A The three-fingered salute from the Hunger Games film series has been adopted by activists from Thailand to Myanmar, becoming a symbol of resistance and solidarity for democratic movements across Southeast Asia.
The gesture, along with popular online memes turned into signs of protest, are part of a suite of symbols adopted from global popular culture by a new generation of internet-savvy young activists to resonate their struggles with the public. abroad.
The three-finger gesture was first used in Myanmar last week by medical workers, and then young protesters began to lift it up to oppose the military coup. On Monday, a week after the takeover, the salute could be seen during huge protests on the streets of Yangon.
In The Hunger Games, the three fingers represented solidarity in a dystopian world where rebels fought for freedom against an all-powerful tyrant.
The gesture first emerged in Thailand just days after a military coup in May 2014 that sparked outrage from voters across the kingdom. He was then banned.
After the military takeover, a small group of young demonstrators gathered outside a busy shopping center to express their discontent. One of the demonstrators suddenly saluted.
“When this person started, others followed. So it automatically became an anti-coup symbol, ”said Sirawith Seritiwat, 28, a prominent Thai pro-democracy activist who was present at the time.
Since 2014, the hand gesture has been widely used in Thailand on protest sites.
“We knew he would be easily understood as representing concepts of freedom, equality, solidarity,” Seritiwat said. He added that the anti-authoritarian message conveyed in the Hunger Games films resonated with young protesters of the time.
“Partly that was because the anti-coup situation at the time resembled scenes from the Hunger Games movie, where people raised three fingers at President Snow,” he said.
Placards carried by young protesters against Myanmar’s military coup featured familiar figures such as Pepe the Frog – adopted in 2016 as a symbol of the American far right, and more recently used by pro-activists. democracy in Hong Kong – and Doge and Cheems, two dogs, usually imagine themselves hitting each other loudly with a bat.
The memes, often accompanied by a message in English and edited to include the faces of prominent Burmese junta leaders, reflect the openness to the world of a new generation of young Burmese activists in a country largely isolated during decades when he was ruled. by the army alone until 2010.
Since then, internet usage rates have risen from virtually nothing to over a third of the country, with smartphone penetration estimated at 80%.
The popularity of social media platforms such as Facebook – and the tech company’s insufficient moderation – has been cited as a factor in the attrition of hatred and xenophobia that has accompanied a resurgence of extreme violence against the Rohingya. of the country in 2016-7.
Fearing that this could also be used against them, the military drastically curtailed internet access last week but relented after about a day with service restored across most of the country.