The Jame Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan.
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The Sultanate of Brunei's influence peaked between the 15th and 17th centuries when its control extended over coastal areas of northwest Borneo and the southern Philippines. Brunei subsequently entered a period of decline brought on by internal strife over royal succession, colonial expansion of European powers, and piracy. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate; independence was achieved in 1984. The same family has ruled Brunei for over six centuries. Brunei benefits from extensive petroleum and natural gas fields, the source of one of the highest per capita GDPs in the world. In 2017, Brunei celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Sultan Hassanal BOLKIAH’s accession to the throne.

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Southeastern Asia, along the northern coast of the island of Borneo, bordering the South China Sea and Malaysia

Geographic coordinates

4 30 N, 114 40 E

Map references

Southeast Asia


total: 5,765 sq km

land: 5,265 sq km

water: 500 sq km

country comparison to the world: 172

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Delaware

Area comparison map
Area comparison map

Land boundaries

total: 266 km

border countries (1): Malaysia 266 km


161 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm or to median line


tropical; hot, humid, rainy


flat coastal plain rises to mountains in east; hilly lowland in west


highest point: Bukit Pagon 1,850 m

lowest point: South China Sea 0 m

mean elevation: 478 m

Natural resources

petroleum, natural gas, timber

Land use

agricultural land: 2.5% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0.8% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 1.1% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0.6% (2018 est.)

forest: 71.8% (2018 est.)

other: 25.7% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

10 sq km (2012)

Natural hazards

typhoons, earthquakes, and severe flooding are rare

Geography - note

close to vital sea lanes through South China Sea linking Indian and Pacific Oceans; two parts physically separated by Malaysia; the eastern part, the Temburong district, is an exclave and is almost an enclave within Malaysia

People and Society


478,054 (2022 est.)

note: immigrants make up approximately 26% of the total population, according to UN data (2019)

country comparison to the world: 173


noun: Bruneian(s)

adjective: Bruneian

Ethnic groups

Malay 67.4%, Chinese 9.6%, other 23% (2021 est.)


Malay (Bahasa Melayu) (official), English, Chinese dialects

major-language sample(s):
Buku Fakta Dunia, sumber yang diperlukan untuk maklumat asas. (Malay)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.

Malay audio sample:


Muslim (official) 82.1%, Christian 6.7%, Buddhist 6.3%, other 4.9% (2021 est.)

Demographic profile

Brunei is a small, oil-rich sultanate of less than half a million people, making it the smallest country in Southeast Asia by population.  Its total fertility rate – the average number of births per woman – has been steadily declining over the last few decades, from over 3.5 in the 1980s to below replacement level today at nearly 1.8.  The trend is due to women’s increased years of education and participation in the workforce, which have resulted in later marriages and fewer children.  Yet, the population continues to grow because of the large number of women of reproductive age and a reliance on foreign labor – mainly from Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and South Asian countries – to fill low-skilled jobs.

Brunei is officially Muslim, and Malay is the official language.  The country follows an official Malay national ideology, Malay Islamic Monarchy, which promotes Malay language and culture, Islamic values, and the monarchy.  Only seven of Brunei’s native groups are recognized in the constitution and are defined as “Malay” – Brunei Malays, Belait, Kedayan, Dusun, Bisayak, Lun Bawang, and Sama-Baiau.  Together they make up about 66% percent of the population and are referred to as the Bumiputera.  The Bumiputera are entitled to official privileges, including land ownership, access to certain types of employment (Royal Brunei Armed Forces and Brunei Shell Petroleum), easier access to higher education, and better job opportunities in the civil service. 

Brunei’s Chinese population descends from migrants who arrived when Brunei was a British protectorate (1888 and 1984).  They are prominent in the non-state commercial sector and account for approximately 10% of the population.  Most Bruneian Chinese are permanent residents rather than citizens despite roots going back several generations.  Many are stateless and are denied rights granted to citizens, such as land ownership, subsidized health care, and free secondary and university education.  Because of the discriminatory policies, the number of Chinese in Brunei has shrunk considerably in the last 50 years.  Native ethnic groups that are not included in the Bumiputera are not recognized in the constitution and are not officially identified as “Malay” or automatically granted citizenship.  Foreign workers constitute some quarter of the labor force.

Age structure

0-14 years: 22.41% (male 53,653/female 50,446)

15-24 years: 16.14% (male 37,394/female 37,559)

25-54 years: 47.21% (male 103,991/female 115,291)

55-64 years: 8.34% (male 19,159/female 19,585)

65 years and over: 5.9% (male 13,333/female 14,067) (2020 est.)

