Human Rights in Brunei DarussalamBrunei is one of the few countries where the legal system is based on sharia law, a code based on interpretations of the Quran by Islamic scholars. There is a fairly wide variance in the interpretations of the scholars, with some offering much more conservative views than others. The Penal Code was amended in 2014 to more strictly adhere to sharia law. Since then, human rights in Brunei have been perceived to be under attack, largely due to many of the more conservative interpretations of sharia law which the Penal Code adheres to.

The overall track record of Brunei‘s legal system has been quite good. Despite not specifically outlawing torture, there were no instances of cruel and unusual punishment in 2016. Additionally, there were zero instances of government-instigated murders or disappearances. Although fair and impartial judgment is not guaranteed under the constitution, the majority of cases are uninfluenced by outside intervention.

However, caning is still a legal punishment for most adult males, a punishment that may strike many as barbaric. A major concern for human rights in Brunei is the prison system, which is currently experiencing severe overcrowding.

Not only do some of the legal retributions violate Western human rights in Brunei, the freedoms of speech and press are not protected under the constitution, and under the Sedition Act, the government has severely restricted such basic rights. Any and all public performances must be approved beforehand by a government agency, making any subversive or controversial displays unlikely.

Besides being one of the few countries with sharia law as the basis of its legal code, Brunei is one of the only countries ruled by an absolute monarch. The sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, maintains absolute power in his country, and has actually enjoyed a good deal of popularity among his subjects.

The approval that Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has enjoyed is due in large part to Brunei’s high standard of living. It has a good education system, and the per capita GDP is among the highest in the world. Sultan Bolkiah has done a lot of good work to utilize the energy reserves of his country and turn it into a profitable nation. Despite the many oversights related to human rights in Brunei, there remains a large amount of happiness and prosperity.

Connor S. Keowen

Photo: Flickr

Stateless People of Brunei
Brunei Darussalam or Adobe of Peace is a state on the northeastern coast of the island of Borneo. Since the discovery of vast oil fields in the 1920s, the state is among the wealthiest in the Asian Pacific region with a high standard of living among those living there.

The population of Brunei totals around 330,000, consisting of only 16% indigenous peoples. Roughly 64% are Malaysian and 20% Chinese. The government of Brunei has not reported that anyone in the state is seeking asylum. However, many stateless people are residing without citizenship. Here are seven facts about the stateless people of Brunei.

  1. Brunei has cooperated with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) by agreeing to share statistics of the number of stateless people of Brunei, and the number of those who have been granted citizenship.
  2. As of 2016, there were 20,524 stateless people living in Brunei. This is about 6.2% of the population living without citizenship.
  3. Obtaining citizenship in Brunei is difficult and can only be done after passing rigorous testing. Between 2009 and 2012, 2,420 stateless people were granted citizenship.
  4. Brunei law prohibits non-Bruneians, including stateless permanent residents, from owning property.
  5. Although somewhat hesitant to grant citizenship to stateless people of Brunei, each stateless person is given an International Certificate of Identity that enables them to travel overseas and do anything that you need identification for.
  6. Minors can be registered as nationals as long as the Sultan sees fit. And foreign women who are married to a national man can obtain citizenship by registering themselves as married to a citizen.
  7. Furthering the recognition of stateless people, the Brunei government has instituted a birth registration program for stateless children. The program establishes a record of where a child was born and who his parents are to prevent children from slipping through the cracks of the legal system. This information will help children to get education, healthcare and employment when they are adults.

Despite the fact that Brunei does not have asylum-seekers, it is moving forward in setting standards for its non-national residents.

Madeline Boeding

Photo: Flickr

Fighting Diseases in Brunei
Brunei is an incredibly small country that shares borders with Indonesia and Borneo. Some of the top diseases in Brunei include various cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory diseases. These non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a widespread issue for countries in The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). ASEAN focuses on improving political and international economic relations to improve the stability of Southeast Asia. Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Brunei comprise the organization.

Brunei’s Ministry of Health is working to promote the prevention and treatment of these diseases. The ministry is concerned because the prevalence of these NCDs has paralleled the economic growth of ASEAN countries. Consequently, they called a meeting in 2013 with the health sector of ASEAN. Together, the two groups established goals that will attempt to control NCDs in the region by 2025.

