Myanmar faces down its own Hitler fascination

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Myanmar nazi
Photo: Justin Calderon

The recent airtime Hitler has been getting in Thailand (first at a chicken restaurant, then a prestigious university) is nothing new to Myanmar.

In front of a grand Buddhist temple atop a hill outside of Yangon, venders nonchalantly display T-shirts, helmets, pins and other merchandise with the insignia of Hitler’s Third Reich, the swastika. Within the country’s commercial capital, the fad is also appearing in vogue, scarily supporting concerns over the rise of extremist ideology that has led to anti-Muslim protests.

At first, this fashion seems insidiously off and offensive enough to spur concern. Yet many Myanmar residents have little clue as to how to interpret the rise in popularity of the symbol, deriding it as an external factor that has little relevance to society.

“This symbol,” Mohammed, a Muslim groundskeeper at Yangon’s only synagogue, said to me instructively during my visit in 2012, “it is a kind of fashion for crazy people.”

Just as this was being spoken, as if to rightfully confirm his statement, a man wobbled down the tight lane we were standing on in front of the synagogue, appearing a bit slow, dim-witted as he passed.

But the trend, unfortunately, isn’t merely imbibed by those with mental disabilities.

In a report by The Irrawaddy in April, magazine Kyaw Zwa Moe was shocked by “blatant displays of Nazi symbolism” as he traveled through Mon State, known to be one of the most devoutly Buddhist parts of Myanmar.

Myanmar nazi1
Photo: Justin Calderon

He writes: “From Kyaik Hto, where the famous Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is located, to the remote town of Than Phyu Zayat, I was startled by the sight of teenagers and young adults dressed in gothic fashion, with their hair spiked and eyes darkened, wearing t-shirts bearing red swastikas inside blue circles.

“In Moulmein, dozens of young people roared around on motorcycles, some waving hand-drawn Nazi flags, while others carried iron rods or bamboo sticks. It was all—as it was no doubt intended to be—very menacing.”

As a former outcast, perhaps Myanmar has in some way created a fond bond amongst its young that identify with the exclusionist and extremist zeal of the symbol. Or perhaps this is just a youthful rebellion, unnerving cropping up at a time of increased ethnic tensions.

 

 

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Photo: Justin Calderon

The recent airtime Hitler has been getting in Thailand (first at a chicken restaurant, then a prestigious university) is nothing new to Myanmar.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Myanmar nazi
Photo: Justin Calderon

The recent airtime Hitler has been getting in Thailand (first at a chicken restaurant, then a prestigious university) is nothing new to Myanmar.

In front of a grand Buddhist temple atop a hill outside of Yangon, venders nonchalantly display T-shirts, helmets, pins and other merchandise with the insignia of Hitler’s Third Reich, the swastika. Within the country’s commercial capital, the fad is also appearing in vogue, scarily supporting concerns over the rise of extremist ideology that has led to anti-Muslim protests.

At first, this fashion seems insidiously off and offensive enough to spur concern. Yet many Myanmar residents have little clue as to how to interpret the rise in popularity of the symbol, deriding it as an external factor that has little relevance to society.

“This symbol,” Mohammed, a Muslim groundskeeper at Yangon’s only synagogue, said to me instructively during my visit in 2012, “it is a kind of fashion for crazy people.”

Just as this was being spoken, as if to rightfully confirm his statement, a man wobbled down the tight lane we were standing on in front of the synagogue, appearing a bit slow, dim-witted as he passed.

But the trend, unfortunately, isn’t merely imbibed by those with mental disabilities.

In a report by The Irrawaddy in April, magazine Kyaw Zwa Moe was shocked by “blatant displays of Nazi symbolism” as he traveled through Mon State, known to be one of the most devoutly Buddhist parts of Myanmar.

Myanmar nazi1
Photo: Justin Calderon

He writes: “From Kyaik Hto, where the famous Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is located, to the remote town of Than Phyu Zayat, I was startled by the sight of teenagers and young adults dressed in gothic fashion, with their hair spiked and eyes darkened, wearing t-shirts bearing red swastikas inside blue circles.

“In Moulmein, dozens of young people roared around on motorcycles, some waving hand-drawn Nazi flags, while others carried iron rods or bamboo sticks. It was all—as it was no doubt intended to be—very menacing.”

As a former outcast, perhaps Myanmar has in some way created a fond bond amongst its young that identify with the exclusionist and extremist zeal of the symbol. Or perhaps this is just a youthful rebellion, unnerving cropping up at a time of increased ethnic tensions.

 

 

 

Do you like this post?
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