MH370, two years later: 'Where are our family members?'

Story highlights

  • Tuesday marks the two-year anniversary of the disappearance of MH370
  • All 239 people aboard the Boeing 777 are presumed dead

(CNN)Exactly two years ago, Dai Shugin's sister and four other relatives vanished. And every day since then, Dai has held out hope that they're still alive.

"It doesn't matter if their living conditions are poor. All we want is to make sure they have enough to eat and wear," Dai said.
    She's one of the many relatives of MH370 passengers who gathered for a prayer event at Beijing's Lama Temple.
    All 239 people on the flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to the Chinese capital are officially presumed dead. But Dai believes her family members are still alive.
    "Our purpose here today is to pray for them," she said. "If they are still alive, we wish them safe no matter where they are."
    Zhang Yongli, whose daughter was also a passenger, said he's skeptical about how hard investigators are searching.
    "We do not even know if they are actually searching," he said. "I have always thought that they are putting on a show."
    Bao Lanfang's son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter were on the plane.
    "If we cannot find them in my life, my will to my family members and to the next generation is to continue searching for them," Bao said. "I will not accept any kind of economical compensation.

    Legal deadline, too

    With the two-year anniversary of the Boeing 777's disappearance comes a legal deadline for next of kin to file for compensation or sue Malaysia Airlines.
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    Zhang Meiling, whose daughter was aboard the flight, said she has refused an offer of compensation and plans to sue. But that's not what she really wants.
    "Can this whole MH370 thing be solved with money? Where are our family members?" she said.
    According to Malaysia Airlines, 118 families have started legal proceedings. Not Zhang.
    "I only believe this: A mother and daughter's hearts are connected," she said. "If something had happened to my daughter, I really would've felt it. I think they're safe."

    'Just a gamble'

    Families of those missing have flown from around the world to Kuala Lumpur to mark the two-year anniversary.
    Grace Nathan, whose mother was a passenger on MH370, said it was hard to know how to handle the offer of compensation.
    "There's been no evidence, no information, nothing concrete enough to make a sound decision. Anything you do is just a gamble at this stage," she said.
    "You only have these very limited options and you're put in a very tight corner, with a very tight deadline."

    Who can be sued?

    And with this deadline comes a twist. In February 2015, Malaysia's Parliament passed legislation which stipulates that MH370 families need to ask Malaysia Airlines for permission to file lawsuits against it.
    Dai Shuqin's sister's family of five were on MH370. The piece of paper she holds up reads: "President Xi will help us! The country will help us. There will be good news about our loved ones."
    Lawyer Arunan Selvaraj is representing some of the MH370 families. He told CNN there was another twist: Malaysia Airlines would only give consent if families agreed they couldn't sue anyone else in the same claim.
    "You can't sue the government, you can't sue the DCA (Department of Civil Aviation), you can't sue immigration, you can't sue Boeing, you can't sue anyone else except MAS," he said.
    A separate suit can be filed against these entities. But it would be more costly and time consuming for families.
    Last year's new legislation also renamed and restructured Malaysia Airlines -- formally known as Malaysia Airlines System Berhad (MAS) -- to Malaysia Airlines Berhad.
    "They're emptying everything out from the old company and the new company is saying look that's the old company you can't sue us. So eventually when people sue MAS if they want to there's nothing left in MAS," alleged Arunan.
    However, Malaysia Airline System (Administrator Appointed) said the appointment of an administrator had no bearing on its legal obligations to pay compensation. "Nor is it true that by being placed in administration the company is left without sufficient assets in order to do so," it said in a statement. "Rest assured that MAS has adequate insurance coverage in place."

    'Hopeful' that MH370 will be found

    Investigators say they still believe the missing airliner will be found and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Tuesday the search operation to find the plane is expected to be completed later this year.
    "We remain hopeful that MH370 will be found in the 120,000-square-kilometer area under investigation," he said in a statement.
    If it isn't, officials said, Malaysia, Australia and China will meet to determine the next step.
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    "We remain committed to doing everything within our means to solving what is an agonizing mystery for the loved ones of those who were lost," the prime minister said. "On this most difficult of days, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who will never be forgotten."

    Is debris from missing plane?

    Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told media that Malaysia had "not given up." "We have put in a lot of commitment, time and effort to look for MH370," he said.
    Last week a team of experts traveled from Malaysia to Mozambique to examine a piece of debris that may have come from MH370.
    The piece of debris, which came from the horizontal part of an airliner's tail, was found by an American tourist in Mozambique and turned over to national authorities.
    Officials haven't said yet whether that plane part matches up.
    "Our teams are already in Mozambique and we've been given the green light to collect the debris," Liow said. "The debris is in our custody now. We will verify the debris as soon as possible. We will work with Australia to identify the debris."