A school in Thailand has apologized after students dressed up as Nazis for a sports day parade, Agence France-Presse reports.
Students at Sacred Heart College, a Catholic school in the northern city of Chiang Mai, carried red banners adorned with swastikas, wore Nazi uniforms, and gave "Sieg Heil" salutes, while some had swastikas painted on their faces, according to photos released by the U.S.-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization.
School officials said that students had organized the parade themselves, and it was not intended to cause offense.
"The school officially explained that it was an internal sports day and students who were in the red team wanted to give a surprise by using swastikas as the background since it's the color red," said Charnwit Tupsuphan, secretary of the Private Education Commission, a government body.
"Both students and the school expressed their regret and apologized," he added. "I've instructed all schools to be more careful about this kind of issue and to use it as a lesson."
The Israeli embassy in Thailand said it had received a letter of apology after contacting the school.
Itzhak Shoham, the Israeli ambassador to Thailand, told AFP that he thought the Nazi parade took place "out of ignorance, not out of bad intentions," adding that "many people here in Asia are not aware of what happened in Europe."
The Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced the parade, saying it was "glorifying Nazis," and called for Thailand's Christian leaders to condemn the parade, CNN reports.
"It is difficult to calculate the hurt such a display inflicted on survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and the families of all victims of Nazism. There can be no justification for such an outrage to emanate from place of learning," Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement.
Cooper noted that a similar parade took place in 2007 at a school in Bangkok.