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Brunei Darussalam

Major City:
Bandar Seri Begawan

Other Cities:
Jerudong, Kuala Belait, Seria


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated April 1992. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


The oil-and gas-rich state of BRUNEI , on the northern coast of the island of Borneo, is one of Asia's oldest kingdoms. Early Chinese records refer to it variously as "Polo," or "Puni." The present sultanate dates to 1514, and the conversion to Islam; during this era, Brunei was the center of a vast empire which stretched far north to the Philippines. By the end of the 19th century, however, most of its power had been lost in the colonial expansion of South-East Asia.

Brunei Darussalam, the country's official name (Abode of Peace), was a protectorate of the United Kingdom from 1888 to 1984, when it gained full autonomy. For a quarter of a century before independence, it had been a self-governing constitutional monarchy, with the British assuming responsibility for foreign affairs and defense.


Bandar Seri Begawan

The capital and main center of population, approximately 75,000, (and site of the only international airport) is Bandar Seri Begawan at the northeastern corner of the main part of the State. Downtown area consists of shops, banks, government offices, and hotels. Several places of interest are situated along the bank of the Brunei River.


Subject to seasonal variations and occasional shortages, a wide variety of foods is available in Brunei. Fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables are available locally. Canned and frozen vegetables from the U.S., Europe, and Australia are sold at supermarkets. Frozen meat and poultry are imported from Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, or the U.S.

Fruit is limited to definite seasons. Apples, peaches, pears, oranges, grapes, and plums are imported seasonally from Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. Buy local fruits such as bananas, papayas, pineapples, and grapefruit at outdoor markets and supermarkets.

Sterilized milk and powdered milk are available in Brunei. Fresh milk is available but expensive.

Any local foods, as well as various Western foods, can be catered.

Soft drinks, such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, 7-Up, Sprite, Orange, etc., are available and are inexpensive. Sales of alcoholic beverages are currently prohibited.


An extensive summer wardrobe is the only type of clothing necessary for Brunei. Order ladies clothing via mail facilities, but ready-made clothing is available in Brunei. Sizes are limited and fit may be difficult. Ordering usually takes several weeks. Sports attire varies.

Men: Lightweight summer suits are appropriate for office wear; slacks and sport shirts for casual wear. Acceptable dry-cleaners exist. Tails and morning dress are not worn in Brunei. English and U.S. men's shoes, underwear, shirts, neckties, socks, and ready-made suits are available but are expensive, and the selection of sizes, styles, and quality varies.

Women: Conservative dress is the rule. Bring cotton summer dresses, slacks, skirts, blouses, and pant-suits for all occasions. Shorts are not worn publicly but can be worn at poolside or at beaches. Skirts and blouses, dresses, and pantsuits are worn to the office. Stores selling women's clothing offer various ready-made dresses, skirts, and ensembles at medium-to-high prices, but sizes, selection, fit, and quality are limited.

Lingerie and stockings are available at reasonable prices, but selection is limited. Formal hats and gloves are seldom worn. European shoes of limited sizes are available at varying prices.

Children: Clothing and shoes for children and babies are available at reasonable prices. A wide variety of fabric is available at reasonable cost. Local dressmakers and tailors have been used with varying degrees of success, but good tailors are expensive.

Supplies and Services

Toilet articles and cosmetics are available but are much more expensive than in the U.S.

Most common brands of American and British cigarettes, some American brands of cigars and pipe tobacco and smoking accessories are available at prices comparable to, or lower than, U.S. prices.

There are local bookstores but prices are 50 to 100 percent higher than those in the U.S., and the selection is not good.

Several beauty shops in Brunei are available and moderately priced.

Religious Activities

Both Roman Catholic and Anglican Church services are conducted in the downtown area of the city at their respective facilities.


Brunei has no American schools. The International School has an essentially British curriculum and provides an adequate education from kindergarten through grade 6.

The school operates from 7:30 am to 12:30 pm. But if your child is having difficulty in a subject, bring some additional study materials to assist you in working with your child, as the British system here does not encourage parental involvement as an American school would. Other schools open to expatriate children are Mission schools and the Chinese school, which is also adequate through the elementary grades. A good boarding school is available in Singapore.

