John Oliver talked on how nazi depictions are used commercially in Thailand.


However, Thailand regained land from the British and the French during WW2, which maybe could be partially attributed to axis powers (though they were invaded by Japan before that).


Is there a history of such views in Thailand that stem from the war, or is this a recent thing and for some other reason?

One could also comment if this is part of a bigger general trend of views that colonized areas had on Axis and Allied powers, but that may be too broad a topic.

Edit: A lack of education may be an explanation to others on why people may not be aware that such imagery is viewed negatively by others. But this doesn't explain why they would use the imagery in the first place. The images must have been seen to copy. So the next question would be how much context was given with such imagery, or maybe foreign media in general. Is there a general spread of foreign media that isn't translated well for all or given much context? Or maybe context is given, and this would go into bigger questions about how much context is needed for people of different lands to relate, assuming no region has evolved a significant lack of empathy. And then into questions on cultures use of imagery taboos or not. Maybe questions for another SE site.

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    Funny you ask. The question I intended to ask on the same topic after watching that video was more like: why in the bloody f'ck is Thailand so obsessed with Hitler? But I figured it might need a bit of prior research before asking... FWIW your question might need some too. – Denis de Bernardy Oct 11 '19 at 20:02
  • More likely its a combination of its history of issues with Communist neighbors combined with its currently being an un-free country ruled by a nationalist right-wing military Junta that recently replaced a democracy. One can see enough parallels there where their rulers could consider Nazis political kindred spirits. (This is more of a political answer than a historical one, I'm afraid) – T.E.D. Oct 11 '19 at 20:18
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    @Denis de Bernardy en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_imagery_in_Thailand There is this wiki article that links to many articles. They generally point to a lack of education. However, they only speak of recent cases, not being explicitly clear that this was not an issue before. – user38422 Oct 11 '19 at 20:19
  • @T.E.D. There are examples of nazi imagery being used there before 2014. Though I'm not clear on how far back it goes. – user38422 Oct 11 '19 at 20:24
  • @user47014 - Yeah, notice the bullet in there about the military junta using Hitler images in its own promotional propaganda. – T.E.D. Oct 11 '19 at 20:26

Probably, to some extent. But clearly Nazi imagery just lacks the stigma it has in the west--not just in Thailand but throughout many Asian countries with very different histories. For a few examples and some good analysis, check out the article "'Nazi-chic': Why dressing up in Nazi uniforms isn't as controversial in Asia".

Regarding how long this has been going on, a fashion expert says here that it "has appeared with greater frequency since at least the late 1980s". But the first well-documented example I've seen so far is a Nazi-themed restaurant in South Korea covered by Time magazine in the year 2000.

Most examples are just apolitical and suggest a profound ignorance of historical Naziism. Images of Hitler are often fused with other irrelevant Western symbols like Ronald McDonald or the Teletubies. But there are also actual neo-Nazi movements in Asian countries from Malaysia to Mongolia.

@user47014 raises a fair point in the comments; many English-language articles mostly quote Westerners. However this article from the Jerusalem Post quotes the designer of a popular Hitler t-shirt in Thailand: "It’s not that I like Hitler... But he looks funny and the shirts are very popular with young people.” Also a young person buying such a t-shirt: "Hitler looks cool because he seems like an interesting character... Actually, I don’t know much about him... In school we only learn Thai history. But I know he was a communist leader.” [sic!]

  • Articles it seems tend to speculate rather than just ask people why they use the imagery. – user38422 Oct 11 '19 at 21:38
  • To be clear, the lack of education argument doesn't really explain why they would use the images, but is really an explanation to westerners of why they wouldn't be aware that it looks bad to many to use them. Are you saying the reason they are used is because people see nazi depictions regularly in western media and thus thought they are normal popular images to use? Like they could see an image or video with non translated text? This could include areas where people have their own dialects whereas translations are in others that maybe they don't know well. – user38422 Oct 12 '19 at 11:49
  • skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/15936/… the argument that he looks funny may have something to do with Charlie Chaplin depictions also? It apparently was a not so uncommon stache for the time though – user38422 Oct 12 '19 at 12:06
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    We wouldn't be talking about this if Nazi imagery weren't taboo for Westerners. Lots of other Western images are appropriated for different purposes in Asian media, fashion, etc. So yes, I think the simple fact that the taboo is weaker in Asia explains a lot. Regarding Charlie Chaplain, yes, such a connection is mentioned in the Time article from 2000. – Brian Z Oct 12 '19 at 12:15
  • So you are saying it's generally a simple example of copying the imagery, without knowing or caring to find out the context? As opposed to people making a conscious decision to use the imagery they see depicted for a certain reason. – user38422 Oct 12 '19 at 12:23

WW2 is viewed differently in Asia

The political situation in Asia before WW2 was shaped by old Euro-centric colonial powers (Britain, US, France, Netherlands etc ...) and one new Asiatic power - Japan. We could also mention the communist USSR, but before the war their influence was limited to China and not that important for this analysis. Anyway, Japan was that new upsetting force threatening to overturn existing order : highly aggressive and wanting to expand their empire, but at the same time offering Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and slogans like "Asia for Asians". Views on Japan are highly divided : China lost millions in Japanese aggression, but in countries like India and Thailand they may see them in positive light: the first Asiatic country that decisively defeated some of European colonial masters.

But what about Germans and the Third Reich ? First of all, except for the occasional U-boat, Germany was not involved in WW2 in Asia. This fact alone shapes the opinion about them a lot: everything people in Asian countries know about them is from secondary and tertiary sources, they do not have a collective memory about Germans, German occupation, German behavior etc ... From textbooks and documentaries they know that Germany was allied with Japan, and that they fought against British, Americans and French. Thus, what people think about these countries reflects on Germany in a diluted manner: for example, considering Thai history in WW2, they may view Japan somewhat positively, and some of that reputation transfers to Germany. Chinese opinion on Japan is the opposite, but on the other hand Germans did supply some equipment to Chinese, so the look of German soldiers with the famous Stahlhelm may endear them to Chinese etc ... As for German atrocities in the European theater, well, Asian people have their own dead to remember. This includes not only WW2 casualties, but also casualties from subsequent wars (Korea, Vietnam etc ...) and calamities like the Great Leap Forward or the Khmer Rouge rule.

What about Third Reich imagery ? As we explained, people in Asian countries do not have great emotional attachment to the European part of WW2. Therefore, for them, such imagery could be just another exotic thing or part of the fashion - similar for example to someone in Czech Republic proudly displaying the Rising Sun Flag, which would be a grave sin in China or Korea. There is also a "cool rebel factor". National-Socialist Germany lost the war, and a present mainstream political system on the world stage is categorically against them. Therefore, someone wanting to display that they are "against the system" could effectively do that with T-shirt displaying Hitler or a necklace with the swastika or the Iron Cross. Except for the occasional tourist, it is highly unlikely they would encounter someone who would have personal reasons to oppose such imagery . Finally, and often overlooked is a fact that the swastika, while reviled in the West, has a totally different meaning in Asia.

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