Lying on the northern coast of the island of Borneo, Brunei is surrounded and divided in two by the Malaysian state of Sarawak. It has been independent since 1984.
Geography: Mostly dense lowland rainforest and mangrove swamps, with some mountains in the southeast.
Climate: Tropical. Six-month rainy season with very high humidity.
People and Society: Malays benefit from positive discrimination. Many in the Chinese community are stateless. Since a failed rebellion in 1962, Brunei has been ruled by decree of the sultan. In 1990, “Malay Muslim Monarchy” was introduced, promoting Islamic values as state ideology. Women, less restricted than in some Muslim states, usually wear headscarves but not the veil.
The Economy: Oil and natural gas production has brought one of the world’s highest standards of living. Massive overseas investments. Major consumer of hightech hi-fi, video equipment, and Western designer clothes.
Insight: The sultan spent US$350 million building the world’s largest palace at Bandar Seri Begawan
Official Name: Sultanate of Brunei
Date of Formation: 1984
Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan
Total Area: 2228 sq. miles (5770 sq. km)
Density: 196 people per sq. mile
Languages: Malay*, English, Chinese
Religions: Muslim (mainly Sunni) 66%, Buddhist 14%, other 10%, Christian 10%
Ethnic Mix: Malay 67%, Chinese 16%, other 11%, indigenous 6%
Currency: Brunei dollar = 100 cents