By Vanessa Tang
On May 22, 2014, the Thai government turned to martial law. Martial law as defined by The Free Dictionary is “the exercise of government and control by military authorities over the civilian population of a designated territory.” Thailand’s prior form of government was a constitutional monarchy, but its military chief authorized martial law for more order over growing political turmoil. Prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha supports the new form of rule wholeheartedly and will not end it until “the time is right.” However, he is considering lifting it in some places currently suffering from a lack of tourism and a failing economy.
Protesters against the government’s views decided to protest with a remarkable method. The Hunger Games series inspired a group of Thais to form a small rebellion. The universally known three-finger sign from The Hunger Games became a symbol of uprising and protest against the government. Protesters’ Facebook posts described the sign as a gesture of, ”freedom, equality, and brotherhood.” Officials, like Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, thought of the salute as, “resistance against the authorities.” If there is a group of protesters holding up the symbol then the junta (a military group that rules a country after taking power by force) will take action.
Several detained students were forced to sign agreements that they would never protest again. After the first arrests, many more occurred, which caused more problems. Three students bought as many tickets as they could to Mockingjay: Part 1 premier and handed them out; large amounts of protesters held up the three-finger salutes before getting arrested by the junta. Few protesting groups wear t-shirts that say“ we don’t support the coup” and even boasted that they read 1984 by George Orwell (which is now banned in Thailand). The book is similar to The Hunger Games series, so protesters found it as a way to indirectly promote the book and move. Theaters stopped showing Mockingjay: Part 1, due to protests and fear of government action. Ratthapol Supasopon, a protest organizer said theaters were “uncomfortable and wanted to avoid any problems that may arise.”
Thailand’s government “limited the right to public assembly and arrested critics and opponents,” says Seth Mydans, a journalist for The New York Times. Despite limiting of their rights to public assembly and news censoring, hundreds of journalists and protesters were detained for up to a month. Protesters are unfazed and continue to talk about the Mockingjay movies. Most protests declared that The Hunger Games is what is happening to them. Thailand’s General Prawit later announced, “The government is currently working to build reconciliation,” when there were still problems with protesters.
Mockingjay’s producer, Francis Lawrence, made a few statements about the protests and the young people involved with it. He supports the youth enjoying and understanding the movies and books, but his goal was not, “ for kids to be out there doing things that are getting them arrested,” as a result of the movie.
It is amazing that a story as seemingly far-fetched as The Hunger Games can influence people and cause them to apply it to their own lives, yet that is exactly what the Thai people are doing for their country today.