This article asks why, despite an abundance of aid materials and the good intentions of various relief agencies, tsunami-relief efforts in Thailand after the Great Sumatra Earthquake of 2004 resulted in complaints and skewed aid distribution. Beginning with an analysis of how relief goods are distributed in practice, the focus of the article shifts to forces that cause certain types of goods to be concentrated in certain communities. It concludes by identifying the limits of the goods-based relief approach, introducing intangible resources and identity as more foundational dimensions in the study of distribution.
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