As the controversy over BNK48’s swastika t-shirt starts to fade, the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC) says that “the problem is not with the curriculum.”
On 25 January 2019, BNK48, a successful Japanese girl band franchise in Thailand, became engulfed in controversy when band member Pichayapa ‘Namsai’ Natha was shown on TV performing in a t-shirt with the Nazi symbol. She said she did not know about its cruel history.
On 26 January 2019, the Israeli Embassy in Thailand issued a statement that the incident was an insult to millions of people whose relatives had been killed in the Holocaust. On 27 January 2019, Georg Schmidt, German Ambassador to Thailand, tweeted “we share the shock and dismay expressed by @ShapiraSmadar from the Embassy of #Israel. We invite members of #BNK48 to discuss the terror of the Nazi Dictatorship with us.”
On 28 January 2019, the Embassy of Poland in Bangkok also posted on Facebook that it “expresses its full solidarity with the Embassy of Israel in its shock and dismay over the Nazi outfit worn by the singer of #BNK48 band.”
On the same day, Namsai and BNK48 apologized to the Israeli Embassy in Thailand and promised to promote awareness about Holocaust. BNK48 also agreed with the German Ambassador to hold a workshop about the history of Holocaust.
According to Matichon Online, Nitsuda Apinuntaporn, Director of the Academic Affairs and Educational Standards Bureau of the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC), Ministry of Education, commented on Namsai’s case, saying that there is no need to review the curriculum since the facts are there and cannot be changed. Kids study but maybe can’t remember.
“The problem is not with the curriculum. This incident happened, I think, because of carelessness. We cannot blame the kid alone, because she did not realize the consequences. So she became a victim, because the adults did not take care of her. The ones taking care of the artist should have checked if the dress was proper before the rehearsal. What is important is the shop that produced the shirt for sale, which I understand is for business and was probably not intended to cause damage.”
Simon K. Li, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre, told the New York Times that many similar cases happened in Asia, including India, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand because “there is little education in the region about genocides generally and the Holocaust in particular.” David Streckfuss also told the same source that there is next to zero knowledge or interest about Nazi history and the swastika symbol.
Correction: To prevent misleading the public, we have deleted content about a Twitter user who posted a message defending the BNK’s use of Swastika symbol; it is not known if it was a prank or real. We would like to apologize for our error of judgement.