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Thai School Apologizes to Jewish Organization for Nazi Celebration

BANGKOK, Thailand

A Thai school has apologized to an international Jewish human rights organization for its sponsorship of a celebration that involved a Nazi-themed parade, according to an announcement received Wednesday.

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a press release that a group of students at Thewphaingarm School in Bangkok chose to dress as Nazis on sports day, an annual event held in September that divides students into teams.

Photos from the event showed about 200 students between the ages of 6 and 18 dressed in red outfits with swastikas on their baseball caps behind a large sign with “NAZI” in shoulder-high letters.

Some students at the school, which also offers an English-language curriculum, wore elaborately stylized stormtrooper uniforms, carried fake rifles or performed the “sieg heil” salute.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote a letter to the school earlier this month, protesting that such activity mocks the memory of victims of Nazi aggression and has no place in an educational institution.

“We are long past the time when such incidents take place in Asia that can be excused due to ‘alleged’ ignorance of the Nazis’ atrocities during World War II,” the letter said.

According to the center, school director Kanya Khemanan responded with an apology, saying that the Nazi celebration happened mainly due to a lack of oversight.

The teacher responsible has been removed from his position and the school has since held lectures and discussions on the Holocaust, the center said, citing Kanya’s letter.

Calls to the Thewphaingarm School went unanswered Wednesday.

Nazi regalia and symbols surface from time to time in Thailand and other parts of Asia, often treated as chic design elements for otherwise unrelated products and services.

In 1988, a Nazi-themed bar in a trendy Bangkok mall drew protests from foreigners because of its glamorization of the Third Reich. In 1998, a Thai company used Hitler’s likeness to sell potato chips.

Hong Kong and Japan have witnessed a growth in the casual wearing of SS uniforms, as well as increased interest in “white power” music, popular with neo-Nazis.

South Korea several years ago experienced a surge of public fascination with Nazi imagery, and earlier this year, a pro-Hitler group in Taiwan with approximately 1,000 members attempted to gain official status from the government.

Western reaction to the Asian phenomenon has been one of sharp criticism and utter astonishment. Western diplomats, especially Germans and Israelis, have complained heavily, pointing out that Asians suffered during World War II under occupation by Japan, Nazi Germany’s ally.

— Associated Press

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