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(bro͞onī`) or

Brunei Darussalam

(där'əsəläm`), officially State of Brunei Darussalam, sultanate (2015 est. pop. 418,000), 2,226 sq mi (5,765 sq km), NW Borneo, on the South China Sea. Its two sections, separated by Brunei Bay, are surrounded by SarawakSarawak
, state (1991 pop. 1,648,217), 48,342 sq mi (125,206 sq km), Malaysia, in NW Borneo and on the South China Sea. It is bordered on the NE by the states of Brunei and Sabah and on the S and W by Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo).
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, Malaysia. The capital and major port of Brunei is Bandar Seri Begawan (formerly Brunei; 1991 est. pop. 46,229).

Land and People

The mountains in the nation's east give way to a flat coastal plain; western Brunei consists of hilly lowlands. The tropical climate is typically hot and humid with frequent rain. About two thirds of the population are Malays, but the Chinese community, consisting of about 15% of the people, dominates the economy. Some 6% of the people are of indigenous descent. Malay is the official language, but English and Chinese are also spoken. Islam is the predominant and official religion; there are minorities of Buddhists, Christians, and those holding traditional beliefs.


Crude oil and liquefied natural gas are Brunei's main exports and the country's economic mainstays; petroleum products are also produced. The government is attempting to promote economic diversification; clothing is manufactured, and there are banking, tourism, and construction industries. Rice, vegetables, and fruits are grown, and chickens, water buffalo, cattle, and goats are raised. Forests are strictly protected, and timber cutting is allowed only for local use. Brunei imports machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, foodstuffs, and chemicals. The main trading partners are Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and South Korea.


Brunei is a constitutional sultanate governed under the constitution of 1959, although some provisions have been suspended. The sultan is both head of state and head of government. The unicameral legislature consists of the 36-member Legislative Council, whose members are appointed by the sultan to five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into four districts.


A native sultanate was established at Brunei in the 15th cent. At one time the sultan controlled nearly all of Borneo, but by the 19th cent. his power had declined and Brunei had become a haven for pirates. In 1888 the British established a protectorate over Brunei, administered by a British resident, although the sultan retained formal authority. The Japanese overran the area during World War II.

In 1959 a written constitution went into effect. Under it, the sultanate remained and the protectorate was governed by a chief minister, council of ministers, and elected legislative body. Following elections won by an antimonarchist left-wing party in 1962 and an abortive uprising by the party's military wing, a state of emergency was proclaimed and the legislature disbanded. Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin WaddaulahBolkiah Mu'izzadin Waddaulah, Sir Hassanal,
1946–, sultan of Brunei (1967–). He succeeded to the throne after the abdication of his father, Sultan Sir Omar Ali Saifuddin.
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 became sultan in 1967. In 1970 the legislature was made an appointed body. Following the signing of a treaty with the British in 1979, Brunei became fully independent in 1984, and the legislature was suspended the same year. After independence the sultan became an absolute monarch, and oil revenues were used to create a prosperous welfare state; oil and natural gas exports are expected to decrease during the 21st cent.

The 1997–98 Asian economic crisis affected Brunei, which lost billions of dollars in investments. In 1998 the sultan's son, Prince al-Muhtadee Billah, was installed as heir to the throne. After a 20-year hiatus, the sultan convened the appointed legislature in 2004 and signed a constitutional amendment calling for a 45-seat council with 15 elected members. However, the sultan dissolved the legislature in 2005 and appointed a new member council; the council since then has continued to consist of only appointed members. In 2014 the country began a process of adopting Islamic law (sharia) as the basis for its legal system; the establishment in 2019 of stoning as the penalty for adultery, sodomy, and other offenses and of amputation of the hand for theft was widely criticized internationally.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a sultanate on the northwest coast of the island of Kalimantan (Borneo). A British protectorate. Area, 5,800 sq km. Its principal town is Bandar Seri Begawan (formerly Brunei). It is administratively divided into four districts.

