Hand signals only: The language of Thai protests

Video Credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on October 20, 2020 - Duration: 02:03s

Hand signals only: The language of Thai protests

Thai protesters are learning a whole new language, developed within days to co-ordinate among crowds of thousands of people at demonstrations that have swollen in defiance of a government ban and despite the arrest of many protest leaders.

Libby Hogan reports.


Hand signals only: The language of Thai protests

Pointing above their heads means "they need umbrellas." Hands held over head equals "need a helmet." And if both hands are crossed over the chest, "supplies are enough." The Thai protesters have called for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha to stand down, and to curb the powers of the monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The demonstrations have continued for three months and while they might appear chaotic, between themselves, protesters have developed a whole new language to co-ordinate themselves among crowds of thousands.

"At first, we have to work out what people are saying, but with the gestures, it's pretty easy to guess what they wanted to communicate." Despite a government ban, the use of water cannon and arrests of many protest leaders, the protests in Bangkok and across the country have grown in defiance.

Like-minded activists from Thailand and Hong Kong have shown mutual support for each other under a #MilkTeaAlliance hashtag, referring to drinks popular in both places.

Some of the words in the Thai hand signal vocabulary also took their inspiration from protesters in Hong Kong: "So for 'water', this is how we do it.

This is the sign for goggles.

This is helmet.

We also pass down messages by shouting Chinese whispers from the front to back of the crowd or until it reaches the destination." That rapid train of whispers has been seen in action when protesters have cleared the path for ambulances and formed human chains to pass a steady flow of helmets.

On the weekend the protesters' new language began to really take shape with groups teaching one another and practicing in huddles.

The demonstrations have also become more openly critical of the monarchy, breaking a longstanding taboo, despite potential jail terms of up 15 years for anyone insulting the king.

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