and largest city Bandar Seri Begawan|
Dialing code +673
Currency Brunei dollar
|Official languages Malay|
Capital Bandar Seri Begawan
King Hassanal Bolkiah
Official language Malay
and local dialects Brunei Malay
Chinese (Hokkien, Hakka, Mandarin and Cantonese)
Official scripts Malay alphabet Jawi alphabet
Ethnic groups (2004) 66.3% Malays 11.2% Chinese 3.4% Indigenous Bornean 2.3% Indians 16.8% others
Points of interest Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin, Istana Nurul Iman, Malay Technology Museum, Jerudong Park, Brunei Museum
Destinations Bandar Seri Begawan, Ulu Temburong National, Kuala Belait, Seria, Kampong Ayer
Brunei asia vacation travel video guide
Brunei (/bruːˈnaɪ/, broo-NYE), officially the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace (Malay: Negara Brunei Darussalam, Jawi: نڬارا بروني دارالسلام), is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. Apart from its coastline with the South China Sea, the country is completely surrounded by the state of Sarawak, Malaysia. It is separated into two parts by the Sarawak district of Limbang. Brunei is the only sovereign state completely on the island of Borneo; the remainder of the island's territory is divided between the nations of Malaysia and Indonesia. Brunei's population was 408,786 in July 2012.
- Brunei asia vacation travel video guide
- Map of Brunei
- Early history
- War with Spain and decline
- British intervention
- Discovery of oil
- Japanese occupation
- Post World War II
- Writing of the Constitution
- National development plans
- 21st century
- Politics and government
- Foreign relations
- Administrative divisions
- Legal system
- Women and children
- Human rights
- Religious rights
- Animal rights
Map of Brunei
At the peak of the Bruneian Empire, Sultan Bolkiah (reigned 1485–1528) is alleged to have had control over most regions of Borneo, including modern-day Sarawak and Sabah, as well as the Sulu archipelago off the northeast tip of Borneo, Seludong (modern-day Manila), and the islands off the northwest tip of Borneo. The maritime state was visited by Spain's Magellan Expedition in 1521 and fought against Spain in the 1578 Castille War.
During the 19th century, the Bruneian Empire began to decline. The Sultanate ceded Sarawak (Kuching) to James Brooke and installed him as the White Rajah, and it ceded Sabah to the British North Borneo Chartered Company. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate and was assigned a British resident as colonial manager in 1906. After the Japanese occupation during World War II, in 1959 a new constitution was written. In 1962, a small armed rebellion against the monarchy was ended with the help of the British.
Brunei gained its independence from the United Kingdom on 1 January 1984. Economic growth during the 1990s and 2000s, with the GDP increasing 56% from 1999 to 2008, transformed Brunei into an industrialised country. It has developed wealth from extensive petroleum and natural gas fields. Brunei has the second-highest Human Development Index among the Southeast Asian nations, after Singapore, and is classified as a "developed country". According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Brunei is ranked fifth in the world by gross domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity. The IMF estimated, in 2011, that Brunei was one of two countries (the other being Libya) with a public debt at 0% of the national GDP. Forbes also ranks Brunei as the fifth-richest nation out of 182, based on its petroleum and natural gas fields.
According to legend, Brunei was founded by Awang Alak Betatar, later to be Sultan Muhammad Shah. He moved from Garang, a place in the Temburong District to the Brunei River estuary, discovering Brunei. According to legend, upon landing he exclaimed, Baru nah (loosely translated as "that's it!" or "there"), from which the name "Brunei" was derived. He was the first Muslim ruler of Brunei. Before the rise of the Bruneian Empire under the Muslim Bolkiah Dynasty, Brunei is believed to have been under Buddhist rulers.
It was renamed "Barunai" in the 14th century, possibly influenced by the Sanskrit word "varuṇ" (वरुण), meaning "seafarers". The word "Borneo" is of the same origin. In the country's full name, Negara Brunei Darussalam, darussalam (Arabic: دار السلام) means "abode of peace", while negara means "country" in Malay.
The earliest recorded documentation by the West about Brunei is by an Italian known as Ludovico di Varthema, who also said the "Bruneian people have fairer skin tone than the peoples he met in Maluku Islands". On his documentation back to 1550;
We arrived at the island of Bornei (Brunei or Borneo), which is distant from the Maluch about two hundred miles, and we found that it was somewhat larger than the aforesaid and much lower. The people are pagans and are men of goodwill. Their colour is whiter than that of the other sort....in this island justice is well administered...
