Bangkok - Polls opened Sunday for the first Thai election since a 2014 coup, with a high turnout expected among a public who received a cryptic last-minute warning from the Thai king to support “good” leaders to prevent “chaos.”

All television stations repeated the rare statement by King Maha Vajiralongkorn moments before polls opened across the politically turbulent country.

Sunday’s election pits a royalist junta and its allies against the election-winning machine of billionaire ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra and an unpredictable wave of millions of first-time voters.

The kingdom remains bitterly divided despite the ruling junta’s pledge to rescue it from a decade-long treadmill of political instability, protests and coups.           

Politicians across the spectrum fear a stalemate has been booked-in by new election rules, written by the junta, which limit the chances of any single party emerging with a comfortable parliamentary majority.    

Voters determined to be the first to cast their ballots after years of democratic denial arrived at polling stations across the capital early Sunday.     

“People want to vote,” said businesswoman Apiyada Svarachorn at a Bangkok polling station, adding the public remains “split into two si    

“We don’t have the right to decide for ourselves for five years now,” said Wasa Anupamnt a 28-year-old doctor.

     

“I’m very excited about this election.”