Thai protesters and The Hunger Games: what’s in a three-fingered salute?

Thai protesters recently made a symbolic contribution to protests. Photos and news of women, men and youths of different backgrounds flashing the three-finger “District 12” salute have recently gone viral.

This symbolism voices the Thais’ rejection of the military coup and the army’s arbitrary measures since it seized power last month. Protesters have inspired the three-finger salute from the famous sci-fi movie The Hunger Games. It’s what protesters resorted to in order to express themselves and to voice their rejection of authoritarianism after the army forcefully shut down some media outlets.

Hand signals have become an effective symbolic means that represent a collective involvement in a slogan or principle or a state of rejection

Diana Moukalled

“We’ve taken the protest signal from the movie but our struggle is real and not imagined,” a Thai protester wrote on Twitter. According to the movie, the writers were inspired by the three-finger salute by the French revolution’s slogans: freedom, justice and brotherhood. It seems that people’s adoption of this signal has greatly spread to the extent that anyone who flashes it may be subject to detention.

Yet another symbol

The Thais’ hand gesture is yet another symbol which protests witnessed across the world. Hand signals have become an effective symbolic means that represent a collective involvement in a slogan or principle or a state of rejection. This angers authorities who legislate pursuing those who flash hand signals in protest. Although there have been many symbolic hand signals, the most famous one is that which former Prime Minister Winston Churchill flashed using his index and middle fingers to form the V (victory) sign. This sign has widely spread although it’s been 73 years now. Although there are many expressive hand signals, this V sign remains the most famous as it’s very rare not to see it during a protest. Late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat also flashed the V sign and turned it into a popular Palestinian sign.

The hand fist for example is another symbol which opposition groups adopted across the world. It was common in 2000 in Serbia when Slobodan Milosevic was toppled. It was later used in many other protests in Ukraine, Iran and other countries, and it made it to the Arab world when revolutions erupted in 2011. But are hand gestures enough for political expression in streets and squares? It’s true that hand gestures convey a bigger and more important meaning but the problem is for our objections to turn into mere symbols that are not translated into actions. People resort to adopting such symbols when the capability to express their opinion and objections is restrained.

However, it’s not only Thai protesters who confuse authorities with their hand gestures.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 9, 2014.


Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.


Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:43 - GMT 06:43
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.