Missing MH370 and the Losing of Malaysia Public Image

Department of Civil Aviation Director General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman briefing reporters last week in Sepang, Malaysia Photograph by Daniel Chan/AP Photo
Department of Civil Aviation Director General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman briefing reporters last week in Sepang, Malaysia Photograph by Daniel Chan/AP Photo

The Malaysian government’s handling of the disappearance of Malaysia Airline Flight MH370, which went missing on March 8, has been criticized by many, including China, who have demanded that it be more transparent in managing the search operations, which entered its eleventh day Tuesday.

Over the past ten days, especially the first few days, the Vietnam searching team was the one always finding “new clues”, while the Malaysia government denying consistently. Therefore, time came to the eleventh day, the only thing we sure about was the plane gone missing, and nothing else.

The Malaysian government probably has done more over the past week to undermine the international image of Malaysia than anyone in the country’s nearly 60 years as an independent nation. For most of those six decades, until the disappearance of the Flight 370, the country received little international attention. If Malaysia made the news at all, it tended to get relatively favorable notice as a peaceful, multiethnic nation that had enjoyed some of the strongest economic growth in Asia. The government capitalized on this image as a welcoming and wealthy nation with an effective tourism campaign, launched in the late 1990s, called “Malaysia Truly Asia.” This campaign helped make Malaysia a leading destination.

The 10-day period since the mysterious disappearance of Flight 370 has seen the Malaysian government present to the world a concoction of false leads and conflicting answers, alongside seemingly evasive behavior. Nearly a week after the start of a multinational search off the waters off Malaysia’s east coast, the government revealed it had data suggesting the plane had flown in the other direction. Malaysia also released conflicting stories of when the plane’s communication with the ground was turned off, who turned it off, vague information as to who might be a suspect, and uncertain details about evidence collected.

Massive efforts have been put into this global search and rescue, until today, participatory country has risen to 26 which covers nearly half of the globe. While everyone is watching Malaysia, it is the time to challenge this country’s public diplomacy, since the dissatisfaction for the other side of the world is definitely detrimental to this country’s development.

6 thoughts on “Missing MH370 and the Losing of Malaysia Public Image”

  1. Thank you for your post.

    As many of us know, Malaysian government just revealed that based on that satellite evidence they believe that the plane crashed into the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, even now that Malaysia may have a definite answer to what happened to the plane, it has not helped its PD image, specifically regarding the revelations that many relatives of the passengers were first notified of this through text message.

    Regardless of whether or not passengers wanted to be notified this way, int the articles I came across, many seem to agree that it is was a very cold and informal attempt to inform families of something so devastating. While text certainly is effective in getting a message out to a large number of people simultaneously, it not the most sensitive way of relaying information, especially in this case.

    Even if the contradictory nature of Malaysia’s search for the plan was purely unintentional ( considering the international attention, they may have felt pressured to relay something to the media, even if it didn’t make sense) and even if the texts were simply meant to relay the news the quickest way possible, the impact to Malaysia’s image may be long term.

    As you mentioned, Malaysia has not really been on the international radar until now and having this on its as probably the one thing many people may actually be able to relate to Malaysia, it will be hard for Malaysia to bounce back and return to image it had been promoting before.

  2. Thank you for your post.

    As many of us know, Malaysian government just revealed that based on that satellite evidence they believe that the plane crashed into the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, even now that Malaysia may have a definite answer to what happened to the plane, it has not helped its PD image, specifically regarding the revelations that many relatives of the passengers were first notified of this through text message.

    Regardless of whether or not passengers wanted to be notified this way, int the articles I came across, many seem to agree that it is was a very cold and informal attempt to inform families of something so devastating. While text certainly is effective in getting a message out to a large number of people simultaneously, it not the most sensitive way of relaying information, especially in this case.

    Even if the contradictory nature of Malaysia’s search for the plan was purely unintentional ( considering the international attention, they may have felt pressured to relay something to the media, even if it didn’t make sense) and even if the texts were simply meant to relay the news the quickest way possible, the impact to Malaysia’s image may be long term.

    As you mentioned, Malaysia has not really been on the international radar until now and having this on its as probably the one thing many people may actually be able to relate to Malaysia, it will be hard for Malaysia to bounce back and return to image it had been promoting before.

    Week #10.

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