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Independent sultanate, northern Borneo, western Pacific Ocean. The country is divided into two parts, each surrounded by the Malaysian state of Sarawak; they both have coastlines on the South China Sea and Brunei Bay. Area: 2,226 sq mi (5,765 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 400,000. Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan. Brunei has a mixture of Southeast Asian ethnic groups: about two-thirds are Malay, one-tenth Chinese, and the remainder indigenous peoples and Indians. Languages: Malay (official), English (widely understood). Religions: Islam (official; predominantly Sunni); also traditional beliefs, Buddhism, Christianity. Currency: Brunei dollar, ringgit. The narrow northern coastal plain gives way to rugged hills in the south. Brunei's western enclave consists of the valleys of the Belait, Tutong, and Brunei rivers and is mainly hilly. The eastern enclave contains the Pandaruan and Temburong river basins and the country's highest point, Pagon Peak (6,070 ft [1,850 m]). Much of Brunei is covered by dense tropical rainforest; very little land is arable. Its economy is dominated by production from major oil and natural gas fields. It has one of the highest per capita incomes in Asia. Brunei is a monarchy (sultanate), with one (legislative) advisory body; the head of state and government is the sultan. Brunei traded with China in the 6th century CE. Through allegiance to the Javanese Majapahit kingdom (13th–15th century), it came under Hindu influence. In the early 15th century, with the decline of the Majapahit kingdom, many converted to Islam, and Brunei became an independent sultanate. When Ferdinand Magellan's ships visited in 1521, the sultan of Brunei controlled almost all of Borneo and its neighbouring islands. In the late 16th century Brunei lost power because of the Portuguese and Dutch activities in the region; they were soon joined by the British. By the 19th century the sultanate of Brunei included Sarawak (including present-day Brunei) and part of North Borneo (now part of Sabah). In 1841 a revolt took place against the sultan, and a British soldier, James Brooke, helped put it down; he was later proclaimed governor (seeBrooke Raj). In 1847 the sultanate entered into a treaty with Great Britain, and by 1906 it had yielded all administration to a British resident. Brunei rejected membership in the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, negotiated a new treaty with Britain in 1979, and achieved independence in 1984, with membership in the Commonwealth. Brunei has pursued ways to diversify the economy, notably by encouraging tourism.
Variants of BRUNEI
Brunei officially State of Brunei Darussalam
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Brunei, visit Britannica.com.