Return to Transcripts main page


Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra; The Mystery of Flight 370; Imagine a World

Aired March 10, 2014 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

And tonight, my exclusive interview with the prime minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra. Her country is now at the heart of the investigation into missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Ever since the Beijing bound flight left Kuala Lumpur very early Saturday with 239 people on board and then just fell off the radar, not a trace has been found. And with each passing hour, anguished relatives grow more desperate. Nearly 3 dozen aircraft and 40 ships from 10 countries are on the hunt and Malaysian officials now say they are expanding the search area.

Meantime, sharp focus is on two men who boarded that plane using fake passports stolen in Thailand. Officials say an Iranian man well-known to a Thai travel agency in Pattaya bought these two tickets for the passengers.

But who are they? And does the crime of using stolen documents have anything to do with the downing of the plane?

As investigators from around the world try to determine whether terrorism was involved, the Thai prime minister pledges to cooperate with all relevant authorities.

I discussed this with her as she also faces political upheaval and a judicial probe at home.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, thank you very much for joining me.


AMANPOUR: Let me please start by asking you about the investigations into the crash of the Malaysia Airlines flight.

The passports were stolen in Thailand.

Do you know whether the people using those passports were Thai nationals?

SHINAWATRA (through translator): Initially, we don't know about their nationality yet, but we gave orders for the police to investigate the passport user because this is very important to Thailand, to give full cooperation to Interpol in the investigation about the passport user.

We are now following this.

At the same time, our Royal Air Force has been assigned, together with the navy, to search for the disappearing airplane in conjunction with the Malaysian government.

AMANPOUR: Have you, from your side, your air force, been able to detect anything in this search for the debris?

SHINAWATRA (through translator): At the moment, we have not yet discovered anything. Our army has just got there last night as a result of the request from the prime minister of Malaysia.

So we have sent the air force and navy for this. They have just got there last night. So we have to wait for the response. The Malaysian side has divided the area of the water for us to help with the searching. If there are further news, then there will be report back to me. AMANPOUR: Does Thailand cooperate with Interpol? Could people have got on a plane in Thailand under false passports?

SHINAWATRA (through translator): As for the cooperation, we give a full support to this, about the passport or Interpol. And as for this, we need time to investigate how it happened. We need to take care of the safety of the passenger and especially the cooperation with the Interpol.

Now I have given the commander in chief of the police to investigate the facts of this case.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, let me turn to the political upheavals going on in your country right now. Now you yourself face a judicial inquiry and a judicial appearance because of this scandal over the failed rice subsidies.

Do you think you're going to survive that?

Because your government, obviously, mishandled that. And you cannot pay now the farmers for the rice that you bought up.

Can you survive that, Prime Minister?

SHINAWATRA (through translator): May I divide it into two parts?

First about the rice subsidy, which is the project done according to the policy of the government, which has been explained to the public and the parliament, in order to help the farmers, we found that the low income people mostly are rice farmer.

As for the national Anti-Corruption Commission, when they want to investigate me for the rice subsidy program, may I say that this was the allegation against me and there has been no investigation of me yet.

There is an appropriate procedure to give evidence to the commission. Then they can decide the facts.

The ministry of finance will have duty to pay money to pay for this program.

So this is a separate part.

AMANPOUR: The latest protest in Thailand started after you tried to bring an amnesty bill into law. Your opponents believed it was wrong, and many believe that this was a way to rehabilitate your own brother, the former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Just so that I'm clear, is the amnesty bill dead?

SHINAWATRA (through translator): We have declared the purpose of this. We will not return the amnesty legislation again; the demonstrators still not stop their protests. And they carry on to protest continuously so the government decided to dissolve the parliament to return the power to the people so that the people can decide and select the government to run the country.

But after the dissolution of the parliament, it was found that the demonstrator are still carry on demanding. Their demand are unconstitutional and undemocratic, which my government cannot accept.

AMANPOUR: You, yourself, Prime Minister, have never held an elected position before becoming prime minister. You were in business. Many people believe that your brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, is actually still calling the shots, pulling the strings from his self-imposed exile in Dubai.

Is that true?

SHINAWATRA (through translator): May I say that I am as a prime minister who are able to run the country for over than two years I believe that people who have selected me wouldn't want me just to be in politics and doing business.

But I understand their feeling, as I was born from up country, so I have used my ability to win the people's trust. You can see from the first day I came into the power, we had faced a serious flood crisis which has never happened before in our history. If I had to rely on other people or my brother, I believe I wouldn't have solved the problems.

AMANPOUR: Obviously, Prime Minister, the economy is a massive issue, and tourism, clearly. The protests have significantly disrupted tourism. But also $15 billion worth of foreign and Thai investments is on hold because of the upheaval and the political instability.

SHINAWATRA (through translator): I must admit that at the beginning of the demonstration this may cause a concern for tourists or investors who come to Thailand.

But the protests passed without any incident today. As a government, we are able to keep peace and avoid serious incident. This is very important.

