Thai PM Prayuth to stay in power another 2 years, his deputy says

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FILE PHOTO: Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha gestures after presiding over Thailand Corporate Excellence Award for Financial Management at the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha will be in power two more years, his deputy and fellow coup leader said on Tuesday, as the main opposition party seeks a court ruling to remove the premier this month, a year before an election is due.

Prawit Wongsuwan, 76, a former army chief and longtime political kingmaker, was asked on Tuesday if he was preparing to replace Prayuth in the event the constitutional court rules he has been in power too long.

"How can I be ready? I haven't thought about it," Prawit told reporters ahead of a cabinet meeting. "The prime minister will stay on for two more years."

Prawit, a power-broker known for wielding behind the scenes influence, did not say if the two years included an election, which Prayuth must call within the next 10 months.

The opposition Pheu Thai party wants the court to make clear when 2014 coup architect Prayuth reaches his maximum eight years in the job, and whether his time as prime minister in the junta counts.

Pheu Thai, whose government Prayuth toppled, says his time is up on Aug. 23, exactly eight years after he was named the junta's prime minister.

His supporters, however, believe the eight years applies only after the promulgation of a new constitution in 2017.

Prayuth on Monday said it was up to the court to decide.

The opposition has sought repeatedly to remove Prayuth through legal and legislative means and the retired general has survived some of the biggest anti-government protests in recent years.

(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Martin Petty)