BANGKOK – Bangkok houses a unique forensic museum which resorts to horror not only as a scientific and educational method, but also a social and political one.
The display cabinets contain deformed fetuses; bodies of babies, rapists and criminals; and organs and limbs destroyed by murders, disease, accidents and suicides, which above all underline the fragility of life.
The museum was founded in the middle of the 20th century by a professor of medicine, Songkran Niyomsane, and it forms a part of the renowned Siriraj Hospital complex, located in the Thonburi neighborhood, the oldest part of the city.
The original idea of the museum was to help in the training of forensics students, but it has gained enough popularity to attract a broader range of visitors.
There have been testimonies of mothers who admit to finding solace in the possibility of sometimes being able to visit their dead offspring, preserved in formalin.
Next to a glass urn containing an inert and suspended body of a two-year-old boy – who drowned – lay toys brought by visitors moved by his fate.
Local students that move along the halls on guided tours are joined by tourists and curious foreigners drawn by the magnetic pull of the museum and its gory ambiance.
Somboon Thamtakengkit, consultant at the institution, explained to EFE that besides its academic objective, the founder of the place wanted to “teach that life is delicate and it should be treated with care.”
This is the purpose behind displaying smokers’ lungs blackened by cigarette smoke, livers destroyed by alcohol, and hands, arms, legs and heads cut off in train and road accidents.
Other items include the skull of a person pierced by the gunshot of a murderer, and the stomach of a suicide victim burnt by the acid consumed.
The bodies of rapists and other criminals exhibited bear a different warning.
“The inclusion of these people was to warn people that those who behave badly do not go to heaven, but are condemned to remain in this world,” Somboon said, alluding to their bodies which have not been cremated as required by Buddhism.
The best example of this is the corpse of Si Quey, who in 1958 was held by the police and confessed to having killed six girls and a boy to eat their hearts and livers, expecting to become immortal.
The Chinese immigrant was executed the day after his arrest, and professor Songkran claimed his body for autopsy to look for physical anomalies that may have explained his behavior.
Somboon said that the professor’s examination did not reveal any abnormalities; however, the corpse was preserved by injecting paraffin and subjecting it to a process of drying its limbs, organs and tissues.
Si Quey now features in the collection, his body naked and upright, with eyeballs missing, and mouth open, revealing the upper canines.