Three people were taken into custody by Thai police on Thursday for giving out free tickets for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1,” a day after the screening of the film was cancelled following issues over a three-fingered salute made famous by the film’s franchise.
Thai police arrested five students for reportedly displaying the salute in front of the country’s prime minister, a gesture that has been banned by the junta, after it played a prominent part in nationwide protests against the former government earlier this year. In the aftermath of the country's military coup on May 22, which was led by then-army general Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thai pro-democracy protesters had flashed the three-fingered salute as a sign of defiance.
"The 'Mockingjay' movie reflects what's happening in our society," Nachacha Kongudom, a 21-year-old student, told The Associated Press (AP). "When people have been suppressed for some time, they would want to resist and fight for their rights."
Two activists were released without charges, while the third student was detained for more questioning by soldiers, reports said.
Apex Group, a local movie chain, reportedly announced that it had cancelled all the screenings of the Jennifer Lawrence-starrer on Thursday. The company said that it was not pressurized by the government but, "did not want to become embroiled in a political movement,” local media reports said.
Nachacha, who was a supporter of the Thai Student Centre for Democracy, distributed nearly 100 tickets at one Bangkok movie hall, Reuters reported. "The three-finger sign is a sign to show that I am calling for my basic right to live my life," Nachacha reportedly said.
"What's happened today is an obstruction of the rights to express opinions peacefully," Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch said, according to AP. "If the government wants to be accepted by other countries ... it is necessary that they respect these basic rights."
However, Police Col. Visoot Chatchaidet reportedly said that the students had not been arrested and, added: “We are just inviting them to talk."