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In the popular Hunger Games series, the oppressed residents of District 12, often raised their hand in a three-finger salute - a gesture that began as a sign of gratitude and farewell, but soon evolved into a symbol of defiance. Now, the salute is being used by some Thai youngsters to show their displeasure with the military officials that have been ruling the country under martial law since they ousted the civilian government in May 2014. And just like the leaders of the dystopian society, Thailand's rulers are not too thrilled.
Protestors first began displaying the three-finger salute at street demonstrations in Bangkok in May, shortly after the military government started censoring the news media and arresting anyone that dared to criticize or oppose their rules.
However, they did not garner much attention and were largely forgotten until Wednesday, November 19th, the day prior to the Thailand premier of Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1.
That's when five students wearing T-shirts with the slogan “We don’t want the coup”, raised their hands in the infamous three finger salute in front of the head of the military government, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, as he was addressing the residents of the town of Khon Kaen.
Though the stunned leader appeared calm and even asked the audience if "anyone else want(ed) to protest", the five students were immediately whisked away by the police for what was considered a public act of defiance. While they were released within a few hours, it was only after they signed an agreement promising not to be involved in future political protests.
Not surprisingly, this did not go down well with many of the country's youngsters that also oppose the military rule. That same evening, 11 students showed their support by posing with the infamous salute next to Bangkok's Democracy Monument. Not surprisingly, they too were detained for a short period of time.
These arrests have only instigated additional protests. On Thursday, November 20th, more than 100 police officers and plainclothes security forces were dispatched to Bangkok's Siam Paragon cinema after a student-led anti-coup protest group, bought 100 tickets for its supporters to view the premier of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I".
Though the theater chain Apex that owns the cinema, avoided a bigger showdown by cancelling the show, it did not stop two students from posing for the media with the infamous salute and getting arrested or as the police explained it, being detained for a chat.
While many theaters have decided to cancel showing the movie altogether, government officials say they are not against the residents watching it. What they do not want however, is the salute to be used to initiate a political uprising that will heighten the country's already tense situation. After all, that is what they have been working to reduce, ever since they took over the civilian government earlier this year.
Whether the three-fingered salute will result in additional trouble remains to be seen, but it sure has caused more disruption than Suzanne Collins would have ever envisioned, when she came up with the idea.
Resources: USnews.com, au.ibtimes.com, washingtonpost.com