2022 population pyramid
2022 population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 39.2

youth dependency ratio: 31.1

elderly dependency ratio: 8.1

potential support ratio: 12.4 (2021 est.)

Median age

total: 31.1 years

male: 30.5 years

female: 31.8 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 116

Birth rate

16.14 births/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 101

Death rate

3.79 deaths/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 218

Net migration rate

2.18 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 48


urban population: 79.1% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 1.44% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

266,682 BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (capital) (2021)

note: the boundaries of the capital city were expanded in 2007, greatly increasing the city area; the population of the capital increased tenfold

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.89 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.74 male(s)/female

total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2022 est.)

Maternal mortality ratio

31 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 109

Infant mortality rate

total: 10.52 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 12.88 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 8.05 deaths/1,000 live births (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 134

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 78.38 years

male: 76.01 years

female: 80.86 years (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 72

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 99.7% of population

rural: NA

total: 99.9% of population

unimproved: urban: 0.4% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 0.1% of population (2020)

Current health expenditure

2.2% of GDP (2019)

Physicians density

1.61 physicians/1,000 population (2017)

Hospital bed density

2.9 beds/1,000 population (2017)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

Alcohol consumption per capita

total: 0.69 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

beer: 0.66 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

wine: 0.04 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

spirits: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

other alcohols: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 157

Tobacco use

total: 16.2% (2020 est.)

male: 30% (2020 est.)

female: 2.3% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 100


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 97.2%

male: 98.1%

female: 93.4% (2018)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 14 years

male: 14 years

female: 14 years (2020)

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 26.4%

male: 22.7%

female: 32.4% (2020 est.)


Environment - current issues

no major environmental problems, but air pollution control is becoming a concern; seasonal trans-boundary haze from forest fires in Indonesia

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 5.78 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 7.66 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 8.4 megatons (2020 est.)


tropical; hot, humid, rainy

Land use

agricultural land: 2.5% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0.8% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 1.1% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0.6% (2018 est.)

forest: 71.8% (2018 est.)

other: 25.7% (2018 est.)


urban population: 79.1% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 1.44% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 70

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 216,253 tons (2016 est.)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 151.5 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 5.3 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

8.5 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: Brunei Darussalam

conventional short form: Brunei

local long form: Negara Brunei Darussalam

local short form: Brunei

etymology: derivation of the name is unclear; according to legend, MUHAMMAD SHAH, who would become the first sultan of Brunei, upon discovering what would become Brunei exclaimed "Baru nah," which roughly translates as "there" or "that's it"

Government type

absolute monarchy or sultanate


name: Bandar Seri Begawan

geographic coordinates: 4 53 N, 114 56 E

time difference: UTC+8 (13 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: named in 1970 after Sultan Omar Ali SAIFUDDIEN III (1914-1986; "The Father of Independence") who adopted the title of "Seri Begawan" (approximate meaning "honored lord") upon his abdication in 1967; "bandar" in Malay means "town" or "city"; the capital had previously been called Bandar Brunei (Brunei Town)

Administrative divisions

4 districts (daerah-daerah, singular - daerah); Belait, Brunei dan Muara, Temburong, Tutong


1 January 1984 (from the UK)

National holiday

National Day, 23 February (1984); note - 1 January 1984 was the date of independence from the UK, 23 February 1984 was the date of independence from British protection; the Sultan's birthday, 15 June


history: drafted 1954 to 1959, signed 29 September 1959; note - some constitutional provisions suspended since 1962 under a State of Emergency, others suspended since independence in 1984

amendments: proposed by the monarch; passage requires submission to the Privy Council for Legislative Council review and finalization takes place by proclamation; the monarch can accept or reject changes to the original proposal provided by the Legislative Council; amended several times, last in 2010

Legal system

mixed legal system based on English common law and Islamic law; note - in April 2019, the full sharia penal codes came into force and apply to Muslims and partly to non-Muslims in parallel with present common law codes

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICC


citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: the father must be a citizen of Brunei

