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Murderer in a glass case: Controversy in Thailand Over Museum Displaying Corpse of Executed Man

The museum is home to the mummies of two other nameless murderers. There are also photos of murder victims, accident victims and people who took their own lives.

 

Christoph Sator/dpa

In the museum at the Siriraj Hospital in Thailand's capital, Bangkok, the embalmed bodies of murderers are displayed in showcases.

Bangkok (dpa) - Every child in Thailand knows the name Si Quey. A bad man from China, allegedly a serial killer, even a cannibal.

"Do not go outside when it is dark. Otherwise, Si Quey will get you," parents here have warned their children for generations.

That is, with all due respect, complete nonsense of course. The man has been dead for nearly 60 years, executed on September 17, 1959, by a firing squad. His body, embalmed with paraffin, is kept in a tightly sealed glass box in Bangkok's oldest and largest hospital.

Anyone can see him for an entry fee of 200 baht (6.35 dollars).

And that is exactly why there now is controversy.

For more than half a century, nobody was particularly bothered by the fact that the corpse of an executed murderer - with a sign saying "Si Quey (a cannibal)" - was on display at the Siriraj Hospital, where the patients include the Thai royal family.

But many Thais now think that this is no longer befitting. More than 10,000 people have signed a petition so that the dead man can finally be laid to rest.

The movement was launched by Pharaoh Chakpatranon, who posted a photo of the body on Twitter in mid-May and demanded "justice." Even criminals deserve respect in death, he said: "We have to maintain our human dignity."

Pharaoh also doubts that the Chinese man committed all the murders he was accused of and that he was really a cannibal. Si Quey was "a victim of society, because of unfounded rumours whipped up by the media," he said.

The case is indeed not as clear as most would think. The Chinese man, born in 1927, arrived in Thailand shortly after World War II as an immigrant. He eventually found work as a gardener in the city of Noen Phra, 200 kilometres south of Bangkok.

That is where he was caught in 1958 trying to burn the body of an 8-year-old boy. The 31-year-old admitted that he had killed the boy - and removed his heart, liver and kidneys to eat them later.

The case made headlines around the country. During police interrogations, he confessed to five other child murders in different Thai cities.

His trial lasted only nine days. The court sentenced him to life in prison, in part because he had confessed. But the appeals process then led to the death penalty. Si Quey fainted when the sentence was announced. A few months later, he was executed. There are various books, movies and even plays about the case.

Only later did doubts emerge about whether the Chinese gardener really could have perpetrated all these crimes.

How, for instance, could a poor man who barely spoke Thai travel around the country and commit so many murders without attracting attention? Was everything translated correctly during his interrogations and trial? What influence may the anti-Chinese sentiment of the time have had?

All this was of little concern back then.

After the execution, the corpse was made available to scientists, as was the practice in other countries as well. Thai doctors wanted to conduct an autopsy to see if the brain of a serial killer differs from a normal one. The body was subsequently embalmed and brought to the museum.

Since then, countless parents have taken their children to the Siriraj as a deterrent. Even today, schoolchildren stroll by the waxen corpse, which stands rather crookedly in a display case.

The gunshot wounds from the execution are still clearly visible, as well as the autopsy scar on his forehead.

Christoph Sator/dpa

For more than half a century, nobody was particularly bothered by the fact that the corpse of an executed murderer - with a sign saying "Si Quey (a cannibal)" - was on display at the Siriraj Hospital, where the patients include the Thai royal family.

The museum is home to the mummies of two other nameless murderers. There are also photos of murder victims, accident victims and people who took their own lives.

For foreigners, such a chamber of horrors may be difficult to comprehend. But in Thailand, such brutal methods are not uncommon. Drivers who are caught drink-driving here have to scrub morgues.

In Si Quey's case, opinions do appear to be changing. It's not only the petition. The president of the Cross Cultural Foundation, Surapong Kongchantuk, told the newspaper The Nation: "Siriraj has to return Si Quey's body to members of his family or his guardian so they can arrange a proper funeral for him. They have no right to keep the body, not to mention publicly branding him a cannibal."

The hospital has said that it is considering the matter. It did not specify how long this would take.

In the meantime, the sign calling him "a cannibal" has been removed.

 

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