Here is our last video project about controversial subjects in online discussions.
Do you have a story about being stereotyped or experiencing bias that is relevant to Thailand? We want to hear from you! Our latest video project will be a collection of short stories about how people deal with stereotypes and we want to hear from everybody. Sad stories, funny stories and emotional stories are all great and we would love to have participation from as many people as possible. Please either comment on this post or contact us using the form at the bottom of the page. Thanks!
Here is our last video project about controversial subjects in online discussions.
When Brendan pointed out that the image is offensive and is also hung on a temple's gate (in Thai), the vendor began to shout in English, "F*ck you, go home," repeatedly and came towards him. The other vendors in the area held the aggressive vendor back and encouraged Brendan to leave. As he was leaving on his bike, the vendor still shouting struck him on the head (which now had a bike helmet on, thankfully.) Brendan returned to report it to the police that were in charge of the market. We interviewed Brendan fully and while we cannot reach the other vendor, it seems that something else has angered him about the issue, and it was not Brendan. We are more comfortable in leaving this story incomplete than trying to guess if the vendor had a bad day or if he's unstable, we just don't know.
Vendors of the merchandise we've talked to in the past also can get a bit defensive and we approach them in a calm, inquisitive manner. We often do get our questions answered by being calm and persistent. While most say things along the lines of it's Thailand and that has nothing to do with us or we think it's cool, the most substantive answer we have heard is that people buy the items and that includes foreigners.
Buying things for novelty or for whatever reason shows support for the people and ideas that the item represents. Not buying things has been an effective tool in stopping injustice where laws have not worked. An article last week from NPR told an emotional story of an Indian elephant chained up for fifty years has been freed because of a worldwide campaign. Not every abused elephant is so lucky, and elephants used to be forced to walk the streets of Bangkok to earn money by owners selling sugar cane and photo ops despite decades-old legislation prohibiting the practice.
In 2004, we often saw elephants on the streets of Bangkok but the attitudes about the practice were already changing. While some people did buy food, pose for photos with them or run under them for luck, many people were aware that Bangkok streets are not a happy place for an elephant. Foundations were spreading the word that the practice is cruel to both Thais and tourists and fewer and fewer people were buying things from the elephants' owners. Now, it is quite rare to see an elephant on the streets, if at all because it became unpopular and unprofitable.
There's another campaign currently underway that encourages people to stop buying items that are commonly sold in Thailand. If you have been on the highway returning from Suvarnabhumi Airport may have seen this billboard.
5000s.org is working to educate people about the respectful use of the Buddha's image. We support their cause because we believe in respect for all. While other people may use images in a way that is disrespectful to others, we want to support those that are promoting understanding in their words and actions. Buddha images as souvenirs and tattoos are very popular and it will certainly be difficult to eradicate this practice.
While the news of the "Thai Values" video yesterday with a painting of Hitler saddened us, perhaps it has provided an opportunity for more people to consider the things that they buy and the history and symbolism of those things.
This is a massive failure of understanding of History by a Thai government administration that has explicitly mentioned wanting to teach History. We cannot get into the heads of the people that produced and approved this video, so all there is left is conjecture and more questions to answer the pleas of what on Earth were they thinking?! The child even raises his eyebrows several times with comic sound effects after finishing the painting. [Update: the question left unanswered was better- the Director defends the video.]
Our official-sounding statement is:
We are concerned and deeply saddened that the image of Hitler and a Nazi swastika was featured in a government video meant to extol values to the Thai people. We understand that this image does not represent the beliefs of the vast majority of Thais but its use highlights a lack of understanding of the offense and sorrow that these images causes. Our project will continue to provide resources and outreach for people and educators in order to help provide education and understanding for the people.
And now back to our regular, informal blog voice:
We just can't be fun at all today, sorry. Here's the original video, if the link is broken contact us.
The internet has given us the ability to share knowledge, our points of view and many, many cat pictures. People form opinions based on what they may surf on the internet and while Thailand is certainly not filled with Nazi images, it has too many. (How many is too many really?) While people may understand that there is not a large neo-Nazi movement in Thailand, it does not reflect well upon the Kingdom and at the very least causes hurt and offense. When genocides have occurred worldwide including in bordering Cambodia, it is of great concern that people do not know the both great and horrific potential of humans and what they can do.
