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"The threat now is fake news" - Thai army chief describes online "hybrid war"

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Published on Aug 31, 2019

Thailand's army is fighting a "hybrid war" waged by enemies who are using "fake news" to turn young Thais against the military and the monarchy, the army chief said in a rare interview on Friday (August 9).

General Apirat Kongsompong spoke to Reuters a week after a half-dozen small bombs hit Bangkok during a high profile meeting of world powers, attacks he said were aimed at undermining a new civilian government led by the former junta leader.

Although Thailand officially ended five years of army rule last month, opposition parties say elections were engineered to keep retired general Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister and cement the military's control.

Apirat said the army was now fighting a struggle he compared to that against communist insurgents in the 1970s and '80s, with the challenge now being propaganda on the internet.

Apirat declined to name those he suspected of being behind either the propaganda or the bomb attacks, but referred to unidentified parties.

The royalist, pro-military establishment has long been at odds with a populist movement founded by ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and a decade of sometimes violent demonstrations roiled Thailand before the last coup.

The pro-establishment forces accuse populists of seeking to weaken the monarchy, although the opposition parties have long denied any aim of harming an institution revered in traditional culture.

Apirat vowed that the military would stay out of politics and said there would be no coups under his watch.

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