The People of Brunei - History

The People of Brunei - History


The people of Brunei are ethnically related to the Malay population of neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia. The majority of residents are Muslims. Brunei's high oil income has allowed it provide a high level of health care and education to its citizens.


Population, total (millions)0.260.330.390.42
Population growth (annual %)
Surface area (sq. km) (thousands)
Population density (people per sq. km of land area)
Income share held by lowest 20%........
Life expectancy at birth, total (years)73757777
Fertility rate, total (births per woman)
Adolescent fertility rate (births per 1,000 women ages 15-19)40261511
Contraceptive prevalence, any methods (% of women ages 15-49)........
Births attended by skilled health staff (% of total)9899100100
Mortality rate, under-5 (per 1,000 live births)13121111
Prevalence of underweight, weight for age (% of children under 5)....9.6..
Immunization, measles (% of children ages 12-23 months)99999498
Primary completion rate, total (% of relevant age group)99115105102
School enrollment, primary (% gross)111.1110.2106.5106.6
School enrollment, secondary (% gross)73859993
School enrollment, primary and secondary (gross), gender parity index (GPI)1111
Prevalence of HIV, total (% of population ages 15-49)........
Forest area (sq. km) (thousands)
Terrestrial and marine protected areas (% of total territorial area)......9
Annual freshwater withdrawals, total (% of internal resources)0.91.1....
Urban population growth (annual %)
Energy use (kg of oil equivalent per capita)6,6737,1568,3378,632
CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita)23.9314.1421.1122.12
Electric power consumption (kWh per capita)4,3247,5448,81010,243


Here is a list of famous people from Brunei. Curious if anybody from Brunei made it our most famous people in the world list? Read the aformentioned article in order to find out.

Hassanal Bolkiah

Hassanal Bolkiah, GCB GCMG is the 29th and current Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei. He is also the first and incumbent Prime Minister of Brunei. The eldest son of the late Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien III and the late Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Damit, he succeeded to the throne as the Sultan of Brunei, following the abdication of his father on 4 October 1967.

Wu Chun

Wu Chun was born on 10 October 1979, birth name Goh Kiat Chun, is a Brunei-born Taiwanese actor, singer, former model and gym instructor. Chun was a member of Taiwanese Mandopop vocal quartet boy band Fahrenheit from its debut in 2005 to June 2011. He was the last and oldest member to join the boy band and was the bass vocalist of the group. HIM International Music, the group's record label, announced in an official statement on 22 June 2011 that Chun left Fahrenheit to concentrate on his acting career and also to spend more time with his family. He speaks fluent Mandarin, Hokkien, Malay, English and limited Japanese & Cantonese. Chun also starred in many Taiwanese drama such as Hanazakarino Kimitachihe, Romantic Princess, Hot Shot and Tokyo Juliet.

Jayna Oso

Jayna Oso is the professional name of an American pornographic actress and model. In 2011, Complex magazine ranked her at #16 in their list of "The Top 50 Hottest Asian Porn Stars of All Time".

Craig Adams

Craig D. Adams is a Bruneian-born Canadian professional ice hockey player for the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League. Adams was born in Seria, Brunei, but was raised in Calgary, Alberta, residing and playing hockey in the community of Lake Bonavista. Adams won the Stanley Cup with both the Carolina Hurricanes and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Jefri Bolkiah

Prince Jefri Bolkiah, full name His Royal Highness Pengiran Digadong Sahibul Mal Pengiran Muda Jefri Bolkiah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, is a member of the Brunei Royal Family. His elder brother is Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah. Prince Jefri was the finance minister of his oil-rich country from 1986 to 1998. He also served as chairman of the Brunei Investment Agency which invests much of the country's wealth and was responsible for overseas investments. In the wake of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the sultan had external accountants audit the books of BIA, resulting in charges by the Brunei government that Prince Jefri had embezzled $14.8 billion. He denies the charges but in 2000 agreed to turn over his personal holdings to the government, in return for avoiding criminal prosecution and being allowed to keep a personal residence in Brunei. After numerous legal disputes and appeals, in 2007 Britain's Privy Council ruled that this agreement is enforceable. His various legal issues with the Bruneian state have become the most expensive legal case in British legal history. Prince Jefri is known for his extravagant lifestyle. His personal holdings included a huge art collection, the British jeweller Asprey, The New York Palace Hotel, Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles and Plaza Athénée in Paris. He is married to three wives and divorced from two others and has eighteen children.

Omar Ali Saifuddien III

Omar Ali Saifuddien III, was the 28th Paramount Ruler and Sultan of Brunei who ruled from 4 June 1950 until his abdication from the throne on 4 October 1967. He was also the first Brunei Minister of Defence. He was known as The Architect of Modern Brunei, The Royal Poet, The Father of Independence, and The Father of Brunei's Negara Zikir.

Al-Muhtadee Billah

Prince Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Pengiran Muda Mahkota Pengiran Muda Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah Ibni Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, GCVO born 17 February 1974) is the Crown Prince of Brunei Darussalam. He is in the first in line of succession to become the next Sultan of Brunei. He holds the position of senior minister of the Prime Minister's Office of Brunei, General of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and Deputy Inspector General of the Royal Brunei Police Force.

Prince Azim

His Royal Highness Prince Haji 'Abdul 'Azim of Brunei, internationally and professionally known as Prince Azim, is the second born prince of His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. He is the third in line to succeed the throne of Brunei. The most well known of the Brunei royal family, he is a paparazzi favourite. Prince Azim is a film producer and is the founder of Daryl Prince Productions.