For 30 years, NCDs have been among the most common diseases in Brunei and have been the leading cause of death. The government launched the Brunei Darussalam National Multisectoral Action Plan, which is working towards reducing NCD mortality rates by 18% by 2018. This is part of the larger goal to reduce mortality rates from NCDs by 25% before 2025.

This action plan includes five main goals to combat common diseases in Brunei. They aim to reduce tobacco use, promote healthy diets, increase physical activity, identify at-risk individuals and improve NCD treatment. With these goals in place, Brunei expects to see a reduction in the rate of diabetes by 1 percent before 2018. Diabetes is a major issue in Brunei, where 62% of people are overweight.

These programs have been successful thus far. The World Health Organization (WHO) created the NCDs Progress Monitor to track the progress of ASEAN countries. According to the WHO, Brunei has made the most progress in terms of fighting NCDs out of all ASEAN countries. The WHO has highlighted Brunei’s progress in particular areas, including drug and alcohol counseling, tobacco usage warnings and public awareness programs.

Although there is still potential for further progress, this report from the WHO indicates that Brunei is moving in the right direction to combat NCDs.

Photo: Flickr

In order to develop and strengthen a country’s political, economic and social structures, it is imperative that educational opportunities are granted to its citizens. By investing in a reliable education system, a country supplies citizens with the knowledge and resources to lead a healthy and successful life. Brunei, a sovereign country in Southeast Asia, has focused on the implementation of this philosophy into the structure of its education system.

With a population exceeding 415,000, Brunei is considered to have a remarkably high standard of living, primarily due to the country’s involvement in its oil and gas reserves. Since it gained independence from British rule in 1984, Brunei has integrated a tax-free lifestyle that is complemented with one of the highest (per capita) GDPs in the world. With this economic advantage, Brunei is able to financially support its free education system in order for its citizens to have the opportunity to receive a quality education.

With the tremendous support of governmental efforts in financially supporting the education sector, it will continue to allow free schooling throughout all levels of education in Brunei. The Ministry of Education, in compliance with the Education Act of 1984, is designed to oversee all government and private learning institutions and educational policies that are implemented throughout Brunei’s education system.

Brunei’s formal school system has a 1-6-3-2-2 pattern, which represents a year of pre-school, six years of primary education, three years of lower secondary, two years of upper secondary or vocational or technical education and two years of pre-tertiary education. Currently, Brunei has 206 primary schools, 47 secondary schools, nine vocational centers, one higher institution and three universities.

Remarkably, education in Brunei is completely funded by the government, which allows citizens to fully benefit from the opportunity to learn. According to UNESCO and the Ministry of Education, the adult literacy rate in Brunei increased from 92.67 percent in 2001 to 97.65 percent in 2015. These statistics indicate promising results and demonstrate the quality of education that is implemented throughout Brunei’s education system.

With the goal of furthering the nation’s development, Brunei has established numerous educational opportunities for personal and professional achievements at the government’s expense. With having one of the world’s highest standards of living, Brunei is constantly making efforts to continue the implementation of educational programs and institutions that will positively affect the citizens of this thriving country.

Brandon Johnson

Photo: Flickr

Education is an important part of a nation’s development and is a crucial key to unlocking an economy’s success. Quality education provides a bright future for a country and its citizens; a future above poverty lines, hunger and food insecurities. The education system in Brunei focuses on just that—ensuring quality education for all in hopes of achieving a better tomorrow for its citizens and the country as a whole.

What makes the education system different and possibly successful? It provides free education to children in not only primary levels, but secondary levels as well. As a result, more and more children are being educated. According to the World Bank Group, an estimated 94 percent of children are enrolled in school. There also seems to be a correlation between education and economy; Brunei also happens to be a high income country with one of the most developed economies in Asia.

Brunei is located in the southern region of Malaysia and has created a government that highly values education and places the responsibility of education upon its shoulders. The education system aims to develop its citizens’ knowledge, and by doing so, develop the country as a whole as well.

