UPDATE: A day after five students were detained in Thailand for flashing the Hunger Games salute at Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, three more students were detained by police today at the opening of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I in Bangkok, the Associated Press reports. A cinema chain in Bangkok also canceled all screenings of the movie ahead of its opening today. Activists told the AP that police pressured the chain to stop showing the movie but Apex Group, which operates cinemas in Bangkok told The Bangkok Post that it was because a student group planned a protest over the May 22 coup d’état. Apex said it had received a phone call asking for 200 tickets for the film’s premiere on Thursday. The tickets, it turned out, were being given out for free on the Facebook page of The League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy under a campaign titled, “Raise Three Fingers, Bring Popcorn and Go to the Movies.” Per the Bangkok Post, Apex said authorities had met with management to talk about the film, but contended that its decision to cancel the screenings was not related to the events of Wednesday when the five students were detained. Regarding the students taken into custody today, a police colonel told the AP that they would not be charged and rather, “We will just talk to them and let them go.” One of the students told the news agency, “The Mockingjay movie reflects what’s happening in our society… When people have been suppressed for some time, they would want to resist and fight for their rights Going to the cinema is the basic rights of the people. I’m here today to call for and to protect my rights.” A spokesperson for Lionsgate had no comment.
PREVIOUS, Wednesday, 10:23 AM PT: Back in June, Thailand’s military banned a form of silent resistance to the May 22 coup d’état that saw protesters raise their arms in a three-finger salute resembling the one found in Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games franchise. At the time, the ruling junta said it would arrest people in large groups who ignored warnings to lower their arms. Now, with the first installment of the finale, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I starting to roll out around the world, the salute has become an issue again.
The Associated Press reports that five Thai students were detained today after flashing the salute at Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha. The students were wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “No Coup,” the BBC reported, and stood up with their backs to Chan-Ocha while he spoke in the northeast city of Khon Kaen.
The men were taken to a police station and then an army camp, where they were questioned by soldiers, human rights attorney Sasinan Thamnithinan told the AP. They have not been charged with anything, however. The salute is used in the books and films as a sign of silent dissent against a brutal authoritarian state. Some protesters in Thailand have also said the salute stands for the French Revolution’s trinity of liberty, equality and fraternity.
Mockingjay is due to open in Thailand on Thursday, and it will be interesting to see how the current climate will impact the movie’s reception in the territory.
Last year’s Catching Fire was the eighth-biggest movie of 2013 in Thailand, earning $3.3M.