Pengiran Muda Mohamed Bolkiah

Prince Mohamed Bolkiah is a member of the royal family of Brunei. He has been the foreign minister of that country since it gained complete independence in 1984. He serves in the cabinet as director of the Brunei's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade alongside the second Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lim Jock Seng.

Pengiran Anak Saleha

Saleha Mohamed Alam is the Queen consort of Brunei as the wife of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the current Sultan of Brunei. She is the daughter of Pengiran Anak Mohamed Alam and Pengiran Anak Besar.

Paula Malai Ali

Paula Malai Ali Othman is a television personality from Brunei. Formerly a veejay for Channel V, she is now a presenter for ESPN Star Sports. A well-known media figure in Asia, Paula has worked as a television and radio presenter, stage actress, and vocal talent. She has been the choice of international brands such as Redken hair products and Nescafe for best personifying their positioning images. Paula's Bruneian father is the former Permanent Secretary of Industry and Primary Resources. Her English mother ran a kindergarten in Brunei. She has an identical twin sister named Jenny, who is a well-known TV and radio presenter in Brunei, and an older sister named Rachael. Paula had her early education at the International School Brunei, and did her secondary education in Singapore at the United World College of South East Asia. In 2002, Paula married the Malaysian film producer Tunku Azudinshah Tunku Anuar &ndash a member of the Kedah Royal Family and nephew of the Sultan of Kedah. The wedding was photographed by celebrity wedding photographer Kid Chan. In June 2006, Paula confirmed that she and Kudin had divorced. Paula subsequently married television producer Sam Gollestani. The couple's first child was born in February 2011.

Ahmad Tajuddin

Duli Yang Maha Mulia Sultan Sir Ahmad Tajuddin Akhazul Khairi Waddien ibni Almarhum Sir Sultan Mohammad Jamalul Alam II, KBE, CMG was the 27th sultan of Brunei from September 11, 1924 until his death. His reign represented the start of a new era in Brunei. The discovery of oil changed the whole course of Brunei's history and enabled faster development in all sectors of the country. The expansion and improvement of formal education and his encouragement of religious education were some of his additional contributions to Brunei Darussalam.


Sultan Sulaiman was the fourth sultan of Brunei, ruling from 1432 until his abdication in 1485 to allow his son, Bolkiah, to become Sultan. He died in 1511.

Muhammad Jamalul Alam II

Duli Yang Maha Mulia Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II ibni al-Marhum Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin, KCMG was the 26th Sultan of Brunei Darussalam. He was the eldest son of Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin. When his father died, the responsibility of the Sultan was in the hands of the Majlis Pemangku Raja, that is the Council of Regency. It was only in 1918 that His Highness was crowned as Sultan. Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II took a great deal of interest in the progress of the country, encouraging advances in agriculture, medicine and education. He also encouraged learning Islam, which was often carried out in the surau or small mosque. As a sign of his commitment to Islam, Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II built a mosque despite the country's lack of revenue. The mosque was built on a piece of land near the present Kampong Sultan Lama. The local community used the mosque until it was destroyed in wartime bombing during the reign of his son, Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin. It was also during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II that Islamic Law was officially introduced. This was known as Muhammadan Law. It was introduced in 1912, replacing the Kanun Brunei. Then in 1913, the Marriage and Divorce Act was introduced. He kept his position on the State Council, which met to approve and amend laws and policies. With the introduction of the Residential System in Brunei in 1906, all the executive power, except in matters of religion, was transferred from the Sultan to the Resident. In 1922, he moved from Istana Kampong Ayer to Istana Majlis.

Majeedah Bolkiah

Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Majeedah Nuurul Bulqiah is the fourth child of Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei and his wife, Pengiran Anak Saleha. Princess Majeedah holds a BA Administration and Public Policy from the University of Brunei Darussalam. She also holds an MA Environmental Development from King's College London. Princess Majeedah is currently the Senior Environment Officer and Head of Planning and Management Division at the Department of the Environment, Parks and Recreation, an agency of the Ministry of Development. One of the tasks of the Planning and Management Division is to evaluate the Environmental Impact Assessment Report on the Sungai Liang Industrial Site Development. Majeedah has supervised several successful projects, including the ASEAN Youths Forum on the Environment, which was held on 8 January 2007. Majeedah began her career as Special Duties Officer at the Environmental Unit, a section of the Ministry of Development responsible for policy and strategic environment affairs, on 11 February 2002. Among her written work include: the Environmental Management Guidelines for Quarry Activity and the Position Paper on Brunei&rsquos Accession to the Basel Convention to Control the Disposal and Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes.

Maziah Mahusin

Olympic Track and field Athlete

Maziah Mahusin is a Bruneian hurdler. Participating in 2012 London Olympics, She is the first female athlete to compete for Brunei at the Olympic Games. She has also been selected as their flag-bearer. Mahusin is already the face of female athletics in Brunei. She competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics in the 400 m event and was defeated after first round although she finished in a new national record of 59.28.

Anderson Lim

Anderson Lim Chee Wei is a Bruneian swimmer, who represented Brunei in the 2012 Beijing Summer Olympics. He studied at Jerudong International School, Brunei from 1997&ndash2011. He was based in Jacksonville, Florida, enrolled at the swimming powerhouse Bolles School, and currently attends and swims for the University of Rochester.

Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin

Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin was the 26th Sultan of Brunei. He ruled Brunei from May 1885 to May 1906. Sultan Hashim was the son of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II. Before he became the Sultan, he was one of the four Wazirs in Brunei and was known as Pengiran Temenggong Sahibul Bahar Pengiran Anak Hashim. He had acted as regent when Sultan Abdul Momin became old. At that time also, his elder brother, Pengiran Pemancha Pengiran Anak Muhammad Salleh had died.

Abdul Momin

Abdul Mo'min was the sultan of Brunei from 1852 until his death.

Hill Zaini

Hill Zaini, popularly known as Hill, is a well-known Bruneian singer and actor.

Omar Ali Saifuddin II

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien II was the 23rd Sultan of Brunei.

Abdul Muntaqim

Abdul Muntaqim is the oldest child and only son of His Royal Highness Al-Muhtadee Billah, heir to the Sultan of Brunei, and his wife, Her Royal Highness Pengiran Anak Sarah. He has a younger sister, Princess Muneerah Madhul, who was born in 2011. In honour of the birth of the prince, a 19-gun salute was fired from the cannons on the grounds of Istana Nurul Iman, the official residence of the Sultan of Brunei. The gun-salute is traditionally carried out to mark the births of immediate members of Sultan's family, and serves as an announcement of a royal birth to the Bruneian people.

Abdul Kahar

Sultan Abdul Kahar was the sixth sultan of Brunei, ruling from 1524 until stepping down from the throne on 1530 to allow his brother's son to become Sultan. He died in 1578.

Hardi Bujang

Hardi Alan Bujang is a Bruneian footballer who is currently a Midfielder for Persema Malang. He is a member of the Brunei national team. On January 4, 2009, He joined Persema Malang of Indonesia. He will have three years with Persema Malang. At the end of 2012, Bujang will apply at Sur Club in Oman. Bujang made his international senior debut against Timor-Leste on July 22, 2008. He was part of the Brunei squad for 2008 AFF Suzuki Cup qualification. Bujang scored his first international goal in a 3&ndash2 loss to Laos. His twin brother Mardi Anak Bujang also played football for QAF FC and Brunei national team. The brothers both have played together for QAF FC, DPMM FC and Brunei national team.

Christina Koning

Christina Koning is a novelist and short story writer who has reviewed extensively for the UK national press. Koning was born in Kuala Belait, Borneo, and spent her early childhood in Venezuela and Jamaica. She was educated at Girton College, Cambridge, and the University of Edinburgh &ndash the setting for her first novel. She has worked as a travel writer and journalist &ndash most recently for The Times. She has also taught Creative Writing at the University of Oxford and Birkbeck, University of London. Koning has appeared as a critic on BBC Radio 4&rsquos Woman&rsquos Hour and has also had stories broadcast on Radio 4. She is currently the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Chichester. Koning&rsquos first novel, A Mild Suicide, was published by Lime Tree in 1992, and was short-listed for the David Higham Prize for Fiction her second novel, Undiscovered Country won the Encore Award for fiction and was long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Fabulous Time was awarded a Society of Authors Travelling Scholarship. The Dark Tower, like much of her earlier work, touches on colonialism and its legacy. Her most recent novel, "Variable Stars" is about the eighteenth century astronomer, Caroline Herschel. Koning has two children, and lives in London.

Saiful Rijal

Sultan Saiful Rijal was the seventh Sultan of Brunei. During his reign, the Castille War broke out in 1578. He died in 1581 and was replaced by his son, Shah Brunei.

Arsen Marjan

Arsen Marjan is a Bruneian/Serbian football defender playing for FK Palilulac Beograd. He had previously played with Persuatan Belia Kilanas in Brunei, FK Milicionar Beograd, PKB Padinska Skela, and FK Zvezdara in the 2001-02 First League of FR Yugoslavia. Then he played in 2002-03 with Apollon Limassol in the Cypriot First Division, in 2003 back in Serbia with FK Železnik, FK Beograd, FK Radnički Jugopetrol and FK Zeta, before moving to Greece in December 2005 to play with Panserraikos F.C. and Anagennisi Karditsa F.C. in the OPAP League, beside short spells with Ilisiakos F.C., Fostiras F.C.. He returned to Serbia in January 2011 to play with FK Palilulac Beograd in the Serbian League Belgrade. He holds both Bruneian and Serbian citizenship. Occasionally he is names in Serbia Marijan instead of Marjan.

Khairul Khalil

Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Anak Khairul Khalil is the eldest son and second child of Pengiran Syed Haji Jaafari bin Pengiran Syed Haji Mashor and Hajah Sarbanun Haji Abdi Manaf. The eldest child in the family is a daughter and Pengiran Khairul Khalil also has two younger siblings: a brother and sister. Pengiran Khairul Khalil holds a BTEC Higher National Diploma in Building Studies from the University of Teesside, United Kingdom. He is currently the Assistant Executive Officer at the Prime Minister&rsquos Office. His hobbies are graphic designing, multimedia and video production, interior designing, and soccer.

Omar Ali Saifuddin I

Omar Ali Saifuddin I was the Sultan of Brunei from 1740 until his death in 1795. He succeeded his father in law, Sultan Husain Kamaluddin as Sultan of Brunei upon the latter's abdication from the throne in 1740.

Ak Hafiy Tajuddin Rositi

Olympic Track and field Athlete

Ak Hafiy Tajuddin Rositi is a Bruneian runner. He competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics in the 400 m event and he was defeated after first round although he finished in his personal best after 48.67. The 5th child of 10 siblings.

