From fashion to fast food, Thailand has a real fixation with Hitler and Nazism!
For most people the idea of wearing a T-shirt with the image of Hitler, SS Bolts or a Swastika on it is unthinkable. Across most of the Western world you would be labelled a neo-Nazi, and expected to have a shaved head, wearing black Doc Martins with red laces. However in Thailand, this is far from the case. Nazism has been adopted as a symbol of attractive iconography used as a fashion statement rather than a reminder of a blind, hateful slaughterer of eleven million people, including six million Jews.
This story has breathed new light recently, after the HBO comedy show 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' picked it up during their last episode. However, this phenomenon dates back a lot further. In September 2011, a group of students from Chiang Mai attended their school's sports day in full SS uniforms carrying Nazi flags and toy machine guns, with one female student dressed as Adolf Hitler.
This was followed in June 2013; as a fast food chicken joint opened in Bangkok named 'Hitler'. The logo looks very similar to that of KFC. However instead of the Colonel's face above the door, it is...that's right, Hitler.
Just a month later, Chulalongkorn University revealed a large painted mural at its campus. The mural titled 'Congratulations' included a number of comic book superheroes like Batman, Iron Man and Captain America. Also painted in the backdrop, in between the fictional superheroes is Hitler, striking a Nazi salute. Apparently not only was the concept of offence forgotten about with Hitler's inclusion, but also the slight irony that he's alongside Captain America, who's character back story is based around fighting the Nazis during the Second World War.
More shockingly (yes, there's more), a Thai Government propaganda video was issued nationwide in cinemas in 2014. The video showed two school children proudly applauding a painting that one student had completed in art class depicting Adolf Hitler. This could arguably been seen as the first case of state sponsored Nazi worship. After wide criticism online the video was pulled from the state television channel.
All these cases are completely shocking to most people, yet when students were questioned about their actions, they pleaded ignorance. The Holocaust is not taught in most schools across Asia, including Thailand. Thailand also didn't experience the oppression and brutality at the hands of fascism, so they're less likely to be as sensitive to subject. With the internet driving popular culture where nothing is taboo, the concept of being cool can seem far more important than being correct.
The point could be raised that Western youths walk around wearing Che Guevara T-shirts. A man who committed violent actions in Cuba, Bolivia and Congo, as well as establishing Cuba's first forced labour camp - Guanahacabibes. However, while the two fashion scenarios are slightly similar, they just don't match up. The actions of Che Guevara compared to the Nazi regime were minuscule, Hitler plunged most of the world's nations into a global war. Deliberate genocide, massacres and mass bombings all occurred as a result.
It's worth pointing out that the Hitler and Nazism fashion phenomenon is not solely based in Thailand. In Indonesia, a Nazi themed café was opened in Bandung called the 'Soldier's Café'. After two years and an outcry from the international community online, the café was eventually closed down.
It's saddening to see that the imagery of Nazism is being used as a fashion statement, without proper consideration towards the history and international ramifications it could have. It is even more disheartening to see why they fail to recognise it's an issue; It happened long ago and not to them, therefore it doesn't matter. How troubling to think, that is how the young generation and future generations will think.
If the youth of Thailand think that the passage of time means that people have forgotten about such atrocities, then they are sadly mistaken. The actions of the Nazi's have affected millions of people across generations. Let's all hope that this 'Hitler Fashion', like most fashion/social trends, will be short lived and gone before we know it.