|Background: The Sultanate of Brunei's heyday occurred between
the 15th and 17th centuries, when its control extended over coastal areas
of northwest Borneo and the southern Philippines. Brunei subsequently
entered a period of decline brought on by internal strife over royal
succession, colonial expansion of European powers, and piracy. In 1888,
Brunei became a British protectorate; independence was achieved in 1984.
Brunei benefits from extensive petroleum and natural gas fields, the
source of one of the highest per capita GDPs in the less developed
countries. The same family has now ruled in Brunei for over six centuries.
Government type: constitutional sultanate
Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan
Currency: 1 Bruneian dollar (B$) = 100 cents
Geography of Brunei
Location: Southeastern Asia, bordering the South China Sea and
People of Brunei
Many cultural and linguistic differences make Brunei Malays distinct from the larger Malay populations in nearby Malaysia and Indonesia, even though they are ethnically related and share the Muslim religion.
Brunei has a hereditary nobility with the title Pengiran. The Sultan can award to commoners the title Pehin, the equivalent of a life peerage awarded in the United Kingdom. The Sultan also can award his subjects the Dato, the equivalent of a knighthood in the United Kingdom, and Datin, the equivalent of a damehood.
Bruneians adhere to the practice of using complete full names with all titles, including the title Haji (for men) or Hajjah (for women) for those who have made the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. Many Brunei Malay women wear the tudong, a traditional head covering. Men wear the songkok, a traditional Malay cap. Men who have completed the Haj wear a white songkok.
The requirements to attain Brunei citizenship include passing tests in Malay culture, customs, and language. Stateless permanent residents of Brunei are given International Certificates of Identity, which allow them to travel overseas. The majority of Brunei's Chinese are permanent residents, and many are stateless.
Oil wealth allows the Brunei Government to provide the population with one of Asia's finest health care systems. The Brunei Medical and Health Department introduced the region's first government "flying doctor service" in early 1965. Malaria has been eradicated, and cholera is virtually nonexistent. There are three general hospitals--in Bandar Seri Begawan, Tutong, and Kuala Belait--and there are numerous health clinics throughout the country.
Education starts with preschool, followed by 6 years of primary education and up to 6 years of secondary education. Nine years of education are mandatory. Most of Brunei's college students attend universities and other institutions abroad, but approximately 2,867 study at the University of Brunei Darussalam. Opened in 1985, the university has a faculty of more than 300 instructors and is located on a sprawling campus overlooking the South China Sea.
The official language is Malay, but English is widely understood and used in business. Other languages spoken are several Chinese dialects, Iban, and a number of native dialects. Islam is the official religion, but religious freedom is guaranteed under the constitution.
Population: 372,361 (July 2005 est.)
SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State
Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Brunei > Map Economy History