Once again with these Hitler references in Thailand... We continue to do research on why this happens and we have written some of our findings here. One day, we hope to stop dealing with this specific issue and provide resources all about History and further a holistic view of World History and encourage acceptance of others in a globalizing World.
Want more? Warning, quotes in the first link will make you want to smack your head:
Director Defends 'Hitler Scene' in Thai Junta Film (Khaosod English)
Prayuth's Thai Values School Children Love Painting Hitler (Coconuts Bangkok)
Bizarre Hitler scene sneaks into Thai junta propaganda movie
If you have come to us, it is likely that you agree with our cause: We provide educational materials free or at low-cost that teach about History, tolerance and against hate speech. We also work to make this information well-suited to Thailand and translate materials pertaining to History, and specifically the Holocaust and genocides, past and present.
We believe in respecting the laws and culture, so before discussing the issues that we have dealt with in Bangkok we looked into the laws pertaining to religion in Thailand. Section 206 is especially relevant as many do find Nazi swastikas offensive on religious and cultural grounds.
Here are Thailand's laws as they pertain to religious tolerance:
THAILAND CRIMINAL CODE B.E. 2499 (1956) As Amended by the Criminal Code (No. 17), B.E. 2547 (2003)
BHUMIBOL ADULYADEJ, REX.
Given on the 13th November, B.E. 2499;
Being the 11th year of the Present Reign
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej has been graciously pleased to proclaim that:
Whereas it is expedient to revise the Criminal Law anew, because, since the promulgation of the Criminal Law in B.E. 2451, the circumstances of the Country have considerably changed;
Be it, therefore, enacted an Act by the King, by and with the advice and consent of the Assembly of the People's Representatives, as follows:
TITLE IV OFFENCE RELATING TO RELIGION
Section 206 Whoever, to do, by any means whatever, to the object or place of religious worship of any group of persons in the manner likely to insult such religion, shall be imprisoned as from two years to seven years or fined as from two thousand Baht to fourteen thousand Baht, or both.
Section 207 Whoever to cause a disturbance at an assembly of religious persons lawfully engaged at the time of meeting in religious worship or performing religious ceremonies shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding one year or fined not exceeding two thousand Baht, or both.
Section 208 Whoever, wrongfully dressing or using the symbol manifesting that oneself to be Buddhist monk or novice, holy man or clergyman of any religion so as to make the other person to believe that oneself to be such person, shall be imprisoned not out of one year or fined not out of two thousand Baht.
We're constantly explaining the origins of Nazi chic fashion in Thailand and there are many factors that contribute to it. There is not a one size fits all explanation, but whenever possible we do ask people that sell or wear things containing Nazi imagery why they do it. Here is a roundup of the local reactions and what has been said:
First we have Seven Star's designer Ekachai Usapanitch. These are the most commonly found Hitler shirt designs in Thailand.
When the controversy first came out from its Terminal 21 store in 2011, Usapanitch was interviewed. He responds to the criticism in a way that does not address the issues with the imagery. Here's what he has to say in under a minute:
On the left, is one of the images that spread the controversy about Seven Star's Terminal 21 shop in Bangkok. On the right is a close-up of the image on the wall of the shop.
What has happened since then? The items are sometimes openly displayed, sometimes for sale when requested. Seven Star was featured in a local magazine about its designs and posted the article on their facebook page.
In the positive 'trend' type piece, the Hitler shirt designs are mentioned without comment on the controversy but no images of the design are pictured. The red arrow points to the wall design where the cartoon Hitler is saying, "Hello everybody," but something has been leaned up against the wall in front of the cartoon. Perhaps Seven Star knows we check their facebook page?
From Saphan Phut Night Market
In our last blog post, we showed this picture from the market in October.
Thankfully, as of last week the flag is gone. Let's just hope it wasn't purchased and the vendor thought better of his display.
