The Israeli embassy in Bangkok condemned a video produced by Thailand’s military rulers that featured a scene of a schoolboy painting an image of Adolf Hitler. The video has been screened in movie theaters across the country since Saturday to promote the military-backed government’s new “12 values” school curriculum. Israel’s ambassador to Thailand, Simon Roded, said he was “deeply saddened” to see Nazi symbols in an “official Thai movie.”
“I was surprised that throughout the screening process this movie must have gone through to be approved for public broadcast, none of the smart, well-educated people checking it had identified it as being problematic and offensive,” Roded said, according to the Associated Press. A senior Thai official called the situation a “misunderstanding” and defended the film. “We won’t stop the project, but we will replace that problematic picture with another, more proper one,” Panadda Diskul, an official in Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s office, said.
The controversy over the 11-minute film hasn't been limited to this one scene. Critics have accused the country’s military rulers of implementing the new school curriculum, which requires students to recite daily mantras pledging their loyalty to “the nation, the religion, and His Majesty the King,” to further entrench their authoritarianism. Critics also say that it further challenges the effort to reform Thailand’s underperforming education system.
This isn't the first controversy in Thailand featuring an official use of the Nazi leader’s image. Bangkok’s prestigious Chulalongkorn University issued an apology last year after its students depicted Hitler in a mural during graduation celebrations. Nazi imagery is fairly commonplace in Thailand, according to Agence France-Presse. The phenomenon is usually attributed to a lack of historical understanding rather than political support for Nazi ideology.
The film’s director, Kulp Kaljaruek, appeared to underscore that point in his defense of his work. “I didn’t mean it [to show Hitler] in a bad way,” he said. “You know Hitler had quite strong power in the past. But not in a good way. So it’s like he [the boy] is learning from that until he becomes a good person at the end.”