Revolution & Disaster:

The Associated Press carries a report of two hard-fought revolutions, interrupted by the recent quake:

Two of the world's longest-running civil wars are being fought on land devastated by Sunday's earthquake and tsunamis. In one conflict, the tragedy showed hopeful signs of bringing the two sides together; in the other, it appeared to be hardening the divisions.

Immediately after the quake struck, the warring sides in Indonesia's Aceh province agreed to put hostilities on hold, while government and rebel spokesmen in ethnically divided Sri Lanka accused each other of mishandling the response to the disaster.
What follows is a good analysis. I have little to add to the discussion of the Tamil Tigers or the Aceh rebels, but I would like to point out that there is a third revolution struck full-on by this event. The insurgency in southern Thailand will prove to be heavily influenced by the tsunamis, which made their landfall in the three southernmost, Muslim majority provinces of Thailand.

The government of Thailand has rushed aid to the region, using military helicopters to ferry it by air. The King of Thailand's grandson was killed; the king has donated 30 million baht (about $750,000, as I estimate it) from his own funds to the reconstruction. The latest news in English can be found at The Bangkok Post and The Nation. The former is a newspaper really aimed at the expat community in Thailand; the latter, a paper of the Thai upper class.

Much of the reports of the dead have focused on the resorts, where many Westerners seem to have been killed. The Swedes in particular had 1,500 of their citizens reportedly missing as of this writing. It appears -- stunningly -- that twice as many foreigners as natives may have died in Thailand.

The process of rebuilding offers many opportunities to address underlying ills. Since the economy has been swept away anyway, you might as well put it back the way you'd like it to be. Both the Thai and the US government seem to recognize the opportunity.

It seems, in one way, petty to think of political opportunities in the wake of disaster. It is anything but that. The opportunity here is not some small partisan advantage, but a hope of peace found amid the wrack. To turn a disaster into a revolution -- not of blood, but of hope -- is the highest act of man. It offers a glimpse, fleeting but true, of the luminous spirit within.

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