Key players in the elections

Mr Prayut Chan-o-cha, 64
Mr Prayut Chan-o-cha, 64
Dr Sudarat Keyuraphan, 57
Dr Sudarat Keyuraphan, 57
Mr Abhisit Vejjajiva, 54
Mr Abhisit Vejjajiva, 54
Dr Uttama Savanayana, 58
Dr Uttama Savanayana, 58
Mr Somkid Jatusripitak, 65
Mr Somkid Jatusripitak, 65
Mr Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, 40
Mr Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, 40

BANGKOK • As Thailand gears up for a return to democracy with its first general election since a military coup, here are the main candidates to become prime minister.

Mr Prayut Chan-o-cha, 64

The former army chief led the 2014 military coup which toppled former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and is the current Prime Minister of Thailand.

Mr Prayut began his military career in the prestigious Queen's Guard unit, and assumed the helm of the army in October 2010. He is seen as a strong royalist and an opponent of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Prayut kept everyone guessing as to whether he would contest the elections until he agreed to run as the candidate of the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party.

Dr Sudarat Keyuraphan, 57

The chairman of the Pheu Thai Party's election strategy committee has been picked as its main candidate for prime minister in the March 24 elections.

The smooth-talking former agriculture minister stayed out of politics for 11 years - five while serving a political ban - before returning to Pheu Thai to spearhead the election efforts.

The long-time Thaksin ally helped found his now-defunct Thai Rak Thai Party, the predecessor to Pheu Thai.

Mr Abhisit Vejjajiva, 54

The British-born, Oxford-educated politician became Thailand's youngest prime minister in 2008, but lost parliamentary elections in 2011.

Dubbed "Thailand's Barack Obama", he comes from a prominent family of Thai-Chinese origin and is now trying to stage a comeback for the Democrat Party after being re-elected the leader at a party assembly.

He is reportedly an old friend of former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

Dr Uttama Savanayana, 58

The leader of the Palang Pracharath Party has been named its No. 2 candidate for prime minister after Mr Prayut.

The United States-educated former industry minister is fronting the attempt to retain key policies enacted under the military government.

Mr Somkid Jatusripitak, 65

The current deputy prime minister is the third candidate to be fielded by the Palang Pracharath Party.

He was a co-founder of the Thai Rak Thai Party and also served as deputy prime minister, minister of finance and minister of commerce in Thaksin's government.

After the 2014 coup, he served as the junta's adviser on foreign economic relations. Since September 2014, he has been a full member of the so-called National Council for Peace and Order.

Mr Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, 40

The businessman turned politician is the leader of the Future Forward Party, and wants to shrink the military and reduce its influence in Thai politics.

Mr Thanathorn made his fortune in the car parts business as the executive vice-president of the Thai Summit Group conglomerate, which is owned by his family.

He is nicknamed the "billionaire peasant".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 09, 2019, with the headline 'Key players in the elections'. Print Edition | Subscribe