I believe that we can solve the problems in Thailand with peace. Today, I would like you to see that Thailand is still a hub of Asian countries with our strategy to be a central player.

We are open for all opportunity in order that everyone can come back to normality.

AMANPOUR: Obviously, the military has had its share of coups.

Are you worried that the military could intervene?

SHINAWATRA (through translator): As for the military coup in the past, I believe it is a sufficient lessons for us to realize that the coups are not the way to solve the problems of Thailand.

But it make it worse. I believe that if we keep peace and avoid serious incident, the military coups cannot take place in Thailand.

And today, our world has changed. Many countries can see that any rebellious actions are not the solution. And other countries would not let Thailand enter into the coup's mode.

AMANPOUR: You mentioned that you come from the north, which is the rural heartland of Thailand, and it's where your family's political base is. There has been talk in the past of wanting to secede, wanting to separate the north into another country, into another independent state.

Do you support that?

SHINAWATRA (through translator): First thing, may I say that I would not let anyone divide Thailand. Thailand must be a whole nation. We must gain cooperation from all parties in order Thailand will be one nation.

But we have to look at it in different angles that people may feel neglected in the equal basis of any equal society, is that everyone should be looked after equality. If we look after people equality, the ill feeling will not occur in the Thai society.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, thank you very much indeed for joining me today.

SHINAWATRA (through translator): Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And after a break, we'll delve more deeply into the mystery of Malaysia Airlines' Flight 370. In this age of instant information, when it seems our every move is monitored, a jetliner with 239 people on board can't simply vanish, can it?

When will the sea give up its secrets? We'll be right back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

There one minute, gone the next, the mystery of Malaysia Airlines' Flight 370 continues to confound aviation and security officials around the world. As we've been reporting, the plane disappeared from radar less than an hour into its flight and a massive search by air and sea with 10 countries pitching in to help has so far turned up nothing, no debris, no black box, no clues.

With me now is Jim Tilmon, a veteran military and commercial pilot and a long-time aviation investigator and analyst, joins me now from Phoenix, Arizona.

Capt. Tilmon, thank you very much for being with me.

Can I start by asking you about the stolen passports?

Obviously in the absence of any other tangible clues, people are focusing heavily on that.

How significant do you believe that is in trying to figure out the cause of this disappearance?

JIM TILMON, VETERAN PILOT AND AVIATION EXPERT: I think it's difficult to determine how significant it is because, I mean, we know so little about these guys. Could this just be coincidence or something? Not sure about that.

And I think that we have enough people in the security world that will be able to bring to bear their sources for intelligence. They'll come up with the story behind these two people.

But I see that as a separate incident right now. And until it gets tied together, somehow, I'm spending almost all of my energies looking at the airplane problem.

AMANPOUR: So tell me about what you -- what you're looking at in terms of airplane problems, because you're looking at that while others inevitably leap to terrorism or trying to figure out whether there's something much more nefarious than an airplane problem.

TILMON: Well, when I say airplane problem, I should include the possibility of some kind of terrorist activity. The thing that's really perplexing about this is that everything happened so suddenly, so very, very suddenly. Catastrophic is the world that comes to mind.

And I see the results of an airplane that was on positive radar contact one second; the next second, it was gone, vanished, hadn't seen any of it since then.

And that's so sudden and so much like some kind of an explosive situation. And so it makes it very difficult to me to be able to come up with any definitive ideas. I should tell you early on that I don't believe we have anything in the way of real intelligence about what happened to that airplane, not right now.

AMANPOUR: You know, that's interesting because everybody's been trying to figure out whether there was an explosion; some people have said there may have been, that's why the debris is all over the place and nobody can find it. Others have said, well, no because you can't see any debris, and surely you would see some after an explosion.

Do you put any store in what we're being told, and that is apparently U.S. satellites also, you know, people went back over the incoming images to see whether they had detected anything at that particular time that the plane lost radar contact?

And we're being told that, no, they didn't pick anything up.

TILMON: The whole thing is an incredible mystery because the answer you got back from the NASA people is the same answer we're getting back from everybody that's involved in this investigation.

Is there anything else on radar? Well, there's a little bit of a curl on the radar trace. But we're not sure whether the captain was turning around or whether that's part of the debris field that's all of a sudden as a result of some kind of explosion.

You know, the questions we're talking about, you can ask questions of every element of this investigation. And I'm afraid right now, they all come up empty-handed.

AMANPOUR: So do you recall a time when there was literally so few answers? Days now, I mean, we're at least, I think 48 hours after this crash or whatever, this disappearance.

TILMON: Well, yes and no. I think there have been a couple of occasions through the years of airplanes that have so-called vanished, particularly over water. And of course we have in recent memory, more recent memory, the Air France situation, where they didn't have much information in the beginning, and it took them a long time and very, very careful and very expensive scrutiny to come up with the answers for that accident.

