Sunday, April 14, 2013

Southeast Asia's Serial Killers (part three): Somkid Phumphuang aka "Thailand's Jack the Ripper"

After the early death of his parents, Somkid Phumphuang was raised by his uncle, Kling Kinkaew. His uncle later admitted to the police that Somkid had always been a hot-tempered troublemaker. Indeed, very early, Somkid decided to lead a life of crime, getting thrown out of school for theft.

After being kicked out of school, he found work in a wood factory, but again was fired for stealing money. Later, he framed a local businessman, giving a false testimony in court, which resulted in the businessman being jailed for six years, and swearing he would have Somkid killed at his release.

He also got involved in drugs and weapons trading in the Northeast part of Thailand (Easarn). He created himself many aliases, such as Daeng Phumpuang, Suwat Chanarong, Suchart Kingkaew, Naron Nilnet.

But his criminal career came to the extreme between January and June 2005, as he killed 5 women around the country. He had a penchant for staying in large hotels on his itinerant travels. He would then attract women to his room, where he would strangle them.

Warunee Phimphabut
Warunee, a 25-year-old lounge singer, was killed at a hotel in Mukdahan province on January 30.
Phongphan Sabchai
Phongphan, a 34-year-old masseuse, was killed in Lampang on June 2.
Patcharee Amatanirum
Patcharee, a 38-year-old singer was killed in Trang on June 11.
Porntawan Pungkhabut
Porntawan, a masseuse, was killed in a room of the Charoensri Grand Royal Hotel in Muang district of Udon Thani on June 18.
Sompong Pimpornpirom
Sompong, a 36-year-old masseuse, was killed in Buri Ram on June 20.

Soon after his last murder, he was successfully apprehended by the police, and after three trials, sentenced to death on March 2, 2010.

Dubbed "Thailand's Jack The Ripper", Somkid had nothing from the serial killer that haunted the streets of London. The only element that would fit is the victimology, praying on young women ready to sell their bodies for money. I do think that what might have motivated Somkid to kill was simply greed, and recognition. In a country like Thailand, money is a sign of power and when you have money, almost anything is possible, even sometimes being above the law. Sex is a way for many people to get access to money, especially in Thailand.

The loss of his parents obviously resulted for Somkid in a loss of identity, of self worth (thus the need to create new identities) but also a loss of sense of belonging. Thailand is a country where, looking from the outside, family seems to be everything. But if you look a bit more closely, the sense of duty is often stronger than the real commitment. It is possible that even though Somkid was raised by his uncle, he did not feel that he belonged or was accepted by his "new" family.

His criminal career depicts someone:
- who is hot-tempered
- who is not patient, and might even gets frustrated easily when he doesn't get what he wants
- who is intelligent enough to cross a businessman and send him to jail
- who is manipulative and able to successfully give a false testimony in court
- who does not have empathy for other people and puts his own needs before anybody else's
- who is not afraid by authority, and even thinks he is above the law (he did not pay much attention not to get caught or to cover his tracks), giving himself a sense of greatness
- who needs to satisfy his needs immediately, without caring about the consequences

These are all elements that correspond to a psychopathic personality. So I can easily say that he did not start killing because of arguments about the fees, but because he wanted sex from these women, but did not feel he had to pay for it. At the same time, he was not patient enough to try to find women who would have sex with him willingly. Moreover, killing was making him feel powerful and in control, which he wasn't as a kid.

The last element I would like to address here is the nickname he was given: "Thailand's Jack the Ripper".
- he is not a ripper as he did not mutilate the victim's bodies (not that I know of)
- his MO and signature are completely different. The only common element could be the victimology (prostitutes), but even there, the victims were not selected for the same reasons
- his motives were different (Somkid was all about taking from the victims, and Jack the Ripper was about punishing)
- following the FBI classification of serial killers, Somkid can be classified as an organized serial killer, whereas Jack the Ripper was disorganized
- Somkid has a personality disorder, giving him full responsibility for his actions (he knew what he was doing and his murders were more or less premeditated), whereas Jack the Ripper had a mental disorder

I really think that this nickname is a really bad one, as not only there is no similar element between the two killers, but also because it is giving him a fame and power he doesn't deserve.

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