He was known simply as the “cannibal,” and his contorted and blackened corpse stood on chilling public display at the Forensic Museum at Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital for some 60 years. But on Thursday, Si Quey’s body was finally cremated in the Thai city of Nonthaburi as nine Buddhist monks chanted prayers and placed flowers by his coffin.
The ensuing cremation — near the Bang Kwang Prison — was overseen by the Corrections Department, given no relatives had come forward, and was attended by a small crowd of locals who have come to learn of the infamous and somewhat mythological figure. Si Quey had come to be deemed the country’s first serial killer.
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A poor Chinese immigrant, police first arrested him in connection to a missing 8-year-old boy and hurriedly affixed some six other unsolved murders of children dating back several years earlier. The story splashed graphically across newspapers at the time, detailing how Si Quey had confessed to acquiring a taste for human flesh — hearts, liver and intestines — throughout World War II as a young Chinese soldier forced to survive on rotting bodies.
The 32-year-old was tried and found guilty, and subsequently executed by a firing squad on Sept. 16, 1959. Si Quey’s name was then folded into the cultural lexicon and used as a warning from parents to children: if you misbehave, Si Quey will come and get you.
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But his tale hurriedly became the stuff of twisted fan fiction and horror movies, prompting his corpse to be mummified.
However, in recent years the circumstances surrounding his conviction and alleged confession have come into question, with activists pushing for his dignified burial and pointing out that law enforcement at the time was known for forced confessions and upping the ante with tabloid tales. Thailand’s military government was also notorious for perpetuating anti-Chinese attitudes in the throes of the Cold War.
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The final resting place for Si Quey’s ashes is yet to be determined.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.