Chuwit's popularity springs from an unlikely transformation. Twenty months ago, a gang of thugs destroyed a strip of bars on a plot of land he owned. Police arrested Chuwit on suspicion of hiring the gang to muscle out unwanted tenants. Chuwit loudly proclaimed his innocence and lashed back at the police, publicly detailing the protection money, expensive watches and free massage services he claimed to have provided to officers over the years. He mounted an autobiographical one-man stage show (titled Chuwit, Alone and Shabby: Talk Show of the Year), published two books (The Golden Bath and My Confession: One Day I Will Commit Suicide) and turned himself into Bangkok's most vocal anticorruption advocate—much to the delight of many locals. Says Supaporn Jitsomboom, an insurance broker: "What he says about the police and corruption is true. Besides, he puts on a good show."
Front runner Pavena is an old foe: in 2003, a charitable foundation she runs that helps abused children filed a complaint that Chuwit employed underage girls. Chuwit said he never did so deliberately, and a court acquitted him in June after employees testified they had used forged IDs to get jobs in his massage parlors. If he wins the governorship, Chuwit promises to devote all his time to the task of cleaning up Bangkok—from cracking down on corruption to improving garbage collection—even forgoing the luxury of vacations abroad. He doesn't have much choice: a court is still trying the case involving the bars that were destroyed. "The judge," Chuwit admits, "says I can't leave town."