Hunger Games salute ‘catching fire’ in Thailand

Anti-coup demonstrators in the country adopt the three-finger salute from the movies as silent act of rebellion.

News Desk June 05, 2014
Some say the symbol stands for the tripartite French slogan, ‘Liberty, equality, fraternity’, others say it is a reference to the Hunger Games. PHOTOS: FILE

Anti-coup demonstrators are using the hand gesture made famous by the film The Hunger Games as a sign of resistance in Thailand.  They have adopted the three-finger salute from the movies and books as a silent act of rebellion to the military takeover. The protests so far have been relatively small. But they seem to be, well, catching fire.

The military has banned political gatherings of more than five people and has tried to enforce a ban on criticism of the coup since taking power.

Protesters have ascribed more than one meaning to the salute. Some say it stands for the tripartite French slogan - liberty, equality and brotherhood. Others say the symbol is a reference to the Hunger Games, reported Reuters.

The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future in the country of Panem where the wealthy Capitol rules over 12 poorer districts. The salute symbolises rebellion against totalitarian rule, hence its adoption by those in Thailand opposed to military rule.

Pro-establishment groups have pilloried the gesture on social media with a graphic saying the fingers represent a corrupt government rice-buying scheme, disrespect to the monarchy and destruction of the country - all ascribed to the deposed government.

The groups welcome military intervention as a way to get Thailand back in order after months of turmoil when protesters tried to force out the government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

Photos of protesters defiantly flashing the salute have been circulating widely on social media. The military, meanwhile, has been flooding the streets in an attempt to discourage any large-scale demonstrations.

“Raising three fingers has become a symbol in calling for fundamental political rights,” said anti-coup activist Sombat Boonngam-anong on his Facebook page. He called on people to raise three fingers, three times a day — at 9 am, 1 pm and 5 pm — in safe public places where no police or military are present, reported Yahoo News. The protesters have countered with flash mobs of no more than a hundred people that show up where the army isn’t — and then disperse once they arrive.

Thai protesters have been giving varying explanations. One person, Manik Sethisuwan, tweeted: “Dear #HungerGames. We’ve taken your sign as our own. Our struggle is non-fiction. Thanks,” reported BBC.

A spokesperson for the military coup, Col Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, told the Associated Press, “We know it comes from the movie and let’s say it represents resistance against the authorities.”

An individual making the salute would likely have no problem, he said, “but if it is a political gathering of five people or more, then we will have to take some action” including arrest, reported Forbes magazine.

“Each year, Thailand tends to experience at least one period of frenzied coup speculation,” wrote Thailand scholar Nicholas Farrelly in the Australian Journal of International Affairs last year. “Coups clearly still play a major role in Thai mainstream politics.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2014.

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