DISPATCHES FROM CHATUJAK MARKET
Chatujak Market, sometimes also called JJ is popular with locals and tourists alike. It is one of SE Asia's largest and the place to pick up a lamp, lemonade and a lemur or dubious origin all in one place. The vendors there are used to tourists and seem to have heard angry people ask about these items.
This shirt design has been sold there in various shops in Chatujak Market since 2010
What is especially disturbing about this design is that it seems to show awareness of an ideology, even though the wearers may not be aware. [Editor's note: I hope to never encounter a person in one of these shirts, that conversation will ruin my day.]
Also spotted in JJ last week was this display:
In Chatujak market Soi 22, is this shirt stall, with three different designs above a "Fight Racism" shirt. Both ideology and irony seemed lost on this vendor. When the seller was asked about why it was for sale and informed that it is very offensive, the reply was, "It sells, so we have to sell it."
THIS IS THAILAND, REDUX
(We're getting tired of this)
The woman below was spotted near the Farmer's Market at K Village in Bangkok. The Farmer's Market is fairly new in Bangkok and it has all of the organic, fair trade expensive crunchiness one would expect. This is not what we expect.
SPEAKING OF EXCUSES...
We're against hate speech, bullying and ignorance of all kinds. Globalization and the internet now make facts and ignorance easier to spread than ever. Another kind of ignorance that is here is the idea that being pro-compassion, pro-reason, pro-diversity and pro-education is just party-pooping. We disagree and we are currently not accepting invitations to any anti-compassion, anti-reason, anti-diversity, anti-education themed parties.
Halloween is always an opportunity for some people to make a bad costume choice showing extreme lack of judgement and taste to embarrass themselves and others. Generally the idea is that if a costume would not allow you to join everyone's costume party, rethink it. If people on the internet tell you you may/should/will be assaulted in that costume, pick something else!
If you spend any time on websites with expatriates in Thailand, you can probably guess where this goes. If not, here's a script of the general idea:
COMPUTER SCREEN FADES IN
and so on...
The conversation did have a few people in various states of annoyed point out that this was not a good idea for various reasons, but it seems that pointing out that something is PC, "Politically Correct," is supposed to end an argument. It does not.
LAST DISPATCH OF THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION ON THE SUBJECT
From COCONUTS Bangkok. Click on the picture for the full story.
'Wat de, people! A friend of RHEA brought something to our attention on facebook and it merits discussion here. But first, we need to give some background information.
"This is Thailand," is a common phrase used by Thais that was popularized the expat community in Thailand by Bernard Trink in the 80s. Trink was a columnist for the Bangkok Post that covered nightlife in Thailand, primarily in the red light districts. This is Thailand was used as a sarcastic response between foreigners in Thailand when trying to explain something that seemed to be illogical. In many respects, the expression was used in a condescending manner, to both Thais and to the listener. It can be infuriating to hear, no matter who says it when there is a genuine explanation needed.
Our friend Brendan has lived in Thailand for over a decade and he is fluent in Thai language. Every day, Brendan travels throughout Bangkok and its outskirts on bike rides. Yesterday, he went to Saphan Phut Night Market and took this photo there:
The vendor that hung these flags on the temple had stepped away from the area for quite a while. Brendan told the nearby vendor that was watching the items what the symbolism of the Nazi flag is and why it is blatantly offensive. Her reply was, "This is Thailand."
When the police were alerted to this their reply was evasive but also ended in, "This is Thailand." There is a law in Thailand that prohibits the degradation of any religion, but they were either unaware of the law or did not understand how this symbol violates that law or did not care. While Brendan caused a fuss, ultimately the vendors and police wanted him to go away without having to do anything about the problem.
We will let you know if there are any updates to this story and we plan on visiting the market as well. If you visit or you see this anywhere else, please send us an email!
By the way, if you encounter a similar situation we encourage people to post the image with a QR code that explains the issues in Thai and English here: http://www.historyaction.org/qr.html
We love cultural exchange, understanding and respect and we believe that everyone has the right to be proud of their culture. This is precisely why the use of, "This is Thailand," should cease to be used in ways that embrace ignorance. While Humanities education has not flourished in the past in Thailand, it does exist, there are academics and others that are legitimately embarrassed when ignorance is equated as "Thainess."
