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    Japan-related tsunami news

    This is uncharacteristic: the most recent Nikkei headline about the most recent tsunami-related developments says, 成田空港に無言の帰国、スリランカから7遺体 (“A silent homecoming at Narita Airport: 7 bodies of Japanese nationals arrive from Sri Lanka”). Normally, the Nikkei leaves headlines with human-interest hooks to the Mainichi and the news tabloids. The bodies today are all from the same tour group.

    The local story that everyone seems to be following most intently is that of Ryohei Sugimoto, 12, who’s the only member of his family left alive. They were on vacation on Pipi, an island close to Phuket in Thailand. He identified his father’s body by his wristwatch and his little brother by his bathing suit. Mrs. Sugimoto was still missing yesterday, though her body may have been found since then. What’s so hard to watch about Ryohei is that he seems shaken but is still composed, and he knows that what he’s waiting for is his mother to turn up dead.

    That’s a Japan-specific story. In the regional media, the attention that isn’t going to bottlenecks in the aid distribution chain is being spared to ask, in part, whether it’s not just a little weird for people to be going through with their plans to vacation on parts of Phuket that are still intact. One certainly hopes that incoming tourists will not take the opportunity to go across the island and rubberneck, but I can’t see the moral virtue involved in making sure that none of the businesses actually left standing make any revenue. Tourism is just about all there is to Phuket, and it’s a big part of the overall Thai economy. The Thai Prime Minister has said that his country doesn’t need more monetary aid, but that doesn’t mean the economy can afford to stagnate while survivors are treated and rubble is cleared. From the point of view of the tourists, it probably takes more strength of character not to switch destinations to somewhere else, in a sense. There are, after all, many inexpensive tropical beach resorts in the region, and those that are away from the Indian Ocean would be the ideal places for people to forget the tsunami and such compassion fatigue as might interfere with a lighthearted good time in the sun.

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