Space at all schools is limited. There is a long waiting list.


Tennis, swimming, badminton, table tennis, billiards, soccer, golf, basketball, sailing, windsurfing, bowling, and squash are available in Brunei. There are two golf coursesone at Pantai Mentiri near Bandar Seri Begawan and the other in Seria, which manages the Brunei Shell Recreation Club. Obtain permission to play at both courses in advance. A member of the club must accompany guests. Memberships are available at Pantai Menteri.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, a symbol of Brunei's adherence to Islam, is one of the most magnificent in Asia. It is an edifice of classical Islamic architecture consisting of gold mosaic, marble, and stained glass. Its minaret, which has a lift inside and distinctive gold dome, rises to 166 feet and 160 feet.

Linked to the mosque and built in the middle of the lagoon is an elegant concrete boat that resembles a 16th-century royal barge.

The mosque has been the country's most important feature since its completion in 1958.

The official residence of the Sultan of Brunei is the Istana Nurul Iman in Bandar Seri Begawan, which was completed in 1982, and believed to be the largest royal palace in this part of the world.

The Sultan of Brunei, as Prime Minister, has offices located in the Istana, which has become a symbol of national pride. In keeping with ancient Brunei, trading the Ruler's Istana is the seat of Government, and the Council of Cabinet Ministers meets under the presidency of His Majesty.

The Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Aquarium, housed in the Churchill Memorial Building, has various species of tropical fish found in Brunei waters.

The Lapau (Royal Ceremonial Hall) and the Dewan Majlis (Parliament House) form a sprawling complex featuring a blend of traditional Malay and Western architecture.

The Lapau, which contains the Patarana (Throne), where numerous solemn ceremonies are held, is beautifully decorated in exquisite gold motifs. In the Lapau on August 1, 1968, the Sultan was crowned the 29th Sultan of Brunei.

The famed and centuries-old Kampong Air (water village) is composed of several villages housing 38,000 persons. It is an extensive collection of houses on stilts in the Brunei River. The Government provides a wide range of facilities that include schools, clinics, a Post Office, and electricity and water supplies. A boat cruise along the Brunei River is a pleasurable experience and a must for all tourists. Single women should always be accompanied.

The Arts and Handicraft Center is situated on the bank of the Brunei River, facing Kampong Air, and, thus commands a panoramic view. It offers a wide selection of locally made silverware, brasserie, and bronzeware crafted and inspired by the rich Malay cultural heritage. The silver, brass, and bronze are hammered and crafted by hand into a variety of articles, such as jugs, trays, gongs, boxes, napkin rings, spoons, threads, bracelets, etc. There are also an assortment of beautifully woven baskets and mats of bamboo and pandan. Brunei, during the 15th century, was a dominant power in the region under its ruler Sultan Bolkiah, the 5th Sultan of Brunei, whose mausoleum rests on the bank of the Brunei River at Kota Batu, near the Brunei Museum.

The Brunei Museum is of unique eastern architecture and is situated on the picturesque bank of the Brunei River. It is about 4 miles from the town center and has a large collection of exhibits, including brass-ware, bronzeware, Chinese porcelain and ceramics, historical records, and artifacts of the cultural heritage of this country.

The beaches at Brunei are fine golden sands with scenic picnic spots. However, rusted debris and broken glass pose serious threats to badly littered areas where the waters are calmer. The beaches facing the South China Sea are substantially cleaner, but bites from sandflies and stings from jellyfish are often a nuisance.

Although the above activities are interesting and diverting for a few weeks, they provide no relief from Brunei's climate, both atmospheric and cultural.


Brunei, as an entertainment center, is undistinguished. Occasionally, the music society and other diplomatic missions sponsor concerts, but legitimate theater, opera, and ballet do not exist in Brunei. The one local movie theater is not a place for family diversion. There are no night-clubs. Art exhibits are held occasionally at the Brunei Museum and foreign missions.

