Chulalongkorn University on Monday issued an apology on Facebook for a graduation mural in the middle of the campus that featured an image of former German dictator and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler among a host of comic book superheroes.
“On behalf of the Student Club of the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts, Chulalongkorn University, we apologise for the misunderstanding caused by the mural during the graduation ceremony on July 11 and 12, 2013.
“The painting, which has now become a topic of debate, is not intended to refer to anyone particularly,” said the university’s statement.
According to the university, the graduation mural was created by a group of students who were not fully aware of the likely consequences.
Assoc Prof Supakorn Dispan, dean of the faculty of fine and applied arts, said he had words with his students in connection with the painting and they told him that they had no malicious intentions.
“The students only wanted to show through the mural that different superheroes are there to protect the world and that there are both good and evil people.
“Please do not forget that they are first year students and have been here for only a few months,” Mr Supakorn said.
Chulalongkorn University has a policy to develop students as good, competent and ethical people, he added.
Reports said the Hitler mural was removed from the campus.
After the controversial banner was erected on the campus of what is widely regarded as Thailand’s most prestigious institution of education, and the picture later posted on the internet, many people criticised the university and its students for their “ignorance” of world history.
On Friday, an official from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre – a United States-based Jewish human rights organisation – said the centre was “outraged and disgusted” by the silence of the university’s elites.
“Hitler as a superhero?” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Jewish human rights and Holocaust memorial organisation, in comments on its website.
He questioned whether “a genocidal hate monger” was an appropriate role model for Thai young people.
“The Simon Wiesenthal Centre is outraged and disgusted by this public display at Thailand’s leading school of higher education,” he said, adding that the mural had been displayed for days near the university’s history faculty.
The Nazi swastika, Hitler and other images apparently glorifying the World War II regime have caused controversy in Thailand on several occasions in the past and have been blamed on a lack of historical understanding.
In 2011 a Catholic school apologised after students dressed up in Nazi uniforms for a sports day parade, some with swastikas painted on their faces.
The incident mirrored a similar parade held by another school in 2007.
In 2009, the Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks museum took down a giant advertising poster of Hitler giving a Nazi salute with the Thai-language slogan “Hitler is not dead” after the Israeli and German embassies lodged complaints