Daily Archives: July 15, 2007

The Last Public Beheading

Boonpeng Heep Lek

Shrine for Boonpeng Heep Lek at Wat Phasee, Ekamai

It may seem strange to you and me, but the last person to be executed in Thailand by beheading has his own shrine. In some ways it is the Thai way of making up for past misdeeds. Like the Nang Nak Shrine for the famous Thai ghost I told you about before, this one also has a steady stream of worshippers. People come here when they are seeking some good luck. Which is strange, because this guy didn’t really have much of his own. The last Thai person to be decapitated in Thailand was Boonpeng Heep Lek. The execution took place on 19th August 1919. Just 13 years later, the Penal Code of 1932 abolished beheading. These executions took place at Wat Phasee, which in those days was on the outskirts of Bangkok. The temple dates back to the 1840’s. The cemetery for executed felons has now been built over by a local school. I wonder if the students know what lies under their classrooms?


The execution of Boonpeng Heep Lek on 19th August 1919

The procedure for the execution usually followed these guidelines during the reign of King Rama V:

1. After a prisoner had been sentenced to death by the court, his case would be presented to the King for a final approval.
2. Before the execution, the prisoner would be whipped for three rounds with 30 strokes for each round.
3. On the way to the execution place, the prisoner might be punished with the five instruments of restraint which were leg chain, handcuffs, neck chain, hard wooden stocks and waist chain.
4. Last meal would be provided for the prisoner and after that a monk would be invited to preach to him.
5. The prisoner had to sit down with both his legs stretched forward, and his body would be fastened to a wooden cross.
6. The prisoner’s ears and mouth would be filled with clay, and the base of his neck which was going to be cut off, was also marked with clay. After that, the second executioner would continually dance with his sword in front of the prisoner and as soon as it was believed that the prisoner’s mind was calm, the first executioner would then behead him from behind.
7. After the prisoner had been executed, both of his feet would be cut off at the ankles in order to take the leg chain off. After that, his flesh would be sliced and his body chopped up into pieces and then given to the vultures and crows.
8. His head would be placed on a sharp stick and displayed for everyone to see.

Source: ThaiPrisonLife.com

Wat Phasee

Wat Phasee is quite a recognizable temple. I have seen the prominent stupa many times when I have driven along New Phetburi Road. I finally decided that I should go and take a closer look. You can go there by catching a sky train to Ekamai BTS Station. From there you need to go down Sukumwit Soi 63 to near the end. Look out for Soi 21 on your left. There are signs but they are only in Thai. The distance is about 2.8 kms. Maybe a bit too far to walk but you could try a motorcycle taxi. I have marked this location on our ThailandPhotoMap.com website. It is worth going as it is one of the few remaining locations in Bangkok that you won’t find in any guidebook.

Related links: A Public Beheading in Siam and Thai Prison Museum