One of the earliest Chinese records is the 977 AD letter to Chinese emperor from the ruler of Po-ni, which some scholars believe to refer to Borneo. In 1225, a Chinese official, Chau Ju-Kua (Zhao Rugua), reported that Po-ni had 100 warships to protect its trade, and that there was a lot of wealth in the kingdom.
In the fourteenth century, the Javanese manuscript Nagarakretagama, written by Prapanca in 1365, mentioned Barune as the vassal state of Majapahit, which had to make an annual tribute of 40 katis of camphor. In 1369, the Sulus attacked Po-ni, looting it of treasure and gold. A fleet from Majapahit succeeded in driving away the Sulus, but Po-ni was left weaker after the attack. A Chinese report from 1371 described Po-ni as poor and totally controlled by Majapahit.
However, scholars claim that the power of the Sultanate of Brunei was at its peak between the 15th and 17th centuries, with its power extending from northern Borneo to the southern Philippines. By the 16th century, Islam was firmly rooted in Brunei, and the country had built one of its biggest mosques. In 1578, Alonso Beltrán, a Spanish traveller, described it as being five stories tall and built on the water.
War with Spain and decline
European influence gradually brought an end to the regional power, as Brunei entered a period of decline compounded by internal strife over royal succession. Since the Spanish regarded Brunei the center of Islamic preaching in the Philippines Spain declared war in 1578, planning to attack and capture Kota Batu, Brunei's capital at the time. This was based in part on the assistance of two Bruneian noblemen, Pengiran Seri Lela and Pengiran Seri Ratna. The former had travelled to Manila, then the centre of the Spanish colony, Manila itself was captured from Brunei and Christianized, Pengiran Seri Lela came to offer Brunei as a tributary to Spain for help to recover the throne usurped by his brother, Saiful Rijal. The Spanish agreed that if they succeeded in conquering Brunei, Pengiran Seri Lela would be appointed as the sultan, while Pengiran Seri Ratna would be the new Bendahara.
In March 1578, the Spanish fleet had arrived from Mexico and settled at the Philippines, they were led by De Sande, acting as Capitán-General, he organized an expedition from Manila for Brunei. The expedition consisted of 400 Spanish, 1,500 Filipino natives and 300 Borneans. The campaign was one of many, which also included action in Mindanao and Sulu.
The Spanish invaded the capital on 16 April 1578, with the help of Pengiran Seri Lela and Pengiran Seri Ratna. The Sultan Saiful Rijal and Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Abdul Kahar were forced to flee to Meragang then to Jerudong. In Jerudong, they made plans to chase the conquering army away from Brunei. Suffering high fatalities due to a cholera or dysentery outbreak, the Spanish decided to abandon Brunei and returned to Manila on 26 June 1578, after 72 days. Before doing so, they burned the mosque, a high structure with a five-tier roof.
Pengiran Seri Lela died in August or September 1578, probably from the same illness suffered by his Spanish allies. There was suspicion he could have been poisoned by the ruling sultan. Seri Lela's daughter, a Bruneian princess had left with the Spanish, she married a Christian Tagalog, named Agustín de Legazpi de Tondo.
The local Brunei accounts differ greatly from the generally accepted view of events. What was called the Castilian War was seen as a heroic episode, with the Spaniards being driven out by Bendahara Sakam, purportedly a brother of the ruling sultan, and a thousand native warriors. Most historians consider this to be a folk-hero account, which probably developed decades or centuries after. The country suffered a civil war from 1660 to 1673.
The British have intervened in the affairs of Brunei on several occasions. Britain attacked Brunei in July 1846 due to internal conflicts over who was the rightful Sultan.
In the 1880s, the decline of the Bruneian Empire continued. The sultan granted land (now Sarawak) to James Brooke, who had helped him quell a rebellion and allowed him to establish the Kingdom of Sarawak. Over time, Brooke and his nephews (who succeeded him) leased or annexed more land. Brunei lost much of its territory to him and his dynasty, known as the White Rajahs.
Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin appealed to the British to stop further encroachment by the Brookes. The "Treaty of Protection" was negotiated by Sir Hugh Low and signed into effect on 17 September 1888. The treaty said that the sultan "could not cede or lease any territory to foreign powers without British consent"; it provided Britain effective control over Brunei's external affairs, making it a British protectorate (which continued until 1984). But, when the Kingdom of Sarawak annexed Brunei's Pandaruan District in 1890, the British did not take any action to stop it. They did not regard either Brunei or the Kingdom of Sarawak as 'foreign' (per the Treaty of Protection). This final annexation by Sarawak left Brunei with its current small land mass and separation into two parts.
