BANGKOK — Anti-coup activists staged a demonstration during the premiere of the latest installment of "The Hunger Games" series in London to draw attention to their "non-fiction" struggle against Thailand’s military junta.
Dozens of activists held up banners criticizing junta chairman and Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha as they stood among a crowd waiting to see "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1" in front of London’s Odeon Theatre on 10 November.
They also held signs that read "#DistrictThai," comparing junta-ruled Thailand to one of the fictional "districts" ruled by an autocratic regime in the dystopian films.
"The Hunger Games" movies, which are based on a novel series by the same name, became an unlikely source of inspiration for the anti-coup movement that emerged shortly after Gen. Prayuth toppled Thailand’s elected government on 22 May 2014.
In the wake of the coup, activists adopted the three-finger salute from the movie to express opposition to the military takeover. In “The Hunger Games,” the hand gesture symoblises defiance against an authoritarian government.
Thailand’s military junta quickly banned the gesture, along with other anti-coup symbols, such as "eating sandwiches" and reading George Orwell's Nineteen-Eightyfour.
Some activists who violated the bans were dragged away from their peaceful rallies by security forces and tried in military court on charges of instigating dissent against the regime.
The protest at the London premiere of "Mockingjay" on 10 November appears to have been organised by a Facebook group called "District Thai."
In a statement posted on 7 November, the group called on "the global community, the international press, and all those who cherish humanity" to join their campaign against Thailand’s military government.
"Streets and beaches of Thailand may seem normal and quiet. But that is just the surface," the statement reads. "In reality, citizens are being brainwashed, activists detained, intellectuals arrested and journalists censored. Expression of dissent became forbidden."
Another Facebook post by the group explains that the three finger salute was inspired by the "Hunger Games," but unlike the series, "our struggle is non-fiction."
"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1" will open in Thai cinemas on 20 November.
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