Thailand's Purported Hannibal Lecter to Receive Proper Burial After 60-Plus Years in a Glass Display Case

The university that displayed his body to the public for decades made the announcement amid a wave of skepticism as to the guilt of Si Quey Sae-Ung, a bogeyman to generations of Thai kids.
Heather Chen
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
July 20, 2020, 3:22pm
si quey canva
Si Quey's partially mummified remains on display. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Bobby

For generations of Thai schoolchildren, Si Quey Sae-Ung was a source of nightmares, the bogeyman that their parents warned them about. “Misbehave and he’ll eat your organs,” the stories go.

Now, more than 60 years after his arrest and subsequent execution, the Chinese immigrant from Shantou city will be moved from his posthumous prison—a glass display cabinet in a Bangkok medical museum where he had become a popular attraction—and finally laid to rest at an undisclosed location, The Nation reports.

“Si Quey Sae-Ung will finally be given a proper funeral on Thursday,” said medical officials from the Siriraj Hospital at Mahidol University, which has held Si Quey’s badly-deteriorated body for decades after performing autopsy studies.

Si Quey, allegedly Thailand’s most notorious serial killer, looms large in the local consciousness, and has been portrayed as a vicious child cannibal in movies and books. However, as the years wore on, some have questioned whether he committed the crimes he was accused of, or whether—as a Chinese immigrant who spoke little Thai at the height of Cold War anti-China sentiment—he was merely a convenient scapegoat.

Si Quey was arrested in 1958 on suspicion of the deaths of seven children from across the country, and a widely publicized nine-day trial saw him confess—mostly through a translator—to the murder charges. He was executed the following year by firing squad, and his body donated to science.

His conviction, according to a 2016 Khaosod retrospective on his case, was based entirely on his confession, but in recent years people have increasingly questioned how Si Quey, dirt-poor and not conversant in the language, could have traveled so widely to kill his victims.

His confessions, for one thing, allegedly conflicted with the evidence, with Thai historian Wasana Wongsurawat telling the South China Morning Post last year that "the legal system failed him."

“Si Quey was denied due process," Wasana said.

A Thai PBS documentary from 2018 explored an alternative theory for the killings, positing that the actual perpetrator may have been a relative of an influential local official, whom locals at the time had allegedly blamed.

In light of the lack of definitive evidence, last year netizens launched online petitions calling for Si Quey to be removed from his case and given a proper burial. Mahidol University ultimately relented, first removing the tag from his display case labeling him cannibal, and now agreeing to give him a proper funeral.