- One of Thailand’s biggest pop stars wore a swastika t-shirt last week, prompting widespread criticism.
- Pichayapa Natha of BNK48 was called out for the outfit, and later apologised.
- In recent years, big bands in South Korea and Japan have also worn outfits with Nazi connotations.
- Cultural experts say that Asian countries perceive Nazism very differently to Europe and the US, and do not consider it taboo in the same way.
The star of one of Thailand’s biggest pop group was slammed for wearing a swastika on Friday, the latest in a string of similar incidents involving pop stars in Asia.
BNK48 member Pichayapa Natha was filmed at a rehearsal wearing a white and red swastika t-shirt – 48 hours before Holocaust Remembrance Day – which prompted an official rebuke from Israeli diplomats.
“The Embassy of Israel in Thailand expresses its shock and dismay over the Nazi outfit worn by the singer of BNK48 band,” Israeli Foreign Ministry diplomat Shapira Smadar tweeted on Saturday.
People on social media also criticised the outfit.
It said: “I really want to apologise for this situation. Everything that I did, it’s all my mistake.”
The band also promised to take lessons on the Holocaust to learn more about the subject.
Natha is the latest in a series of pop stars to be criticised for wearing Nazi symbols in Asia, a phenomenon experts say is down to the different cultural associations of Nazism in the region.
In November 2018, the South Korean group BTS, arguably the biggest boy band in the world, was widely criticised after band member RS wore a hat featuring the “Death’s-Head” symbol of the Nazi SS.
— きく (@LlAMYoCUPztA9Hd) November 10, 2018
Additionally, a Japanese TV station cancelled a BTS show after band member Jimin was photographed wearing a shirt with a photo depicting an atomic bomb being dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, during World War II.
On October 22, 2016, Japanese girl group Keyakizaka46 went on stage wearing cloaks and peaked caps almost identical to those worn by Nazi party members.
In 2014, an all woman South Korean pop-rock band called Pritz (pictured below) wore red, white, and black armbands resembling those worn by Nazi officers.
Some have pointed out that Nazi symbols do not have the same weight in Asia as they do in the west, and have blamed the incidents on a lack of education, rather than malice.
Elliot Brennan, from The Institute for Security and Development Policy, told CNN that Nazi paraphernalia has more of a punk and anti-establishment connotation in Asia.
The swastika symbol has been used by several groups for a variety of reasons, many decades before the Nazis. The swastika is an important Hindu symbol, used to mark beginnings or entrances. It can also represent karma.
Taiwanese political blogger Michael Turton said it’s common to see Nazi symbols on cars or advertisements in the country, and compared it to seeing Che Guevara t-shirts, or red star hats worn by the likes of Mao Zedong in the west, CNN quoted him as saying.
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