Are there cannibals in Thailand

Thailand argues over murderers behind glass cases in the museum

The body of the man, who was executed 60 years ago and has been embalmed in the museum since then, is to be handed over to his family.

Every child in Thailand knows the name Si Quey. An evil man from China, allegedly a serial killer, even an ogre. "Don't go out when it's dark. Otherwise Si Quey will come and get you," parents have said here for generations. This is, with all due respect, utter nonsense. The man has been dead for almost 60 years and was executed by firing squad on September 17, 1959.

His body, embalmed with paraffin, is in a tightly closed glass case in Bangkok's oldest and largest hospital. Anyone can see it there for an entry fee of 200 baht (5.60 euros).

That is exactly why there is now a dispute. For more than half a century, it didn't bother anyone that in the Siriraj Clinic, where the royal family can also be treated, the corpse of an executed murderer is on display - with the addition of "Si Quey (a cannibal)". But now many Thais find that this no longer fits in with the times. More than 10,000 people have signed a petition so that the dead can finally get some rest.

Human dignity should be preserved

The movement was started by Pharaoh Chakpatranon, who published a photo of the deceased on Twitter in mid-May and demanded "justice". Even criminals deserve respect after death. "We have to preserve human dignity." In addition, Pharaoh doubts that the Chinese committed all the murders he is accused of and that he was really a cannibal. Si Quey is "a victim of a society, due to unconfirmed rumors, hyped by the media".

In fact, the case is not as clear as most suggest. The Chinese, born in 1927, came to Thailand as an immigrant shortly after the Second World War. In the city of Noen Phra, 200 kilometers south of Bangkok, he finally found a job as a gardener. There he was caught in 1958 trying to burn the body of an eight-year-old. The 31-year-old admitted to having killed the boy. And also having taken out the heart, liver, and kidneys to eat later.

The case made headlines across the country. During the interrogation, the Chinese confessed to five other child murders in various Thai cities. The process only took nine days. The court sentenced him to life - also for pleading guilty. The appeal process ended with the death penalty. Si Quey fainted when the verdict was pronounced. It was carried out a few months later. There are various books, films, and even plays about the case.

It was only later that doubts arose as to whether the Chinese gardener could really have been the culprit in all cases. How, for example, could such a poor man, who barely spoke Thai, travel the country and commit so many murders at that time without his being noticed? Was everything correctly translated during the interrogations and in the process? What influence did the anti-Chinese sentiment at the time possibly have? All of this was hardly thought about at the time.

Corpse made available to science

After the execution, the body was made available to science - as in other countries. With an autopsy, the Thai doctors wanted to clarify whether the brain of a serial killer is different from normal brains. Then the body was embalmed and taken to the museum. Since then, countless parents have taken their children to Siriraj as a deterrent. To this day, school classes walk past the wax figure, which is quite crooked in its showcase. The gunshot wounds from the execution can still be seen as well as the autopsy scar on the forehead.

The museum also includes the mummies of two other, albeit nameless, murderers. There are also photos of murder victims, accident victims and people who took their own lives. For western visitors it is difficult to believe that there is such a horror cabinet. In Thailand, however, such brutal methods are not that unusual. Drunk drivers also have to clean morgues here.

In the case of Si Quey, the mood now seems to be changing. It's not just the petition. The President of the CCF Cultural Foundation, Surapong Kongchantuk, told The Nation newspaper: "The hospital must return the family's body so that Si Quey can have a proper burial. It has no right to keep the body - and certainly not, publicly scourge him as a cannibal. "

The clinic has now announced that it will look into the matter. How long that should take, she does not reveal. At least the addition "A cannibal" has already been removed from the glass case behind Si Quey's name.

(APA / dpa)