Emran bin Bahar

Emran bin Bahar is a Bruneian diplomat and is currently the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Negara Brunei Darussalam to the Russian Federation. Bahar graduated from Keele University with a B.A. in International Relations and continued studies for his Masters in International Relations at the Australian National University in 1994 from which received his Ph.D in 1998.

Masna Bolkiah

Her Royal Highness Princess Masna, is the sister of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Waddaulah. She was born in 1948 and is married to Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Lela Sahibun Najabah Pengiran Haji Abdul Aziz bin Pengiran Jaya Negara Pengiran Haja Abu Bakar, the Principal of Royal Customs and Protocol. She graduated from Universiti Brunei Darussalam with a first degree and a Masters. In 1995, she was appointed as the Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where she led a number of delegations abroad both as Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs as well as Ambassador-at-large. She is also active in other areas including being the Patron for the Girl Guides Association as well as being Commander of the Women's Police Corps.

Traveling to Brunei

Despite having miles of beautiful coast, most travelers to Brunei only visit the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan. The roads and infrastructure in Brunei are excellent. Due to an abundance of oil and low fuel prices, local buses and taxis are the most cost-effective means of getting around.

Brunei is typically a short stopover for travelers crossing by bus between the Malaysian Borneo states of Sarawak and Sabah. Nearby duty-free Labuan Island—part of Sabah—is an alternative route in and out of Brunei. Miri in Sarawak is the last major town in Borneo before crossing into Brunei.

Visits of 90 days or longer require a travel visa before entering Brunei. Transit visas of 72 hours are available at the border.

Travel in Brunei will be affected during Ramadan. Read about what to expect during Ramadan travel and important considerations for Ramadan.

Brunei Culture

Although the Brunei people are predominantly Malay, a significant portion of their culture is influenced by the Islamic religion.

Here are some of the most notable cultures of Brunei:

  • As a Sharia country, the Brunei people are expected to follow Islamic law, practices, and teachings. But unlike other Islamic countries that follow the Sharia law, the women of Brunei play a much higher status in the country and are allowed to hold positions in the government.
  • Women dress modestly in Brunei and visitors are expected to do the same. When visiting religious places such as the mosque, women must make sure to cover their knees, arms, and head. Shoes have to be removed before getting inside a local home and mosques.
  • Bruneians may not be comfortable with shaking hands with people from the opposite sex, and it’s deemed impolite to point someone using the index finger. Many of the younger men and women, however, may have already adopted the western concept of shaking hands with the other gender.
  • As a country that follows the Sharia law, the sale of alcohol is strictly prohibited. The nightlife in Brunei has a totally different scene than that of its neighboring countries because there are no nightclubs, bars, and casinos. Visitors are expected to follow the rules, or severe penalties will be imposed for any offenses.
  • The parents usually arrange most marriages in Brunei. They would prefer for their child to marry someone from the same religion and this is why Muslim conversions in the country are widespread before marriage.


1984 - Brunei becomes independent.

1985 - Government legalises the Brunei National Democratic Party (BNDP).

1986 - Brunei National Solidarity Party (BNSP) becomes legal former Sultan Omar dies.

1988 - BNDP and BNSP banned.

1990 - Sultan Bolkiah introduces ideology of Malay Muslim Monarchy.

1995 - Government allows BNSP to operate, but the party is targeted for harassment and becomes inactive.

1998 - Sultan Bolkiah removes his younger brother, Prince Jefri Bolkiah, as chief of Brunei Investment Agency over concerns about his stewardship of agency Sultan Bolkiah's eldest son, Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah, becomes heir apparent.



About the size of Delaware, Brunei is an independent sultanate on the northwest coast of the island of Borneo in the South China Sea, wedged between the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.


Brunei was trading with China during the 6th century, and, through allegiance to the Javanese Majapahit kingdom (13th to 15th century), it came under Hindu influence. In the early 15th century, with the decline of the Majapahit kingdom and widespread conversion to Islam, Brunei became an independent sultanate. It was a powerful state from the 16th to the 19th century, ruling over the northern part of Borneo and adjacent island chains. But Brunei fell into decay and lost Sarawak in 1841, becoming a British protectorate in 1888 and a British dependency in 1905. Japan occupied Brunei during World War II it was liberated by Australia in 1945.

The sultan regained control over internal affairs in 1959, but Britain retained responsibility for the state's defense and foreign affairs until 1984, when the sultanate became fully independent. Sultan Bolkiah was crowned in 1967 at the age of 22, succeeding his father, Sir Omar Ali Saifuddin, who had abdicated. During his reign, exploitation of the rich Seria oilfield had made the sultanate wealthy. Brunei has one of the highest per capita incomes in Asia, and the sultan is believed to be one of the richest men in the world. In Aug. 1998, Oxford-educated Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah was inaugurated as heir to the 500-year-old monarchy.

Democratic Reforms Slowly Introduced

Sultan Bolkiah began taking cautious steps toward democratic reform in Sept. 2004, when he reinstated Parliament for the first time since Brunei gained independence in 1984. He was widely praised in May 2005 when he fired four members of his cabinet, including the education minister, whose plan to expand religious education angered many parents.

In Oct. 2013, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced plans to impose sharia law on Muslims, who make up two-thirds of the country's 400,000 inhabitants. Death by stoning for adulterers and gay sex and the amputation of limbs for theft were two examples of punishments that could be meted out at the discretion of the country's judges. Non-Muslims would also be subjected to some of the laws. His decree was met with outrage by human-rights activists. The first phase of the law was put into place in May 2014. Two other phases will follow over two years.

