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Thai pop idol condemned for swastika T-shirt

Updated January 28, 2019

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This handout photograph taken and released on January 27, 2019 by the Embassy of Israel in Thailand shows BNK48 member Pichayapa Natha (L) and her band manager Nataphol Pavaravadhana (2nd L) meeting with Israeli Meir Shlomo (2nd R) in Bangkok. — AFP
This handout photograph taken and released on January 27, 2019 by the Embassy of Israel in Thailand shows BNK48 member Pichayapa Natha (L) and her band manager Nataphol Pavaravadhana (2nd L) meeting with Israeli Meir Shlomo (2nd R) in Bangkok. — AFP

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 on 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 anti-Semitism”.

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 on Sunday.

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.

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2019