Dining out is one of the most popular forms of recreation and entertainment in Brunei. Restaurants are plentiful but expensive. An international hotel, the Sheraton, has dining rooms, a bar currently not used to serving alcoholic beverages, and a coffee shop. Other establishments regularly offer specials on food from foreign countries.

Videotaped movies are available in Brunei for the VHS system. Quality of recordings is poor. TV and radio services are broadcast in English, Malay, and Chinese on the Brunei channel. Two Malaysian TV channels can also be received.

Social Activities

Many foreigners belong to one or more of the various sports and recreation clubs available in Brunei, such as the yacht club or tennis club. Social life is restricted to home entertainment among members of the diplomatic and business communities.


A short drive to the northeast of the capital, JERUDONG is known as "the playground of the Sultan." The biggest attraction is the new amusement park which opened in 1994 to celebrate the Sultan's birthday. The park covers 104 hectares with a wide variety of thrill rides and amusements from roller coasters to a calmer carousel A children's park includes playgrounds, mazes and swings. A large auditorium offers musical entertainment, which has included two concerts in 1996 given by Michael Jackson. The Musical Fountain in the park offers a 20-minute high-tech laser, music and light show every night. Behind the park is Jerundong Beach, which offers a lovely site for swimming. Admission to the park and all rides is free.

Jerudong Park, a grand polo stadium complex with a beautiful equestrian center, a golf course and facilities for trapshooting and croquet, is where the Sultan goes for recreation. However, since entry to the park is by invitation only, you may only get a chance to see it through special tours.

There are several fine hotels in this area and tour packages are offered through various agencies.

KUALA BELAIT is a river port situated west of Seria, near the South China Sea. The city is a district capital surrounded by oil fields. There is a government vocational school here, and a coastal road runs eastward toward Bandar Seri Begawan. Kuala Belait's population is approximately 25,000.

SERIA is a major oil center of some 24,000 residents, located on the South China seacoast about 40 miles southwest of Bandar Seri Begawan. This is also the headquarters of Brunei's only oil and gas corporation, Brunei Shell Petroleum. The oil produced in the region has supplied most of the funds used in the country's growth.


Geography and Climate

Brunei occupies 3,459 miles on the northern coast of the island of Borneo and is 350 statute miles north of the Equator at 5×N, 115×E. It comprises two separate areas: the capital area and a thinly populated enclave to the east, consisting mostly of jungle. Separating the two is a salient of the Malaysian State of Sarawak, which on the landward side surrounds both parts of Brunei. The north shore is on the South China Sea.

From the 14th to the 16th century, Brunei was the center of a powerful empire covering most of the northern part of the island of Borneo and extending north through the Philippines to Manila.

By the 19th century, much of Brunei's empire had been whittled away by piracy, wars, and the spread of European nations into the Far East. By the end of the 19th century, Brunei was a British protectorate, and, in 1906, the British Resident system was introduced. The discovery of major oil fields in the western end of the State in the 1920s brought economic stability to Brunei and created a new style of life for the population.

Constitutionally, Brunei was regulated by an agreement with Britain that was concluded in 1959 and was amended in 1971. By this agreement, the State was internally self-governing, with Britain looking after only foreign affairs and having a consultative role in external defense. In 1984, Brunei resumed full sovereign status and assumed responsibility for its own defense and foreign affairs. The country has joined the U.N., the Association of South East Asian Nation (ASEAN), and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Brunei is a small oil and gas-producing state. The oil and gas fields are centered in the towns of Seria and Kuala Belait, 67 miles southwest of the capital. Other large towns are Tutong, which is midway between Bandar Seri Begawan and Kuala Belait, and Bangar in the Temburong District.

The country is mainly primary and secondary tropical rain forest with only a narrow coastal strip from Kuala Belait to Bandar Seri Begawan cultivated. The rain forest produces as much as 146 inches of rain to the interior but only about 108 inches a year is recorded on the coast. The climate is equatorial with uniform temperatures and high humidity.

Brunei has no personal income tax, and the people enjoy, among other things, free education and medical care.


