Famous crime cases in Thailand


Thailand seems like one of the friendliest places in SE Asia due to the hospitality of locals and how much people smile – it is known as the Land of Smiles after all. But it’s difficult to smile through tragedy and foul play on the news.

Even our country has some grisly crime cases under its belt, and several of these still haunt locals today.


1. Boonpeng Heep Lek (1919) – The Iron Box Killer


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Images adapted from: LINE TODAY and @annystory_club

Boonpeng was an expelled monk who practised black magic and had affairs with wealthy women. He was planning to marry another woman when Prik, one of his lovers, got pregnant by him and asked him to take responsibility.

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Image credit: TNN Thailand

To evade responsibility, he murdered her, chopped her up and stuffed her in an iron chest (“heep lek”) before throwing it into the river.

His past victims were 5 other lovers and a jewellery merchant he had a dispute with. They were all killed, chopped up, and stuffed in iron chests like Prik was.

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Boonpeng’s execution was the last public beheading in Thailand
Image credit: Kapook! Hilight

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Image credit: thai news vision

It was said the first chop could not decapitate him due to black magic. He spat out a black liquid and the second attempt went swiftly. For this odd reason, a shrine was built for “Uncle Boonpeng” after his execution and people come here to wish for good luck.

Boonpeng’s story inspired many radio dramas, as well as two film adaptations in 1967 and 1980.


2. Si Quey (1958) – Thailand’s cannibal bogeyman


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He was actually yawning when the photograph was taken
Image credit: SpringNews

A couple of generations back, parents would tell their children to not misbehave or “Si Quey” would spirit them away at night and feed on their organs.

In 1958, See Uey Sae Ung, a Chinese immigrant working as a gardener was arrested after being caught with the remains of a boy by his father.

When he was put on trial, he admitted to killing children and eating their organs for strength, and was sentenced to death soon after by a firing squad.

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Previously, the display sign read “Si Quey, Cannibal”
Image credit: News1

Until recently, Si Quey’s mummified remains were displayed at the Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum (Siriraj Medical Museum) but has since been given funeral processions.

There was newfound evidence that he was a scapegoat who was told he would be allowed back to China if he confessed to whatever they asked. This was supported by the fact he needed an interpreter because he spoke little to no Thai, and how his trial only lasted 9 days with conflicting testimonies.

Many believed that he was framed due to the political climate at the time. The government under PM Sarit Thanarat was fiercely anti-communist and Chinese immigrants like Si Quey were suspected of being communist sympathisers.

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Si Quey (2004)

Naturally, his life got numerous film and television adaptations, and surprisingly, some depicted him as a victim of society (and xenophobia) rather than a monstrous serial killer.


3. Murder of Nuanchawee (1959) – affair turned murder


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Nurse Nuanchawee Petchrung (left) and her doctor husband and murderer, Athip Suyansethakarn (right)
Image credit: เจาะเวลาหาอดีต

They say marriage is a “Till death do us part” union which cannot be broken without judgment.

Miss Nuanchawee loved her husband with all her heart despite his physical abuse. Indifferent, he registered a second marriage to another woman 6 days into their marriage and planned to murder Nuanchawee with 4 other men. He drugged her and let the men have their way with her before she was stabbed to death.

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Image credit: WorstCrimeAgainst

Nuanchawee’s body was found floating in the Chao Phraya river, with 3 stab wounds on the chest and a ring engraved with “Ramdecha” – her husband’s old surname.

The doctor was sentenced to death but was later reduced to a life sentence and released after a year. The reason for pardoning is unknown. His accomplices were given life sentences which were also reduced. The doctor was barred from practising medicine after this murder.

It was said that the doctor may have tried to stop the men at the last minute but was too late. On his deathbed, he asked Nuanchawee for forgiveness as he passed away.

Since Nuanchawee’s body was found next to Nonthaburi Bridge, it’s also known as “Nuanchawee Bridge”.

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Nuangchawee’s clothes can be seen at Siriraj Forensic Museum today
Image credit: sac.or.th

Her murder was adapted into a 1985 film titled The Case of Nuanchawee.


4. The Macabre Case of Prompiram (1977) – raped and murdered by two dozen men


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Image credit: Dek-D

This is one of Thailand’s darkest tales that the district wants people to move on from.

In 1977, an unnamed mentally-disabled 20-year-old woman was dropped off at Phrom Phiram railway station (then a remote village) after being caught stowing away on the train despite her pleas. A couple of teenagers then lured the hungry woman to a cornfield where they raped her.

