What does a 'three-finger salute' seen at Myanmar protests signify?
On 1 February 2021, democratically elected members of National League for Democracy (NLD) including former President of Myanmar Win Myint and former State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi were ousted by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar's military) in response to the alleged election fraud, staging military d'etat in the country.
In view of this, hundreds of demonstrators took to streets of cities like Naypyidaw, Mandalay and Yangon. They displayed placards and flashed three-finger defiance salute-- a symbol of resistance-- against the 2021 Myanmar military d'etat and for the release of the detained Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The symbol was first used by medical workers in Myanmar against 2021 Myanmar military d'etat and was later adopted by the youth protestors.
Three-finger defiance symbol in Thailand and Hong Kong
In 2014, Thailand's Military leader Prayut Chan-o-cha ousted Yingluck Shinawatra-- Thailand's first female Prime Minister. Following the 2014 Thai military coup, youths gathered in front of a shopping mall and one of the demonstrators flashed three-fingered salute which was followed by others present in the anti-coup protest.
This was the first time when the salute was used in the real world and since then, it has been imitated at more rallies, forcing the Thai military to ban the salute. Despite the ban, the salute has been seen at several protests in Thailand. The salute was last seen in October 2020 in Thailand against the monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
The three-finger salute was also seen at Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution in 2014 against Beijing's increasing influence in Hong Kong. The activists in Hong Kong used umbrellas as shields against tear gas canisters deployed by police and also to hide their identities from ubiquitous surveillance cameras.
What is a three-finger salute?
In a three-finger salute, the three middle fingers of the hand are raised straight while the thumb crosses over the pinky finger. The salute is a symbol of resistance which is used by the people repressed in a tyrant regime.
History of the three-finger salute
The three-finger defiance salute traces its origin to the Hunger Games movies based on books by Suzanne Collins. In the Hunger Games franchise, three-finger salute is displayed by the oppressed people to express solidarity against a tyrannical dystopian government. The gesture was popularized by a character called Katniss Everdeen against totalitarian rule in fictional nation Panem.
The salute has now snowballed into a symbol of resistance and solidarity for pro-democracy movements across south-east Asia.