September 22, 2020
After execution by firing squad in September 1959, the body of Chinese immigrant and suspected child-killer cannibal, Si Quey, was put on display in the Siriraj medical museum in Bangkok, Thailand. Preserved with paraffin wax, a method that left his body with an oak-like varnished finish, the body of Thailand’s most infamous killer has stood hunched and leaning in a glass presentation box for visitors to gasp at for decades.
The Siriraj medical museum, referred to informally as “the death museum” in online articles in English, is located in Thanon Wang Lang, Bangkok. The museum is split up into various sections exploring the human anatomy, diseases and forensic science. Lecturers from the connecting hospital university, a male and female, who donated their bodies to the Siriraj museum now lay preserved as wet specimens in cases so that future students may continue to learn from them even after their deaths. The body of Thailand’s most well-known and nationally feared serial killer, Si Quey, was kept in the Songkran Niyomsan Forensic Medicine Museum section along with the preserved bodies of other criminals as well as evidence from various crimes including the skulls and skeletal remains of victims.
Si Quey immigrated to Thailand in the 1940’s where he worked as a gardener and laborer in Noen Phra, a quiet coastal town near the Rayong district.
He was accused of murdering several children between 1954 – 1958 and of removing their organs, specifically the livers, which he is thought to have consumed. In 1958 he was caught in the act of attempting to burn the body of a small boy named Somboon Boonyakan in the Rayong province. The child had went missing after going outside, never to return. Police claimed to catch Si Quey in the act. After his arrest he confessed to the murder but insisted that he did not intend to consume the organs. Despite denying a penchant for eating the organs of children, he was dubbed the cannibal serial killer and after his death the label was hung above the cabinet displaying his body for all to see. The tabloids ran wild with the story, writing tales about an ex-military Chinese immigrant who stalked the streets to eat the hearts and livers of small children at night. At some point he was quoted saying that he found the taste of his victims organs delicious, a sentiment that struck fear into the hearts of the Thai people and whether legitimate or not, stuck in the minds of the general public. Newspapers claimed that Si Quey, who served in the military in World War II, had consumed the flesh of those fallen in battle to sustain himself and survive. They claimed he began to enjoy human flesh and found it so delicious that he had an insatiable desire for it.
Si Quey became something of a bogey man in Thai folklore and parents would often threaten their misbehaving children with the ghost of Si Quey if they did not behave. He became known as Thailand’s first serial killer and is a popular subject in Thai film, literature and comic books.
In recent years the legitimacy of the crimes Si Quey was charged with as well as the ethics of having his body displayed in the museum have come into question. A change.org petition to have his preserved remains removed from display in order to preserve his dignity and for a traditional ceremony and cremation gathered support and collected around 11,000 signatures. People who had known the ethnic Chinese immigrant spoke highly of him, calling him a nice man. The Thai police had a bad reputation when it came to garnering confessions and were known to beat and threaten suspects into confessing to crimes that they often did not commit. They were also partial to shifting the blame to immigrants and non-Thai’s and would often pin crimes on those who were discriminated against in society.
After the initial doubt was cast over Si Quey’s conviction, the University Dean began gathering evidence and information pertaining to the killer’s charges, trial, conviction and execution. Although he is thought to have killed seven children, he only confessed to killing the young boy he was caught burning the remains of. He denied being a cannibal and the term was removed from the plaque that had been displayed above his mummified body for over half a century. Facts began to present themselves, including one of Si Quey’s supposed victims’ organs being accounted for after autopsy despite police claiming he confessed to eating them, giving weight to the theory that the Thai police had beaten false confessions out of the man.
The Dean spent a month attempting to track down the family members of Si Quey in regards to what should be done with his remains and although many people came forward claiming to be relatives of “Thailand’s first serial killer” none of them had the documents or evidence to back up their claims.
After 60 years of being displayed at Siriraj medical museum, the body of Si Quey has finally been removed and cremated.
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