British residents were introduced in Brunei under the Supplementary Protectorate Agreement in 1906. The residents were to advise the sultan on all matters of administration. Over time, the resident assumed more executive control than the sultan. The residential system ended in 1959.
Discovery of oil
Petroleum was discovered in 1929 after several fruitless attempts. Two men, F.F. Marriot and T.G. Cochrane, smelled oil near the Seria river in late 1926. They informed a geophysicist, who conducted a survey there. In 1927, gas seepages were reported in the area. Seria Well Number One (S-1) was drilled on 12 July 1928. Oil was struck at 297 metres (974 ft) on 5 April 1929. Seria Well Number 2 was drilled on 19 August 1929, and, as of 2009, continues to produce oil. Oil production was increased considerably in the 1930s with the development of more oil fields. In 1940, oil production was at more than six million barrels. The British Malayan Petroleum Company (now Brunei Shell Petroleum Company) was formed on 22 July 1922. The first offshore well was drilled in 1957. Oil and natural gas have been the basis of Brunei's development and wealth since the late 20th century.
The Japanese invaded Brunei on 16 December 1941, eight days after their attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States Navy. They landed 10,000 troops of the Kawaguchi Detachment from Cam Ranh Bay at Kuala Belait. After six days fighting, they occupied the entire country. The only Allied troops in the area were the 2nd Battalion of the 15th Punjab Regiment based at Kuching, Sarawak.
Once the Japanese occupied Brunei, they made an agreement with Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin over governing the country. Inche Ibrahim (known later as Pehin Datu Perdana Menteri Dato Laila Utama Awang Haji Ibrahim), a former Secretary to the British Resident, Ernest Edgar Pengilly, was appointed Chief Administrative Officer under the Japanese Governor. The Japanese had proposed that Pengilly retain his position under their administration, but he declined. Both he and other British nationals still in Brunei were interned by the Japanese at Batu Lintang camp in Sarawak. While the British officials were under Japanese guard, Ibrahim made a point of personally shaking each one by the hand and wishing him well.
The Sultan retained his throne and was given a pension and honours by the Japanese. During the later part of the occupation, he resided at Tantuya, Limbang and had little to do with the Japanese. Most of the Malay government officers were retained by the Japanese. Brunei's administration was reorganised into five prefectures, which included British North Borneo. The Prefectures included Baram, Labuan, Lawas, and Limbang. Ibrahim hid numerous significant government documents from the Japanese during the occupation. Pengiran Yusuf (later YAM Pengiran Setia Negara Pengiran Haji Mohd Yusuf), along with other Bruneians, was sent to Japan for training. Although in the area the day of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Yusuf survived.
The British had anticipated a Japanese attack, but lacked the resources to defend the area because of their engagement in the war in Europe. The troops from the Punjab Regiment filled in the Seria oilfield oilwells with concrete in September 1941 to deny the Japanese their use. The remaining equipment and installations were destroyed when the Japanese invaded Malaya. By the end of the war, 16 wells at Miri and Seria had been restarted, with production reaching about half the pre-war level. Coal production at Muara was also recommenced, but with little success.
During the occupation, the Japanese had their language taught in schools, and Government officers were required to learn Japanese. The local currency was replaced by what was to become known as duit pisang (banana money). From 1943 hyper-inflation destroyed the currency's value and, at the end of the war, this currency was worthless. Allied attacks on shipping eventually caused trade to cease. Food and medicine fell into short supply, and the population suffered famine and disease.
The airport runway was constructed by the Japanese during the occupation, and in 1943 Japanese naval units were based in Brunei Bay and Labuan. The naval base was destroyed by Allied bombing, but the airport runway survived. The facility was developed as a public airport. In 1944 the Allies began a bombing campaign against the occupying Japanese, which destroyed much of the town and Kuala Belait, but missed Kampong Ayer.
On 10 June 1945, the Australian 9th Division landed at Muara under Operation Oboe Six to recapture Borneo from the Japanese. They were supported by American air and naval units. Brunei town was bombed extensively and recaptured after three days of heavy fighting. Many buildings were destroyed, including the Mosque. The Japanese forces in Brunei, Borneo, and Sarawak, under Lieutenant-General Masao Baba, formally surrendered at Labuan on 10 September 1945. The British Military Administration took over from the Japanese and remained until July 1946.
