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Background Notes: East Asia, November, 2005 [Secure eReader]
eBook by U.S. Department of State

eBook Category: Travel
eBook Description: Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs country background notes for international travelers to Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Each country's brief, factual background note summarizes its geography, people (population, ethnic groups, languages, health, and religion), history, culture, government and political conditions (type, political parties and principal government officials), economy (GDP; land, climate, and demographics; agriculture and natural resources; trade, industry, and investment; and transportation), defense, human rights, and foreign relations. Each country's background note also provides travel and business information, including principal U.S. officials (ambassador, public affairs officer, counselor for economic affairs, etc.); embassy location, telephone, and fax numbers; and passport information.

eBook Publisher: InfoStrategist.com/InfoStrategist.com
Fictionwise Release Date: December 2005


1 Reader Ratings:
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Brunei

Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs

March 2005

Background Note: Brunei Darussalam

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:

Negara Brunei Darussalam

Geography

Area: 5,765 sq. km. (2,226 sq. mi.), slightly larger than Delaware.
Cities: Capital – Bandar Seri Begawan.
Terrain: East – flat coastal plains with beaches; west – hilly with a few mountain ridges.
Climate: Equatorial; high temperatures, humidity, and rainfall.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective – Bruneian(s).
Population (2003 est.): 348,800.
Annual growth rate: 2.3%.
Ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese, other, indigenous groups.
Religion: Islam.
Languages: Malay, English, Chinese; Iban and other indigenous dialects.
Education: Years compulsory – 9. Literacy (2001) – 94.7%.
Health: Life expectancy – 74 yrs. Infant mortality rate (2002) – 8.3/1,000.

Government

Type: Malay Islamic Monarchy.
Independence: January 1, 1984.
Constitution: 1959.
Branches: Executive – Sultan is both head of state and Prime Minister, presiding over a nine-member cabinet. Legislative – a Legislative Council has been reactivated after a 20-year suspension to play an advisory role for the Sultan. 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 Temburong.

Economy

GDP (2003): $4.71 billion.
Growth rate (2003 est.): 3.2%.
Natural resources: Oil and natural gas.
Trade: Exports – oil, liquefied natural gas, petroleum products, garments. Major markets – Japan, Korea, ASEAN, U.S. Imports – machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods. Major suppliers – ASEAN, Japan, U.S., EU.

PEOPLE

Many cultural and linguistic differences make Brunei Malays distinct from the larger Malay populations in nearby Malaysia and Indonesia, even though they are ethnically related and share the Muslim religion.

Brunei has hereditary nobility, carrying the title Pengiran. The Sultan can award to commoners the title Pehin, the equivalent of a life peerage awarded in the United Kingdom. The Sultan also can award his subjects the Dato, the equivalent of a knighthood in the United Kingdom, and Datin, the equivalent of damehood.

Bruneians adhere to the practice of using complete full names with all titles, including the title Haji (for men) or Hajjah (for women) for those who have made the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. Many Brunei Malay women wear the tudong, a traditional head covering. Men wear the songkok, a traditional Malay cap. Men who have completed the Haj wear a white songkok.

The requirements to attain Brunei citizenship include passing tests in Malay culture, customs, and language. Stateless permanent residents of Brunei are given International Certificates of Identity, which allow them to travel overseas. The majority of Brunei's Chinese are permanent residents, and many are stateless. An amendment to the National Registration and Immigration Act of 2002 allowed female Bruneian citizens for the first time to transfer their nationality to their children.

Oil wealth allows the Brunei Government to provide the population with one of Asia's finest health care systems. Malaria has been eradicated, and cholera is virtually nonexistent. There are three general hospitals – in Bandar Seri Begawan, Tutong, and Kuala Belait – and there are numerous health clinics throughout the country.

Education starts with preschool, followed by 6 years of primary education and up to 6 years of secondary education. Nine years of education are mandatory. Most of Brunei's college students attend universities and other institutions abroad, but approximately 3,422 (2003) study at the University of Brunei Darussalam. Opened in 1985, the university has a faculty of more than 300 instructors and is located on a sprawling campus overlooking the South China Sea.

The official language is Malay, but English is widely understood and used in business. Other languages spoken are several Chinese dialects, Iban, and a number of native dialects. Islam is the official religion, but religious freedom is guaranteed under the constitution.

HISTORY

Historians believe there was a forerunner to the present Brunei Sultanate, which the Chinese called Po-ni. Chinese and Arabic records indicate that this ancient trading kingdom existed at the mouth of the Brunei River as early as the seventh or eighth century A.D. This early kingdom was apparently conquered by the Sumatran Hindu Empire of Srivijaya in the early ninth century, which later controlled northern Borneo and the Philippines. It was subjugated briefly by the Java-based Majapahit Empire but soon regained its independence and once again rose to prominence.

The Brunei Empire had its golden age from the 15th to the 17th centuries, when its control extended over the entire island of Borneo and north into the Philippines. Brunei was particularly powerful under the fifth sultan, Bolkiah (1473-1521), who was famed for his sea exploits and even briefly captured Manila; and under the ninth sultan, Hassan (1605-19), who fully developed an elaborate Royal Court structure, elements of which remain today.

After Sultan Hassan, Brunei entered a period of decline due to internal battles over royal succession as well as the rising influences of European colonial powers in the region that, among other things, disrupted traditional trading patterns, destroying the economic base of Brunei and many other Southeast Asian sultanates. In 1839, the English adventurer James Brooke arrived in Borneo and helped the Sultan put down a rebellion. As a reward, he became governor and later "Rajah" of Sarawak in northwest Borneo and gradually expanded the territory under his control.

Meanwhile, the British North Borneo Company was expanding its control over territory in northeast Borneo. In 1888, Brunei became a protectorate of the British Government, retaining internal independence but with British control over external affairs. In 1906, Brunei accepted a further measure of British control when executive power was transferred to a British resident, who advised the ruler on all matters except those concerning local custom and religion.

In 1959, a new constitution was written declaring Brunei a self-governing state, while its foreign affairs, security, and defense remained the responsibility of the United Kingdom. An attempt in 1962 to introduce a partially elected legislative body with limited powers was abandoned after the opposition political party, Parti Rakyat Brunei, launched an armed uprising, which the government put down with the help of British forces. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the government also resisted pressures to join neighboring Sabah and Sarawak in the newly formed Malaysia. The Sultan eventually decided that Brunei would remain an independent state.

Copyright © 2005


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