Why Are People Doing The ‘Three-Finger Salute’ In The Myanmar Protests?

By Soumyaseema:

Protests and public dissent or outcries are never complete without the civilians coming down to the streets.

The power of the ordinary people does not fear to lose what needs to be lost when compromise no longer remains to be the last straw, and the people are forced to play hardball with the government.

Something similar has been in the air of Myanmar for the last few days. And it is the civilians of Myanmar who stepped up to the plate this time to oppose the ongoing political instability. But to draw further attention to their demands, Burmese have devised a unique instrument as well.

How Did It All Start?

In the wee hours of 1st February 2021, Myanmar witnessed a second crisis amidst the ongoing worldwide pandemic.

Myanmar’s security forces, Tatmadaw, detained the nation’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in the country’s capital, Naypyidaw, and other places across the country.

The coup was staged shortly after a landslide victory of the governing NLD party in the general elections on 8th November 2020. They also targeted the members of the 88 Generation, an active student body known for their activism against the nation’s military junta.

Sometime later, the military-owned TV channel, Myawaddy, announced a yearlong state of emergency with the transfer of full authority to Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing.

Is The Myanmar Military That Strong?

Although the Tatmadaw had promised a free and fair election at the end of the year as the present results were allegedly counterfeited, seeing their history of more than 40 years of authoritarian rule, the chances for that are slimmer than ever.

The military in Myanmar is one of the most revered and omnipotent institutions. People have always attached its sanctity to their freedom from colonial oppression. As a result, the military always has had an upper hand in the politics of the country.

What Is The Present Civilian Protest About?

Despite the Tatmadaw’s power and popularity amongst the masses, this military coup generated an overwhelmingly negative response from the civilians.

The street protestors decided to use a distinctive gesture to express their defiance of the military orders. The fact that citizens still reposed faith in Suu Kyi’s leadership became abundantly clear.

What Is This Symbol?

It is a three-finger salute which the pro-democracy activists have been seen using in their street struggle. You have to raise the three middle fingers of your hand straight, with the tip of your thumb touching the top of your small finger across the palm. But it is not a new sign that the Burmese people have designed.

What Does This Three-Finger Salute Symbolize?

This three-finger salute is one of the renderings of the popular franchise of Hunger Games- books and movies by Suzanne Collins.

It was first seen being used by the medical workers of Myanmar. It was picked up from there, which then subsequently became the mass symbol of the protest.

It was borrowed from the Hunger Games-where it was used-against the despot in the fictional dystopia. Jennifer Lawrence, who played the character of a persecuted subject in the films-Katniss Everdeen, popularized this gesture as a symbol of solidarity against the tyrant, President Snow.

The demonstrations with placards demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and three-finger salutes took the nation by storm. However, the origins of this gesture in the public realm can be traced back to 2014.

It was around this time when some of the youths in Thailand gathered and started a new form of silent protest with the salute. It was not long before many of the other pro-democratic movements began using it as a token of disagreement.

Despite the gesture leading to different protests being organized for varied causes, it resonates with a simple message of anti-authoritarianism.

As a result, the salute was immediately banned by the Thai military after the sudden eruption of mass movements on the streets. But that has not stopped the civilians as it has been seen in several rallies, particularly the one against the monarch King Maha Vajiralongkorn in Thailand last October.

With the ushering of the era of democracy in Myanmar and consequently free access to the internet, youth activists have now access to information to similar movements and the familiar symbols used as an anti-establishment weapon.

Other signs that also won our hearts during these demonstrations were Peppa Pigs, the Frog, and Doge and Cheems figures, inspired by the USA and Hong Kong protests, respectively, along with the red ribbons and red flower cuttings at rallies.

So the next time you come across any of these movements, remember-Democracy is still alive!

Originally published at https://edtimes.in on February 12, 2021.

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