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 12 years


18 years of age for village elections; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: Sultan and Prime Minister Sir HASSANAL Bolkiah (since 5 October 1967); note - the monarch is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: Sultan and Prime Minister Sir HASSANAL Bolkiah (since 5 October 1967)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed and presided over by the monarch; note - 4 additional advisory councils appointed by the monarch are the Religious Council, Privy Council for constitutional issues, Council of Succession, and Legislative Council; Sultan and Prime Minister Sir HASSANAL Bolkiah is also Minister of Finance, Defense, and Foreign Affairs and Trade

elections/appointments: none; the monarchy is hereditary

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Legislative Council or Majlis Mesyuarat Negara Brunei (33 seats; 20 members appointed by the sultan from ex-officio cabinet ministers, titled people, and prominent citizens in public service and various professional fields and 13 members from 4 multi-seat constituencies, and 3 ex-officio members - the speaker and first and second secretaries

elections: January 2017 - appointed by the sultan

election results: NA; composition (as of February 2022) - men 30, women 3, percent of women 9.1%

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court (consists of the Court of Appeal and the High Court, each with a chief justice and 2 judges); Sharia Court (consists the Court of Appeals and the High Court); note - Brunei has a dual judicial system of secular and sharia (religious) courts; the Judicial Committee of Privy Council (in London) serves as the final appellate court for civil cases only

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court judges appointed by the monarch to serve until age 65, and older if approved by the monarch; Sharia Court judges appointed by the monarch for life

subordinate courts: Intermediate Court; Magistrates' Courts; Juvenile Court; small claims courts; lower sharia courts

Political parties and leaders

National Development Party or NDP [YASSIN Affendi]

note: Brunei National Solidarity Party or PPKB [Abdul LATIF bin Chuchu] and People's Awareness Party or PAKAR [Awang Haji MAIDIN bin Haji Ahmad] were deregistered in 2007; parties are small and have limited activity

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Dato Paduka Haji Serbini bin Haji ALI (since 28 January 2016)

chancery: 3520 International Court NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 237-1838

FAX: [1] (202) 885-0560

email address and website:

consulate(s): New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Caryn R. McCLELLAND (since December 2021)

embassy: Simpang 336-52-16-9, Jalan Duta, Bandar Seri Begawan, BC4115

mailing address: 4020 Bandar Seri Begawan Place, Washington DC  20521-4020

telephone: (673) 238-7400

FAX: (673) 238-7533

email address and website:

Flag description

yellow with two diagonal bands of white (top, almost double width) and black starting from the upper hoist side; the national emblem in red is superimposed at the center; yellow is the color of royalty and symbolizes the sultanate; the white and black bands denote Brunei's chief ministers; the emblem includes five main components: a swallow-tailed flag, the royal umbrella representing the monarchy, the wings of four feathers symbolizing justice, tranquility, prosperity, and peace, the two upraised hands signifying the government's pledge to preserve and promote the welfare of the people, and the crescent moon denoting Islam, the state religion; the state motto "Always render service with God's guidance" appears in yellow Arabic script on the crescent; a ribbon below the crescent reads "Brunei, the Abode of Peace"

National symbol(s)

royal parasol; national colors: yellow, white, black

National anthem

name: "Allah Peliharakan Sultan" (God Bless His Majesty)

lyrics/music: Pengiran Haji Mohamed YUSUF bin Pengiran Abdul Rahim/Awang Haji BESAR bin Sagap

note: adopted 1951


Economic overview

Brunei is an energy-rich sultanate on the northern coast of Borneo in Southeast Asia. Brunei boasts a well-educated, largely English-speaking population; excellent infrastructure; and a stable government intent on attracting foreign investment. Crude oil and natural gas production account for approximately 65% of GDP and 95% of exports, with Japan as the primary export market.


Per capita GDP is among the highest in the world, and substantial income from overseas investment supplements income from domestic hydrocarbon production. Bruneian citizens pay no personal income taxes, and the government provides free medical services and free education through the university level.


The Bruneian Government wants to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbon exports to other industries such as information and communications technology and halal manufacturing, permissible under Islamic law. Brunei’s trade increased in 2016 and 2017, following its regional economic integration in the ASEAN Economic Community, and the expected ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$27.23 billion (2020 est.)

$26.91 billion (2019 est.)

$25.9 billion (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 139

Real GDP growth rate

1.3% (2017 est.)

-2.5% (2016 est.)

-0.4% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 161

Real GDP per capita

$62,200 (2020 est.)

$62,100 (2019 est.)

$60,400 (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 14

GDP (official exchange rate)

$12.13 billion (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 1.2% (2017 est.)

industry: 56.6% (2017 est.)

services: 42.3% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 25% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 24.8% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 32.6% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 8.5% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 45.9% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -36.8% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

poultry, eggs, fruit, cassava, bananas, legumes, cucumbers, rice, pineapples, beef


petroleum, petroleum refining, liquefied natural gas, construction, agriculture, aquaculture, transportation

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 4.2%

industry: 62.8%

services: 33% (2008 est.)

