Tsunami: Shock and Suffering

Shock and compassion for countless thousands of victims of the tsunami raised hopes that the disaster could lead to a peace dividend in two of the worst affected areas – Sri Lanka and Aceh. And in the immediate aftermath there was some positive symbolism; Sri Lankan troops gave blood for Tamil victims, and in places worked alongside the Tamil Tigers whose leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, offered his condolences to those affected in the south of the country.

The World Today Updated 15 October 2020 Published 1 February 2005 4 minute READ

Dr Gareth Price

Former Senior Research Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme

The Free Aceh Movement in Indonesia announced an immediate ceasefire to assist rehabilitation efforts. But the impact of the waters is more likely to be divisive than unifying in the longer term.

The idea that shared suffering could allow rifts between divided communities to heal was quickly quashed. That the tsunami affected so many different countries increased its politicisation.

Foreign intervention is unpalatable in many capitals – India and Thailand quickly announced that they would not accept assistance from other governments, to demonstrate their growing political importance and, in India’s case, because of strategic concerns relating to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Subsequently, Indonesia too, said that foreign military assistance would not be welcome after April.

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