Kingdom of Setul Mambang Segara

Setul, officially the Kingdom of Setul Mambang Segara (Malay: Kerajaan Setul Mambang Segara; Jawi: نڬري ستول ممبڠ سڬارا; Thai: เมืองสตูล; RTGS: Mueang Satun[1]) was a traditional Malay kingdom founded in the northern coast of the Malay Peninsula. The state was established in 1808 in wake of the partition between the rulers in the Royal House of Kedah.[2] The partition witnessed the territory being seceded to the cadet branch of the royal family. The sovereignty of the kingdom effectively ended in 1916, following the dissolution by the Siamese government. Its borders were largely inherited to its successive province, the present-day Satun, Thailand.

Kingdom of Setul Mambang Segara
Kerajaan Setul Mambang Segara (Malay)
نڬري ستول ممبڠ سڬارا (Jawi)
เมืองสตูล (Thai)
The four Kedahan dominions by 1860 in colour, after the loss of Terang (Trang) to Siam in 1810, the secession of Prince of Wales Island and Province Wellesley to the British between 1786 to 1860 and the Kedah Partition of 1843 that witnessed the birth of four separate dominions. The four kingdoms are in their respective colours, while other neighbouring polities are in light brown.
CapitalKota Mambang Segara
Common languagesMalay
Kedah Malay
Sunni Islam
YM Tunku Bisnu ibni al-Marhum Sultan 'Abdu'llah al-Mukarram Shah
YM Tunku Muhammad Akib ibni al-Marhum Tunku Bisnu
YM Tunku Ismail ibni al-Marhum Tunku Muhammad Akib
YM Tunku ‘Abdu’l Rahman ibni al-Marhum Tunku Ismail
YM Tunku Baharuddin bin Ku Meh
 Kedah-Setul Partition of 1808
 Abdication by the Siamese government
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kedah Kingdom
Rattanakosin Kingdom
Today part ofThailand


Setul derived its name from Buah Setul, a local name for Cottonfruit native to the area, while its honorific title - Mambang Segara is a Malay variant of the Sea Deity, as an ancient guardian of the sun and sea,[3] potentially tied from the ancient Malay mysticism due to its location off the western seaboard of the Malay Peninsula.[2] An interpretation of Mambang Segara can also be seen on its present day provincial seal.

The state was also colloquially referred to Setoi, a Kedahan Malay cognate of the territory. In the Thai language, the state was known as Satun (Thai: สตูล), the Thai pronunciation was later adopted to the present-day name of the province.



Kedahan Royal Procession in Setul led by Tunku Abdul Aziz, 1897.

Once located in the heartland of Kedah Kingdom, Setul rise to prominence following the death of Abdullah Mukarram Shah, the 20th Sultan of Kedah, in 1797. The demise of the monarch resulted the crowning of Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah II as the new Sultan. The election was endorsed and recognised by the Rattanakosin Kingdom of Siam, who perceived Kedah as their vassal. The appointment however, rapidly erupted into a severe secession crisis in the Royal House after it was contested by the crown prince, Tunku Bisnu. Aiding to reconcile the two rivalling parties, the Siamese appointed Tunku Bisnu as the ruler of Setul, signifying the birth of Kedah into two separate realms.[4]

Tunku Bisnu spends most of his reign in Kedah over Setul, with local affairs was mainly administrated by his aide, Dato' Wan Abdullah. Nonetheless, as recorded by Syair Sultan Maulana, it was narrated that Tunku Bisnu was a capable ruler that led the Kedahan troops during the war against Konbaung Dynasty forces in Salang (present-day Phuket, Thailand).


