The Sultanate of Brunei, more commonly referred to as Brunei Darussalam or simply Brunei, is an oil-rich country located on the island of Borneo, in southeast Asia. Apart from its coastline with the South China Sea, it is completely surrounded by Malaysia.
Brunei is one of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Main article: History of Brunei
The Sultanate of Brunei was very powerful from the 14th through 16th century, covering the southern Philippines, Sarawak and Sabah. European influence gradually brought an end to this power, and Brunei became a British protectorate in 1888.
Main article: Politics of Brunei
The Sultan of Brunei, whose title has passed within the same dynasty since the 15th century, is the head of state and head of government in Brunei. The Sultan is advised by several councils and a cabinet of ministers although he is effectively the ultimate ruler.The media is extremely pro-government and the Royal family retains an almost god like status within the country. There is no elected legislative body. In September 2004 the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah convened an appointed Parliament which had not met since independence in 1984. The country has been under hypothetical martial law since a rebellion occurred in the early 1960's and was put down by British troops from Singapore. A garrison of Gurkha soliders are still stationed in Brunei on the Sultan's payroll to protect the oil fields in the West of the country.
Main article: Districts of Brunei
Brunei is divided into four districts, called daerah. These are:
Main article: Geography of Brunei
Brunei consists of two unconnected parts; 97% of the population lives in the larger western part, only about 10,000 live in the mountainous eastern part, the district of Temburong. Major cities are the capital Bandar Seri Begawan (about 46,000 inhabitants), the port town Muara and Seria .
The climate in Brunei is tropical, with high temperatures, a high humidity and heavy rainfall.
Main article: Economy of Brunei
This 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 nearly half of GDP. Per capita GDP is far above most other Third World countries, and substantial income from overseas investment supplements income from domestic production. The government provides for all medical services and subsidizes rice and housing. Brunei's leaders are concerned that steadily increased integration in the world economy will undermine internal social cohesion although it became a more prominent player by serving as chairman for the 2000 APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation) forum. Plans for the future include upgrading the labor force, reducing unemployment, strengthening the banking and tourist sectors, and, in general, further widening the economic base beyond oil and gas.
Main article: Demographics of Brunei
About two-thirds of the Brunei population are of Malay origin. The most important minority ethnic group are the Chinese, with about 15%. These groups also reflect the most important languages: Malay, which is the official language, and Chinese. English is also spoken.
Islam is the official religion of Brunei, and the sultan is the head of the religion in the country. Other faiths practised are Buddhism (mainly by the Chinese) and Christianity.
Main article: Culture of Brunei
The culture of Brunei is similar to Malay culture, with heavy influences from Hinduism and Islam.
Much of the material in these articles comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.