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Reenacting the crime scene
Image credit: Thairath

The most shocking part was how many were involved. The teenagers had invited a couple dozen drunk men from a nearby wedding to participate in the rape. Later, she was strangled to death and left on the railroad tracks to make it look like a train accident. Till this day, not all suspects have been punished.

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It also inspired the film The Macabre Case of Prompiram (2003)
Image credit: Pantip


5. Murder of Sherry Ann Duncan (1986) – unsolved due to corruption


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Image credit: Bangkok Post

16-year-old Thai-American Sherry Ann Duncan was found bludgeoned and strangled to death after four men were seen abducting her after school. What followed was a series of twists and turns that has made Duncan’s murder unsolvable till this day.

Many were scapegoated for the murder and some died while imprisoned, with one disabled from prison treatment. Duncan apparently had relationships with a couple of them as well.

Attempts to solve the case were plagued with lacking or falsified evidence by the police. The police colonel who mishandled the murder case was not punished as he had fled to the United States some time after his retirement. In the end, no one was brought to justice.

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Miss Kloychai Duncan holds onto her daughter’s portrait
Image credit: Thairath

The most recent attempt to uncover the case was 1995 and found Suwiboon Patpongpanich as a new suspect. 

Suwiboon is the daughter of Udom Patpongpanich, who founded the red-light district Patpong Road. 

Sherry Ann had reportedly been seeing Suwiboon’s boyfriend and was likely killed out of jealousy. Suwiboon was charged with hiring two men to kill Sherry Ann, but this, too, was reversed and Patpongpanich was eventually released from prison. It was suspected that strings may have been pulled due to Suwiboon’s socialite status.

Duncan’s murder was made into a film titled Sherry Ann (2001) that you can watch here.


6. Blue Diamond Affair (1989) – Thailand’s Hope Diamond


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The cursed Hope Diamond (left) is for illustration purposes only
Image credit: La Prairie and BlogGang

There are a dozen famous diamonds in the world known for being cursed. Whoever possesses them will have bad luck follow them for life, if not death.

Kriangkrai Techamong plotted a diamond theft as he worked as a cleaner in a Saudi prince’s palace. He managed to smuggle around 91kg (200lbs) of jewelry stolen from the prince’s bedroom into Thailand by bribing officials, selling some and keeping the rest.

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Image credit: GotoKnow

He was eventually caught and the diamonds were returned, or at least half of them were – the rest turned out to be fake. The diamonds had been swapped some time during their collection and return, and theories say they were seen worn by officials’ wives.

Even more mysterious was the murder of four Saudi diplomats in Bangkok around the same time and the disappearance of one Saudi businessman who was investigating the incident. 

A gem dealer’s wife and son were also murdered by a Thai policeman due to the dealer’s allegedly involvement with the diamonds.

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Techamong with the ordained, now-paralysed policeman who murdered the gem dealer’s wife and son.
Image credit: Police News Varieties

Techamong suffered a series of bad luck and close shaves after the incident, once narrowly avoiding a fatal car crash. He became a monk to save himself and make merits for others involved. He has since quit monkhood after three years to help support his family.

It is unknown who killed the Saudi men but there is speculation that it was politically-charged and unrelated to the diamonds. The missing diamonds are still at large and no one knows their whereabouts.


7. Syamol Murder (1993) – divorced and murdered


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Image credit: Blockdit

If you swear your love on her father’s grave, you have to keep your word or an “accident” has to happen. Dr. Bundit Kositchaiwat was married to Miss Syamol Laplokiat before she divorced him after realising he loved another woman. 

He continued to financially support her but wanted her to move far away from him to save face, not helped by the birth of their daughter.

Despite being divorced for 2 years, he feared that his ex-wife would show up to ruin his wedding and reputation, so he hired three men to murder her.

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Image adapted from: TeeNee

Laplokiat was stabbed in the torso 3 times and strangled to death, which the hired killers tried to cover up as a rape and murder incident. The doctor might have also been at the crime scene with them.

The victim’s 2-year-old daughter had been hugging her lifeless body all night in the car before someone heard her cries and stumbled upon the tragic scene.

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Image credit: Thairath

Her former husband continued to deny his involvement as he was sentenced to death by the court. The three hired men were sentenced to life imprisonment for cooperating with the authorities.

