Thai Protesters Inspired by 'The Hunger Games,' So Junta Responds Like Movie Villain

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Anti-coup protesters in Thailand have adopted a resistance-symbolizing gesture used in the film The Hunger Games (maybe you've heard of it?) during weekend demonstrations against the junta. According to the Associated Press

The raised arm salute has become an unofficial symbol of opposition to Thailand's May 22 coup, and a creative response to several bans the ruling junta has placed on freedom of expression.

In the Hunger Games series, the three-fingered salute is used to show solidarity against an dystopian government which forces children to compete to the death in televised events. In Thailand, the salute — along with the phrase "liberty, brotherhood and equality," taken from the real French Revolution — seems to have been adopted to show solidarity against an unlawful, military-led government. 

According to the AP, activist Sombat Boongam-anong wrote on his Facebook page that "raising three fingers has become a symbol in calling for fundamental political rights." He added that those who oppose the coup should hold the salute for thirty seconds at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., in public places not occupied by police or soldiers. 

The Thai leaders, for their part, are fitting well into this narrative of a mindlessly oppressive regime establishing their role as villain by vowing to arrest protesters who use the signal.

A junta spokesperson told the AP that "At this point we are monitoring the movement," adding, "If it is an obvious form of resistance, then we have to control it so it doesn't cause any disorder in the country." 

The appropriated salute seems to be another cultural symbol used by protesters to join together, and offers outsiders a way of peeking in. Thai Coup selfies (citizens taking pictures with the military to show outsiders how much force is on display) have also been popping up over social media, possibly as a way for citizens to document the coup without fear of arrest. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.