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Brunei History

In ancient times, Brunei was a powerful trading nation controlling most of Borneo and part of the Philippines archipelago, with extensive connections throughout South-East Asia. The country was occupied briefly by the Spanish during the late 16th century as they tried to bring Catholicism to the country, but the country had already adopted Islam as the main religion. In the mid-19th century, Brunei came under British influence when the seafarer, James Brooke, was granted control of the Sarawak region (now part of Malaysia) in return for protection against pirates. The island of Labuan was also ceded to Britain, thereby reducing Brunei to its current borders.

In 1888, Britain declared ‘North Borneo’ to be a British Protectorate, under which the territory was governed by a British resident, with purely nominal powers available to the Sultan. This arrangement continued apart from a period of Japanese occupation during World War II until Brunei’s transition to independence began in 1959. That year, a new Anglo-Brunei agreement was signed, under which the UK assumed responsibility for defense and foreign affairs but passed control of all other matters to the Sultan. Three years later, the North Borneo Liberation Army instigated rebellions, during which a state of emergency was declared. As a result, the Sultan assumed the power to rule by decree. Since then, with the benefit of its vast oil wealth, Brunei has undergone steady, if somewhat unequal, development as the country has a high standard of living.

The government of the country rests in the exclusive hands of His Majesty Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, 29th in the dynasty, and is one of the world’s richest individuals. In 1998 the Sultan made an official announcement, stating that his eldest son, Prince al-Muhtadee Billah, will succeed him as Sultan upon his death or retirement. The Sultan showed his money but building a huge 6-star hotel called the Empire, which I had the pleasure of staying at it’s truly amazing.

In recent years, Brunei has seen its oil revenues help bring its country into one of the richest in the world. The country has pursued a more active foreign policy during the last decade, joining the Non-Aligned Movement and establishing diplomatic relations with China, Vietnam, Iran and Myanmar, which most of the world refuses to have any relations with. The country is beautiful country and worth going to as it has great beaches and great food.

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