This is Thailand should be a positive affirmation of the positive things in Thailand, not a statement that proclaims pride in low expectations.
Above, is a Thai language version of one of our posters and we will have more posters and Thai language versions that have never been seen on this site or anywhere before. We will share them all with you, but after the show.
We will be paying tribute to the the NOH8 (No Hate) project photos (pictured above left and centre) with our own take on them. The first fifty people to arrive will receive our new NOH8 logo straws and there will be a photographer on hand to snap your own NOH8 portrait which we will post on the facebook page.
Also at the event we will give out our new stickers with a QR code that links to our bilingual videos and website that provides resources with some basic History resources. This could be a useful tool to communicate if you see something out in the World that looks like hate speech.
We hope to see you there next week!
We're quite honored to have been invited to First Friday at Attic Studios, it is an institution in Bangkok. First Friday happens every month at Attic Studios, attracting students of Art, the art-interested and art-curious. This event will be one night only and we will also be unveiling never-before seen poster designs, extra-fancy framed posters and some Thai language versions of our designs. Join us!
The underlying issue in many cases is ignorance of History, however there is antisemitic literature published in Thai as we are researching a book that is currently on sale at Se-Ed bookstore. We will let you know about this book The Truth About The Jews when we know more and please let us know if you have any information on it. We do know that most of this is not malicious, however we support human rights and knowledge over ignorance.
Another issue is that hate speech has only recently been understood as a social problem and mostly in the context of Thai politics and cyber bullying. Thailand is not isolated to the social issues that happen everywhere and many teachers in Thailand have dealt with cyber bulling, as it is also a thing here now. New technology and anonymity can bring out the worst in people at times, and everyone is learning how to deal with changes in the social landscape.
We spend a lot of time pointing out these incidents when they happen and many supporters come to us with breaking news of this type. Thank you to supporters that let us know about news and share photos, we appreciate it greatly. Sadly for some, it still needs to be pointed out, proven to exist and ignoring it will not make it go away. We can only refute the argument against knowing and teaching this part of history with our poster:
Here is our video timeline of the incidents of use of Nazi images in Thailand. Yes, it is a thing, it has been a thing and it still remains a thing.
It's never a good feeling when we have to say that we don't know. Being a part of the Thai culture and responding to the events in Thailand is important to us. We had decided to broaden our mission to do more work about advocating for the Humanities as this was a cause of many cultural misunderstandings and an increase in hate speech.
The events in Thailand over the last three weeks have affected every organization that discusses news, culture and the politics of the internet. Some discussions about the current state of affairs in Thailand have been going on quite openly while other websites now appear in Thailand like this:
We're being cautious in the current political climate. There are internet publications and personalities that share a wide array of opinion, news and updates on the current situation. That has never been our role even though we are responsive to current events in Thailand in order to share and create relevant resources. We will not delete any of our past posts, and we are still working on a video about the value of reasonable discussion in politics and other hot issues. We also do not want our website to look like the picture above.
There is still work to be done, as evidenced by this photo posted on Twitter today (to follow us there, click the little birdie on the top right of the page.) We're interested in guest blogs from people that see these images on the streets in Thailand and speak with those that use them.
Today, Thailand is under martial law and there are a lot of different ideas around about what that means. We're not going to guess nor comment on ongoing political issues as that is not something that we do. We can see a need to talk more about the general value of the Humanities for Thailand, and we'll be revising our mission statement to reflect a broader ideal. We're still campaigning and bringing awareness about the Nazi chic trend and the Holocaust, but it seems that is a symptom of a larger issue.
We're still open for foundation-ness during the ongoing political crisis and we've been working away on new posters. We hope to have a Bangkok event in September to sell the posters directly to teachers and supporters, have a chat and a beverage, we will let you know.
There is only 'us'
We strongly dislike hate. We want to be rid of 'us and them' thinking. So join in and join us!