Tue, Jul 27, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Color bathes Bangkok poll


Supporters of Bangkok mayoral candidates parade in front of City Hall yesterday.


A sex industry tycoon, a prominent women's rights advocate and a maverick politician with pub-brawling sons have emerged as leading candidates for Bangkok's mayoral race, which officially began yesterday.

Voters will go to the polls on Aug. 29 to elect a city hall chief to run this sprawling metropolis and Thai capital of more than 10 million.

There is no clear front-runner among the 28 candidates who submitted their applications on the first of five days of registration.

But recent polls have shown that Chuwit Kamolvisit, known as Bangkok's massage parlor king, and Pavena Hongsakul, a former parliamentarian who gained prominence for fighting abuse of women and children, are current favorites among the 3.8 million eligible voters.

Chuwit's popularity is attributed to his stinging attacks on police corruption -- he claims they extracted small fortunes in bribes from his entertainment empire -- and disillusionment over mainstream politics.

"I don't care if Chuwit's a bad man," TV director Nukul Boon-iam said recently. "It's not like politics isn't full of bad people already."

Others with a considerable following are maverick politician Chalerm Yoobamrung, a former policeman once charged but not indicted on gambling charges who more recently has taken an un-wanted spotlight for the brawling habits of his three sons.

One of his slogans -- "I love Bangkok as I love my sons" -- is not going down well with voters still angry over the acquittal of his youngest son for slaying a policeman in one nightclub fight.

Thousands of supporters turned up early yesterday at City Hall to cheer on their candidates.

Leena Jungawat, a perennial contestant who jabs fun at her rivals, appeared with her usual entourage of transvestites in fancy dress and a band of musicians. If victorious, she promises citizens will no longer have to queue at city offices but civil servants will instead come to their homes to offer service.

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