By 1833, the royal courts of Kedah entered another crisis between Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Syah II and Tunku Embun (Tunku Yaakub), the crown prince. The crisis was predominantly derived from the sultan's refusal to appoint the crown prince to be the King of Kayang (Perlis) and Setul. This resulted Tunku Embun to request military assistance from the Governor of Ligor to overthrow the Kedahan government, falsely claiming that the Sultan has allied with the British.[5] The armed conflict was known locally as Perang Musuh Berbisik (War of the whispering enemies).[6]

During the War of 1833, the geographical location provided in Setul was used for the advantage by the Kedahan militia led by Dato Wan Mad Ali (Dato Setia Sengkara), to launch an attack against the Siamese in Terang, Ayer Kelubi dan Pulau Panjang. Following the fall of Kedah, Dato Wan Mad Ali was forced to move to Langkawi along with an exodus of 100 Malay families from Setul.[2]

The coup d'état led by Tunku Yaakob was proven to be successful, as the sultan was forced to retreat in the British-backed Penang and later exiled in Malacca.[7] Nonetheless, Tunku Yaakob's request to be appointed as the Sultan of Kedah was refused. He and his son, Tunku Sulaiwan were later brutally executed by the order of the Siamese King after he was found guilty of spreading malicious news of the previous sultan.[5]

Following the victory, the Siamese then formed a border reformation that divided Kedah into 4 separate territories and appointing Tunku Muhammad Akib, the prince of Tunku Bisnu as the new King of Setul.[6] The border reformation was parallel to the Partition of Pattani made by the Siamese earlier in 1809, the earlier partition witnessed the birth of Malay state of Pattani into 7 separate kingdoms.

The partition was ratified by 1843, when Zainal Rashid, the Sultan of Kedah bought a royal entourage to the Siamese government in Bangkok. The royal entourage consist of Tunku Anum, the ruler of Kubang Pasu; Syed Hussein, the ruler of Perlis and Tunku Muhammad Akib, the ruler of Setul. They pledged their loyalty to the Siamese crown, together with a Bunga Mas as a sign of tributary from each of the respective territories. Signifying the birth of the state into four separate dominions.

Despite the fact that Kedah was officially partitioned into 4 distinct kingdoms, all of the states maintained a close economic and kinship ties. Several exemplification can be witnessed during this era, the royal marriage between Tunku Jahara, the member of Kubang Pasu Royalty with Tunku Ahmad the prince of Kedah; and in 1904, between Tunku Jura, a Kedahan princess with Syed Zahir, a royal member of the Setul Kingdom.


Tunku Ismail seceded to the throne of Setul in 1876 after the death of Tunku Muhammad Akib. The king was alleged to be an incompetent leader for the administration of the state. Internal strife in the Royal House of Setul caused a relative of Tunku Ismail, Tunku Muhammad to established a kingdom in Langu, north of Setul in 1882.[2] Both of the territories managed to be reunified afterwards after a consolidation by the Siamese government.[1]

There were several infrastructure developments can be witnessed during the reign of Tunku Ismail, including the construction of several roads, fort, the town hall and managing the rivers in Setul. Tunku Ismail also ordered the construction of a brick prison, enlarging the court, improving the telegram network and introducing the postal service. His rule also witnessed a closer relationship with the Siamese, with the kingdom sends 260 individuals to subdue the Chinese rebellion of Phuket in 1878 together with the troops from Kedah and Perlis. He was awarded the Order of the White Elephant for his active role in aiding the Siamese during the revolt.[1]

Tunku Abdul Rahman replaced Tunku Ismail as the king upon his death in 1888, with Tunku Muhammad appointed as the crown prince. He managed to further develop various infrastructures centred around the capital. Despite so, towards the end of his 10-year reign, he became permanently insane.[2]


Tunku Baharuddin bin Ku Meh, the last King of Setul, 1902.
Post-partition Kedah under Siamese influence in 1893

The vacant seat of the king has led Kedah to appoint Tunku Baharuddin bin Ku Meh as a Governor for the administrative works in Setul. Better known as Ku Din, he was a commander in the Alor Setar prison.[8] Ku Din was known to be a capable leader, nonetheless he doesn't received much approval from the general public since he is not a member of the Setul royalty.[9]

The appointment of Ku Din as the Governor of Setul also angered Tunku Muhammad, the crown prince as he was supposed to rule the kingdom. As the crown prince doesn't received much recognition from the Royal Courts of Kedah, he tried to sought assistance in Bangkok. His efforts proved to be vain since Ku Din was far more influential compared to the crown prince. Tunku Muhammad however, was absorbed into the Satun administration after several months since the appointment of Ku Din.