Syamol’s tragic murder was adapted into a film in 1995 titled Syamol.


8. Boontawee Family Massacre (1997)


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Image credit: Kapook! Hilight

The Boontawee were a family of five brutally murdered by two teenagers trying to burgle money from their home.

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Pakro demonstrates how he hung Boontawee and his children
Image credit: Kapook! Hilight

The three boys (aged 9, 11, 13) and their father were hung from the stairs while their mother was found strangled and bludgeoned to death upstairs. The two suspects fled the scene with some jewelry and 400 Thai Buddha amulets that they tried to sell but instead led to their arrest.

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Image credit: roowaisa

Teenagers Sak Pakro and Songkran Kaew-ubon received life imprisonment but Pakro was released early for good behaviour.

Pakro apparently killed the family out of anger stemming from a troubled childhood. When he was young, he was tied up while his house was burgled.

A few years after being released from prison, Pakro was killed by gunmen in front of his home. The motive behind Pakro’s murder remains a mystery since the police ruled out revenge.


9. Serm Sakhonrat (1998) – medical student chopped up girlfriend for breaking up


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Image credit: yuwareekh

By now, you may notice a pattern that famous crime cases tend to be stories of jealousy and cover-ups.

A medical school named Serm Sakhonrat was not happy that his girlfriend, Jenjira Ployangunsri, wanted to break off their relationship and plotted to murder her. Ployangunsri was a senior student he was dating in medical school.

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Serm Sakhonrat (crouching) demonstrates how he disposed of his former girlfriend
Image credit: Thairath

He lured her to a condominium and shot her in the head. Then, he cut her to pieces with his medical knowledge and a scalpel before flushing them down the toilet. Police found her skull in Bang Pakong River and eventually traced it back to him

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Image credit: Thairath

Oh, by the way, he’s a free man now. That’s right, folks – he’s roaming the streets of Bangkok under a different name on the condition that he doesn’t do it again. He also was barred from practising law a few years ago due to murdering his girlfriend.


10. 2,002 Illegally Aborted Babies Found At Temple (2010)


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Image credit: baanjompra

Abortions are a grey area in Thai society due to social stigma and laws, and are some reasons why illegal abortions still happen.

A horrifying amount of bags were found inside a mortuary after complaints of a foul smell. To much horror, the bags contained 2,002 aborted fetuses from unknown illegal abortion clinics.

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Image credit: painaidii

A couple of undertakers and a clinic employee were charged for hiding the bags and working with illegal abortions. One of them explained that they were unable to dispose of the aborted babies because the crematory broke, so it piled up until there were too many to bury or store.

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Image credit: NPR

The temple performed a praying ceremony for the aborted babies not long after the horrifying discovery. Later, a shrine was built with three baby statues for locals to pray to.


11. Terminal 21 Korat mass shooting (2020) – recorded on FB live


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Image credit: Tempo.co English

The year 2020 started off with tragedy, as gunshots were heard throughout a mall in Lopburi, followed by shooting incidents in February that many assumed were copycat crimes.

Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth Thomma shot and killed his commanding officer whom he claimed owed him money, and two others as he stole weapons from the camp. He killed more as he made his way through a temple and into Terminal 21 Korat shopping mall as “revenge”. Thomma shot 29 dead and injured 58 before the police finally killed him.

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The shooter during his infamous Facebook Live stream
Image credit: The Thaiger

It was shocking news because mass shootings were rare in Thailand. Even more disturbing was the fact the soldier had live streamed his rampage on Facebook. 

Within the same month of February, two other shooting incidents occurred near Chulalongkorn University and another in Century Movie Plaza Mall.

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Lopburi mall shooter in January
Image credit: Khaosod

This shooting echoes a similar event that happened in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a shooter live streamed a mosque attack the year before. Back in January, a school director was arrested for a shooting caught on camera in Robinson Lopburi mall that killed 3.


Staying safe no matter where you are


Even though we are looking at the macabre, you should remember that these are not common occurrences in one country. There’s no need to live in fear all the time.

Wherever you travel, remember to stay alert and not wander into suspicious places or people. You will be able to stay safe and enjoy your time.

Emergency hotlines to keep in mind:

  • Tourist Police – 1155 (call them first – they can redirect you to an English-speaking emergency service)
  • Ambulance and rescue – 1669
  • Fire brigade – 199

Featured images adapted from: SpringNews, Government Public Relations Department

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