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Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives for a visit near the Kaeng Krachan Dam at Petchaburi province, Thailand, August 8, 2018. Thailand Government House/Handout via REUTERS

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha will announce in September whether he will take part in politics in the run-up to general elections next year, he said on Tuesday.

May next year is the most recent deadline Prayuth's junta has set for an election its critics hope will return Thailand to civilian rule after more than four years of the military government, although it has repeatedly pushed back the timeline.

As army chief, Prayuth, 64, led a 2014 coup that ousted a civilian government to end a prolonged period of sometimes deadly unrest.

But he has shown signs of wanting to stay in power after next year's vote.

"If I will stay on, I will have to look at the law," Prayuth told reporters at Bangkok's Government House.

"In September you will know," he added, but gave no details.

His backers, including some veteran politicians, have made no secret of their support for Prayuth and want him to return as prime minister.

Technically Prayuth cannot stand for election under the constitution, because he would have needed to have resigned from his post since 2017 to do so.

However, he could return as prime minister if a political party nominated him its frontrunner.

The military-backed constitution also offers Prayuth another route.

He could be chosen as an "outside prime minister" if the House of Representatives and the military-appointed upper house Senate nominate him if the winning party's candidate fails to get enough votes.

The junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order, has promised to relax its curbs on political activities before the vote, to allow political parties to complete administrative tasks between September and December.

(Reporting by Tobias Wertime and Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Clarence Fernandez)

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Reuters