From ducks to dinosaurs: symbols and humor in Thailand’s protests
By Gaspar Ruiz-Canela
Bangkok, Nov 27 (efe-epa).- From inflatable ducks to dinosaurs and the saga of “The Hunger Games,” pro-democracy protests led by students in Thailand are showing great creativity through symbols and humorous memes.
The protesters, who have called for protests Friday and the weekend, are calling for deep reforms in the country to reduce the power of the military and the monarchy, breaking the taboo around the royal family.
For their audacity, most of its leaders have been accused of lese majesty and sedition, which carries long prison sentences, but they have not lost their humor in the demonstrations, held in a festive atmosphere and with a large dose of irony since July.
The most ubiquitous symbol in street protests and on social media, where protesters are very active, is the three-finger salute from “The Hunger Games,” a dystopian series of novels turned into a Hollywood franchise.
In novels and films, the salute becomes the symbol of resistance against the elite that lives isolated from the people, and organizes tournaments to the death in which young people participate and are broadcast on television.
Following the 2014 coup, Thai students began using the gesture as a challenge in protests against the military junta, which remained in power for five years until the 2019 elections.
This year, the greeting of “The Hunger Games” has been adopted in the new wave of demonstrations, which began in February and, after a hiatus, resumed in July against the government of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, who also led the coup of 2014.
On Nov. 17, protesters brought yellow inflatable ducks to a protest in front of parliament to demand for reform of the constitution, since the current one was drawn up by the former military junta.
Some Twitter users joked that they were to cross the river and reach parliament but finally were used as shields to protect themselves from water cannon shots mixed with chemicals from the police, who also fired tear gas at protesters.
The yellow inflatables are replicas of the giant rubber duck created in 2007 by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, which has since “sailed” through ports such as Osaka (Japan), Sydney (Australia), Sao Paulo (Brazil) or Hong Kong (China). ).
The iconic yellow ducks, turned memes of the Thai demonstrations, also became symbols in the protests against the tax hike in Brazil in 2017 and against Beijing’s meddling in Hong Kong in 2019 and 2020.
Protesters have broken a taboo on the monarchy by publicly debating reform, an unprecedented proposal in a country where the institution inspires almost religious respect among part of the population and critics are sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for lese majeste.
In August, several protesters symbolized this challenge by disguising themselves as Harry Potter, the young wizard portrayed in the novel and film saga of the same name, and wielding magic wands against Lord Voldemort.
Mentions of the monarch have become more expressive to emulate the navel tank top that the monarch shows in some photos censored in the country.
The waves of protests in Thailand include a group of high school students called Bad Students calling for reforms to end strict rules and punishments in the education sector.
In these demonstrations, they carry plastic dinosaurs that symbolize the hierarchies, curricula and antiquated norms that imply from an ultra-conservative version of the story to guidelines on the haircut that students must wear. EFE-EPA