  • Region: Asia
  • Population: 428,960 (2018)
  • Area: 5,765 square kilometres
  • Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan
  • Joined Commonwealth: 1984, following independence from Britain
  • Commonwealth Youth Index: 7 out of 49 countries


The Secretariat gave information and training to youth leaders from Brunei on how to combat violent extremism. They learned about using dialogue and social media to help promote peace and bring different communities together.

In 2018-19, the Secretariat trained 20 senior officials from Brunei on policies to help young people set up and manage businesses.


The Secretariat gave Brunei guidelines, tools, model laws and regulations to help strengthen its legislation and methods for stopping corruption.

It also helped Brunei check that its domestic laws are able to control the illegal trade and spread of weapons such as firearms.


The Secretariat helped Brunei improve its skills to negotiate multilateral and regional trade agreements.


In August 2018, Brunei hosted the Commonwealth Third Country Training Programme. Participants received training and took part in fieldwork and activities on environmental issues. They agreed actions on plastic pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss.

Natural resources

Brunei’s prosperity depends on its resources of petroleum, natural gas and timber. The country’s wealth means that the government is able to provide free medical services and free education through to university level. Bruneians pay no income tax.

Low oil prices since 2013 have led to budget deficits and economic growth has started to weaken.

Connectivity Agenda

Brunei is a member of the Physical and Digital Connectivity clusters of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda. The Connectivity Agenda is a platform for countries to exchange best practices and experiences to trade and investment and undertake domestic reform.

The Largest Religion In Brunei

Islam was popularised in Brunei in the 15th century when a Malay Muslim came to power in the region. The Sultan took every step to promote the religion and soon most of the subjects of his kingdom adopted the religion. Even today, the Sultan of Brunei upholds the religious values of Islam. Many of the country’s rulers have used the oil revenues to promote Islam, built grand mosques, and provide Hajj pilgrimage at subsidized rates to its citizens. In 1959, the Constitution of the country came into force and made Islam the country’s state religion. In 2014, the Sultan of Brunei even announced his intention to implement the Sharia law in the country.

The sex-obsessed world of Brunei

Last week, celebrities including Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres, Sharon Osbourne, Richard Branson and Clive Davis united for an unlikely cause: a boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel, because its owner, the Sultan of Brunei, recently announced the implementation of Sharia law in his tiny South Asian nation.

Jay Leno speaks at a protest across from the Beverly Hills Hotel on May 5. Getty Images

“Theory states that Allah’s law is cruel and unfair,” said Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, “but Allah himself has said that his law is indeed fair.”

Under Sharia law, the following is considered criminal behavior, punishable by fines, jail, amputation of limbs, public flogging or death by stoning: absence from Friday prayer services becoming pregnant out of wedlock wearing indecent clothing, and for women, refusal to wear a hijab employing a non-Muslim baby sitter the use of the word “Allah” by Christians and the discussion of faith by any non-Muslims publicly eating or drinking during Ramadan theft homosexuality and adultery.

The Sultan, now 67, has slowly been moving Brunei in this direction for decades, but this recent, drastic declaration has no clear motive. Brunei is so rich with oil, it’s fully independent nor is it a target of Islamic extremists.

“Who knows?” says Reza Aslan, religious scholar and author of “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” “This is obviously not coming from a place of religious devotion, since the Sultan himself is in violation of every single rule of Sharia law you could possibly imagine.”

Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah delivers a speech announcing the phased introduction of Sharia law on Oct. 22, 2013. Getty Images

Indeed, the Sultan and his equally decadent brother, Prince Jefri, were dubbed “constant companions in hedonism” in 2011 by Vanity Fair. He lives in a palace with 1,788 rooms, 257 bathrooms, five swimming pools, a mosque, a banquet hall that holds 5,000 people and a 110-car garage. When he turned 50, the Sultan built a stadium, invited Michael Jackson to perform in it and paid him $17 million for three concerts.

Jefri, 59, maintains a separate pleasure palace and once owned a 152-foot yacht called Tits he named its tenders Nipple 1 and Nipple 2, and could never understand why others often found that juvenile and crass. Here and abroad, the brothers are infamous for their sex parties and their harems composed mainly of underage girls.

Prince Jefri at his London home in Regents Park in 2006. Paul Grover

‘Shellfare state’

In 1984, after nearly 100 years as a British protectorate, Brunei gained independence. The Sultan is descended from a centuries-old royal line, maintained by intermarriage among cousins.

Brunei is about the size of Delaware, with a population of 415,000, and the government provides free education, health care, pensions and low-interest loans for the purchase of homes and cars.

Oil is the source of all wealth, and when Shell began pumping in the 1970s, Brunei soon became known as “the Shellfare state.”

In 2012, Forbes magazine ranked Brunei the fifth-richest nation in the world. Yet there is little fun to be had: Alcohol is banned and there is virtually no nightlife or culture.

Sultan Bolkiah is escorted to a celebration for his birthday in 2005. Getty Images

“I’m trying to think of a place that’s duller,” Australian writer Charles James told Fortune in 1999. “Maybe a British village in midwinter.”

In one way, the brothers adhere to Islamic law: As prescribed, each has several wives and families. But everything else they do is in defiance of the Koran and the law they’ve just imposed.

