Thai military examines plane debris found on beach amid MH370 speculation

A Thai police officer and villagers inspecting a piece of wreckage at a beach in Pak Phanang district, southern Thailand.
A Thai police officer and villagers inspecting a piece of wreckage at a beach in Pak Phanang district, southern Thailand. PHOTO: EPA
Villagers inspecting a piece of wreckage at a beach in Pak Phanang district, southern Thailand.
Villagers inspecting a piece of wreckage at a beach in Pak Phanang district, southern Thailand. PHOTO: EPA
A Thai villager inspecting a piece of wreckage at a beach in Pak Phanang district, southern Thailand.
A Thai villager inspecting a piece of wreckage at a beach in Pak Phanang district, southern Thailand. PHOTO: EPA

BANGKOK (REUTERS, AFP) - Thailand’s air force said on Sunday (Jan 24) it would bring a piece of suspected aircraft debris found on the south-east coast to Bangkok, amid media speculation it may belong to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

Thai army aviation experts have already inspected the 2m by 3m curved piece of debris and agreed it was likely to be from an aircraft, although more tests are needed for confirmation.

A specialist team will go to Pak Phanang district on Monday to collect the panel.  

“It will be brought to Bangkok for further study as it needs special equipment to investigate what kind of aircraft it came from,” Royal Thai Air Force spokesman, Air Vice Marshal Pongsak Semachai, told AFP.  “It does not belong to a Thai air force aircraft,” he added.

Aviation experts, however, say the wreckage found by fishermen in southern Nakhon Si Thammarat province on Saturday was unlikely to belong to MH370, which disappeared with 239 people on board during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014.

A piece of the plane washed up on the French island of Reunion in July 2015 but no further trace has been found.

Experts said that while powerful currents sweeping the Indian Ocean could deposit debris thousands of kilometres away, wreckage was extremely unlikely to have drifted across the equator into the northern hemisphere.

The location of the debris in Thailand "would appear to be inconsistent with the drift models that appeared when MH370's flaperon was discovered in Reunion last July," said Greg Waldron, Asia Managing Editor at Flightglobal, an industry publication.

"The markings, engineering, and tooling apparent in this debris strongly suggest that it is aerospace related," said Waldron. "It will need to be carefully examined, however, to determine its exact origin."

Other possible sources of aerospace debris included the launching of space rockets by India eastwards over the Bay of Bengal, he said.

There has been no official confirmation from Thailand that the wreckage belongs to a plane. And Patthikongpan added that "fishermen said it could have been under the sea for no more than a year, judging from barnacles on it."

A spokesman for the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, the Canberra-based authority which is overseeing the international search for MH370, told Reuters it was "awaiting results of the official examination of the material."

Malaysian transport minister Liow Tiong Lai told The Star he had instructed the Department of Civil Aviation to contact its Thai counterpart to verify the find.

He added that the public should not share unverified news lest it "causes more pain to the victims' family members".

Investigators believe someone may have deliberately switched off MH370's transponder before diverting it thousands of miles off course. Most of the passengers were Chinese.

Lingering uncertainty surrounding its fate has tormented the families of those on board. Some have said even the discovery of debris would still not solve the mystery.