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 26.4%

male: 22.7%

female: 32.4% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 42


revenues: 2.245 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 4.345 billion (2017 est.)

Public debt

2.8% of GDP (2017 est.)

3% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 207

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Current account balance

$2.021 billion (2017 est.)

$1.47 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 40


$7.83 billion (2019 est.)

$7.04 billion (2018 est.)

note: Data are in current year dollars and do not include illicit exports or re-exports.

country comparison to the world: 106

Exports - partners

Japan 34%, Australia 12%, Singapore 10%, India 8%, Malaysia 8%, Thailand 7%, China 6%, South Korea 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

natural gas, crude petroleum, refined petroleum, industrial alcohols, industrial hydrocarbons (2019)


$6.81 billion (2019 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$5.68 billion (2018 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

country comparison to the world: 125

Imports - partners

Singapore 18%, China 14%, Malaysia 12%, Nigeria 5%, United Arab Emirates 5%, United States 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

crude petroleum, refined petroleum, cars, tug boats, valves (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$3.488 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$3.366 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 105

Debt - external

$0 (2014)

$0 (2013)

note: public external debt only; private external debt unavailable

country comparison to the world: 204

Exchange rates

Bruneian dollars (BND) per US dollar -

1.33685 (2020 est.)

1.35945 (2019 est.)

1.3699 (2018 est.)

1.3749 (2014 est.)

1.267 (2013 est.)


Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)


installed generating capacity: 1.261 million kW (2020 est.)

consumption: 4,140,140,000 kWh (2019 est.)

exports: 0 kWh (2019 est.)

imports: 0 kWh (2019 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 497 million kWh (2019 est.)

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 100% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

nuclear: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

solar: 0.1% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

wind: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

hydroelectricity: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

tide and wave: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

geothermal: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

biomass and waste: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)


production: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

consumption: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

exports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

imports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

proven reserves: 0 metric tons (2019 est.)


total petroleum production: 107,300 bbl/day (2021 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 18,800 bbl/day (2019 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate exports: 103,100 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate imports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil estimated reserves: 1.1 billion barrels (2021 est.)

Natural gas

production: 12,498,299,000 cubic meters (2020 est.)

consumption: 4,166,987,000 cubic meters (2020 est.)

exports: 7,774,406,000 cubic meters (2020 est.)

imports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

proven reserves: 260.515 billion cubic meters (2021 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

9.956 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from coal and metallurgical coke: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 2.387 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from consumed natural gas: 7.569 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 107


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 103,885 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 24 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 136

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 526,589 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 123 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 173

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: Brunei’s mobile market experienced drop-off in subscriber numbers in 2020; in 2022 there was a concerted effort to build out the fixed-line infrastructure while progressing towards introducing 5G mobile services; Brunei’s fixed-line market is one of the few countries in the world to have displayed significant growth rather than a decline in teledensity in the last few years; this upward trend is set to continue as the new Unified National Network (UNN) works diligently to expand and enhance the fixed-line infrastructure around the country; strong growth was also seen in the fixed broadband space, on the back of those same infrastructure developments that are part of the Brunei Vision 2035 initiative; fixed broadband is starting from a relatively low base by international standards and is still only at 18%, leaving lots of room for growth; mobile and mobile broadband, on the other hand, are still suffering from the market contractions first felt in 2020; Brunei’s 2G GSM network is shut down, with the spectrum to be reallocated to 3G, 4G, and potentially 5G use (2021)

domestic: every service available; nearly 24 per 100 fixed-line, 120 per 100 mobile-cellular (2020)

international: country code - 673; landing points for the SEA-ME-WE-3, SJC, AAG, Lubuan-Brunei Submarine Cable via optical telecommunications submarine cables that provides links to Asia, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, Australia, and the US; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 1 Pacific Ocean) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced a downturn, particularly in mobile device production; progress toward 5G implementation has resumed, as well as upgrades to infrastructure; consumer spending on telecom services has increased due to the surge in demand for capacity and bandwidth; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home is still evident, and the spike in this area has seen growth opportunities for development of new tools and increased services

Broadcast media

state-controlled Radio Television Brunei (RTB) operates 5 channels; 3 Malaysian TV stations are available; foreign TV broadcasts are available via satellite systems; RTB operates 5 radio networks and broadcasts on multiple frequencies; British Forces Broadcast Service (BFBS) provides radio broadcasts on 2 FM stations; some radio broadcast stations from Malaysia are available via repeaters