Post-World War II
After World War II, a new government was formed in Brunei under the British Military Administration (BMA). It consisted mainly of Australian officers and servicemen. The administration of Brunei was passed to the Civil Administration on 6 July 1945. The Brunei State Council was also revived that year. The BMA was tasked to revive the Bruneian economy, which was extensively damaged by the Japanese during their occupation. They also had to put out the fires on the wells of Seria, which had been set by the Japanese prior to their defeat.
Before 1941, the Governor of the Straits Settlements, based in Singapore, was responsible for the duties of British High Commissioner for Brunei, Sarawak, and North Borneo (now Sabah). The first British High Commissioner for Brunei was the Governor of Sarawak, Sir Charles Ardon Clarke. The Barisan Pemuda ("Youth Movement") (abbreviated as BARIP) was the first political party to be formed in Brunei, on 12 April 1946. The party intended to "preserve the sovereignty of the Sultan and the country, and to defend the rights of the Malays". BARIP also contributed to the composition of the country's national anthem. The party was dissolved in 1948 due to inactivity.
In 1959, a new constitution was written declaring Brunei a self-governing state, while its foreign affairs, security, and defence remained the responsibility of the United Kingdom. A small rebellion erupted against the monarchy in 1962, which was suppressed with help of the UK. Known as the Brunei Revolt, it contributed to the failure to create the North Borneo Federation. The rebellion partially affected Brunei's decision to opt out of the Malaysian Federation.
Brunei gained its independence from the United Kingdom on 1 January 1984. The official National Day, which celebrates the country's independence, is held by tradition on 23 February.
Writing of the Constitution
In July 1953, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III formed a seven-member committee named Tujuh Serangkai, to find out the citizens' views regarding a written constitution for Brunei. In May 1954, the Sultan, Resident and High Commissioner met to discuss the findings of the committee. They agreed to authorise the drafting of a constitution. In March 1959 Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III led a delegation to London to discuss the proposed Constitution. The British delegation was led by Sir Alan Lennox-Boyd, Secretary of State for the Colonies. The British Government later accepted the draft constitution.
On 29 September 1959, the Constitution Agreement was signed in Bandar Seri Begawan. The agreement was signed by Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III and Sir Robert Scott, the Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia. It included the following provisions:
Five councils were set up:
National development plans
A series of National Development Plans was initiated by the 28th Sultan of Brunei, Omar Ali Saifuddien III.
The first was introduced in 1953. A total sum of B$100 million was approved by the Brunei State Council for the plan. E.R. Bevington, from the Colonial Office in Fiji, was appointed to implement it. A $US14 million Gas Plant was built under the plan. In 1954, survey and exploration work were undertaken by the Brunei Shell Petroleum on both offshore and onshore fields. By 1956, production reached 114,700 bpd.
The plan also aided the development of public education. By 1958, expenditure on education totalled at $4 million. Communications were improved, as new roads were built and reconstruction at Berakas Airport was completed in 1954.
The second National Development Plan was launched in 1962. A major oil and gas field was discovered in 1963, with this discovery, Liquefied Natural Gas became important. Developments in the oil and gas sector have continued, and oil production has steadily increased since then. The plan also promoted the production of meat and eggs for consumption by citizens. The fishing industry increased its output by 25% throughout the course of the plan. The deepwater port at Muara was also constructed during this period. Power requirements were met, and studies were made to provide electricity to rural areas. Efforts were made to eradicate malaria, an endemic disease in the region, with the help of the World Health Organisation. Malaria cases were reduced from 300 cases in 1953 to only 66 cases in 1959. The death rate was reduced from 20 per thousand in 1947 to 11.3 per thousand in 1953. Infectious disease has been prevented by public sanitation and improvement of drainage, and the provision of piped pure water to the population.
On 14 November 1971, His Royal Highness Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, which then used the title due to it being a protectorate of the UK, left for London to discuss matters regarding the amendments to the 1959 Constitution. A new agreement was signed on 23 November 1971 with the British representative being Anthony Henry Fanshawe Royle.
Under this agreement, the following terms were agreed upon:
This agreement also caused Gurkha units to be deployed in Brunei, where they remain up to this day.
On 7 January 1979, another treaty was signed between Brunei and the UK. It was signed with Lord Goronwy-Roberts being the representative of the UK. This agreement granted Brunei to take over international responsibilities as an independent nation. Britain agreed to assist Brunei in diplomatic matters.
In May 1983, it was announced by the UK that the date of independence of Brunei would be 1 January 1984.
On 31 December 1983, a mass gathering was held on main mosques on all four of the districts of the country and at midnight, on 1 January 1984, the Proclamation of Independence was read by His Majesty Hassanal Bolkiah, which is now addressed in this manner.
