“We only entertain serious customers,” said Ton, as he readies a bulk order for an anonymous buyer in Japan. Like many Thais, he goes by a playful nickname. “Thailand is still one of the few places in the world where you can buy Nazi objects freely and legally, and not be judged.”
As he fills out a lengthy order sheet, he chats about doing business with private collectors from countries like the U.S., Canada and Ukraine, and even counts scandalous shock rocker Marilyn Manson, known for his affection for Nazi objects, among his clientele.Manson, who’s currently embroiled in a series of sexual assault and domestic violence allegations, did not make the trips to the shop himself, Ton says. Instead, assistants, friends and female contacts of his did. “They were big spenders,” Ton said. “They would show us his picture and buy accessories, small items like switchblade knives on behalf of him and tell us it was for fans at his concerts and shows.”
“Thailand is still one of the few places in the world where you can buy Nazi objects freely and legally, and not be judged.”
Like other Thais his age, student Narupol Chaiyot admits to owning quirky T-shirts adorned with cartoon versions of Hitler “before he knew any better.” “Cartoons by local designers are generally very popular among Thai youth,” he told VICE World News. “Whether it’s Hitler, Mao or even U.S. presidents looking silly, we usually wouldn’t think twice about inferring any meaning behind the characters. We also like wearing silly slogans and brand logos, so it isn’t anything out of the ordinary to us.” But Chaiyot says that recent upheaval in Thailand, which saw student-led protests challenge the military-backed government of Prayut Chan-o-cha and push boundaries in their criticism of the monarchy, has sparked a greater awareness among young Thais. He says that personally, he now has a greater awareness of why such items could cause hurt and offence.
“In the Thai imagination, the Holocaust is just a tiny appendix—no longer than a few sentences in history textbooks, and Hitler along with his entourage, are still not that bad.”