Natural features. Most of Brunei forms a plain. The climate is tropical. The air temperature throughout the year is about 26° C, and the annual precipitation varies from 2,000 to 4,000 mm. More than 75 percent of the territory consists of tropical rain forest with great variations in appearance. Along the tidal strip are mangrove thickets.

Population. The population in 1969 was estimated at 126,000 and includes the following groups: the Kedayans, who are the aborigines, numbering 16,000; the Dusuns (7,000), Melanau (5,000), and Ibans (2,000), all speaking Indonesian languages and spread over the interior of the country; the Malays, who are related to the preceding group and are town and coastal dwellers, numbering 45,000; the Chinese (31,000); the Indian settlers (2,000); and the British (2,000), who live mainly in the towns. The official languages are Malay and English. Most of the aborigines retain their ancient animist beliefs, whereas about 50 percent of the inhabitants (Malays and some aborigines) are Muslims.

Historical survey. In the 14th century Brunei appears to have been a vassal state of Majapahit. In the 15th century the ruler Alak-ber-Tata assumed the name of Muhammad and became the first sultan of Brunei. In the greatest period in its history, the first half of the 16th century, its power extended over the whole northern coast of Kalimantan and a number of neighboring islands. Brunei was seized by Spanish colonizers in 1580, but though they were driven out, the power of Brunei was undermined and it retained its rule only over northern Kalimantan. In the 18th century a British East India Company factory operated for some time in the country. In the 19th century Brunei became one of the worst centers for piracy and the slave trade. In 1841 the British adventurer James Brooke seized Sarawak from Brunei. Great Britain seized the island of Labuan in 1847 and imposed an unequal treaty on Brunei. In 1877 the sultan of Brunei leased part of northern Kalimantan (Sabah) to the British trader Dent. Brunei became a British protectorate in 1888. Because of the discovery of oil deposits, a British resident was appointed in 1906. From 1941 to 1945 Brunei was occupied by Japan. From 1948 to 1959 it was administered by the British governor of Sarawak. A constitution was promulgated in 1959, under which, however, the colonial regime was maintained. In 1956 the People’s Party, which supported Brunei’s independence, was established. In December 1962 it organized an uprising which had as its aim the creation of an independent state of Kalimantan-Utara (northern Kalimantan). The uprising was quelled by British troops at the outset of 1963.


Khrenov, Iu. F. Severnyi Kalimantan (1839-1963). Moscow, 1966.
Low, H. “Selesilah (Book of Descent) of the Rajahs of Brunei.” Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Singapore, 1880.


Economy. Brunei’s economy is of a typically colonial nature. Its main industries are the production of oil, rubber, and timber; these are controlled by British monopolies like the Brunei Shell Petroleum Company. In the Seria area, along Brunei’s southwest coast, the oil industry employs up to one-tenth of the entire economically active population of Brunei. In 1967 the amount of oil produced from these deposits (which have been operated since 1929) was 5 million tons. Natural gas is also obtained from this area. Valuable woods are produced. In 1964, 66,000 hectares of land were under cultivation. More than half of the arable land consists of plantations of rubber-bearing plants; the production of natural rubber amounted to 100 tons in 1968. Rice is grown on irrigated land, 4,000 hectares yielding a crop of 8,000 tons. The sago palm and coconut palm, bananas, and other plants are cultivated. Buffaloes (14,000 head in 1966-67), pigs, and goats are raised. There are sawmills and woodwork factories in Bandar Seri Bega wan and Kuala-Belait. Domestic industries include weaving, as well as the making of wooden and silver articles and small wooden boats. Oil is refined at Lutong (Sarawak). There are 374 km of automobile highways, and river and coastal navigation has developed. Petroleum (95 percent of exports), timber, and rubber are exported. Brunei has foreign-trade relations with Malaysia and Singapore. The currency is the Brunei dollar.