In October 2013, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced his intention to impose Sharia law on the country's Muslims, which take up roughly two thirds of the country's population. This would be implemented in three phases, culminating in 2016, and making Brunei the first and only country in East Asia to introduce Sharia law into its penal code. The move attracted international criticism, the United Nations expressing "deep concern".
Brunei is a southeast Asian country consisting of two unconnected parts with a total area of 5,765 square kilometres (2,226 sq mi) on the island of Borneo. It has 161 kilometres (100 mi) of coastline next to the South China sea, and it shares a 381 km (237 mi) border with Malaysia. It has 500 square kilometres (193 sq mi) of territorial waters, and a 200-nautical-mile (370 km; 230 mi) exclusive economic zone.
About 97% of the population lives in the larger western part (Belait, Tutong, and Brunei-Muara), while only about 10,000 people live in the mountainous eastern part (Temburong District). The total population of Brunei is approximately 408,000 as of July 2010, of which around 150,000 live in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan. Other major towns are the port town of Muara, the oil-producing town of Seria and its neighbouring town, Kuala Belait. In Belait District, the Panaga area is home to large numbers of Europeans expatriates, due to Royal Dutch Shell and British Army housing, and several recreational facilities are located there.
Most of Brunei is within the Borneo lowland rain forests ecoregion, which covers most of the island. Areas of mountain rain forests inland.
The climate of Brunei is tropical equatorial.
Politics and government
Brunei's political system is governed by the constitution and the national tradition of the Malay Islamic Monarchy, the concept of Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB). The three components of MIB cover Malay culture, Islamic religion, and the political framework under the monarchy. It has a legal system based on English common law, although Islamic shariah law supersedes this in some cases. Brunei has a parliament but there are no elections; the last election was held in 1962.
Under Brunei's 1959 constitution, His Majesty Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah is the head of state with full executive authority. Since 1962, this authority has included emergency powers, which are renewed every two years. Brunei has technically been under martial law since the Brunei Revolt of 1962. Hassanal Bolkiah also serves as the state's Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Defence Minister. The Royal family retains a venerated status within Brunei.
Until 1979, Brunei's foreign relations were managed by the UK government. After that, they were handled by the Brunei Diplomatic Service. After independence in 1984, this Service was upgraded to ministerial level and is now known as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Officially, Brunei's foreign policy is as follows:
With its traditional ties with the United Kingdom, Brunei became the 49th member of the Commonwealth immediately on the day of its independence on 1 January 1984. As one of its first initiatives toward improved regional relations, Brunei joined ASEAN on 7 January 1984, becoming the sixth member. To achieve recognition of its sovereignty and independence, it joined the United Nations as a full member on 21 September of that same year.
As an Islamic country, Brunei became a full member of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (now the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) in January 1984 at the Fourth Islamic Summit held in Morocco.
After its accession to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) in 1989, Brunei hosted the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in November 2000 and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in July 2002. Brunei became a founding member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 1 January 1995, and is a major player in BIMP-EAGA, which was formed during the Inaugural Ministers' Meeting in Davao, Philippines on 24 March 1994.
Brunei shares a close relationship with Singapore and the Philippines. In April 2009, Brunei and the Philippines signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that seeks to strengthen the bilateral co-operation of the two countries in the fields of agriculture and farm-related trade and investments.
Brunei is one of many nations to lay claim to some of the disputed Spratly Islands. The status of Limbang as part of Sarawak has been disputed by Brunei since the area was first annexed in 1890. The issue was reportedly settled in 2009, with Brunei agreeing to accept the border in exchange for Malaysia giving up claims to oil fields in Bruneian waters. The Brunei government denies this and says that their claim on Limbang was never dropped.
Brunei was the chair for ASEAN in 2013. It also hosted the ASEAN summit on that same year.
Brunei maintains three infantry battalions stationed around the country. The Brunei navy has several "Ijtihad"-class patrol boats purchased from a German manufacturer. The United Kingdom also maintains a base in Seria, the centre of the oil industry in Brunei. A Gurkha battalion consisting of 1,500 personnel is stationed there. United Kingdom military personnel are stationed there under a defence agreement signed between the two countries.
A Bell 212 operated by the air force crashed in Kuala Belait on 20 July 2012 with the loss of 12 of the 14 crew on board. The cause of the accident has yet to be ascertained. The crash is the worst aviation incident in the history of Brunei.
The Army is currently acquiring new equipment, including UAVs and S-70i Black Hawks.
