Army chief lashes 'communists'
Apirat says 'hybrid warfare' hurts nation
The Thai political scene heated up on Friday as army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong accused some politicians, academics and "old communist elements" of using "hybrid warfare" to undermine the country and the high institution.
Gen Apirat made the remark during a lecture on national security at the Royal Thai Army Headquarters attended by about 500 people, including university students, lecturers, local leaders and domestic and foreign journalists.
"It is not a coincidence. It is not a made-up story. Many theories have been developed about it, based on experiences from collapsed countries. It [hybrid warfare] involves both regular military forces which are deployed to maintain national security, and irregular forces such as terrorist groups, crime, anti-state activities, and those involved in the bomb attacks at eight locations in Bangkok [in early August]," Gen Apirat said.
He claimed that those involved in fomenting domestic unrest cannot operate without the support of both local people and allies abroad.
"National and local politicians, wealthy people make donations to support activities, websites or act as information sources for the opposite side. Information warfare and propaganda are a major global issue. Propaganda in Thailand is severe and worrying," the army chief said.
Gen Apirat went on to describe collusion between unidentified "communist" politicians and "extreme left" academics who had studied abroad.
"Propaganda comes mainly from communist elements who have refused to turn over a new leaf and still have ideas to overthrow the monarchy, to turn Thailand to communism,'' he said.
"They are very old now, lurking behind the scenes, but are actually the masterminds. They are working with some foreign-educated and far-left academics to plant wrong ideas into the minds of students," Gen Apirat said, adding that they were using social media to spread "propaganda" and fake news.
He also said that when the country was in turmoil, some leaders and key political figures fled overseas, leaving behind their sidekicks who were sent to jail.
Gen Apirat said he has no problem with academics, politicians and businessmen who hope to assume national administrative office so long as they do not favour any movement to topple the monarchy or change the type of government.
"The royal institution, the military and the 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 said His Majesty the King himself had helped soldiers fight against communist troops.
"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 alongside soldiers.
"His Majesty was in the operations base and ate and slept like other soldiers. His Majesty visited local residents, gave moral support and fought shoulder to 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 [communist] members who became politicians and academics still have their implanted 'communistic chips'," he said.
The army chief also voiced fierce opposition to a proposed amendment to Section 1 of the constitution.
"I am not saying the constitution cannot be amended, but this section concerns national security and the sacrifices made by our ancestors to protect the country. No way, I tell you," he said.
The proposed amendment was raised by an academic at a public discussion on changes to the constitution in Pattani on Oct 4, with some opposition leaders attending.
He also lambasted a politician who met Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong after the Chinese embassy issued a statement accusing a Thai politician of contacting a group involved in ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
The army chief did not name the politician but showed a picture of the Hong Kong activist and another person whose picture was removed.
However, on Mr Wong's Facebook account, the picture shows Mr Wong and Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Jungroongruangkit.
"Now, there is unrest in Hong Kong. A visit can be viewed as giving encouragement and support," Gen Apirat said.
In the statement posted on its Facebook page, the Chinese embassy accused "a Thai politician" of acting irresponsibly in contacting a Hong Kong anti-government protest group.
"A Thai politician has contacted the group calling for Hong Kong's separation from China, showing a sign of support for the group. This action is extremely wrong and lacks responsibility.
"China hopes that the relevant individual can be made aware of facts regarding Hong Kong's problem, be cautious and do what will benefit the relationship between China and Thailand,'' the statement said.
Mr Thanathorn on Friday took to Facebook to deny allegations he is involved with the protesters, writing that he was invited by The Economist to speak at a forum called "Inside the Minds of Asia's Next Gen Politicians" last Saturday. Mr Wong was not a speaker, but Mr Thanathorn said he met him after and posed for a photo.
"That was the first and only time I have met Joshua Wong. I have never had any involvement with any political groups in Hong Kong. My mission and the party's is to build democracy and the country's progress,'' he wrote.
"Some groups, including the military leader, are attempting to link me to unrest in Hong Kong in order to create hatred in society," Mr Thanathorn said, adding that the public should look at every angle of the news.