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Thailand generals' election rivalry places military on new footing

PM Prayuth, Deputy PM Prawit poised to compete for votes -- and army support

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, left, and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan are expected to vie for the top job in the upcoming general election. (Source photos by Reuters and EPA/Jiji)

BANGKOK -- As they hit the campaign trail ahead of the looming general elections, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan are poised to test the loyalty of the kingdom's military, a powerful institution that has propped up their political careers for nearly a decade since they grabbed power through the 2014 coup.

The contest follows the split by the two generals, both former army chiefs, into different political camps to tap the country's ultraroyalist and pro-military conservative voters. This ostensible break marks an end to a period when, together with Gen. Anupong Paochinda, himself a former army chief and the incumbent interior minister, they controlled the country as a seemingly invincible troika with pro-military leanings.

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