Of a total population of approximately 331,000, 64 percent are Malays, 20 percent are Chinese, and 16 percent are non-Malay indigenous people, mainly Ibans and Dusuns, as well as several other minor tribal groupings. Europeans make up a small percentage of the population.

Malay is the official language, but English is spoken almost everywhere in the State. The Chinese community speaks Hokkien; other languages and dialects include Hakka, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Hindi.

Public Institutions

Brunei is a traditional Islamic monarchy, with supreme political power vested in the Sultan. He is assisted and advised by the four councils: the Privy Council, the Religious Council, the Council of Cabinet Ministers and the Council of Succession. All members are appointed by the Sultan. The Sultan presides over the cabinet as Prime Minister and also holds the positions of Minister of Defense and Minister of Finance.

Brunei's legal system is based on English common law, with an independent judiciary, a body of written common law judgments and statutes, and legislation enacted by the Sultan.

Arts, Science, and Education

Brunei has 177 primary schools and 29 secondary schools (including non-Government schools). Children begin school at age 5, and education is available for 10 years (6 years for primary and 4 years for lower secondary). However, no programs or facilities exist for disabled children or for handicapped children.

Brunei's education system has been extended since 1985 by the foundation of the nation's own universitythe University of Brunei Darussalam. Currently, the University has four facultiesEducation, Science, Arts, and Social Science and Management.

The small population and the need to build up generalist skills rapidly is reflected upon the University's decision to concentrate initially on only these few selected disciplines. The development of degree courses such as Law, Medicine, Dentistry, Engineering, and Accounting were not deemed economically justifiable, since they are readily available overseas. The University's academic staff is mainly non-Bruneian.

Other institutions at tertiary level include an agricultural training center and various technical institutes. These are designed to meet skill shortages.

Many schools for expatriate children are located in Brunei, including the International School, where instruction is in English, and missionary schools. Currently, schooling is available from kindergarten through grade 6. The International School is considering opening a grade 7 class, but this is still in the planning stage.

Commerce and Industry

Oil and natural gas, the economic backbone of the country, represent 9% of the total exports of Brunei and 56% of its gross domestic product. Some 31% of Brunei's petroleum and 6 million tons of liquefied natural gas are exported to Japan annually.

Apart from oil and gas, forestry is playing an increasing role in the country's economy. The Government is also placing greater emphasis on agricultural development to enable the country to reduce its dependence on the importation of foodstuffs.



Most Bruneians own cars and as a result, public transport and taxis are not in great demand, although buses operate between the major centers. Chauffeur driven or rental cars are available for hire through major hotels or the airport.

Taxis are not metered and fares, though negotiable, are expensive. The fare from the airport to Bandar Seri Begawan varies from about US$12 to US$29, depending on taxi availability and the driver's whim.

Water taxis are the most common form of transport in Kampong Air, Brunei's renowned water village. Regular water taxis and boat services ply the routes between Bandar Seri Begawan, Bangar, Limbang (in Sarawak), Labuan, and some towns in the Malaysian State of Sabah. But single women should be accompanied when using these services.


Air transportation is commonly used for destinations outside Brunei. Several international airlines and the national airline, Royal Brunei Airlines, serves Brunei.


Telephone and Telegraph

Local telephone calls are free (except by public phone booth). Long-distance telephone, FAX, and telegraph service to the U.S. is good but expensive. Use of public phones requires the pre-purchase of a calling card, because the phones are not coin operated.

Radio and TV

The government-owned Radio Television Brunei (RTB) broadcasts daily on AM and FM from 6:30 am to 10 pm, with programs in English, Malay, and Chinese. Programs are varied and international news is reported twice a dayat 12:15 pm and 9:15 pm.

One local TV channel and two Malaysian channels are received. Brunei programs, which have included some award winning documentaries, comprise about 40 percent of programming. Other ASEAN countries, Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. import the remaining 60 percent. CNN headline news is broadcast 6 days a week, from 7 to 7:30 pm via Malaysian TV. Ownership of satellite dishes is strictly regulated.

