CityNews – Yet another Hitler faux pas has presented itself in Thailand, this time after students at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok put up a large graduation mural in the middle of their campus, featuring the German dictator alongside superheroes such as the Hulk, Superman, Captain America, Batman, and Iron Man.
The mural and a saluting student
The Thai obsession with Hitler is not new. In October 2007, a Thai school apologised to an international Jewish human rights organisation for its sponsorship of a celebration that involved a Nazi-themed parade. At Sacred Heart School in Chiang Mai in May 2011, a group of high school students wore homemade Nazi uniforms, complete with swastika armbands and toy guns, for ‘Fancy Dress Sport Day.’ Leading them was a teenage girl wearing a fake SS uniform and Hitler moustache.
The most recent kerfuffle occurred at one of Thailand’s top universities, Chulalongkorn University, when during their graduation ceremony on July 11-12th, a large mural was displayed, featuring Hitler alongside superheroes. Unsurprisingly, this has caused international outrage.
“The Simon Wiesenthal Center is outraged and disgusted by this public display at Thailand’s leading school of higher education. This mural has been on display for days nearby the University’s Faculty of History building. We are outraged by those who created this travesty, at the young person posing using the Nazi ‘Seig Heil’ salute and appalled and disgusted by the total silence of the University’s elite for the apparent failure of anyone demanding its removal,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the leading Jewish Human Rights nongovernmental organisation.
On July 15th, Chulalongkorn University Communication Center (CCC) sent a letter of apology to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, stating, “Chulalongkorn University and the administration and students of the Faculty of Fine Arts deeply regret the appearance of this deeply offensive mural. We have investigated the case and found that the mural was created by a group of students who were unaware of its significance, and who have now been given an official verbal warning. In the future we will make every effort to ensure that an incident of this kind will never occur again.”
A graduate of Chulalongkorn University named Chatchanok Wongvachara, expressed her sincere apologies on a CNN forum related to the article. “The loss of humanity, anywhere in the world, mustn’t be ignored…The crimes that Nazi Germany committed against humanity isn’t something we can praise as a ‘heroic’ symbol. I would like to apologise to you all and please forgive the students for doing this unthinkable crime,” she said.
Unfortunately, Chatchanok Wongvachara is one in a handful of Thai students who are aware of how offensive the mural was. Many Thais do not understand why it is such a big deal; they regard the outrage as an overreaction about something that shouldn’t be considered so serious.
CityNews came across a photograph of the mural on Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s popular Facebook page. Marshall, a British Singapore-based author and journalist focusing on Thailand, told CityNews, “I don’t think the students who included Hitler in the picture, and posed beside it, were consciously expressing support for fascism or genocide, they were just ignorant kids, they probably know little or nothing about who Hitler was.
“It’s partly a failure of their education, but we also have to recognise that for many young Thais, Hitler is ancient history. It’s not unusual to see western kids posing around with Maoist or Stalinist fashion or images, without really comprehending what they mean. So I think it’s stupid to pose in front of a picture of Hitler, obviously, but I don’t think it’s a sign of a huge problem in Thailand. There is a huge problem with Thai education, but its consequences go far beyond widespread ignorance of who Hitler was,” he said.