BANGKOK, Thailand -- Army Chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong has announced
a communist conspiracy is plotting to seize power in Thailand, led by
elderly politicians and academics who had "implanted communist chips"
in their brains.

These secretive Thai communists have allied with Hong Kong's new
generation of protesters and could lure Thai youths to unleash an
insurrection in Bangkok, he warned.

Gen. Apirat's speech came after the military spent more than $480
million in recent purchases of U.S. weaponry including eight attack
reconnaissance helicopters, 50 Hellfire missiles, 60 Stryker infantry
carrier vehicles, 200 Advance Precision Kill Weapon System rockets,
plus .50 caliber machine guns, grenade launchers and other arms and

The general's 90-minute speech at the Royal Thai Army Headquarters on
October 11 was titled "Our Land From a Security Perspective." The
audience of 500 included university students, academics, local leaders
and the media.

While speaking, Gen. Apirat -- who trained in the U.S. -- appeared on
the verge of tears.

He projected photos of the army fighting battles during ancient and
modern times, and displayed an ominous warning in Thai and English
which stated in all-capital letters:


Gen. Apirat blamed Thailand's dangerously polarized politics on
"communist elements who have refused to turn over a new leaf" after a
tiny, relatively ineffectual Communist Party surrendered in 1988 and
received amnesty.

"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.

"The old [communist] members who became politicians and academics
still have their implanted communist chips," he said.

An editorial in the conservative Bangkok Post said: "This is similar
to the dangerous propaganda tactic used by the state in the lead-up to
the October 6, 1976 massacre of student activists."

On that day, security forces and supporters killed up to 100
university students, leaving lynched and mutilated corpses in
Bangkok's streets, for allegedly harboring communist ideas.

During the mid-20th century, the U.S.-backed military also battled a
scattered, shallow insurgency by Thais suspected of being allied to
China's Communist Party.

"As we've seen during the Cold War, people labeled as communists
became enemies of the state, marked for elimination by any means,"
said opposition Future Forward party secretary-general Piyabutr

"You're trying to evoke another Cold War in this country when there
isn't one," said Mr. Piyabutr, responding to Gen. Apirat.

Gen. Apirat, 59, was also mocked and denounced by others among
Thailand's analysts, media, and the public for trying to intimidate
and smear critics without evidence.

They said Gen. Apirat's stance threatened Thailand's fragile evolution
toward democracy, based on partial parliamentary elections in March
after a 2014 military coup installed a junta for five years.

Prayuth Chan-ocha was army chief when he led the putsch, and retained
his position as prime minister through the ballot box.

China meanwhile supported Gen. Apirat's conspiracy allegations against
Thailand's opposition politician, multi-millionaire Thanathorn

He leads Future Forward, the third-biggest party in parliament,
especially popular among young voters.

Mr. Thanathorn, 40, is already facing serious charges of "sedition"
and other crimes for his anti-military politics.

Without mentioning Mr. Thanathorn's name, the Chinese Embassy in
Bangkok said, "A Thai politician has contacted the group that wants to
separate Hong Kong from China, showing gestures of support. This is
wrong and irresponsible."

Bangkok and Beijing are close diplomatic, economic and military
partners, perceived by some analysts as rivaling U.S. influence in
this Buddhist-majority country.

Mr. Thanathorn appeared cheerfully posing shoulder-to-shoulder with
Hong Kong's protest leader Joshua Wong in a photo posted on October 6
to Mr. Wong's Facebook site.

"Under the hard-line authoritarian suppression, we stand in
solidarity," Mr. Wong reportedly said in the photo's caption.

"Now, there is unrest in Hong Kong," Gen. Apirat said in his speech.
"A visit [by Mr. Thanathorn] can be viewed as giving encouragement and

Focusing on Thailand's university students, Gen. Apirat said, "Hong
Kong protesters are mostly youths. I ask, 'If one day you feel
disappointed and someone brainwashed you to take the streets, would
you come out?'"

Gen. Apirat projected the color photograph of the two men but
self-censored it to display Mr. Thanathorn as a gray silhouette next
to a clearly visible, smiling Mr. Wong.

Responding to Gen. Apirat's speech, Mr. Thanathorn said he was invited
to Hong Kong by The Economist, a conservative British magazine, to
speak at an Open Future Festival on October 5.

"That was the first and only time I met Joshua Wong. I have never had
any involvement with any political group in Hong Kong, and I have no
intention to do so in the future," Mr. Thanathorn wrote on his
Facebook site.

"A single photograph of me and Joshua Wong was exaggerated out of
proportion without any evidence. Some media and people, including a
commander in the armed forces, tried to link me with unrest in Hong
Kong in order to spread hatred in Thai society."

During his victorious House of Representatives election campaign
earlier this year, Mr. Thanathorn promised to slash the military's
budget, end army conscription, and rewrite the junta's 2017

That charter empowered the junta to appoint a loyal 250-member Senate
to blunt an elected 500-member House.

In 1992, Gen. Apirat's father Gen. Sunthorn Kongsompong who was then
supreme commander, and Gen. Suchinda Kraprayoon, then army
commander-in-chief, seized power in a military coup.