U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Brunei, November 1995
Bureau of Public Affairs
Official Name: Brunei Darussalam
Area: 5,769 sq. km. (2,227 sq. mi.), slightly larger than Delaware.
Cities: Capital--Bandar Seri Begawan.
Terrain: East--flat coastal plains with beaches; west--hilly with a few
Climate: Equatorial; high temperatures, humidity, and rainfall.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Bruneian(s).
Population (1994): 285,000.
Annual growth rate (1994): 2.7%.
Ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese, other indigenous.
Languages: Malay, English, Chinese; Iban and other indigenous dialects.
Education: Years compulsory--nine. Literacy--77%.
Health: Life expectancy--71 years. Infant mortality rate--25/1,000.
Independence: January 1, 1984.
Branches: Executive--Sultan is both head of state and prime minister,
presiding over an 11-member cabinet. Judicial--(based on Indian penal
code and English common law) magistrate's courts, High Court, Court of
Appeals, Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (sits in London).
Subdivisions: Four districts--Brunei-Muara, Belait, Tutong, and
GDP (1993): $4.4 billion.
Natural resources: Oil and natural gas.
Trade: Exports--oil, liquefied natural gas, petroleum products,
garments. Major markets--Japan, U.S. Imports--machinery and transport
equipment, manufactured goods. Major suppliers--Singapore, U.K.
Relations between the United States and Brunei date from the last
century. On April 6, 1845, the U.S.S. Constitution visited Brunei; the
two countries concluded a Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Commerce and
Navigation in 1850, which remains in force today. The United States
maintained a consulate in Brunei from 1865 to 1867.
The U.S. welcomed Brunei Darussalam's receipt of full independence from
the United Kingdom on January 1, 1984, and opened an embassy in Bandar
Seri Begawan on that date. Brunei opened its embassy in Washington in
March 1984. Brunei's armed forces engage in joint exercises, training
programs, and other military cooperation with the U.S. A memorandum of
understanding on defense cooperation was signed on November 29, 1994.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Theresa A. Tull
Administrative/Consular Officer--Naomi Edwards
The U.S. embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan is located on the third floor of
Teck Guan Plaza, at the corner of Jalan Sultan and Jalan MacArthur; tel.
673-2-229670, 220384, 229785, 229786, 241645, or 235254; fax 673-2-
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Under Brunei's 1959 constitution, the sultan is the head of state with
full executive authority, including emergency powers since 1962. The
sultan is assisted and advised by five councils, which he appoints.
An 11-member Council of Ministers, or cabinet, assists in the
administration of the government. The sultan presides over the cabinet
as prime minister and also holds the position of minister of defense.
Two of the sultan's brothers serve as ministers of foreign affairs and
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. Most cases are tried by
the local magistrate's courts. More serious cases go before the High
Court, which sits for about two weeks every few months. Brunei has an
arrangement with the Government of Hong Kong whereby Hong Kong judges
are appointed as the judges for Brunei's High Court and Court of Appeal.
Final appeal can be made to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
in London in civil but not criminal cases.
The Government of Brunei assures continuing public support for the
current form of government by providing economic benefits such as
subsidized food, fuel and housing, free education and medical care, and
low-interest loans for government employees. The Sultan said in a 1989
interview that he intends to proceed, with prudence, to establish more
liberal institutions in the country and that he will reintroduce
elections and a legislature when he "can see evidence of a genuine
interest in politics on the part of a responsible majority of
Bruneians." In 1994, a constitutional review committee submitted its
findings to the Sultan, but these have not been made public.
A tiny country with enormous oil and gas reserves--the economy is almost
totally supported by exports of crude oil and natural gas--Brunei's
financial reserves are reportedly more than $30 billion. The country's
wealth, coupled with its membership in the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations, give it influence in the world disproportionate to its
Principal Government Officials
Sultan and Yang di-Pertuan, Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense--His
Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah
Minister of Foreign Affairs--His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah
Ambassador to the United States--Jaya bin Abdul Latif
Ambassador to the UN--Pengiran Haji-Abdul Momin
Brunei Darussalam maintains an embassy in the United States at 2600
Virginia Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20037; tel. 202-342-0159.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are
issued when the Department of State recommends that Americans avoid
travel to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and security
information, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S.
embassies and consulates in the subject country. They can be obtained by
telephone at (202) 647-5225 or by fax at (202) 647-3000. To access the
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board by computer, dial (202) 647-9225, via a
modem with standard settings. Bureau of Consular Affairs' publications
on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad are available
from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 783-3238.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
While planning a trip, travelers can check the latest information on
health requirements and conditions with the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-4559
provides telephonic or fax information on the most recent health
advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on
food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet
entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication
number CDC-94-8280, price $7.00) is available from the Superintendent of
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal
Government Officials" listing in this publication).
Upon their arrival in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to
register with the U.S. embassy (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials"
listing in this publication). Such information might assist family
members in making contact en route in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information:
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the CABB
provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and helpful
information for travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of charge to
anyone with a personal computer, modem, telecommunications software, and
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet,
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch,
the official weekly magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press
briefings; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc.
DOSFAN is accessible three ways on the Internet:
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly basis
by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Priced at
$80 ($100 foreign), one-year subscriptions include four discs (MSDOS and
Macintosh compatible) and are available from the Superintendent of
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 37194, Pittsburgh,
PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.
Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy
information also is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S. Government
Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. For general BBS
information, call (202) 512-1530.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information,
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet
(gopher. stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202)
482-1986 for more information.
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