Some politicians and academics are still "communistic" in their thinking, but the monarchy, the military and the people remain inseparable, army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong said on Friday.
The army chief shared his views on national security — and a lot more — in an emotional hour-long lecture at the Kittikachorn auditorium at Royal Thai Army headquarters. About 500 people were present, including students, teachers, lecturers, local leaders, and local and foreign journalists.
Gen Apirat said His Majesty the King had helped soldiers fight against communist troops in Ban Mak Kheng village of Dan Sai district in Loei province on Nov 5, 1976.
"In 1976 during the war with communists, King Rama X, then a captain and the Crown Prince, went to Dan Sai district of Loei province on Nov 5 to fight with soldiers," he said.
"His Majesty was in the operation base, ate and slept like other soldiers. His Majesty visited local residents, gave moral support and fought shoulder by shoulder with brave soldiers."
The royal institution had always protected the nation and battles went on for a long time before the Communist Party surrendered in 1988, Gen Apirat said.
"But the old members who became politicians and academics still have their implanted 'communistic chips'," he said.
Gen Apirat said he would have no problem with academics, politicians and businessmen who hope to assume national administrative offices so long as they did not favour any movement to topple the institution or change the type of government.
"The royal institution, the military and people are inseparable. In the past, kings were on elephants surrounded by soldiers. Those soldiers were the people who sacrificed themselves in battles beside kings," the army chief said.
Gen Apirat went on to describe collusion between unidentified “communist” politicians and “extreme left” academics who had studied abroad, a veiled jab at members of the opposition Future Forward Party.
He said they were using social media to spread “propaganda” and brainwash and mobilise young people, likening the situation to the current Hong Kong protests led by young people.
He did not identify the people he was referring to, but one silhouetted picture he showed was easily recognisable as that of Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
Mr Thanathorn this week drew criticism from the Chinese Embassy in Thailand for a recent visit to Hong Kong, where he was photographed with high-profile activist Joshua Wong. The two men appeared together at a forum on new-generation political figures, sponsored in Hong Kong by The Economist.
Supporters of Mr Thanathorn said he did not post any pictures of himself with Mr Wong, but that the latter had done so.
Gen Apirat did not mince words in his assessment of what critics of the establishment were up to.
“Propaganda in Thailand is severe and worrying. There is a group of communists who still have ideas to overthrow the monarchy, to turn Thailand to communism,” he said.
Mr Thanathorn, who has denied the military’s accusations that he is anti-monarchy, said Gen Apirat’s attempt to link him to the Hong Kong protests was the latest attempt to instigate hatred.
“We started the Future Forward Party with good intentions for the country,” he said in a Facebook post on Friday.
“We wanted to be a part of the force pushing Thailand towards democracy, creating equality in society and leaving it a better one for the next generations.”
Last week, the military filed a sedition case against Mr Thanathorn and others, accusing them of stirring unrest with talk of amending the 2017 constitution written by allies of the military.
It followed a public seminar they held in the Muslim-majority South, in which the first article of the constitution — stating that Thailand is one indivisible kingdom — was discussed.
“They are being shrewd, talking of amending the first article without stating directly what they want, knowing this will affect other articles about the monarchy,” GenApirat said.
“This article invoked the blood our ancestors had shed to keep this land. I can tell you I will never allow it, even to my dying day,” he said.
The army chief cast the military as loyal to the nation and the royal family.
“Don’t forget that Thailand is the only country in this region that has never been colonised, thanks to past kings,” he said.