Identifying the Tsunami Dead in Thailand and Sri Lanka: Multi-National Emergent Organizations

March 2008 (VOL. 26, NO. 1)

Download this article

After a mass death incident, the response is initially informal but later becomes controlled by police and the human remains are worked on by police and forensic scientists. Normally, countries do this themselves though they may seek assistance from others. But in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, both Thailand and Sri Lanka turned over the handling of the dead to multinational emergent organizations involving 34 countries. Especially in Thailand, these organizations soon became very structured and not only established guidelines as to how the dead were to be handled but also enforced these guidelines-at one point expelling persons whose conduct was considered unacceptable. The emergent organizations followed the patterns predicted by scholars such as Dynes, Quarantelli, and Forrest. While it is unlikely that similar multinational organizations would emerge for handling mass death situations in other countries, it would seem worth examining why similar cooperative patterns can not develop for humanitarian relief.