Brunei (pronounced /bruːˈnaɪ/ in English), officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace (Malay: Negara Brunei Darussalam, Jawi: بروني دارالسلام), is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia. Apart from its coastline with the South China Sea, it is completely surrounded by the state of Sarawak, Malaysia, and in fact it is separated into two parts by Limbang, which is part of Sarawak. It is the only sovereign state completely on the island of Borneo, with the remainder of the island belonging to Malaysia and Indonesia.
Brunei can trace its beginnings to the 7th century, when it was a subject state of the Srivijayan empire under the name Po-ni. It later became a vassal state of Majapahit before embracing Islam in the 15th century. At the peak of its empire, the sultanate had control that extended over the coastal regions of modern-day Sarawak and Sabah, the Sulu archipelago, and the islands off the northwest tip of Borneo. The thalassocracy was visited by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and fought the Castille War in 1578 against Spain. Its empire began to decline with the forced ceding of Sarawak to James Brooke and the ceding of Sabah to the British North Borneo Chartered Company.
After the loss of Limbang, Brunei finally became a British protectorate in 1888, receiving a resident in 1906. In the post-occupation years, it formalised a constitution and fought an armed rebellion. Brunei regained its independence from the United Kingdom on 1 January 1984. Economic growth during the 1970s and 1990s, averaging 56% from 1999 to 2008, has transformed Brunei Darussalam into a newly industrialised country.
Brunei has the second highest Human Development Index among the South East Asia nations, after Singapore and is classified as a Developed Country. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Brunei is ranked 4th in the world by gross domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity.
According to legend, Brunei was founded by Awang Alak Betatar. His move from Garang to the Brunei river estuary led to the discovery of Brunei. His first exclamation upon landing on the shore, as the legend goes, was “Baru nah!” (Which in English loosely-translates as “that’s it!” or “there”) and thus, the name “Brunei” was derived from his words.
It was renamed “Barunai” in the 14th Century, possibly influenced by the Sanskrit word varunai (वरुण), meaning “seafarers”, later to become “Brunei”. The word “Borneo” is of the same origin. In the country’s full name “Negara Brunei Darussalam”(بروني دارالسلام), “Darussalam” means “Abode of Peace” in Arabic, while “Negara” means “Country” in Malay. “Negara” derives from the Sanskrit Nagara (नगर), meaning “city”.
The culture of Brunei is predominantly Malay (reflecting its ethnicity), with heavy influences from Islam, but is seen as more conservative than Malaysia. As a Sharia country, the sale and public consumption of alcohol is banned. Foreigners and non-Muslims are allowed to bring in 12 cans of beer and two bottles of other alcohol (e.g., wine or spirits; no distinction is made for alcohol content). This limit used to apply to every entry; in 2007, however, this was changed to one limit every 48 hours. After the introduction of prohibition in the early 1990s, all pubs and nightclubs were forced to close.
Crude oil and liquefied natural gas are Brunei’s main exports and the country’s economic mainstays; petroleum products are also produced. The government is attempting to promote economic diversification; clothing is manufactured, and there are banking, tourism, and construction industries. Rice, vegetables, and fruits are grown, and chickens, water buffalo, cattle, and goats are raised. Forests are strictly protected, and timber cutting is allowed only for local use.
Brunei imports machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, foodstuffs, and chemicals. The main trading partners are Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and South Korea.