“It’s a radical double standard,” says Jillian Lauren, who wrote about her life as a member of Jefri’s harem in her memoir, “Some Girls.” “They have more money than anyone else. I know that they both have been married and divorced multiple times. It’s really hypocritical.”

It wasn’t until 2001, when Jefri was forced to auction off personal possessions after using the country as a piggy bank — spending an average of $747,000 a day for 10 years, on top of $17 billion in gifts to friends and family — that the sultanate’s true vulgarity was exposed. (His brother also treats the country as an ATM, and it remains a crime in Brunei for anyone to ever discuss how the royals spend their money.)

Among the family’s possessions:

  • The Dorchester Hotel luxury chain
  • More than 17 airplanes, including a private, customized Boeing 747 and an Airbus 340-200 — often used to transport their harems and the South American professional polo players they rent for sport
  • 9,000 cars, including two custom-made Mercedes-Benz firetrucks
  • 150 homes in 12 countries
  • A private zoo
  • One 12-foot-tall rocking horse
  • Four life-size statues depicting Jefri having sex with a fiancee ($800,000)
  • A global network of employees to procure women
  • Asprey, jeweler to the Queen of England
  • 10 luxury watches, at a cost of $8 million, that showed a couple having sex every time the hour struck
  • Hundreds of thousands of suits by Versace and Armani
  • A golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus
  • Gold-plated toilet bowl brushes
  • A sofa shaped like a Cadillac
  • Dozens of bowling alley machines, pool tables, pizza ovens and grand pianos
  • A professional lab to develop film
  • 16,000 tons of marble, stacked in warehouses

“With their money, they could have cured diseases,” an adviser to Jefri told Fortune. “But they have little interest in the rest of humanity.”

The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque located in Brunei’s capital city, Bandar eri Begawan Getty Images

Another described Jefri and his brother as incredibly dim. “They don’t have a lot of thoughts,” he said. “If you were a fly on the wall and heard their conversations, they’d take you to Bellevue.”

A parliament building in Brunei’s capital. Forbes rated the country the fifth-richest in the world in 2012. Getty Images

A third brother, Mohamed, was reported to loathe his brothers’ wantonness and profligacy. But when the Sultan tasked him with rebuilding the economy that he and Jefri had so badly damaged, he took more than $2 billion for himself and was promptly fired.

Jefri once hid from his brother in five-star hotels around the world, and in a ploy to get him back, the Sultan reportedly held Jefri’s son Hakeem, then 25, under house arrest. A member of the Sultan’s team found this funny: “Hakeem can leave Brunei any time he wants,” the source told Fortune. “But he wouldn’t know how to pick up the phone and take a commercial flight. So he probably feels trapped.”

Inside the harem

Two years before that, in 1997, Brunei’s long-rumored harems and sex parties were made public when Shannon Marketic, a former Miss USA, sued Jefri and the sultan. In court filings, she claimed a talent agency brokered a $3,000-a-day job in Brunei, where she’d do “personal appearances and promotional work.”

Shannon Marketic Lasse Berre

Instead, Marketic said, she was held as a sex slave, forced to dance every night in the prince’s private disco from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., called a whore and groped at random. Marketic told People magazine that she’d been drugged and molested, and once back in the US, sued them for $10 million, citing “mental anguish, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, other trauma.”

The brothers claimed diplomatic immunity, and the Sultan called the accusation “worse than murder.” The case was dropped.

Marketic (center) was crowned Miss USA in 1992. AP

Lauren, who was recruited as a harem girl at just 18, doesn’t believe Marketic’s allegations. “Her description of what was going on at parties doesn’t ring true.”

Other things do. Upon landing in Brunei, Lauren says, all of the girls were forced to hand over their passports. (Marketic claimed this as well.) Lauren was told never to show her soles — an insult in Muslim countries.

She was warned to watch what she did and said at all times surveillance was everywhere. She was to keep her weight down, and if that was a problem, there was a doctor on hand with diet pills, sleeping pills — whatever she might need.

Lauren was to bow to the royals whenever one passed, was not to speak unless spoken to, and at all times was to keep her head lower than Jefri’s — who demanded the girls call him Robin, a name he found more American.

He liked American cars and clothes and pop culture but had a more complicated attraction to American girls. “As the decadence increased, so did the number of Americans,” Lauren says. “He would start opening magazines and say, ‘I want that woman,’ ‘I want that one,’ and order them.”

Lauren was one of the rare Westerners who found subservience easy. “A lot of American girls had a bigger problem with it than I did,” she says. “There was one girl who was like, ‘I’m an American. I’m not bowing for anybody.’ She left after a few weeks.”

Most of the girls, she says, were Filipino or Thai, many as young as 15. “There’s no such thing as underage over there,” Lauren says.

Jillian Lauren, the author whose best-selling book, “Some Girls: My Life in a Harem,” described her time with the Prince of Brunei. Getty Images

The girls were housed in Jefri’s palace and left to waste away until nighttime, almost never permitted to leave. Nights were spent drinking top-shelf liquor in the disco, dancing for the prince and his entourage, hoping that this one night you may be chosen — maybe alone, maybe with other girls.

“You’re out of your mind with boredom,” Lauren says. Weeks passed before she was summoned, ordered into a Mercedes-Benz and driven to an anonymous office building, where she was led into a garish suite and locked inside, alone.

“An hour passed,” she writes. “There were no books, no magazines, no television. I walked in circles. I sat back down. I looked for a bathroom. I tried the door and it was locked . . . I considered peeing in a wastebasket. I was trembling from the cold, from hunger, from nerves.”

