In March, Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared into the sea. It was carrying 239 people. Yesterday, Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was shot down in a strive-torn area of Ukraine, killing 298 passengers and crew. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports on the reaction in Kuala Lumpur.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: hoppers take pictures at a brightly lit fountain in a downtown square. Festive decorations are going up to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. But one young banker, named Razif Razak, says this year's holiday is decidedly grimmer.

RAZIF RAZAK: The mood is not happy in our celebration of Ramadan - our celebration. Maybe we are going to keep it low-down.

KUHN: Low-key.

RAZIF RAZAK: Yes. Low-key, yeah.

KUHN: Razif says he's heard the reports that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot-down. But he says he's withholding judgment until an investigation determines the real cause. Whatever it is, Razif says, he's not in favor of Malaysia taking any sort of revenge or punitive action.

RAZIF RAZAK: For me personally, I don't believe in such violence. Maybe it's accident. You know, I still believe for the best - for the good conscience of humanity.

KUHN: In a press conference today, Prime Minister Najib Razak said that if there are evil-doers behind this, then someone - he didn't say who - must hold them accountable.

PRIME MINISTER NAJIB RAZAK: If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot-down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice.

KUHN: For now, at least, Malaysia's ruling and opposition party politicians are speaking with one voice and condemning the apparent atrocity. And, Najib said, the several nations, who lost citizens in the plane crash, are all now united in grief.

NAJIB RAZAK: This is a tragic day in what has already been a tragic year for Malaysia.

KUHN: Back at the fountain, I speak with college student Timothy Liu. He suggests that the two plane crashes this year have prompted some soul-searching in Malaysia and rattled people's confidence in the country.

TIMOTHY LIU: Malaysians are more aware of what's happening to Malaysians. Ourselves and the economy in Malaysia probably will be affected because after MH17 and all these cases happening, I don't think people will want to invest in Malaysia anymore.

KUHN: The airline has suffered a drop in bookings and its stock prices tumbled by more than 25 percent. Liu says that while the double-disaster in one year is incredibly rare, he won't be taking any more chances with the Malaysia Airline System, MAS.

LIU: After MH17, my parents just told me not to take MAS airlines anymore because - I don't know. Maybe its just been a bad year for Malaysia Airlines this year.

KUHN: Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Kuala Lumpur. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.
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