Brunei is a country of Asia
with a surface area of 5,765 km² (density of 66.15 inhab./km²). The population of Brunei is 381,371 inhabitants in the last census.The capital of Brunei is the city of Bandar Seri Begawan which has 140,000 inhabitants. The sultan of the unitary Islamic absolute monarchy is Hassanal Bolkiah.
"Brunei, asylum of peace"
Brunei or Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam is a country of Southeast Asia forming the north of the island of Borneo, the 4th largest island in the world. The sultanate accounts for only 1% of the total area of the island.
The country that opens on the South China Sea forms an enclave in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. This monarchy is a former British protectorate and a member of the Commonwealth.
Brunei at a glance
Absolute monarchy of divine right
Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan
Administrative divisions: 4 districts
Population: more than 400,000 inhabitants
Main language: Melayu Brunei
Main religion: Islam
Current Sultan: Hassanal Bolkiah
Currency: Brunei dollar (1 Brunei dollar = 100 sen)
Conversion into euro: Brunei $ 100 = € 63.5
Tourism: It is recommended to protect against insect bites responsible for dengue and Zika virus.
A country of forests
Located in the north-western part of the island of Borneo, along the sea, Brunei is composed of a flat coastal strip, 161 kilometers long, bordered by soft valleys and a more mountainous relief in the East of the country. The highest peak of the country is the Bukit Pagon culminating at 1,850 meters above sea level.
More than 80% of the country is completely covered by a forest sheltering a large endemic and endangered flora and fauna. Only 2% of its territory is cultivated.
In the forests of Brunei there are colonies of nasal monkeys, gibbons and snakes, but above all an incredible variety of butterflies.
The capital Bandar Seri Begawan, located on the northern shore of Brunei, was partly built on the water, like the Kampong Ayer stilt village on the other side of the river and that is considered as historic site of the city.
The country is split in two in the north a small part of its territory is detached and separated from the rest of the country by a narrow strip of land belonging to Malaysia.
The climate of Brunei is tropical hot and humid with a monsoon season extending from November to March.
A human presence from the Paleolithic period
The settlement of the island of Borneo probably began during the lower Paleolithic period, as evidenced by the important archaeological material found in the Niah Caves in the north. The excavations confirmed the presence of hominids in the area more than 40,000 years ago. In particular, the oldest human skull of East Borneo was discovered. The cave paintings as well as remains of ceramics and various tools dating from the Neolithic confirms the hypothesis of a continuity of occupation of the site at least until the Neolithic.
This civilization still unknown is prior to the arrival of the Austronesians who landed on the island around the 1st millennium BC. These peoples from China around 3,000 BC reached the island of Taiwan and the Philippines before heading back to the Indonesian islands.
The precise history of Brunei has many shadows that have not yet been elucidated.
A commercial port
It is clear that Borneo is becoming an important step on the maritime trade routes linking China to Indonesia, India and the Middle East and that a port on the lands of the Sultanate of Brunei (called Buruneng) is mentioned by the end of the 10th century AD.
In the 13th century, it is part of a vast network of about a hundred trading posts (tributary regions) dependent on the Kingdom of Majapahit (island of Java) whose apogee is in the middle of the 14th century. The island of Borneo at that time had a large fleet in charge of defending trade.
The Kingdom of Majapahit collapses in the 15th century due to internal conflicts that led to a devastating civil war between two courts that dispute the territories. The war of succession exhausted the kingdom that loses its possessions including the island of Borneo and is finally annexed by the kingdom of Kediri (Indonesia), an ancient province of Majapahit, in 1478.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Brunei took advantage of the situation to establish new trade links. Promiscuity with the Arab merchants led to the Islamization of Brunei, which became a sultanate led by Muhammad Shah in 1368. The Sultan signs an alliance with China and expands his empire by controlling the northwest coast of Borneo leaving the interior of the Dayaks.
The Empire is flourishing and establishes peaceful relations with neighboring countries. At the end of the 17th century, the empire collapsed, undermined both by conflicts of succession, by pirates who scour the Sea of China, by the Dayaks rebellion and especially by the extension of the settlements in neighboring regions.
The white Rajas of Borneo
The territory of Brunei is drastically reduced and includes the present territory as well as Sabah and Sarawak.
In 1839, a young British adventurer, James Brooke, landed on the island of Borneo and lent a hand to the sultan to settle the Dayak revolt without a blow. As a way of thanking the Sultan, he was given the title of Raja of Sarawak, the starting point of an unusual episode in the history known as the White Rajas of Borneo, which inspired many writers. The James Brooke dynasty will reign over the Kingdom of Sarawak, a vassal of the Sultanate of Brunei, until 1946. The Sultan will also grant Sabah to an American, but this region will end up in the United Kingdom through the successive surrenders.
The Sultan must gradually give up most of his possessions, while the Dutch settled in the south of the island and the British occupied the north.
The ambitions of the different nations led the 25th Sultan of Brunei, Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin to place his country under the protection of the United Kingdom in 1906.
During the Second World War, the Sultanate was occupied by the Japanese who were displaced in 1945 by the United States and Australia.
He got the internal autonomy in 1959 that marks a turning point in the history of Brunei and the emergence of a nationalist movement which will lead to the independence of the country in 1984. Brunei then became a member of the Commonwealth.
Sultan of divine right
Brunei is an absolute monarchy, a member of the Commonwealth, whose ruling family has been in power since the 15th century. The Sultan (currently Hassanal Bolkiah) is the head of state and government, he is also the religious leader of the country. The executive and legislative powers are entrusted to the government, the parliament having only an advisory function.
The judiciary depends on the British common law and the Shari'a in matters relating to family law.
Since 2014, Sharia (Islamic law) has been established by the Sultan who was previously known for his life of debauchery in Brunei but it concerns only the Muslims of the country. It is the only country in Southeast Asia to obey Sharia.
This situation worries non-Muslims representing a third of the population but also some Muslims who fear that the country does not close the world and renounces modernity. In addition, the international community condemns this return to "unjustifiable" practices such as the stoning, the amputations and the death penalty in cases of adultery or homosexuality. The calls for a boycott of the palaces belonging to Brunei in the four corners of the world have been launched.
A rich country
The sultanate of Brunei is certainly a tiny landlocked state in Malaysia but it is especially the fifth richest country in the world. The current Sultan is at the head of a personal fortune exceeding $ 20 billion.
The inhabitants of the Sultanate enjoy a particularly high standard of living and a lack of income tax while they have free access to most health care and education.
This wealth comes from the presence of oil deposits off the coast of the sultanate. However, it is essential for the country to diversify its resources before they are exhausted. It is possible that it was for this purpose and to attract the sympathies of possible Islamic investors that the Sultan has established Sharia.
In recent years, the green tourism has been booming in Brunei, notably through the creation of national parks to protect the flora and fauna of the country.