Medicine and public health. In 1965 the birth rate was 41.5 and the death rate 6.6 per thousand inhabitants; the infant mortality rate was 41 per thousand live births (103.3 in 1945-49). Infectious diseases are prevalent, as are tuberculosis and gastrointestinal and children’s infectious diseases. There are few cases of malaria as a result of the campaign waged against it. Endemic helminthiases, a large proportion of which are filariases, as well as cardiovascular and mental illnesses, anemia, and A-avitaminosis are widespread. Public health is administered by the state health department. In 1966 there were 30 physicians in Brunei, one for every 3,470 inhabitants, and 23 of these were in government service. In addition there were, in 1964, 15 dentists, one pharmacist, 79 midwives, and 99 nurses. In 1964, Brunei had four public hospitals with a total of 403 beds, that is, 4.1 beds per thousand inhabitants, 48 women’s and children’s consultation centers, and 11 dental units.


Education. Education in Brunei is organized differently for children of British colonials and for the indigenous inhabitants (such as Malays and Chinese). The children of “whites” start on a six-year primary course at the age of six, then move on to an eight-year secondary school course. To enter a higher educational institution outside Brunei (which has no such institutions) two years’ further study is required after the eight-year secondary school. The children of the local population are accepted in primary six-year schools at the age of six. The courses in the secondary school last six years—three years in the first stage and three years in the second. In Chinese schools the teaching is in Chinese and in other schools in Malay. English is also taught in all schools. Occupational education has not been effectively developed: there is a trade-technical school and a teacher-training school for secondary school graduates. In the 1968-69 school year there were 26,706 students in the primary schools, 7,969 in the secondary schools, 72 in the trade-technical school, and 540 in the teacher-training school.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: Brunei Darussalam

Capital city: Bandar Seri Begawan

Internet country code: .bn

Flag description: Yellow with two diagonal bands of white (top, almost double width) and black starting from the upper hoist side; the national emblem in red is superim­posed at the center; the emblem includes a swallow-tailed flag on top of a winged column within an upturned cres­cent above a scroll and flanked by two upraised hands

National anthem: “Allah Peliharakan Sultan” (God Bless His Majesty), lyrics by Yura Halim, music by Haji Awang Besar Sagap

National motto: “Always Render Service by God’s Guid­ance”

Geographical description: Southeastern Asia, bordering the South China Sea and Malaysia

Total area: 2,226 sq. mi. (5,765 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical; hot, humid, rainy

Nationality: noun: Bruneian(s); adjective: Bruneian

Population: 374,577 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Malay 67%, Chinese 15%, indigenous 6%, other 12%

Languages spoken: Malay, English, Chinese

Religions: Muslim (official religion) 67%, Buddhist 13%, Christian 10%, other (including indigenous religions) 10%

Legal Holidays:

Christmas DayDec 25
H.M. the Sultan's BirthdayJul 15
National DayFeb 23
New Year's DayJan 1
Royal Brunei Armed Forces DayMay 31
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


1. a sultanate in NW Borneo, consisting of two separate areas on the South China Sea, otherwise bounded by Sarawak: controlled all of Borneo and parts of the Philippines and the Sulu Islands in the 16th century; under British protection since 1888; internally self-governing since 1971; became fully independent in 1984 as a member of the Commonwealth. The economy depends chiefly on oil and natural gas. Official language: Malay; English is also widely spoken. Religion: Muslim. Currency: Brunei dollar. Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan. Pop.: 366 000 (2004 est.). Area: 5765 sq. km (2226 sq. miles)
2. the former name of Bandar Seri Begawan
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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And Tun Telanai replied, "The servant, Raja of Malaka's [Melaka's] obeisance to His Majesty the Raja of China." "Oh," said the Raja of Brunai, "so the Raja of Malaka sends obeisance to the Raja of China?" And Mentri Jana Putra answered, "Not so, your Highness.
This language is similar to Bahasa Indonesia and the language spoken in Brunai. Bahasa utilizes the Latin alphabet, and the majority of texts, which Dun Lee Han showed me were written in Bahasa Malay, are written with Latin script.
(67.) William Treacher, 'British Borneo: sketches of Brunai, Sarawak, Labuan and North Borneo JSBRAS, 21 (1890): 43.
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