Brunei’s Legislative Council proposed an increase of the defence budget for the 2016–17 fiscal year of about five per cent to 564 million Brunei dollars ($408 million). This amounts to about ten per cent of the state’s total national yearly expenditure and represents around 2.5 per cent of GDP.
Brunei is divided into four districts (daerahs) and 38 subdistricts (mukims).
The daerah of Temburong is physically separated from the rest of Brunei by the Malaysian state of Sarawak.
The daerah of Brunei-Maura includes Brunei's capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan, whose suburbs dominate fifteen of the eighteen mukims in this daerah.
Over 90% of Brunei's total population lives in 15 of the 38 mukims:
Brunei's small, wealthy economy is a mixture of foreign and domestic entrepreneurship, government regulation, welfare measures, and village tradition. Crude oil and natural gas production account for about 90% of its GDP. About 167,000 barrels (26,600 m3) of oil are produced every day, making Brunei the fourth-largest producer of oil in Southeast Asia. It also produces approximately 25.3 million cubic metres (890×106 cu ft) of liquified natural gas per day, making Brunei the ninth-largest exporter of the substance in the world.
Substantial income from overseas investment supplements income from domestic production. Most of these investments are made by the Brunei Investment Agency, an arm of the Ministry of Finance. The government provides for all medical services, and subsidises rice and housing.
The national air carrier, Royal Brunei Airlines, is trying to develop Brunei as a modest hub for international travel between Europe and Australia/New Zealand. Central to this strategy is the position that the airline maintains at London Heathrow Airport. It holds a daily slot at the highly capacity-controlled airport, which it serves from Bandar Seri Begawan via Dubai. The airline also has services to major Asian destinations including Shanghai, Bangkok, Singapore and Manila.
Brunei depends heavily on imports such as agricultural products (e.g. rice, food products, livestock, etc.), motorcars and electrical products from other countries. Brunei imports 60% of its food requirements; of that amount, around 75% come from the ASEAN countries.
Brunei's leaders are very concerned that steadily increased integration in the world economy will undermine internal social cohesion. But, it has become a more prominent player by serving as chairman for the 2000 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. Leaders plan to upgrade the labour force, reduce unemployment, which was at 6.9% in 2014; strengthen the banking and tourism sectors, and, in general, broaden the economic base.
The government of Brunei has also promoted food self-sufficiency, especially in rice. Brunei renamed its Brunei Darussalam Rice 1 as Laila Rice during the launch of the "Padi Planting Towards Achieving Self-Sufficiency of Rice Production in Brunei Darussalam" ceremony at the Wasan padi fields in April 2009. In August 2009, the Royal Family reaped the first few Laila padi stalks, after years of attempts to boost local rice production, a goal first articulated about half a century ago. In July 2009 Brunei launched its national halal branding scheme, Brunei Halal, with a goal to export to foreign markets.
The population centres in the country are linked by a network of 2,800 kilometres (1,700 mi) of road. The 135-kilometre (84 mi) highway from Muara Town to Kuala Belait is being upgraded to a dual carriageway.
Brunei is accessible by air, sea, and land transport. Brunei International Airport is the main entry point to the country. Royal Brunei Airlines is the national carrier. There is another airfield, the Anduki Airfield, located in Seria. The ferry terminal at Muara services regular connections to Labuan (Malaysia). Speedboats provide passenger and goods transportation to the Temburong district. The main highway running across Brunei is the Tutong-Muara Highway. The country's road network is well developed. Brunei has one main sea port located at Muara.
The airport in Brunei is currently being extensively upgraded. Changi Airport International is the consultant working on this modernisation, which planned cost is currently $150 million. This project is slated to add 14,000 square metres (150,000 sq ft) of new floorspace and includes a new terminal and arrival hall. With the completion of this project, the annual passenger capacity of the airport is expected to double from 1.5 to 3 million.
With one private car for every 2.09 persons, Brunei has one of the highest car ownership rates in the world. This has been attributed to the absence of a comprehensive transport system, low import tax, and low unleaded petrol price of B$0.53 per litre.
A new 30-kilometre (19 mi) roadway connecting the Muara and Temburong districts of Brunei is slated to be completed in 2019. Fourteen kilometres (9 mi) of this roadway would be crossing the Brunei Bay. The bridge cost is $1.6 billions.
Bank of China has just (April 2016) received permission to open a branch in Brunei. Citibank, which entered in 1972, closed its operations in Brunei in 2014. HSBC, which had entered in 1947, is currently in the process of closing its operations in the country.
