Archive and Special Collections
Student from the Land of Smiles
Kong Kunpaya may very well be the first international student at our University; certainly, he is one of the first.
Kunpaya was born in 1907 in what was then Siam. The country changed its name to Thailand in 1939. He came from a privileged background attending a prestigious school in Siam, the Suan Kurleb (translates as Rose Garden so called because the school was originally set in the garden of the Grand Palace in Bangkok). The highest echelons of Siamese society attended this institution, including members of the Royal family, prime ministers, judges, academics, civil servants, artists and writers. Many scholars continued their studies in England, Kunpaya was one such government student; from 1931 to 1933, he attended Winchester Training College and London School of Economics. He later became a student at Carnegie College of Physical Training from 1933 to 1935, making him one of the first students at the newly established college in Leeds under the wardenship of Ernest Major. Kunpaya returned to Siam, he is recorded on board the Suwa Maru bound from London for Japan he disembarked at Singapore on 9 September 1935 heading back to his homeland. On his return Kunpaya was the Organiser of Physical Training at the Ministry of Public Instruction in the Physical Education Department based in Bangkok. His later life remains something of a mystery.