Protesters have found creative ways to express their opposition to Thailand's martial law regime. Many have adopted the three-finger salute from the Hollywood film ‘Hunger Games’ to signify the people’s yearning for ‘liberty, equality, and fraternity.’
One of the early directives of Thailand’s coup regime was the ban on the public gathering of five or more people. Although this didn’t stop anti-coup protesters from converging to various places, the army has become more intolerant of these protests and is arresting those who defy this law.
Below are some of the photos of protesters in Bangkok with their ‘Hunger Games’ salute:
— Alessio Fratticcioli (@fratticcioli) June 1, 2014
But aside from the three-finger salute, protesters are also doing read-in protests in public places to dramatize their opposition to the coup. They do not carry placards, they do not march in the streets, but they seat in crowded places and read political books. Aside from Thai books on politics, protesters prefer to read George Orwell’s 1984 book. It seems apt considering that the army is intent on further tightening its control of Thai society.
— Kevin Van Campenhout (@Beursparels) May 29, 2014
The Royal Thai Army declared martial law on May 20 and launched a coup two days after. The army vowed to conduct elections but only after it has stabilized the nation and political reforms have been implemented.
After imposing a nationwide night curfew for almost two weeks already, the army decided to lift the curfew in the popular tourism destinations of Pattaya, Samui and Phuket.
During the early days of the coup, the army seized control of TV and radio stations. Around 600 satellite channels were shut down by the army. This week, 40 channels were allowed to broadcast their regular programming including the CNN, BBC and popular cartoon shows.
Media is still under tight regulation and the army has been more aggressive in warning netizens not to criticize authorities. Interestingly, a government advisory warned the public that they can suffer from “mental stress resulting from over-consumption of news.” The same advisory urged the public to remain healthy by reading only from state-run sources.
In the past days, hundreds of academics and journalists were summoned by the army. Many of them were dissenters and critical to the Junta. Fortunately, some were released already and they were able to recount their experience.
Thanapol Eawsakul shares his visit to the army office:
The process of going to report oneself is a political method. This is a request for cooperation. If one provides it, then one can return. But if one does not cooperate with the soldiers, they say that they will use “harsh medicine” to take care of things.
Pravit Rojanaphruk, a popular journalist, felt like being a participant in a Big Brother reality show:
We were told that we would not be able to use phones. There were two phones available – we could use them as we wished – but we would need to give out the number and someone would be standing next to us while we took calls, to eavesdrop.
It was surreal. Everything was surreal. It struck me that we were kind of in this ‘Big Brother’ reality show the entire time.
I think that it tested everyone’s mettle, being there. Some people crack. Some people cry, some people beg.
Although some Thais have supported the coup, many are still urging the army to allow elections and bring back power to the people. The army may have succeeded in restoring peace in the streets of Bangkok, the country’s capital, but it was done by eroding the civil liberties of citizens.