In Thailand, the Thewphaingarm School recently held a Nazi themed celebration in which about two hundred children, ages six to eighteen, wore red t-shirts and baseball caps with swastikas or military inspired outfits with Nazi armbands.
The Nazi-themed sports day was complete with a large banner bearing the word Nazi and of course ‘decorative swastikas.’ Students, in the spirit of the event, carried fake rifles and performed the “sieg heil” salute.
In 1999, Thewphaingarm School was granted approval by the Ministry of Education to establish an English programme. Many of their faculty are American or European born and educated. They pride themselves on being “sensitive to the student’s cultural identity” and seek “to create an individual who is capable of living and working in the international arena.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote a letter to the school stating that such activity mocks the memory of victims of the Holocaust. According to a press release issued by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the school director Kanya Khemanan apologised and indicated that it was an oversight. She further indicated that the organising teachers were relieved of their responsibilities.
This is not the first time that Nazi symbolism has been used in Thailand. In 1988, a Nazi-themed bar opened in a Bangkok mall and in 1998, a Thai company relied on a similar theme for a potato chip marketing campaign.
Western groups have been very public in their anger over these campaigns. The recent incident is somewhat surprising in light of the schools Western staff and progressive, global reputation.
(Issue November 2007)