After four hours, the prince showed up. They had sex, the prince not wearing a condom, and when he was done, “He lay beside me for exactly three seconds before slapping my ass” and saying, “That was very nice for me. I am late for a meeting.”

Lauren says the prince never used protection and never asked her if she was on the pill or using any form of birth control. She wasn’t screened for STDs.

“It was certainly a concern,” she says. “But we didn’t talk amongst ourselves because it was a very touchy subject — who was sleeping with him when. It was adversarial.”

Lauren was considered a Jefri favorite, and her status was confirmed when Jefri passed her along to his brother, the Sultan. She was helicoptered to Malaysia with no warning, brought to a hotel suite, and left alone with the Sultan, who asked her how she liked his country and then asked for oral sex. She gave it and was dismissed, never to see him again.

“He lay beside me for exactly three seconds before slapping my ass” and saying, “That was very nice for me. I am late for a meeting.”

“That night, Robin was eager to know if [the Sultan] had liked me,” Lauren writes. “He seemed like a little boy looking for his father’s approval.”

Her payment came in jewels, shopping sprees and stacks of cash, which she’d change to US dollars in Singapore. She stashed the bills in two money belts, wore her jewelry and slugged Jack Daniel’s as she smuggled her haul through US customs. In transit, she was no high-class hooker — just another slightly drunk conspicuous consumer.

Over three years, Lauren went back and forth to Brunei for months on end, leaving when the Prince had finally tired of her. “Robin was in London on business when I left,” she writes. “I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”

Keeping his people ignorant

In the palace, none of the girls was ever exposed to news about Brunei, and the media there is state-run.

According to a 2013 report issued by the independent watchdog organization Freedom House, journalists face up to three years in jail for “reporting ‘false and malicious’ news.”

Sultan Bolkiah visits London in late October. Getty Images

Any criticism of the Sultan or the royal family is also criminal, and the government retains the right to shut down any media outlet they like. As for the Web, only 60 percent of the population has access, and it’s both restricted and monitored.

“On the international market, they can do whatever they want,” says Aslan. “Maybe the Sultan has had some great spiritual awakening — but I doubt it, because he’d do what the Koran says and give away all his money.”

Perhaps the prime motivator for the Sultan’s decree is control: maintaining power, privilege and personal excess at the expense of his country, without his countrymen’s knowledge. Tellingly, he called Islam a “firewall” against globalization — despite the all-too-worldly life he leads.

As for the outrage and celebrity-led boycotts, Aslan finds them misguided and hypocritical.

“What the Sultan is supporting for his tiny island nation is what Saudi Arabia — one of our closest allies — has been doing for decades,” he says. “Is Saudi Arabia at all paying for their human-rights violations? Of course not.”

Inside the insanely decadent life of the Sultan of Brunei

The Sultan of Brunei is living a fantastically extravagant life, with a fortune that’s said to grow by $147 every second.

Ever wondered how someone with a net worth of $28 billion spends their money.

Ever wondered how someone with a net worth of $28 billion spends their money?

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has become one of the world’s most controversial men — and he’s also one of its wealthiest. Picture: AFP Source:AFP

In the small Asian nation of Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is a one-man show.

He’s not only Brunei’s absolute monarch and supreme leader of the Islamic faith, but also the country’s prime minister, finance minister, foreign affairs and trade minister, superintendent of police, defence minister and commander of the armed forces, and even chancellor of the national university.

A personal wealth estimated at $27.7 billion has earned him a place among the world’s richest rulers — and this week, the all-powerful Sultan became one of its most controversial.

The Sultan, 72, has introduced a brutal new criminal code in his tiny country, which is the first in East Asia to elevate sharia law to the national level.

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is absolute ruler in the tiny oil-rich nation. Picture: Reuters/Ahim Rani Source:News Corp Australia

Sharia law has been elevated to the national level in the small, oil-rich nation. Picture: AFP Source:AFP

The laws, among other things, permit death by stoning for gay sex and adultery, amputation for theft and public flogging for abortion, and have been decried as 𠇌ruel and inhuman” by the United Nations.

While the Sultan has taken an ultraconservative, hard line approach to law enforcement in his kingdom, behind the scenes, his life is a whirlwind of extreme wealth and decadence, from his fleet of private passenger jets to having Michael Jackson sing at his birthday party.

The second longest-reigning monarch in the world, behind Elizabeth II, the sultan has been on Brunei’s throne for 52 years, after inheriting it from his father.

The small nation on Borneo island, home to around 430,000 people, draws its wealth from exports of oil and natural gas, although much of the population lives in poverty.

The sultan, however, does not. His immense fortune is said to increase by $147 every second, thanks to those valuable oil assets.

And he’s found no end of ways to spend it.

The sultan enjoys high tea with Prince Charles at the palace in 2017. Source:The Sun

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and second wife Queen Hajah Mariam sit on the throne during a ceremony for the sultan's 50th birthday. Picture: Source:The Sun


The sultan lives in the largest royal residence in the world: the Instana Nurul Iman Palace, a sprawling 1800-room residence on the bank of the Brunei River that’s worth $1.8 billion.

So big it can’t even fit in this aerial picture. Picture: Source:The Sun

One of the five pools inside the palace. Picture: Source:The Sun

As if the five swimming pools, massive mosque, airconditioned pony stable and banquet hall to fit 5000 guests aren’t enough, the palace is decorated with fixtures made from gold and diamonds.