The TV system is PAL as opposed to the NTSC system used in the U.S.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Western publications are available. Occasionally, censored copies of Time and Newsweek are available at local vendors. The ASEAN edition of Reader's Digest is also available. Other U.S. magazines appear on the newsstands about a month late and at a price two or three times their U.S. price. Many outdated magazines are available at newsstands. One English-language newspaper, the Borneo Bulletin, is published weekly in Brunei. International newspapers available daily include the Straits Times (Singapore), the New Straits Times (Malaysia), the Asian Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune.

A limited selection of American and British books on various subjects is available in selected bookshops at 50 to 100 percent above publisher prices. The library downtown has a collection of books in English.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Health services are free for Brunei citizens with a nominal charge for permanent residents and expatriates. Health care is a three-tier system, with health clinics providing primary care, health centers providing secondary care, and district hospitals providing tertiary and specialized care.

The most important medical facility in Brunei is the 550-bed central referral hospital in Bandar Seri Begawan known as Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Hospital (RIPAS Hospital). This hospital, built at US$95 million, provides diagnostic and therapeutic facilities for the entire country.

Most doctors and dentists in the country are non-Western expatriates. For specialized care, patients are sent abroad.

Routine dentistry is available. Opticians and optometrists are available, and there are many doctors in private practice.

Bring an extra set of glasses or contact lenses, if needed, from the U.S. If you or a family member are taking long-term medications or allergy injections, bring a supply and arrange beforehand for regular refills.

Community Health

Respiratory infections, colds, coughs, sore throats, etc., lead the list of common complaints. Middle-ear and external-ear infections, sinusitis, and bronchitis are not uncommon.

Sanitation of human waste has improved over the years. However, other waste carried by contaminated water often runs in the open storm drainage system, resulting in chronic unpleasant odors. Some town and residential areas are marred by indiscriminate dumping of waste and garbage. The Municipal Department provides garbage collection services for about US$9 a month to most residential areas. Although scheduled regularly, this service is often intermittent.

Preventive Measures

Clean fruits and vegetables well before eating. Cook meat thoroughly. Insect control is rudimentary. Malaria suppressants are not necessary in Brunei.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Feb. 23 National Day

May 31 Armed Forces Day

July 15 HM the Sultan's Birthday

Dec. 25 Christmas

Prophet Muhammad's Birthday*

Israk Mikarj*


Revelation of the Holy Koran*

Chinese New Year*

Id al-Fitr*

Id al-Adha*

Islamic New Year*



Passage, Customs and Duties

Most travel to Brunei is by air. Several airlines provide direct, nonstop flights to Brunei on most weekdays from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Thailand, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. Some of the more popular international airlines serving Brunei are Singapore, Thai, Malaysian, and Philippines Airlines. The most direct route from the U.S. to Brunei is via the west coast, with connections made at any Asian cities serving Brunei.

U.S. passport-holders may take advantage of Brunei's participation in the Visa Waiver Pilot Program (VWPP), which allows visitors to Brunei for business or pleasure to obtain visas upon arrival for up to 90 days at no charge. The existing airport tax upon arrival/departure is Brunei dollars 12. For further information about entry requirements, travelers may consult the consular section of the Embassy of Brunei, 3520 International Court, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008; Tel:(202) 342-0159 (

Brunei customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the temporary import or export of items such as firearms, religious materials and alcohol. For non-Muslims, very limited amounts of alcohol for personal consumption are permitted (i.e., 12 bottles of beer and two bottles of wine/spirits). It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Brunei in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Brunei has a mandatory death penalty for many narcotics offenses. Under the current law, possession of heroin and morphine derivatives of more than 15 grams, and cannabis of more than 20 grams, carries the death penalty. Possession of lesser amounts carries a minimum twenty-year jail term and caning.

Americans living in or visiting Brunei are encouraged to register in person or via telephone or fax at the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan and obtain updated information on travel and security within the country. The U.S. Embassy is located on the 3rd floor, Teck Guan Plaza, Jalan Sultan, in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan. The U.S. mailing address is American Embassy, PSC 470 (BSB), FPO AP, 96507. The telephone number is (673)(2)229-670, fax number (673)(2)225-293 and e-mail address The after hours number for emergency calls is (673)(8) 730-691.


