Pupils in at least eight high schools in Thailand raised three-fingered “Hunger Games” salutes during the national anthem on Tuesday in a sign of spreading support for student-led anti-government protests.
The three-finger salute, inspired by the popular Hunger Games films, has been a symbol of calls for democracy since Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha first took power in a 2014 coup.
Demonstrations that began on university campuses have taken place almost daily since mid-July in an increasing challenge to the ruling establishment in the Southeast Asian country that has long been dominated by the army and the monarchy.
Students also wore white ribbons to show their support for protesters, who seek Prayuth’s departure, a new constitution and an end to the harassment of activists.
A hashtag that translates as #WhiteRibbonAgainstDictatorship was used nearly 1 million times on Twitter while others trending included #ThreeFingersForNationalAnthem.
Some students have also called for reforms to the monarchy, once a taboo subject.
“I want to show that I don’t like dictatorship and want true democracy,” said one 17-year-old student who joined the protest at a government school on Monday and said she did not want to be named for fear of reprisals after pressure from teachers.
Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan said at an educational fair in Bangkok on Monday that students had the right to express themselves and should not be punished, but also warned that there was a limit to how far they should go.
Prayuth told reporters he was willing to listen to the students but questioned the motives of some.
“I heard from some students that those that don’t want to take part in these actions get bullied into doing it,” he said.
Increasing support for the protest movement was evident in Bangkok on Sunday when more than 10,000 people joined the biggest demonstration for years.