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Group reads Orwell novel in public to protest Thailand's military rule

| Saturday, May 31, 2014, 6:24 p.m.
A group of anti-coup protestors read books along an elevated walkway during a protest in Bangkok, Thailand, on Saturday, May 31, 2014.

BANGKOK — In junta-ruled Thailand, the simple act of reading in public has become an act of resistance.

On Saturday evening in Bangkok, a week and a half after the army seized power in a coup, about a dozen people gathered in the middle of a busy elevated walkway connecting several of the capital's most luxurious shopping malls.

As pedestrians trundled past, the protesters sat down, pulled out book titles such as George Orwell's “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” a dystopian novel about life in a totalitarian surveillance state, and began to read.

In a country where the army has vowed to crack down on anti-coup protesters demanding elections and a return to civilian rule, in a place where one can be detained for simply holding something that says “Peace Please” in the wrong part of town, the small protest was a major act of defiance — a quiet demonstration against the army's May 22 seizure of power and the repression that has accompanied it.

“People are angry about this coup, but they can't express it,” said a human rights activist who asked to be identified only by her nickname, Mook, for fear of being detained.

“So we were looking for an alternative way to resist, a way that is not confrontational,” she said. “And one of those ways is reading.”

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