Travelers coming to Brunei with pets must request entry for the pet by writing to:

Veterinary Officer
Veterinary Clinic
Ministry of Agriculture
Bandar Seri Begawan
Brunei Darussalam

Include in the letter, all particulars about the pet and a health certificate. The clinic requires at least 2 weeks' notice before the pet's arrival.

Quarantine is not required for pets arriving from England, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, and other parts of Borneo. If arriving from other parts of the world, the pet is quarantined for about 2 weeks. No fee is imposed for incoming pets, but an outgoing fee of US$1 is charged for each pet. Pets must arrive in Brunei as cargo.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

The monetary unit of Brunei is the ringgit (dollar), which is issued in notes of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 10,000. The coins are in the denominations of 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents. Currently, US$1 is equivalent to about B$1.70. The exchange rate fluctuates daily.

The Brunei dollar is at par with the Singapore dollar, and the currencies are interchangeable in both countries.

Brunei uses the metric system of weights and measures. Gasoline is sold by the liter; temperatures are cited in degrees Celsius; and distances are measured in kilometers.

U.S. citizens living in or visiting Brunei may register in person or via telephone with the U.S. Embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan and obtain updated information on travel and security within the country. The U.S Embassy is located in Teck Guan Plaza, Third Floor, Jalan Sultan, in Bandar Seri Begawan. The mailing address is American Embassy PSC 470 (BSB), FPO AP, 96534; the telephone number is (673)(2) 229-670; the fax number is (673) (2) 225-293.


These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Beccari, Odoardo. Wanderings in the Great Forests of Borneo. London, 1904. The best natural history of Borneo.

bin Mohamad, Mahatir. The Malay Dilemma. The famous book-length essay by the author who is now the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Brooke, Sylvia and H.H. Queen of the Headhunters. London, 1936. An eccentric but quite interesting account by the wife of one of the White Rajahs.

Brown, D.E. Brunei: The Structure and History of a Bornean Malay Sultanate. Brunei Museum, 1970.

Chalfont, Lord Alun. By God's Will. A flattering portrait of the Sultan of Brunei penned by Lord Chalfont, one of the few authors to have gained the royal confidence.

Crisswell, Colin N. Rajoh Charles BrookeMonarch of all He Surveyed. Oxford University Press: 1983.

Finlay, Hugh, and Peter Turner. Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei: A Travel Survival Kit. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 1991.

Harrison, Tom. World Within, A Borneo Story. Singapore, 1984. A fascinating account of the Iban people by an officer who recruited them to fight the Japanese in World War II.

Krausse, Sylvia C. Engelen and Gerald H. Brunei. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio Press, 1988. An annotated bibliography.

Leake Jr., David. BruneiThe Modern Southeast-Asian Islamic State. A former sub-editor of the Borneo Bulletin, Brunei's only English-language newspaper, Leake examines Brunei's history and its future. Hundreds of anecdotes and insights into the Brunei Malay character. Written after the author was expelled from Brunei.

Mac Donald, Malcolm. Borneo People. Oxford University Press: 1985. The best account of the racial and tribal group make up of North Borneo written by a former British High Commissioner from Singapore.

McArthur, M.H.S. Report on Brunei in 1904. Athens, OH, 1987.

Pringle, Robert. Rajas and Rebels. Offers another account of the Brookes.

Ranjit, Singh. Brunei, 1839-1983: The Problems of Political Survival. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.

Runciman, Sir Steven. The White Rajahs of Sarawak. Cambridge, 1960. The best account of the Brooke family's involvement in North Borneo and its relationship to the Sultanate of Brunei.

St. John, Spenser. Life in the Forests of the Far East. London, 1862. A classic mid-19th century description of the environment, people, and customs of Borneo.

Siddayao, Corazon Morales. The Offshore Petroleum Resources of South-East Asia, Potential Conflict Situations and Related Economic Considerations. Oxford University Press: 1980. Title is self-explanatory.