Ethnicities indigenous to Brunei include the Belait, Brunei Bisaya (not to be confused with the Bisaya/Visaya of the nearby Philippines), indigenous Bruneian Malay, Dusun, Kedayan, Lun Bawang, Murut and Tutong.
The population of Brunei in July 2013 was 415,717 of which 76% live in urban areas. The rate of urbanisation is estimated at 2.13% per year from 2010 to 2015. The average life expectancy is 77.7 years. In 2014, 65.7% of the population were Malay, 10.3% are Chinese, 3.4% are indigenous, with 20.6% smaller groups making up the rest. The official language of Brunei is Malay. The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports supports for a lingual movement aimed at the increased use of the language in Brunei.
The principal spoken language is Melayu Brunei (Brunei Malay). Brunei Malay is rather divergent from standard Malay and the rest of the Malay dialects, being about 84% cognate with standard Malay, and is mostly mutually unintelligible with it.
English and Chinese are also widely spoken, English is also used in business, as a working language, and as the language of instruction from primary to tertiary education, and there is a relatively large expatriate community.
Most expat are coming from non-Muslim countries such as Australia, United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan, The Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and India.
Other languages and dialects spoken include Arabic, Kedayan Malay dialect, Tutong Malay dialect, Murut and Dusun.
Islam is the official religion of Brunei, specifically that of the Sunni branch, as dictated by the Madhhab of Shafi'i. Two-thirds of the population, including the majority of Bruneian Malays and Bruneian Chinese, adhere to Islam. Other faiths practised are Buddhism (13%, mainly by the Chinese) and Christianity (10%). Freethinkers, mostly Chinese, form about 7% of the population. Although most of them practise some form of religion with elements of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, they prefer to present themselves as having practised no religion officially, hence labelled as atheists in official censuses. Followers of indigenous religions are about 2% of the population.
The official language of Brunei is Standard Malay. The local dialect, Melayu Brunei (Brunei Malay), is the most widely spoken language.
English is widely used as a business and official language and it is spoken by a majority of the population in Brunei.
The Chinese minority in Brunei speak a number of Chinese varieties.
Arabic (عربي) is the religious language of Muslims. Therefore, Arabic is taught in schools, particularly religious schools, and also in institutes of higher learning. As of 2004, there are six Arabic schools and one religious teachers' college in Brunei. A majority of Brunei's Muslim population has had some form of formal or informal education in the reading, writing and pronunciation of the Arabic language as part of their religious education.
The culture of Brunei is predominantly Malay (reflecting its ethnicity), with heavy influences from Islam, but is seen as much more conservative than Indonesia and Malaysia. Influences to Bruneian culture come from the Malay cultures of the Malay Archipelago. Four periods of cultural influence have occurred, animist, Hindu, Islamic, and Western. Islam had a very strong influence, and was adopted as Brunei's ideology and philosophy. Brunei's official main language is Malay but English is also widely spoken as it is a compulsory subject in the majority of the schools.
As a Sharia country, the sale and public consumption of alcohol is banned. Non-Muslims are allowed to bring in a limited amount of alcohol from their point of embarkation overseas for their own private consumption.
Media in Brunei are said to be pro-government. The country has been given "Not Free" status by Freedom House; press criticism of the government and monarchy is rare. Nonetheless, the press is not overtly hostile toward alternative viewpoints and is not restricted to publishing only articles regarding the government. The government allowed a printing and publishing company, Brunei Press PLC, to form in 1953. The company continues to print the English daily Borneo Bulletin. This paper began as a weekly community paper and became a daily in 1990 Apart from The Borneo Bulletin, there is also the Media Permata and Pelita Brunei, the local Malay newspapers which are circulated daily. The Brunei Times is another English independent newspaper published in Brunei since 2006.
The Brunei government owns and operates six television channels with the introduction of digital TV using DVB-T (RTB 1, RTB 2, RTB 3 (HD), RTB 4, RTB 5 and RTB New Media (Game portal)) and five radio stations (National FM, Pilihan FM, Nur Islam FM, Harmony FM and Pelangi FM). A private company has made cable television available (Astro-Kristal) as well as one private radio station, Kristal FM. It also has an online campus radio station, UBD FM that streams from its first university, Universiti Brunei Darussalam'
Brunei has numerous courts in its judicial branch. The highest court is the Supreme Court, which consists of the Court of Appeal and High Court. Both of these have a chief justice and two judges.
