U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Brunei, November 1997
Released by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific 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 (1996): 305,100.
Annual growth rate (1996): 3.1%.
Ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese, other indigenous.
Languages: Malay, English, Chinese; Iban and other indigenous dialects.
Education: Years compulsory--nine. Literacy--88.2%. (1995 est.)
Health: Life expectancy--71 years. Infant mortality rate--
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 (1996): $5.5 billion.
Natural resources: Oil and natural gas.
Trade: Exports--oil, liquefied natural gas, petroleum products,
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--Glen R. Rase
Economic/Political/Commercial Officer--William H. Moore
Administrative/Consular Officer--George Novinger
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.
One of the Sultan's brothers serve as minister of foreign affairs.
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, Minister of Defense, and
Minister of Finance-- His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah
Minister of Foreign Affairs--His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah
Ambassador to the United States-Pengiran Anak Dato Haji Puteh
Ambassador to the UN--Pengiran Maidin Hashim
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 State Department 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, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in
the country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate
information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-
term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:
http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB).
To access CABB, dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will
accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-
8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100.
The login is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case is
required). The CABB also carries international security information from
the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of
Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication
series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents,
U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-
7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-
Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m.
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648)
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at
(404) 332-4559 gives 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-95-8280) is
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC
20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
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).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas
are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country
(see Principal U.S. Embassy Officials; listing in this publication).
This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information:
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 magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings;
Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a semi-annual 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. Contact
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O.
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or
fax (202) 512-2250.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. It is
available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the
NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.
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