BANGKOK: A member of Thailand’s most popular all-girl band has apologised for wearing a shirt with a Nazi flag featuring a swastika, after her TV appearance drew “shock and dismay” from the Israeli embassy Saturday.
Images of Hitler, swastikas and other Nazi regalia are fairly commonplace on T-shirts and memorabilia in Thailand, a phenomenon blamed on a lack of awareness about world history.
The latest faux pas was committed by Pichayapa “Namsai” Natha, one of the singers of BNK48, when she wore the red-and-black top complete with swastika during the group’s televised rehearsal on Friday.
The deputy chief of mission of the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok took to Twitter to express “shock and dismay” at the outfit, noting that Sunday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“Presenting Nazi symbols by the band’s singer hurt the feelings of millions around the world, whose relatives were murdered by the Nazis,“ said Smadar Shapira.
Following the uproar, Namsai apologised onstage during a concert on Saturday night.
“I want this to be an example for everyone, please forgive me,“ the 19-year-old singer said, bursting into tears.
In an extended apology posted on her official Facebook page, she later wrote: “Please give me advice so that I can grow up to be a good adult in the future”.
“I cannot fix the mistake but I promise I will not let it happen again,“ she wrote in Thai.
On Sunday afternoon, the singer and the manager of BNK48, both dressed in sombre grey and white clothing, met with Israeli ambassador Meir Shlomo to apologise for the incident.
Diplomat Shapira tweeted photographs of the meeting, adding that the group “discussed the importance of ... awareness to the Holocaust and Antisemitism”.
The band agreed to participate in an educational workshop on the Holocaust, she said, adding that the ambassador was “pleased” and understands that Namsai’s act came from a “lack of knowledge and lack of awareness”.
Georg Schmidt, Germany’s ambassador to Thailand, also extended an invitation to the group “to discuss the terror of the Nazi Dictatorship with us,“ he tweeted Sunday.
Fans of BNK48, a domestic offshoot of Japanese girl group AKB48, came to Namsai’s defence.
“I’m over 40 and I don’t know anything about this topic. When I saw the shirt, I didn’t think it would be a problem,“ said fan Prasit Rudeekriengkrai.
Others blamed Thailand’s education system, which does not focus much on world history.
“What do you expect? When we were in school, they teach only about Thailand and Myanmar wars,“ Samruay Kraspra said.
Thailand has gotten in trouble in the past for its flippant use of Hitler and Nazi-related imagery.
In 2013, Bangkok’s prestigious Chulalongkorn University was forced to apologise after its students created a mural depicting Hitler during graduation celebrations.
A Catholic school was also left red-faced in 2011 after students dressed up in Nazi uniform for a sports day parade. — AFP