Brunei DarussalamIt is often referred to as Brunei. The country’s official name is Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace, or in Malay, Negara Brunei Darussalam.  This crude oil- and natural gas-rich nation, with a total area of 5,765 square kilometers is an ASEAN member nation. It is a land that has a  predominantly Malay culture with heavy Islamic influences. Although it embraces modernity and had been influenced by the Western culture  of the British, it is more conservative than neighboring Malaysia. With very little arable land, Brunei depends on imports, with about 60% of its food requirements sourced outside the county, from which 75% is imported from other ASEAN countries.

GEOGRAPHY AND POPULATION

Brunei is composed of two parts, completely separated by water, but is surrounded by Sarawak, Malaysia. It shares land borders with Malaysia for 381 kilometers. As of July 2013, Brunei’s population is estimated to be 415,717. Close to 97% of the total population lives in Brunei-Muara, Tutong and Belait in the western part of the country. The eastern part of Brunei, wherein Temburong District is located, only has about 10,000 residents. Majority of Bruneians have settled in Bandar Seri Begawan, the country’s capital. Muara is a port town while Kuala Belait and Seria are oil-producing towns. Panaga, located in Belait is home to numerous expatriates as this is where the British Army housing and the Royal Dutch Shell are located.

With a tropical equatorial climate, Brunei experiences earthquakes and typhoons but the occurrence of flood is rare. The seasonal forest fires in Indonesia envelop Brunei in smoke and haze. Temperature in Brunei is tolerable, with the April to May average reaching 24.7 °C or  76.5 °F and the October to December average coming up to 23.8 °C or 74.8 °F. Annual average is in the mid-20s centigrade or about 79 °F.

THE BRUNEIANS

The people of Brunei are multiracial, with about 66.3% being of Malay race. About 11.2% of the population is made up of Chinese, followed  by a 3.7% indigenous population. The rest is made up of other nationals, comprising 19.1%.

Literacy in Brunei is 93%. English and Malay are national/official languages. Chinese is also widely spoken plus eight other regional  languages. Although Islam is the official religion with 67% of the population practicing the faith, Buddhism and Christianity also exist. The citizens enjoy a high standard of living and do not pay taxes. Citizens are charged B$1 for medical consultation. If they need medical assistance that is not available in Brunei, the government pays for their medical trip and hospitalization overseas.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Brunei’s political system is governed by the Malay Islamic Monarchy, under the concept of Melayu Islam Beraja or MIB, which encompasses the country’s political framework, Islamic religion and Malay culture. The country based its legal system on British common law but it can be superceded by Islamic Shariah law when necessary.

With full executive authority under the 1959 constitution, the head of state is His Majesty Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah. He has emergency powers renewable every two years. His Majesty also functions as Brunei’s Defense, Finance and Prime Minister.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Brunei is a member of the Commonwealth after it became independent of British rule on January 1, 1984. It joined the ASEAN on January 7 of the same year, and joined the United Nations on September 21, also in 1984. It is likewise a full member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on the date of its independence. It has signed a Memorandum of Agreement in 2009 with the Philippines for farm-related  investment and trade and agriculture. Brunei right now also lays claim to the Spratly Islands.

 

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