Doomed To Repeat It of the Day: A mock-Nazi parade, complete with swastika armbands and “Sieg Heil” salutes, which took place at the Sacred Heart School in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was roundly condemned by several embassies and international Jewish human rights groups.
“It is difficult to calculate the hurt such a display inflicted on survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and the families of all victims of Nazism,” said Simon Wiesenthal Center associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper. “There can be no justification for such an outrage to emanate from place of learning.”
The school today posted a letter on its website apologizing for the Sports Day event, claiming that teachers had no prior knowledge of the students’ plans. An editorial piece published by the Bangkok Post blamed the incident in part on “[t]he political indoctrination by the education system to foster ultra-nationalism based on the supremacy of the Thai race.”
A similar Nazi-themed parade took place at a Bangkok school in 2007.
Meanwhile, in Taiwan, where the Nazi party has become a symbol of courage due to a poor understanding of history, 7-Eleven announced that they would be removing several items featuring a cute caricature of vampire Hitler.
[cnn: 1,2 / post.]
WHAT ARE YOU DOING
To add some serious commentary: I will give a good shouting to people who do the whole “LOL ASIANS ARE WEIRDOES WHO CANNOT POSSIBLY BE EXPECTED TO UNDERSTAND THE HISTORY OF WESTERNERS” idea, which is what I generally see being rolled out when Asian people are wearing either Nazi uniforms or Native American warbonnets. The idea simply does not hold together, because firstly, there is no reason why Asian people in Asia would not have the capacity to quickly understand why something is wrong if they were taught. Also, Thailand was involved in World War II - it was invaded by Japan, and its then prime minister declared war on Britain and the US. So I don’t think it’s born out of an innocent ching-chong ignorance to the general fact of World War II and that Nazis happened and were terrible. It’s something a lot more sinister: there are recurring and familiar themes in Thai history with regard to colonisation, nationalism, and race which added up to them thinking Nazis weren’t that big a deal.
Let me be clear now that I am Thai. My parents are Thai, I have Thai citizenship, a Thai ID card, and I speak Thai. They are things which I do with a small sense of defiance here in England, but I would never be proud to be Thai in Thailand because you do not need that. Thailand has an extremely violent colonial history and has always, beneath its facade of harmony and kindness, oppressed people who do not belong to ethnic groups considered Thai enough, within and without Thai borders. The mask of peace is afforded by assimilation: the ethnic groups around the fringe of central Thailand have had their identities erased in favour of central Thai language and culture (Thaification). It is difficult for their identities to exist on their own terms, as little more than quaint countrification, an exotic flavour. And for all its criticism of Burma/Myanmar, Thailand is, as the Bangkok Post article points out, no stranger to military regimes. The military has become one of those hazy facts of life there for a lot of Thai people.
So the lack of empathy caused by being the dominant ethnic group, or internalising the ideals of the dominant ethnic group, that probably caused these students to think a Nazi parade was the height of appropriate entertainment. They have never really had any convincing reason to think negatively of nationalism and genocide.
Also, maybe they are fans of ‘Hetalia: Axis Powers’.