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02 SEA NewEra.indd 25 4/27/10 2:52:42 PM 02 SEA NewEra.indd 26 4/27/10 2:52:42 PM 27 P. Thambipillai Brunei Darussalam, translated as Brunei Abode of Peace, is the smallest and youngest of the ASEAN states. Although it is new in terms of independent statehood, it has a long history. Its unique identity was emphasized in the Proclamation of Independence of Brunei Darussalam on 1 January 1984, after almost a century of being a protectorate of the United Kingdom. “Malay, Islamic, Monarchy” (Melayu, Islam, Beraja) or MIB has become the national philosophy that influences everyday life in the state. Since 1967, Brunei Darussalam (Brunei for short) has been under the rule of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the twentyninth ruler in an unbroken lineage of rulers that can be traced back 600 years. HISTORY Records indicate that Brunei is one of the oldest kingdoms in Southeast Asia. It once controlled vast areas of Borneo (present-day Sarawak, Sabah and Kalimantan) and extended to parts of the islands of the Philippines. It was a prosperous state visited by traders from the neighbouring countries and from distant lands such as China, India and West Asia, coming to exchange goods on its shores. The ancient kingdom had links to the Buddhist empire of Srivijaya and the Hindu empire of Majapahit that extended influence over vast areas of Southeast Asia. Extensive Chinese records have referred to the country by several similarsounding names like “Poni” and “Poli”, indicating that Brunei was already well known. 2 Brunei Darussalam The ancient kingdom had links to the Buddhist empire of Srivijaya and the Hindu empire of Majapahit. 02 SEA NewEra.indd 27 4/27/10 2:52:43 PM Reproduced from Southeast Asia in a New Era: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN edited by Rodolfo C. Severino, Elspeth Thomson and Mark Hong (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2010). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at SOUTHEAST ASIA IN A NEW ERA: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN 28 It was the international trade and travel routes that brought Islam to Brunei in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Around 1371, its ruler converted to the new religion and became known as Sultan Muhammad, the first Muslim head of state of Brunei. Since then, all the rulers have been the head of the Muslim faith in the country, and Brunei has been a strong follower of the Islamic religion. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Sultanate spread its Islamic influence and political control to neighbouring territories. The fifth sultan, Sultan Bolkiah or “Nahkhoda Ragam”, known for his maritime travels, has been credited with extending the sultanate’s rule to most of Borneo and to parts of modern-day Philippines. The extensive external influence of Brunei gradually decreased with the arrival of competing colonial powers in the Southeast Asian region from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. The territorial possessions of the Brunei rulers decreased continually as a result of internal dissent and revolt, as well as external conquests. In 1841, Brunei conceded Sarawak to James Brooke, who established himself as the Rajah of Sarawak. In 1846, Brunei ceded Labuan Island to Britain, which had by then established its presence in Singapore and the Malay archipelago and was moving into Borneo. The presence of the British was actually welcomed, as Brunei felt threatened by political instability and the regional presence of new foreign powers. In 1847, Brunei and Britain signed a bilateral trade and friendship treaty. This led to even closer relations between Brunei and Britain, and following another treaty in 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate. Brunei felt more secure with the support of the British, who could take care of its external protection. That relationship was to remain a close one until 1984, when Brunei regained its full political independence and joined the community of states as a sovereign member. Some of the present-day practices, for example, in public administration and the education system, are based on the long association with Britain. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the bilateral relationship had entered a new phase. In 1906, according to an agreement between Britain and the Sultan of Brunei, a British official was appointed as Resident in...


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