Women and children
The government has made efforts to protect women's rights. The law prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates that whoever assaults or uses criminal force, intending thereby to outrage or knowing it is likely to outrage the modesty of a person, shall be punished with imprisonment for as much as five years and caning. The law stipulates imprisonment of up to 30 years, and caning with not fewer than 12 strokes for rape. The law does not criminalise spousal rape; it explicitly states that sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, as long as she is not under 13 years of age, is not rape. Protections against sexual assault by a spouse are provided under the amended Islamic Family Law Order 2010 and Married Women Act Order 2010. The penalty for breaching a protection order is a fine not exceeding BN$2,000 ($1,538) or imprisonment not exceeding six months.
Citizenship is derived through one's parents rather than through birth within the country's territory. Parents with stateless status are required to apply for a special pass for a child born in the country; failure to register a child may make it difficult to enroll the child in school. By law sexual intercourse with a female under 14 years of age constitutes rape and is punishable by imprisonment for not less than eight years and not more than thirty years and not less than twelve strokes of the cane. The intent of the law is to protect girls from exploitation through prostitution and "other immoral purposes" including pornography.
Brunei's revised penal code came into force on 22 April 2014, stipulating the death penalty for numerous offences, and insult or defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, insulting any verses of the Quran and Hadith, blasphemy, declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, robbery, rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations for Muslims and murder. Stoning to death was the specified "method of execution for crimes of a sexual nature." Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) declared that, "Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offences contravenes international law."
Male and female homosexuality is illegal in Brunei. The country passed a law that came into force on 22 April 2014, allowing the death penalty to be administered by stoning for homosexual acts, such as sexual intercourse, given there is enough evidence pointing to the action (i.e. with four trusted, impartial, and truthful witnesses in attendance). It has been acknowledged as a crime in Brunei with the introduction of the Sharia law. The law also stipulates that adultery is to be punished with death by stoning given there is enough evidence pointing to the action (i.e. with four trusted, impartial, and truthful witnesses in attendance). Without four qualified witnesses, there will be no stoning.
As of August 2015, there were no cases within the Sharia Penal Code that would entail the death penalty without four qualified witnesses.
Upon adopting sharia, the Sultan banned Christmas decorations in public places such as shopping malls, believing that it might interfere with the practise of Islam. However, local and foreign Christians are still allowed to celebrate Christmas as usual. On 25 December 2015, 4,000 out of 18,000 estimated local Catholics attended the mass of Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
"To be quite honest there has been no change for us this year; no new restrictions have been laid down, although we fully respect and adhere to the existing regulations that our celebrations and worship be [confined] to the compounds of the church and private residences," according to Bishop Cornelius Sim, head of the Catholic Church in Brunei.
Brunei is the first country in Asia to ban shark finning nationwide.
Selling other rare animals, such as pangolins and endangered birds, are considered serious crimes; however, Brunei lacks animal rights enforcers.
There are four government-run hospitals in Brunei, one for every district. There are also 16 health centres and 10 health clinics.
Healthcare in Brunei is charged at B$1 per consultation for citizens and is free for anyone under 12 years old. A health centre run by Brunei Shell Petroleum is located in Panaga. For medical assistance not available in the country, citizens are sent overseas at the government's expense. In the period of 2011–12, 327 patients were treated in Malaysia and Singapore at the cost to the government of $12 million.
Brunei has 2.8 hospital beds per 1000 people. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS is currently at 0.1%, and numerous AIDS awareness campaigns are currently being held.
7.5% of the population are obese, the highest prevalence rate in ASEAN. Also, studies by the Ministry of Health show that at least 20% of schoolchildren in Brunei are either overweight or obese.
The largest hospital in Brunei is Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Hospital (RIPAS) hospital, which had 550 beds in year 1992, is situated in the country's capital Bandar Seri Begawan. There are two private medical centres, Gleneagles JPMC Sdn Bhd . and Jerudong Park Medical Centre. The Health Promotion Centre opened in November 2008 and serves to educate the public on the importance of having a healthy lifestyle.
There is currently no medical school in Brunei, and Bruneians wishing to study to become doctors must attend university overseas. However, the Institute of Medicines had been introduced at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam and a new building has been built for the faculty. The building, including research lab facilities, was completed in 2009. There has been a School of Nursing since 1951. Fifty-eight nurse managers were appointed in RIPAS to improve service and provide better medical care. In December 2008, The nursing college merged with the Institute of Medicines at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam to produce more nurses and midwives. It is now called the PAPRSB (Pengiran Anak Puteri Rashidah Sa'datul Bolkiah) Institute of Health Sciences.