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“Do you want to hear the story of Thailand’s first serial killer”, said the tour guide.
The guide and her 4 guests were standing by the Giant Swing with a view of Wat Suthat (Wat Suthatthepwararam) as the background. It is beautiful to see Wat Suthat lit up at night and his temple is one of the most important temples in Bangkok.
The guide continued: “The UK has Jack the Ripper. Thailand has its own story and Wat Suthat reminds me of it. This is a story about a monk who once lived there and turned out to be a legendary serial killer. His story was recorded as the first serial killer in Thailand, due to the number of victims and the way he brutally hid the dead body.”
‘Boonpeng Heeb Lek’ or ‘Boonpeng the Iron Chest’ was how he was referred to. Here is his story.
A hundred years ago, one peaceful afternoon, some local people who lived near to the Chaophraya River in Nonthaburi province went out fishing by the river as usual. Then, they noticed something washed ashore near the temple pier and closely checked to see what it was. They found it was a huge iron chest. The origin of this chest was questionable at best. But people were curious to see what was inside because the iron chest looked expensive. It was the kind of chest that was mostly used by wealthy people to keep valuable items in. They figured there might be treasure inside so they didn’t hesitate to open.
What they found inside the chest was far from the concept of treasure. The only thing inside the chest shocked people. It was the dead body of an unknown young lady. They called the police immediately.
By performing a preliminary autopsy on ”Jane Doe”, police found out that she was wrapped by a mosquito net and suffocated to death with bricks filled inside the chest to make it heavy enough to sink in the river. At that time, whilst this killing was a serious offence, it was undoubtedly difficult for police to figure out who was the killer.
The chief policeman decided to put the corpse’s information in a newsletter hoping there would be some families missing their daughter and would contact back.
The next day, the mystery was cleared up. A mother whose daughter had been missing for days came to the police station and claimed that the Jane Doe was her daughter named Prik, 20 years old and married with a wealthy man. The mother said that Prik received a letter from a man who had borrowed her a gold necklace and wanted to return it. She arranged to go out to meet him and never returned.
Her mother believed that the man whom she arranged to meet was Boonpeng. Although her daughter was married, her husband ignored her. So, she was having an affair with Boonpeng and so he became a key suspect.
With this testimony, Boonpeng was targeted. The investigation was ongoing but there were no solid evidences to prove that Boonpeng was the real murderer until a witness showed up. He was a rickshaw driver who was hired to dump the iron chest in the river. Surely, he was a material witness in this criminal investigation.
The guide paused: “For the very first time I heard about Boonpeng, I had so many questions about who was Boonpeng? Why did he commit such terrible things like that? Consequently, I dug for more information and what I learnt about his background surprised me”
Boonpeng was born in a remote village near a canal in a place that nowadays is part of Nakhon Panom province. He was half Thai Isaan and half Chinese. He moved to Bangkhunprom in Bangkok, when he was 5 years old. Some sources said that he was an orphan when he moved down to Bangkok and was adopted by an old couple. He was raised as their grandson. When he turned teenager, he was very good-looking, charming, and eloquent. He was such a handsome guy, and women swooned for him. Despite his appearance, he also had a bad side. He was lazy and didn’t work. He did not even help his grandparents. He was not interested to work like other people, but he seemed to pay more attention to black magic, superstition, and the art of making of love potions.
He had the fortune to learn black magic from an old undertaker who lived in the temple near his house. After finished his black magic courses, his grandparents refused to let him stay with them, because they were against him learning such an evil thing that was mostly used to threaten people.
Therefore, he moved to Banglampoo in downtown of Bangkok. He started to use his black magic for a living. He was now 20 years old and ordained as a monk and moved to Wat Thewarat Kunchorn.
He was successful as a monk. He attracted people with his charming appearance and black magic. There were many people approaching him, and especially women who wanted him to create love spells. Some sources said that his residence in the temple always welcomed guests, apostles, and ladies especially in the nighttime. Respected by apostles, he was permitted to make money under ordination. Some said he even had sex with ladies as a part of his black magic ritual.
Having sex under ordination is the gravest transgression of the monk rules. His wicked behavior couldn’t be kept for long. The evil rituals were finally discovered by the abbot and he was then expelled from the temple.
After he was expelled, Boonpeng moved back to Bangkok downtown and he chose ‘Wat Suthat,’ the temple with good reputation and good location, as the place he wanted to be based. At first, the abbot of Wat Suthat didn’t want him because he also knew about his bad behavior, but Boonpeng swore and promised that he would change and remain on the good track that all the monks should be. Finally, the abbot allowed him to stay there.
Right after being given this second chance, he started to do bad things again and it was worse than before. He opened a casino in the monk’s residence, had affairs with ladies, and still practiced black magic, especially the art of love potions. Prik, the victim, came into his life, asking for a love potion to make her husband interested in her again. But finally, she became Boonpeng’s lover and got pregnant. Accordingly, she wanted him to take responsibility. Boonpeng already had someone else he had arranged to marry and could not take the responsibilty. This led to the motivation of murder.
From all the bad behavior he kept committing, the abbot of Wat Suthat finally knew and ordered to terminate Boonpeng out of monkhood. He would not be a monk anymore, but it was not a big deal for hime as he was now wealthy from his dark business and planned for a marriage to the other lady. However, Boonpeng was arrested at his wedding ceremony where the truth was revealed.
He confessed and said Prik was not the only victim. Before that, he murdered a jewelry merchant “Nai Learm”, due to a conflict of interest between them. He put the dead body of Nai Learm in the iron chest and also drown him in the river. Some people said he killed 5 more people and always used the iron chest to hide. Most of the victims were ladies who became his lovers, but finally were killed for some reasons.
Finally, he was sentenced to the death penalty by public beheading. He was the last prisoner who was beheaded in Thai history.
After he died, his body was buried in Wat Pasi near the Sanseab canal, and local people built a spirit shrine to calm his spirit.
Now his spirit shrine still exists in Wat Pasi. Local people believed that when the time passed by his spirit was purified and changed to be the protector. He was called in a friendly name as “Uncle Boonpeng” and became respected by local people.
The tour guide paused and then said one last sentence: “So, every night when I pass Wat Suthat on this tour, I always feel like Boonpeng is looking at us from somewhere at Wat Suthat. Can you feel it too?”
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