Thailand's military rulers are very concerned about citizens having the right values. So they put out a propaganda film extolling filial piety, honest behavior and respect for the Thai king. It also included an image of a child painting the likeness of Hitler.
The 11-minute video was intended to promote 12 "core values" that every Thai student must learn, but it has an odd scene: In one image, schoolkids grin at a watercolor portrait of Hitler.
Thai officials told the Associated Press that the scene was meant to show an insubordinate child mocking a supposed dictatorial mother. But the AP provides more context:
In the video, however, there is no such explanation. It is part of a sequence without dialogue that depicts an otherwise normal day at school – the boys catching butterflies at a playground, doing experiments in a chemistry class and exercising on a karate mat. It lasts just a few seconds and runs with a cheery tune playing in the background.
Quite a few people have been left bemused by the footage, which after all appeared in a government video meant to exalt Thai national culture. Simon Roded, Israel's ambassador to Thailand, objected to the "trivialization and misuse of Nazi symbols in an official Thai movie."
The ambassador added: "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."
The backlash has led to the video being pulled from YouTube.
Thailand has an awkward history of insensitivity dealing with the legacy and imagery of Nazism, where the national education system, critics say, does not do enough to teach students about the horrors of the Holocaust and other historical events across the world.
"World history and geography instruction are woefully inadequate in Thai schools," a Bangkok school principal told Al Jazeera English in 2013, around the time that students at a prominent university had painted a mural of "superheroes" that included Hitler.
In parts of Asia, it's not unusual to spot lighthearted T-shirts, memorabilia or even stores that play on Nazi iconography. In 2011, students at a Catholic high school in northern Thailand even staged a mock Nazi parade on campus grounds as part of a "sports day" event, which prompted international condemnation.
This is not a sign of widespread fascist sympathies in Thailand but simply a lack of appreciation for how loaded and problematic such imagery is.
That seems clear in the case of this video. Its director tried to explain Hitler's inclusion to the news agency Agence France-Presse: "It’s symbolic. The child is going in the wrong direction. But I didn’t mean it in a bad way.
Thailand's military junta, which came into power after a controversial coup earlier this year, wants all students up to age 18 to learn these 12 "values," which align with the country's monarchist status quo.
Film, though, has not been a good friend to the generals in recent months. In a number of incidents, Thai authorities arrested anti-coup activists who invoked the "three-fingered" salute from the Hollywood blockbuster "The Hunger Games" — a gesture deemed too subversive by the ruling government, even when the junta uses an image of the Fuhrer to spread its own ideology.