21 November 2014

“I’m not concerned about the three-finger salute...”

Democracy Monument

This week, there has been a new wave of protests against the coup, inspired by the release of the film The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I. The three-finger salute used in the film, and other activities such as eating sandwiches and reading George Orwell’s 1984, have been adopted as protest symbols by those opposed to military rule.

After the 22nd May coup, protests at Victory Monument were tolerated for a week or so, before a police and military crackdown began. Then, opponents of the coup turned to symbolic acts such as the Hunger Games salute, though even these acts resulted in arrests.

By June, police were being stationed at Victory Monument, Siam Paragon, and other Bangkok venues to pre-empt any possible protests. This, coupled with the detention of critics of the junta, effectively ended the protests, and the anti-coup movement apparently dissipated. Since then, the junta has implemented various popular policies, such as banning vendors from some streets and beaches (though this is similar to the ‘Mussolini made the trains run on time’ argument: efficiency is no substitute for democracy).

However, the release this week of the latest Hunger Games film has revived the anti-coup protests, and police were again stationed at Siam Paragon. Five students were arrested on Wednesday after they gave the three-finger salute during a speech by PM and coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha. Several other students were arrested yesterday outside two Bangkok cinemas, on the day the new film was released. When asked about the arrested protesters today, Prayut said: “I’m not concerned about the three-finger salute. I don’t know whether it’s illegal or not, but it could jeopardise their futures.”

Thailand is currently under martial law. However, the anti-coup protesters have all been released without charge, suggesting that their actions are not illegal, and their arrests are therefore intended to intimidate pro-democracy activists.

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