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With satellites unsuccessful in plane search, Malaysian shaman tries coconuts

Ibrahim Mat Zin (C), a local well-known “bomoh” (shaman), holds two coconuts as he performs a ritual to help finding the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport March 12, 2014. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

You know things have gotten pretty desperate when the “witch doctors” arrive to lend a hand.

Which is exactly what happened Wednesday afternoon in the international quest to find missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

A portly “bomoh” — shaman — who calls himself the “Raja Bomoh Sedunia Nujum VIP” arrived at the Kuala Lumpur airport yesterday clutching a bevy of talismans: vases, fiddles, and coconuts. The VIP Bomoh claimed he’d been dispatched by Malaysian authorities to summon the location of the missing jetliner from the ether. (No success yet.)

“We appreciate all help,” said Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, an official in Malaysia’s prime minister’s office. The official cheered the bomoh and had but one concern. “When it comes to mysticism,” he fretted, “the methods used must conform to Islamic teachings.”

The episode added to the cacophony surrounding the search for the aircraft, now in its sixth day. Though every religion has its own talismans, some Chinese bloggers had a field day with it, ridiculing Malaysia’s spiritual attempt at finding the plane, according to the South China Morning Post.

China’s approach, meanwhile, has been scientific — but no more helpful. It released satellite images late Wednesday that showed debris off the coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea, suggesting that it might be the plane wreckage.

But then the Vietnamese claimed it already searched that region, Malaysia said it couldn’t find any relevant debris, and the Chinese backed off the satellite pictures. “We cannot be sure it was from the missing flight,” Chinese civil aviation chief Li Jianxiang told reporters on Thursday morning, AP reports.

Such confusion is what originally made the VIP Bomoh think his talents could be of use. The bomoh obtained some celebrity through his help finding victims of a 1993 apartment tower collapse and tracking down those marooned in a 2012 flood.

He first arrived at the Kuala Lumpur airport Monday, according to Free Malaysia Today.  The VIP Bomah, who has 50 years of experience being a bomah, said the country’s top leaders had asked him to locate the plane using his special powers.

The shaman then used a “fish trap hook and a bamboo binocular” to find the plane, and afterward, kept his proclamations vague enough to ensure all eventualities were covered. “During my prayer, my eyes hurt and my vision turned black,” he told Free Malaysia Today. “I think the plane is still in the air or has crashed into the sea.”

He promised he’d be back and on Wednesday he returned, accompanied by assistant shamans. They sat on a mat and rowed an imaginary boat, and banged coconuts together.

Of course, it all went viral across Malaysia and most of Asia on Wednesday. “I feel so embarrassed to call myself a Malaysian,” one commenter wrote on Facebook.

The prominent satire website, Malaysia Gags also had fun:


Terrence McCoy covers poverty, inequality and social justice. He also writes about solutions to social problems.



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Soraya Nadia McDonald · March 13, 2014

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