One of Thailand's biggest pop stars sparked outrage by wearing a swastika shirt, the latest in a string of Asian bands to wear Nazi symbols

trueIDBNK48’s Pichayapa ‘Namsai’ Natha (R) filmed by Thai broadcaster trueID at a live rehearsal on Friday wearing a shirt with a swastika on.
  • 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.

TRUEID BNK48 nazitrueIDBNK48’s CEO pledged the band would take educational Holocaust lessons ‘in order to emphasise their commitment to this important subject.’

People on social media also criticised the outfit.

Natha apologised on-stage at a BNK48 gig on Saturday, and then wrote a contrite Instagram post on Sunday.

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.

Hitler nazisBundesarchivThe swastika was appropriated by Hitler’s NSDAP after they saw it as a symbol of Aryan identity.

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.

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.


Read more: I went to the opening concert of the BTS World Tour, and it was beyond anything I’ve seen before – and then I got kicked out

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.

They apologised after criticism from the Jewish rights body the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Keyakizaka46YouTube/Jerick BarbaMembers of the band Keyakizaka46 wore hats and long black outfits identical to those worn by SS officers during the Third Reich.

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.

Pritz nazi armbandPritz Official/YouTubeMembers of the South Korean band Pritz wore red armbands similar to those worn by Nazi officials in WWII in a music video in 2014.

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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