Schools in Brunei

Education in Brunei has previously been established to emulate Islamic forms of eduction. These Islamic schools, also known as Madrassas, serve as an important part of education in Brunei; however, in more recent years, the education system has slightly shifted to recognize western education as well. Although in recent years the education in Brunei has begun to encompass western learning, the education system remains closely rooted to the religious values of the region.

There are schools all over the country that provide free primary and secondary education to children. As more schools were being built, the country saw a substantial increase in not only the quantity of children attending, but the quality of education as well. Schools in Brunei provide comprehensive lessons in subjects involving history, language and geography, as well as the study of technology, mainly computers.

Brunei Ministry of Education

Brunei established a ministry of education that led the education sector with a key goal in mind: a proper development of the school system and of education. A five year plan was then implemented in 1954 in order to ensure this principal aim was reached. Additionally, the Brunei ministry of education formed and implemented several educational reforms such as the National Education Policy of 1962 and the National Education System (1985) that ensured quality education free of charge at every grade level. To do so successfully, the ministry governed the schools, funded the education programs and determined the curriculum. As a result, Brunei saw a substantial rise in literacy rates.

Following the establishment of Brunei’s ministry of education, the literacy rate improved from 69 percent to 92 percent. The implementation of the Brunei ministry of education has proven to be successful. As of 2012, 92 percent of children were enrolled in primary education, with an even higher 94 percent enrolled in secondary education.

Ultimately, education in Brunei has been established with a major purpose: to create quality education, free for all citizens, to be used by citizens as a means of achieving and living to their fullest potential. The education system in Brunei seeks to prepare citizens for the future and help them possess the skills and knowledge necessary to be able to excel in society and the changing demands society has on one’s livelihood.

There’s a known correlation between education and a nation’s success; more often than not, highly educated countries have a more stable economy and way of life than countries with limited education. Free education for all seems to also be a key component to Brunei’s successful and continual development.

– Nada Sewidan

Sources: APEC, Maps of World, World Bank
Photo: Flickr

Sharia Law Penal Code
While the country of Brunei planned to introduce severe Islamic criminal punishments to be put into effect by April 22, the country decided to postpone the laws.

The delay is “due to unavoidable circumstances,” according to Jauyah Zaini, the assistant director of the Islamic Legal Unit.

Brunei is a wealthy sultanate, due to its large reserves of oil and gas, and is ruled by the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the richest men on the planet. The majority of the country is made up of ethnic Malays, with smaller groups of Chinese, Indians and indigenous groups in the country.

As a former British protectorate, Brunei’s civil courts are based on British law. Sharia law was mainly practiced for family complications, marriage, and inheritance. However, once implemented, the new penal codes will widen the scope of Islamic law to a broader range of possibilities.

The new Sharia criminal punishments are medieval, extreme, and potential violations of human rights. For example, the code allows, “stoning to death to punish rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations [for Muslims], defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, insulting any verse of the Quran and Hadith, blasphemy, and declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim.”

Robbery is punishable by amputation and drinking alcohol will result in flogging.

The United Nations is one of the few international organizations that has taken a stand in opposition against the new penal codes.

“Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” UN members said. “It is thus clearly prohibited.”

Sultan Bolkiah reasoned that the Sharia Penal Code would only pertain to Muslims as a “special guidance” from God. Muslims comprise around two-thirds of Brunei’s population of 420,000.

However, it is naïve to assume that the laws will not be applied to non-Muslims by law enforcement. Both non-Muslims and Muslims are prohibited from drinking alcohol in Brunei, and thus there is a high possibility that the other one-third of the population will be subjected to the penal codes.

Sultan Bolkiah called the penal code, “a part of the great history of our nation” in October and said that the new laws would not drastically change Brunei’s existing policies. Does this suggest that the penal codes are simply ceremonial and will not be enforced? Brunei still has the death penalty, but its last execution took place in 1957. Perhaps these codes are merely there to project an image of religious devotion.

Countries and international organizations should not wait to observe whether or not these penal codes will actually be enforced. These criminal punishments are a violation of human rights and all of Brunei’s citizens can potentially be subjected to the inhumane penal code.

— Sarah Yan

Sources: The Daily Beast, BBC, The Diplomat, BBC(2)
Photo: Military Photos