Ku Din rapidly forged closer ties to the Siamese central government upon his appointment as the Governor. He began to send Bunga Mas tributaries separately from Kedah. The separate Bunga Mas caused a severe strain in the Kedah-Setul diplomatic relationship, as the possession from the state was customarily sent via Kedah, since both the Siamese and Kedah perceived Setul as a Kedahan principality. The link between the two kingdoms only began to be restored after a reconciliation by Che Ampuan Manyalara, the Queen of Kedah.[2]

Ku Din widely emulated many similar features from the Kedahan administration system, including the introduction of the Head of Education Department, Malay School Headmaster, Chinese Kapitan, Royal Officer Service, Head of the Judicial Court, Kadzi, Head of Medical Department, Head of the Police Force, Auditor, Translator and various other departments. He also improved the police department by recruiting 36 armed-force from Punjab. Ku Din was also known to introduce uniforms for the government servant.

Towards the end of his rule, he launched many rules and regulations that accommodate his pro-Siamese ideals. He started to introduce the Siamese language as the language of the courts and administration, replacing Malay. This led to the resignation of many government officials who are not familiar with the language. His pro-Siamese leadership also resulted to a resistant movement by the native Malays in the territory, although the movement was later being subdued by the Siamese government.[1]

By 1902, he was proclaimed as the King of Setul, bearing the regnal name of Tunku Baharuddin bin Ku Meh. The proclamation was affirmed by the Governors of southern Siam and the Siamese government.


Kedah and Setul nobility, c.1900.

In 1892, Setul was returned to Kedah.[4] Nonetheless, the Kedahan sovereignty over Setul was gradually being eroded by the Siamese. By 1902, it is evident that Ku Din holds a full-autonomous power over Setul against Kedah.

The Kedahan jurisdiction in Setul was officially ended by 1909 in wake of the Anglo-Siamese Treaty. The British had planned for an inclusion of Setul together with Kedah and Perlis due to the strong ties between the states, but did not managed to succeeded in its claim due to the reluctance of the Siamese King.

Tengku Din was officially abdicated in its position in 1916, 6 years after the consolidation of Setul in Siam. He was awarded as "The Devoted King" by the Siamese central government for his efforts in developing Setul. He was, however, perceived as a traitor in Kedah for his role in dividing the sultanate.


The Siamese decided to discontinued the Malay kingship system in Setul. The King was replaced by a Governor from Bangkok, Prak Khoja Ishak. It was recorded that Setul continued to be developed under his leadership. It was during his rule that the role of Islam continued to flourish and the position of Khadi Besar (Head Khadi) was introduced, a position filled by Dato’ Yutilamdilantik.[2]

The Prak Khoja Ishak administration marked the end of the full Malay-medium of education in the area. The education system was reformed and incorporated the Thai language as the medium of instruction. This resulted a gradual language and identity shift among the Malay community in Setul. Today, only a small percentage of Thai Muslim in Satun that are conversant in the language, a far-cry for her historical sister states down south.[2] Presently, the Thai government has already reintroduced Malay language lesson in the curricula in some schools in the province, an act to help preserving the culture and identity of the modern Thai Malays in Satun.


The Raja (King) of SetulIn office
YM Tunku Bisnu ibni al-Marhum Sultan 'Abdu'llah al-Mukarram Shah1809–1843
YM Tunku Muhammad Akib ibni al-Marhum Tunku Bisnu1843–1876
YM Tunku Ismail ibni al-Marhum Tunku Muhammad Akib1876–1888
YM Tunku ‘Abdu’l Rahman ibni al-Marhum Tunku Ismail1888–1897
YM Tunku Baharuddin bin Ku Meh1897–1916

See also


  1. DoAsia 2017
  2. Ahmad Jelani Halimi & Mohd Yusoff Mydin Pitchai 1985
  3. Che Din 2019
  4. MyKedah 2017
  5. Mata Hati 2017
  6. Isma 2016
  7. Dato' Hj. Wan Shamsudin bin Mohd. Yusof 2017
  8. Mahani Musa 2015
  9. Ooi Keat Gin 2015


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