. The Supply of Petroleum Reserves in South-East Asia, Economic Implication of Evolving Property Rights Arrangements. Oxford University Press: 1980. Title is self-explanatory.

Singh, Rajit. Brunei 1839-1983: The Problems of Political Survival. Oxford University Press. The only available account in book form of political developments in Brunei in this century and particularly since the Second World War.

Tregonning, K.G.P. British North Borneo.

Turnbull, C.M. A History of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Boston: Allen and Unwin, 1989.

Weaver, Mary Ann. "In the Sultan's Palace." The New Yorker. October 7, 1991. A whimsical account of Mary Ann Weaver's 6 weeks in Brunei. Charming and humorous accounts of the befuddled Bruneian bureaucracy.

Zaini Haji Ahmad, Haji. The People's Party of Brunei: Selected Documents. Petaling Jaya: Institute of Social Analysis, 1988.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Brunei Darussalam
Region: Oceania
Population: 336,376
Language(s): Malay, English, Chinese
Literacy Rate: 88.2%

The small (2,226 square miles) South-East Asian Sultanate of Brunei is located on the northwestern coast of the island of Borneo, sandwiched between two states belonging to neighboring Malaysia. The official name of this wealthy, oil-rich country that became independent of British control (although it was never an outright colony) in 1984 is Brunei Darussalam (Arabic for "Abode of Peace"). It has a predominantly Malay Muslim population with a substantial Chinese minority, many of whom are classified as non-citizens. One striking educational feature of this country, which due to its prosperity ranks third in the world in per capita income, is that citizens of Brunei enjoy the benefit of access to free schooling at all levels.

Historically, the first Malay language school began in what was then Brunei Town (now the capital and renamed Bandar Sri Begawan) in 1912. Similar schools in other towns followed it. A Chinese school was established in 1916, followed by an English medium one in 1931. The growth in schools, both government and private, continued through World War II and beyond. The first five-year plan for economic development, beginning in 1954, resulted in the creation of the Ministry of Education.

This Ministry, which was subsequently reorganized in 1974 on the basis of an official governmental commission report, continues to oversee educational policy and allocate resources to all schools under its control. All government and private schools are overseen by the Ministry of Education in conformity with the Education Act of 1984. All primary and secondary schools follow a common curriculum that is set by the Ministry. Although there have been both official and unofficial recommendations urging the adoption of Malay as the sole medium of instruction, currently dwibahasa (bilingualism, using both English and Malay for teaching purposes) is being practiced. Due to Brunei's small population, many teachers have historically been expatriates from neighboring countries in Asia or from Australia and Britain. One provision of the Education Act is the requirement for private school teachers to register with the Ministry.

Based on Brunei's Islamic heritage and government by monarchy, its official educational philosophy emphasizes Koranic elements, such as faith and piety, along with loyalty to the Sultan. At the same time, its past reliance on Britain has resulted in educational structures and curricula that draw from that nation's educational system. Brunei's educational policies, as stated by the Ministry of Education, aim to achieve the following. They wish to provide:

  • greater scope for the use of Malay in education;
  • a total of 12 years of education for all students;
  • a system of integrated curricula and public examinations;
  • Islamic religious education as part of the school curriculum;
  • facilities for education in scientific and technological fields;
  • appropriate co-curricular activities;
  • access to higher education as appropriate; and
  • educational structures that are in harmony with national needs.

In the year 2000, a total of 221 educational institutions were in Brunei. These consisted of 175 primary schools, 39 secondary schools, 2 vocational schools, and 1 each of the following: technical college, nursing college, mechanical training center, technological institute, and university, the Universiti Brunei Darussalam (or UBD). There were 32,316 students in government primary schools and 27,914 in government secondary schools. In addition 24,370 students attended private primary schools and 4,038 were in private secondary schools. There were 2,867 students at the University of Brunei while 2,500 students attended the other vocational and technical colleges. Clearly, a significant proportion of the country's population (more than one-third) consists of students at the primary, secondary, or tertiary levels. One additional feature worth noting is that, according to official statistics, while the enrollment numbers of males and females keep pace with each other at the primary and secondary levels, approximately 57 percent of students at the tertiary level are females.