Internet users

total: 415,609 (2020 est.)

percent of population: 95% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 163

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 71,078 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 16 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 134


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 10

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 1,234,455 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 129.35 million (2018) mt-km

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1

over 3,047 m: 1 (2021)


3 (2021)


33 km condensate, 86 km condensate/gas, 628 km gas, 492 km oil (2013)


total: 2,976 km (2014)

paved: 2,559 km (2014)

unpaved: 417 km (2014)

country comparison to the world: 163


209 km (2012) (navigable by craft drawing less than 1.2 m; the Belait, Brunei, and Tutong Rivers are major transport links)

country comparison to the world: 106

Merchant marine

total: 96

by type: general cargo 18, oil tanker 3, other 75 (2021)

country comparison to the world: 90

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Muara

oil terminal(s): Lumut, Seria

LNG terminal(s) (export): Lumut

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Royal Brunei Armed Forces: Land Force, Navy, Air Force, Joint Force (2022)

note: the Gurkha Reserve Unit (GRU) under the Ministry of Defense is a special guard force for the Sultan, the royal family, and the country’s oil installations

Military expenditures

3.1% of GDP (2021 est.)

3.7% of GDP (2020 est.)

3.1% of GDP (2019) (approximately $870 million)

2.7% of GDP (2018) (approximately $720 million)

2.8% of GDP (2017) (approximately $750 million)

country comparison to the world: 30

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 6,000 total active troops (4,000 Army; 1,000 Navy; 1,000 Air Force) (2022)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the Brunei imports nearly all of its military equipment and weapons systems and has a variety of suppliers, including the US and several European countries (2021)

Military service age and obligation

17 years of age for voluntary military service; non-Malays are ineligible to serve (2022)

note: the Gurkha Reserve Unit (GRU) employs about 500 Gurkhas from Nepal, the majority of whom are veterans of the British Army and the Singapore Police Force who have joined the GRU as a second career

Military - note

the Royal Brunei Armed Forces were formed in 1961 with British support as the Brunei Malay Regiment; "Royal" was added as an honorary title in 1965; the military was given its current title in 1984

Brunei has a long-standing defense relationship with the United Kingdom and hosts a British Army garrison, which includes a Gurkha battalion and a jungle warfare school; Brunei also hosts a Singaporean military training base

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

per Letters of Exchange signed in 2009, Malaysia in 2010 ceded two hydrocarbon concession blocks to Brunei in exchange for Brunei's sultan dropping claims to the Limbang corridor, which divides Brunei; nonetheless, Brunei claims a maritime boundary extending as far as a median with Vietnam, thus asserting an implicit claim to Louisa Reef

Refugees and internally displaced persons

stateless persons: 20,863 (mid-year 2021); note - thousands of stateless persons, often ethnic Chinese, are permanent residents and their families have lived in Brunei for generations; obtaining citizenship is difficult and requires individuals to pass rigorous tests on Malay culture, customs, and language; stateless residents receive an International Certificate of Identity, which enables them to travel overseas; the government is considering changing the law prohibiting non-Bruneians, including stateless permanent residents, from owning land

Trafficking in persons

tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List — Brunei does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so; the government enacted the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Order, which criminalized sex and labor trafficking and separated trafficking crimes from migrant smuggling crimes; the government formalized its interagency anti-trafficking in persons committee; instituted a committee to review foreign worker recruitment practices, ratified the ASEAN Convention against Trafficking in Persons, and acceded to the UN TIP Protocol; however, authorities did not formally identify any trafficking cases, did not initiate any new trafficking prosecutions, and did not convict any traffickers; trafficking victims continued to be detained, deported, and charged with crimes without law enforcement determining if they were forced to commit the illegal acts by traffickers; the government again did not allocate money to a fund established in 2004 for victim compensation and repatriation; a draft national action plan to combat trafficking was not completed for the sixth consecutive year (2020)

trafficking profile: human traffickers exploit foreign victims in Brunei; some men and women who migrate to Brunei to work as domestics or in retail or construction are subject to involuntary servitude, debt-based coercion, contract switching, non-payment of wages, passport confiscation, physical abuse, or confinement; some female migrants entering Brunei on tourist visas are forced into prostitution; some traffickers use Brunei as a transit point for victims used for sex and labor trafficking in Malaysia and Indonesia

Illicit drugs

drug trafficking and illegally importing controlled substances are serious offenses in Brunei and carry a mandatory death penalty