Protesters in Thailand invoke Hunger Games three-finger salute to voice dissent

Protesters in the Thai capital Bangkok have adopted a hand gesture from the film series The Hunger Games to express dissent against the military junta.

The three-finger salute is used in Suzanne Collins’ novels and the subsequent movies as a form of protest against a totalitarian regime.

Formed by raising the three middle fingers, the gesture is considered to mean gratitude, admiration and goodbye to loved ones.

The Thai military, which seized power in a May 22 coup, is now considering whether to officially ban the gesture, Time magazine reported.

“Dear #HungerGames. We've taken your sign as our own. Our struggle is non-fiction. Thanks,” Manik Sethisuwan posted on Twitter.

Dissent on the streets of Thailand takes many forms, said Max Grömpling, researcher with the Electoral Integrity Project at the University of Sydney. In a state where the military cracks down hard on small expressions of resistance, protesters find new and unusual ways of displaying their anger.

“In Thai street politics, these kind of symbols spring up all the time and really quickly,” Mr Grömpling said.

“It is a way of showing resistance without saying anything and without violating any of the arbitrary rules that have been put into place.”

In the week following the coup, protesters stood in groups of four reading George Orwell’s 1984. People assembling in groups of five or more are liable to be arrested on the spot.

During previous demonstrations in 2010, protesters carried coffins and dressed in black to symbolise the death of democracy, while some carried out "blood-pouring ceremonies" outside government headquarters.

“Most of these things were relatively spontaneous,” Mr Grömpling said. “Apparently the blood ritual just happened out of the blue.”

Some protesters have said the three-fingered salute also represents the French revolutionary motto "liberty, equality, fraternity".

At least one woman was forced into a taxi by suspected plain-clothes police officers after making the gesture, the Bangkok Post reported.

"If they gather as more than five people and show the symbol of three fingers then it's against the law," army spokesman Winthai Suvaree told reporters.

But he suggested that people posting photos on the internet were unlikely to be detained, saying coup makers were "not paying any attention" to the three-finger salute.

Mr Grömpling said while benign forms of protest may be tolerated in the well-connected capital of Bangkok, where media coverage is focused, there is less scrutiny and protection in other parts of the country.

“What happens in the north-east and the north … we don’t know what’s going on,” he said.

- with agencies

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