Brunei follows a 7-3-2-2 pattern of education. This means that there are seven years of primary education (including one year of preschool), followed by a public examination known as the Primary Certificate of Education. Lower secondary education is for three years, followed by another public examination, the Lower Secondary Assessment examination. Based on the performance of an individual student and following the ninth year of schooling, he or she will be tracked into one of two streams. One stream leads to technical or vocational education that prepares the student for immediate skill-based employment after graduation; such education is provided at a number of technical and vocational institutes described below. The other "academic" stream leads to two or three years of upper secondary education culminating in the student's appearance in the Brunei-Cambridge General Certificate of Education (GCE) examination at either the O-(Ordinary, similar to its British secondary school counterpart) or N-Levels. The GCE examinations are conducted jointly by Cambridge University's Local Examinations Syndicate and Brunei's Ministry of Education. Those not immediately prepared to take the O-Level examinations are allowed to take the N-level examinations which, if passed, give them an additional year of schooling and preparation to tackle the O-Level examinations. Finally, students with adequate achievements at the O-Level examinations can go on to two years of preuniversity education that prepares them for the Brunei-Cambridge A-Level (similar to the British GCE Advanced Level) examinations.

At the apex of Brunei's education system is its only university, the UBD. This relatively new institution of higher learning began operations in 1985 and offers undergraduate and a few graduate programs through its six faculties (colleges). These include faculties in the arts and social sciences; business, economics and policies studies; Islamic studies; Brunei studies; science; and education. The last named faculty originated as a separate institute of education that predates and was incorporated into the UBD in 1988. UBD's teaching staff numbers slightly more than 300 people. While most undergraduate programs of study are offered in the English medium, some are also offered separately in Malay.

Brunei's educational system will face two major future challenges. The first is to expand available educational resources and choices at all levels to match the demand both from its own population and the changing economy of Southeast Asia. The second is the continuing dilemma of integrating historical and traditional (religion, monarchy, and "colonialism") as well as modern (liberalization and globalization) elements into a coherent educational infrastructure.

N. Prabha Unnithan

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Brunei (brōōnī´) or Brunei Darussalam (där´əsəläm´), officially State of Brunei Darussalam, sultanate (2005 est. pop. 372,400), 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 Sarawak, 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 29-member Legislative Council, whose members are appointed by the sultan. 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 Waddaulah 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, but 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 29-member council. In 2014 the country began a two-year process of adopting Islamic law (sharia) as the basis for its legal system.

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Brunei Sultanate in n Borneo, se Asia; the capital is Bandar Seri Begawan.

Land and climate

Bounded in the nw by the South China Sea, Brunei consists of humid plains with forested mountains running along its s border with Malaysia. Brunei has a moist, tropical climate.

History and politics

During the 16th century, Brunei ruled over the whole of Borneo and parts of the Philippines, but gradually lost its influence in the region. It became a British protectorate in 1888. Brunei achieved independence in 1983. The Sultan has executive authority.


Oil and gas are the main source of income, accounting for 70% of GDP. Recently, attempts have been made to increase agricultural production. Area: 5765sq km (2225sq mi). Pop. (2000 est.) 333,000.;

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Brunei rose as a powerful Islamic sultanate in the 15th cent. When Magellan visited it in 1521, it held sway over most of lowland Borneo and the surrounding archipelago. However, after it was destroyed by a Spanish fleet, it passed into obscurity. In 1888, surrounded by the Brookes' Sarawak and the domains of the British North Borneo Company, it was taken under a British protectorate. From 1906 to 1959, it was administered by the British resident. Rich oil reserves were discovered. The sultan was restored to his government and, in 1963, declined to join the Malaysian Federation.

David Anthony Washbrook

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Brunei •decani • Iceni • Gemini • Anno Domini • termini • acini •personae, tostone •Brunei • alumni • goldeneye

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