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Thai protests invoke “Hunger Games” three-finger salute

Thai protesters raise three fingers while protesting during an anti-coup demonstration inside shopping mall in downtown Bangkok to denounce the country’s May 22 coup. --AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit

The Thai military, who recently took control of the country, announced the ban of a protest salute being used across the country. Thais opposed to the military coup are raising their hands and three fingers in defiance. The symbol of protest is adopted from the popular book and movie series The Hunger Games. The military junta that is in charge of Thailand is taking the issue very seriously. Col. Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, a spokesman for the junta, told the Associated Press (AP) that they are monitoring the situation to determine if it is an ‘obvious form of resistance.’ For now, people using the symbol will be given a warning to stop.

“If a single individual raises three fingers in the air, we are not going to arrest him or her,” said Sukhondhapatipak to the AP. “But if it is a political gathering of five people or more, then we will have to take some action.

“If it persists, then we will have to make an arrest.”

A protest in a shopping mall in Bangkok last weekend saw some 100 protesters using the three-finger sign. The non-violent protesters managed to force the mall to shut down and led to the arrival of two army trucks and a machine-gun mounted Humvee.


“I am here because I don’t want a coup. I want elections and democracy,” said a 66-year-old female protester who asked to be identified only as Ratchana because of concerns over being detained, to the AP.

The actual meaning of the three fingers in the symbol is not entirely agreed upon. In The Hunger Games, the three-finger protest signifies Thank you, Admiration and Goodbye to someone you love. While not everyone agrees exactly on what the fingers mean, they all see it as a way to protest against the military junta and stand for their rights.

Some say it stands for the French Revolution’s trinity of values: liberty, equality, fraternity. Others say it means freedom, election and democracy. A photo montage circulating online paired a picture from the science fiction blockbuster “The Hunger Games” with a graphic of three fingers labeled, 1. No Coup, 2. Liberty, 3. Democracy.

The military have recently relaxed their curfews for the country (now only midnight to 4 AM) and lifted them entirely in popular tourist destinations. However, there are still bans on people being out late at night and gathering in groups. One tactic to protest the rules has been for people to gather together in a public place to quietly read books.

The military has also exerted control over the media. Prominent journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk was detained for one week by the military, before being released last Saturday. The outspoken activist condemned the coup shortly after it happened. He turned himself in only three days after the military took control. Upon release, he described the conditions of his detention to the online news site Asian Correspondent.

“I could write a short book about the whole thing,”he said. “But there’s a tragic note, something very disturbing. Less than 26 hours after my being released, I received a phone call from someone who identified himself as a corporal… He asked if I could stop tweeting. That the junta needed time, free from criticism.”

All people in Thailand are not in agreement with the protests against the military. The military coup was the result of several months of public, sometimes violent, protests against the Thai government. Supporters of the military are taking on the three-finger salute for their own ends, saying that it represents the problems with the previous government.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]