Investigators trying to solve the mystery of a missing Malaysian jetliner received some belated help Tuesday from Thailand, whose military said it took 10 days to report radar blips that might have been the plane ''because we did not pay attention to it.''
A coalition of 26 countries, including Thailand, is looking for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished March 8 with 239 people aboard on a night flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Search crews are scouring two giant arcs of territory amounting to the size of Australia - half of it in the remote seas of the southern Indian Ocean.
Cmdr. William Marks, a spokesman for the U.S. 7th Fleet, said finding the plane was like trying to locate a few people somewhere between New York and California.
Malaysian officials said early in the search that they suspected the plane backtracked and flew toward the Strait of Malacca, just west of Malaysia. But it took a week for them to confirm Malaysian military radar data that suggested that route. On Tuesday, Thai military officials said their own radar showed an unidentified plane, possibly Flight 370, flying toward the strait beginning minutes after the Malaysian jet's transponder signal was lost.
Air force spokesman Air Vice Marshal Montol Suchookorn said the Thai military doesn't know whether the plane it detected was Flight 370.
Thailand's failure to quickly share possible information about the plane may not substantially change what Malaysian officials now know, but it raises questions about the degree to which some countries are sharing their defense data.
Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12:40 a.m. Malaysian time March 8 and its transponder, which allows air traffic controllers to identify and track the airplane, ceased communicating at 1:20 a.m.
Montol said that at 1:28 a.m., Thai military radar ''was able to detect a signal, which was not a normal signal, of a plane flying in the direction opposite from the MH370 plane,'' back toward Kuala Lumpur. The plane later turned right, toward Butterworth, a Malaysian city along the Malacca strait. The radar signal was infrequent and did not include any data such as the flight number.
When asked why it took so long to release the information, Montol said, ''Because we did not pay any attention