He is a known car fanatic and his luxury car collection is worth $9 billion, comprising Rolls Royces, Ferraris, Bentleys, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins and Jaguars.

He has a fleet of private planes, including a $138 million Airbus, a $251 million Boeing 767 and a customised Boeing 747 worth $431 million and decorated with gold.

His badminton coach earns a $2 million wage and he spends about the same on acupuncture and massages. When he wants a haircut he flies in his favourite stylist by private jet. When he he’s co-ordinating outfits, matching shoes are flown in by helicopter.

The sultan has a custom-built, gold-plated Rolls Royce that’s used for royal weddings. Picture: Source:The Sun

A small snapshot of the sultan’s immense car collection. Picture: Source:The Sun

The royal family loved the British jeweller Asprey & Garrard so much they bought it (until it was sold five years later).

To really get a sense of how wealthy this guy is, look no further than his extravagant 50th birthday back in 1996.

Sultan Hassanal splashed out $36.9 million on two weeks of celebrations for himself that included a polo match and an extravagant gala dinner with beluga caviar on the menu. He paid Michael Jackson $25.8 million to perform at three concerts to mark the occasion.

The banquet room holds 5000 guests. Picture: Source:The Sun

The Sultan of Brunei is famous for being a big spender. Source:The Sun

Party time at the palace. Picture: Source:The Sun

He’s also spent millions on his three weddings.

The sultan married his cousin, Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha, in 1965 and because polygamy is legal in Brunei, she remains his wife and Queen Consort despite him marrying and divorcing two other women.

He has 12 children — and footed the bill for five of their weddings.

When his oldest son and heir, Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah married in 2004, Whitney Houston was paid $10.1 million to sing at the reception.

The international response to Brunei’s new laws have cast a dark spotlight on the sultan’s overseas investments, especially luxury hotels that are now facing boycotts such as London’s The Dorchester and the Beverly Hills Hotel in LA.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip with the Sultan and Queen Seleha in 1998. Picture: Source:The Sun

The private jet is decked out with gold and crystal fittings. Picture: Source:The Sun

The Dorchester is among nine hotels owned by the government of Brunei. Picture: Adrian Dennis/AFP Source:AFP

His playboy brother Prince Jefri Bolkiah has a London residence at St John’s Lodge in swanky Regent’s Park. It’s the most expensive private house in the UK and said to be worth $203 million.

Prince Jefri’s own spending habits landed him in trouble with the sultan, who sued him for misspending billions of dollars during a financial crisis in Asia in the 1990s.

St John's House in Regent's Park is the most expensive private house in the UK. Picture: Source:The Sun

The Prince with a custom-built six door Rolls in 1984. Picture: Source:The Sun


Despite the sultan’s flippant spending, under his absolute rule Brunei has been a socially conservative state — and it has just become even more so.

Under the Islamic criminal code enforced this week, gay sex, adultery and rape are punishable by death by stoning, and amputation is a punishment for theft. Pregnancy out of wedlock and failing to pray on Friday may also incur massive fines or jail time.

Women who have sex with women will also be punished, not with death but by whipping and jail of up to 10 years.

The law applies to Muslims, which comprise about two-thirds of Brunei’s population, and non-Muslims.

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, one of Brunei’s most famous landmarks. Picture: AP/Vincent Thian Source:AP

Brunei’s government has defended the laws, saying the sharia penal code aimed to �ucate, respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race”.

In a speech broadcast nationwide this week the sultan called for “stronger” Islamic teachings in Brunei.

The sultan instituted the penal code in 2014 but implementation had been delayed amid opposition by rights groups.

Homosexuality had already been illegal in Brunei and punishable by imprisonment, but with the law changes enforced this week, it joins a small group of countries where homosexuality is punishable by death.

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah delivers a speech calling from ‘stronger’ Islamic teachings in Brunei on April 3. Picture: AFP Source:AFP

Experts have said the sultan’s shift towards an even more hard line brand of Islam may be due to the country’s recent recession, which was caused by plunging oil prices.

𠇋runei is becoming Southeast Asia’s Saudi Arabia,” Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia expert from Rome’s John Cabot University, told AFP.

“The regime has increasingly been relying on religious legitimacy, appealing to a conservative Islamic ideology. The weakening economy in Brunei as well as concerns about possible erosion of support underscore this increasing reliance on religion.”

The United Nations said the new laws were ‘cruel and inhuman’. Picture: AFP/Vincent Thian Source:AP

Francisco Bencosme, the Asia-Pacific advocacy manager for Amnesty International, told The New York Times international condemnation was unlikely to sway the sultan.

“The more international outcry there is, it makes the sultan look more like he’s the defender of conservative Islam,” he said.

Amid calls for his hotels to be boycotted and Brunei’s national airline to be banned from Australian airports, members of Brunei’s tiny, underground LGBT community are reeling as the tough penal code introduced in 2014 is now finally and brutally enforced.

“Living in Brunei, we already knew that our sexual identity is taboo and should not be expressed. We already felt belittled before the law came to place,” a 23-year-old member of the LGBTQ community, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Associated Press.

“Now with it, we feel even smaller and the ones who could potentially oppress us have more opportunity to harass us to say and do what they want.”

Any individuals found guilty of the &quotoffence&quot of having gay relations will be stoned to death.

Any individuals found guilty of the &quotoffence&quot of having gay relations will be stoned to death.

Watch the video: History of Brunei Countryballs