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MH370 relatives march in Beijing, demand release of information

By Ashley Fantz and Ivan Watson, CNN
updated 8:49 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Bajc: "Briefings are a joke. ... The patience level of the families group is just gone"
  • Malaysia's Prime Minister tells CNN a preliminary report will be released next week
  • Passengers' loved ones have been asking for data about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
  • Tensions boil over at a briefing for relatives in Beijing

(CNN) -- For weeks, the families of passengers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 have implored authorities to release information about the search for the missing plane. They want independent experts to analyze it in the hope of finally finding out what happened to their loved ones.

Tensions boiled over at an airline briefing for family members in Beijing on Thursday.

Relatives of Flight 370 passengers demanded an audience with Malaysian Embassy officials and requested more details about the investigation into the plane's disappearance. Some of them cried. An elderly man collapsed.

The dramatic confrontation was the latest sign of outrage among loved ones of the 239 people who were aboard the Boeing 777 when it went missing mid-flight on March 8.

Some have been highly critical of how Malaysian officials have handled the search and said they just don't buy what officials said in late March: that the plane went down over the southern Indian Ocean.

Sarah Bajc, the partner of American passenger Philip Wood, told CNN on Thursday that she and other relatives wanted a "fresh start" to communication between the Malaysians and the families.

Hours later, word came that she may get, at least partly, what she wants.

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A policewoman watches a couple whose son was on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 cry outside the airline's office building in Beijing after officials refused to meet with them on Wednesday, June 11. The jet has been missing since March 8. A policewoman watches a couple whose son was on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 cry outside the airline's office building in Beijing after officials refused to meet with them on Wednesday, June 11. The jet has been missing since March 8.
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
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Photos: The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Photos: The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

In an exclusive TV interview with CNN's Richard Quest, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said authorities will make public a preliminary report about what's known about the plane's disappearance. Najib said the report will be available next week.

The report has already been sent to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the U.N. body for global aviation.

Earlier Thursday, before CNN's interview, Malaysian authorities said they had not decided whether to make it available to everyone.

That frustrated the already irritated relatives of passengers.

"I find it fascinating that they seem to be choosing to treat us as if we are the enemy, as opposed to an interested party in helping to solve this mystery," Bajc said Thursday morning on CNN.

The Prime Minister's response didn't ease her frustrations. She accused Najib of "political maneuvering," shirking responsibility and deflecting blame in his interview with CNN.

Malaysian authorities need to do a better job of communicating with the families and answering their questions during briefings, Bajc told CNN's "AC360."

"Actions speak louder than words," she said. "The briefings are a joke. ... The patience level of the families group is just gone."

She called the briefings a "gallows comedy," where families learn nothing and officials have fallen asleep and even laughed at questions thrown their way.

Passengers' loved ones want a new approach to the briefings, she said, and answers.

"We've been sitting on opposite sides of the table. They have a briefing, they tell us what they know and we ask them questions. Well, that's just kind of broken," she said. "I think we need to start from scratch and sit down and have a positive dialogue."

During Thursday's Malaysia Airlines briefing for families in Beijing, a standoff in a hotel conference room lasted for nearly eight hours, until families decided to march out.

They pushed past police on a midnight march to the Malaysian Embassy in an unusual late-night procession, followed closely by squad cars.

Steve Wang, whose mother was aboard the aircraft, said there's one thing he and the others want from the Malaysian government: "The truth. The thing they're hiding."

Najib told CNN he understands family members' frustrations.

"I know this is a very very excruciatingly painful time for them," he said. "I understand that, and we've done our best. We've done many, many briefings and we gave them as much information as we could in terms of information that could be ... corroborated. And as I promised, next week we will release the preliminary report that we sent to ICAO. But the most important information that they want, and sadly, the one that we cannot provide, is where is the plane."

But that's not the only question family members are asking.

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A committee representing some of the Chinese families have posted 26 questions on the Chinese social media site Weibo.

The Weibo request asks for the flight's logbook and recording of air traffic control on the night the plane disappeared.

Malaysian authorities have shared with families the full transcript of communications between the plane and air traffic control before releasing it to the public. In questions on Weibo, families also demanded highly critical yet sensitive information, such as the flight's maintenance check results and voice recording.

Malaysian authorities have not said specifically what they think is confidential.

On Wednesday, Wang demanded that Malaysian authorities release data that family members have asked for.

He and others want independent experts to crunch some of the data.

Most of the plane's passengers were Chinese, and many of their loved ones are distrustful of Malaysian authorities' account of where the plane went down.

"We just want to tell them, 'Stop lying!' " Wang said.

"They are telling to the whole world that they have good communication with the relatives," he said. "... They just said, 'Oh, stop asking the questions and face the fact.' What is the fact? What kind of fact (do) they want us to face?"

Families storm out of glitchy teleconference with Malaysian officials

Families' next step: Demanding answers from Boeing on MH370

More than 45 days into the search, here come the lawyers

Flight 370 -- Families turn grief into action

CNN's Richard Quest and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

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