Si Quey was executed in 1959 after being convicted of murdering five children. (Image: Khaosod)
An impoverished Chinese immigrant to Thailand whose embalmed cadaver was on display for decades at a forensic museum in Bangkok was being cremated today in a Buddhist ceremony.
The man, known colloquially in Thailand as Si Quey, was accused of murdering five children in the late 1950s and cannibalizing their remains as the country’s most notorious serial killer.
He was executed in September 1959 and his corpse, preserved in formaldehyde, was soon placed on display at the Forensic Medical Museum of Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital, where it remained until earlier this week.
The Chinese immigrant, who was a manual laborer with no known family in Thailand, became a byword for evil in the country and has been featured in films, books and documentaries over the years.
His remains draw large crowds to the museum where he was exhibited among other macabre items.
Last year several locals launched a campaign in a bid to exonerate Si Quey, arguing that he had been framed for crimes he did not commit.
Amateur online sleuths trawled through contemporary newspaper accounts and police reports, uncovering discrepancies that indicated that Thai investigators used flimsy evidence to link the Chinese man to the brutal murder of several children in several provinces over several years.
The children’s bodies were mutilated and some of their internal organs were missing, according to contemporary accounts, which led people to believe that their murderer ate them.
During his highly publicized trial, the Chinese man confessed to murdering the children but denied eating their organs. His defenders say he spoke little Thai and might have been tricked or coerced into confessing.
“I’d argue that the legal system failed him,” said Wasana Wongsurawat, a professor at Bangkok’s prestigious Chulalongkorn University who specializes in Sino-Thai history. “Si Quey was denied due process.”
The historian pointed to strident anti-Chinese sentiments, whipped up by Thailand’s military government at the time, with officials often accusing poor immigrants from China of being communist sympathizers and common criminals who wanted to sabotage Thai society.
“Chinese migrant laborers back then were much like migrant laborers from Myanmar and Cambodia today,” she said, referring to a recent case in which two migrant workers from Myanmar were convicted of murdering two British tourists on Koh Tao island after raping one of them.
The migrants have been sentenced to death and remain on death row, but rights advocates say the two men were likely framed for crimes committed by others.
Many Thais believe the same fate once befell Si Quey and an online campaign last year to have his cadaver removed from the museum and properly cremated during a religious ceremony gathered widespread support.
In response, the hospital promised to look into the evidence investigators provided for convicting the Chinese man in the late 1950s. The hospital’s management recently agreed to cremate the Chinese immigrant’s embalmed cadaver.
Si Quey has no known surviving relatives, but locals in a village in eastern Thailand where he was accused of killing a child have asked for his ashes so that they can perform a Buddhist merit-making ceremony for his soul and keep his remains at a temple.
Elderly residents in the area recalled Si Quey as a quiet loner who worked as a farmhand. “People here have developed an emotional bond with him,” a village headwoman said.