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In post-coup Thailand, a fear of George Orwell

In the wake of a May 22 coup, Thailand’s military regime seems to have developed a fear of a 65-year-old work of fiction by a long-dead English author.

One form that anti-coup protests took in Bangkok was public and silent reading of George Orwell’s dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

Bangkok’s City News reported:

On Sunday, 22th June, a lone man was arrested by a handful of officers for reading George Orwell’s famous novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” while munching on a sandwich outside of Siam Paragon in Bangkok. This is the first known case of someone being arrested for reading as a form of protest.

And AFP reported in June:

A screening of “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, the film version of George Orwell’s anti-authoritarian novel, has been cancelled in Thailand after police warned it breached a ban on political gatherings, an organiser said Wednesday.

The book has become one of the unofficial symbols of resistance against military rule by the generals who seized power from a civilian government on May 22.

The Punya Movieclub in the northern city of Chiang Mai was scheduled to screen the film on Saturday but decided to cancel the showing after local police said it would be illegal, according to one of the organisers who did not want to be named.

“We just wanted to show the content of the film because many people are talking about it right now… We show all types of movies. We didn’t want to start a political movement,” he said.

“When we found out the police had a problem with our event we decided to cancel, because we are afraid the people who come to watch will face problems.”

In fact visitors to Thailand are being warned against Public Displays of Orwell.