I just feel like we are kind of going crazy, chasing down little leads here and little leads there and getting wrong information, a lot of it, you know, like, hey, you know, we found oil slicks. Well, my first reaction was what kind of oil? Well, it turns out it was not JP-4. JP-4, you can -- you can just get in its vicinity and you can smell it. You know that's JP-4. There's no question. You don't have to be a chemist to figure that out.

And then --


AMANPOUR: And that is specifically aviation fuel you're mentioning, is that right?

TILMON: Yes, it is. And it has a very peculiar odor and anybody can figure the difference.

Then they said something about debris. The debris was like -- they said, it's a door. Well, it turns out that door wasn't part of an airplane. I mean, we are so desperate for information, until we're grabbing at everything we can dream up to come up with answers.

AMANPOUR: Let me -- let me move onto sort of the security procedures on the ground, so to speak. Certainly since the crash of Pan Am 103, back in 1988, and obviously after 9/11, there have been a huge amount of security procedures in place.

The Malaysian authorities insist that all their security protocols were met on the ground during check-in and et cetera. But it turns out that Interpol says that they did not obviously check the passports, the ones that turned out to have been stolen against a readily available Interpol database, which is there, you know, for people to -- precisely for people to look at and consult as they check passengers on.

And we're being told that something like 1 billion passengers, you know, flew with false passports over a recent period. I mean, it's a lot of not -- of no checking, so to speak.

How bad is that, do you think?

TILMON: Well, it's bad, but it's not -- we're -- we shouldn't be placing all of our security decisions and protocols on that one item. I mean, let's face it, there are a lot of things that I consider to be very, very serious. It happened in the booking and the placing these passengers on the airplane.

An example: for a long time, we've talked about if a passenger shows up, pays cash for his airline ticket, it's -- the flight is going to be that same day and it's -- a flight is going to be in one direction, there is some kind of idea that we might want to look at this a little bit more closely.

Generally, those have been the things that have created red flags. One of my concerns about security worldwide is that we haven't had significant breach that has created real problems around the world for quite some time.

And our habit as human beings is that we get a little bit lax. We just relax just a little bit more than we should. The bad guys never relax. So we have to be on our A game all the time.

AMANPOUR: And finally, as we try to figure out and only, you know, further investigation will tell us whether this was a deliberate act or whether it was a terrible accident, what could have caused an accident that leaves no traces?

TILMON: Well, no traces -- I think it's too early to say that, because --


TILMON: -- we -- yes, yes, because we -- if we found pieces of the airplane, we would have a lot of information right there, even if it wasn't something that -- like it's the wing or like an engine or something else like that. That would give us some information.

I can say that before this thing is over or completely over, there are going to be a lot of lessons learned, a lot of protocols are going to have to be refined; a lot of people are going to have to become much more concerned about what we do in terms of bringing people on board our airplanes.

I think the fact that we didn't hear anything at all from that airplane before this thing went awry, that alone, to me, really makes me feel disturbed about what could have possibly happened to make it so difficult or impossible for that crew to say, hey, we're in trouble.

AMANPOUR: And we'll keep watching and waiting to find some clues, some answers.

Captain Jim Tilmon, thank you very much for joining me from Arizona.

TILMON: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And meantime, another tragic story that we've been following has been the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut, which happened just over a year ago.

For the first time now, the father of the teenaged shooter, Adam Lanza, has spoken publicly. In a magazine interview, Peter Lanza searches for answers, including his son's diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome, which he believes doesn't explain the rampage that killed 20 children and six members of staff at Sandy Hook.

Meantime, America's powerful gun lobby continues to fend off any meaningful legislation on gun control. And now a U.S. gun dealer has defaced one of mankind's greatest works of art.

Italy is justly proud of Michelangelo's David, heroism sculpted in marble. But this ad for the gun company ArmaLite has outraged Italy as David's slingshot has been replaced by a modern-day Goliath's automatic rifle.

And if you look very closely, you'll see the company has added a fig leaf; evidently more offended by David's marble privates than by the weapon's indecent and industrial killing power.

When we come back, remembering the massacre that changed Norway forever, a memorial that leaves a scar in order to heal.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where a manmade scar on the land may help heal the grieving human heart.

This summer will mark the third anniversary of another tragedy, an unspeakable massacre in Norway.

On July 22nd, 2011, a bomb went off in Oslo's government district, killing seven people and injuring many more. Soon after that diversion, the bomber, the anti-Islamic right wing extremist Anders Breivik, launched a one-man assault on the island of Utoya, killing 69 more people -- most of them were children -- and wounding more than 100 others.

This is the winning design for a memorial to those victims, as conceived by the Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg. As you can see, a fjord- like incision will be carved out of the island itself, leaving a 3-meter gap that cannot be crossed. An exposed wound, if you will, that time can never stitch back together. Visitors will be able to view but not to touch the names of the victims carved into the wall on the opposite side.

As for the land to be excavated, that will be used as part of the foundation for a memorial to the victims of the bombing in Oslo's government center, including a pathway which will forever record the names.

That's it for our program tonight. And remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.