Debsirin School in Krungkasaem Road, Pomphrap, in the Thai capital city of Bangkok, has been in existence for 131 years since its opening in 1885 by the then King of Siam, Rama V, or King Chulalongkorn.
Considered among the premier schools in Thailand, its contribution to the kingdom is immense as it has produced five prime ministers and more than 70 Cabinet members, besides military leaders and other dignitaries.
Among the five prime ministers the school has produced was Malaysia’s first prime minister and its “Father of Independence”, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.
“Tunku Abdul Rahman had entered Debsirin School in 1913 at the age of 10 and spent two years there before returning to Kedah in 1915,” said the chairman of the Kedah branch of the Malaysian Historical Society, Wan Shamsudin Mohd Yusof, who led a delegation to Bangkok recently.
According to him, Tunku was sent to Debsirin school by his mother, Che’ Menjalara, a member of the Thai royalty and wife of Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah, the 25th Sultan of Kedah (1882-1943).
He said while schooling in Bangkok, Tunku had stayed with his elder brother, Tunku Yusuf, who was an officer with the Siam artillery corps.
Following the death of his elder brother in 1915, Tunku returned to Kedah and continued his schooling at Penang Free School.
Association member Dr Mohd Kasri Saidon, who was also on the trip to Bangkok for the historical study, said the late Tunku Yusuf had also studied at Debsirin School.
“The late Tunku Abdul Rahman continues to be remembered (by the school’s administrators as one of its students) and remains as a symbol of success and pride for Debsirin School.”
A signboard featuring the image of Tunku stands at the elite school until today to remind its students of this illustrious figure in the region’s history.
According to Mohd Kasri, Tunku and his elder brother’s schooling at Debsirin proved the already close ties between the Thai and Kedah royalty.
On its official website, Debsirin School proudly states: “Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Shah, Malaysian Prime Minister, was one of our famous former students.”
The school’s director, Anan Subwaree, in his briefing to the association’s delegation, said the school was very proud of the fact that Malaysia’s first prime minister had studied there.
“It is also a symbol of the ever close relations between Thailand and Malaysia,” he said, adding that they would be contributing some historical materials on Tunku to the Kedah State Museum.
In a letter to Debsirin School, in conjunction with its centenary celebrations in 1985, Tunku had expressed his pride in the school’s achievements and wanted all its former students to also feel proud of this old school.
“Those of them who are alive today must take pride in their old school, as I do, on its 100th anniversary. How many of my schoolmates are alive today I don’t know, but there can’t be very many.
“It was a life full of good times, for we went to school at eight in the morning and left at one o’clock. And we had one whole afternoon to play around.
“I had my bicycle and with my very close friend, Luang Travil Guparak, we used to cycle around the town … ,” Tunku wrote, among other things.