Brunei Update: June 6, 2019

Brunei Update | June 6, 2019
Authors: Kim Yaeger and Jordan Fox
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

After the initial implementation of Syariah law in 2014, Brunei has now implemented the second and third phase which include the punishment of homosexual acts or adultery by stoning to death or 100 lashes. The quiet announcement last December that the law would be fully enacted on April 3 of 2019 has led to public outcries from organizations like the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The U.S. State Department Spokesman released a statement asserting that Brunei’s actions “run counter to its international human rights obligations” and encouraged Brunei to ratify and implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

A press release from the Prime Minister’s office responded to the outcry saying that that implementing Syariah Law is about the prevention of acts that are against the teachings of Islam but will also “respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race.” Facing public backlash, the Sultan made a televised speech stating that Brunei has “practiced a de facto moratorium on the execution of death penalty for cases under common law”, which will also be applied to cases under Syariah penal code. He also vowed to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture. According to Foreign Affairs, Dato Erywan Pehin Yusof, punishments under the Syariah penal code, require large amounts of evidence to convict and is highly unlikely given that Syariah law goes “beyond reasonable doubt”, and confessions are encouraged to be withdrawn at any time.

On May 2nd, U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar introduced the Brunei Human Rights Act which would sanction the officials involved in the implementation of the new penal code, barring them from traveling to or doing business with the United States. Additionally, it would take similar steps against officials in other countries looking to impose these types of laws, and report on refugees leaving the country because of the code. The Brunei Embassy responded stating that the resolutions put forth by Omar do not reflect the realities of Brunei, backed by Brunei’s human rights track record, people-centered policies, women’s empowerment and equal opportunities policies, and longstanding relationship with the United States. Specifically, Brunei’s human rights track record over the past few decades has included no prosecution for apostasy, blasphemy, adultery, or homosexuality, zero gun deaths, and a very low crime rate that they intend to continue under the new phases. The document also stresses their achievements like a low poverty level, green environment, no history of LGBTQ hate crimes or terrorism, one of the highest standards of living, a 96% literacy rate, wage equality, equal opportunities for women in their society, prevalence of women in different fields, and a free high-quality health care system. Brunei has also had a longstanding relationship with the United States underpinned by the 170 year-old Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Commerce and Navigation. They are a crucial partner in counter-terrorism and maritime security in the South China Sea.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 

Multilateral Trade Agreements
+ Two big trade pacts offer antidote to tension, Brunei minister says

Regional Affairs
+ Joint Force Commander Visit Highlights Brunei-Philippines Military Relations
+ Navy Chief Introductory Visit Puts Brunei-Singapore Relations Into Focus
+ New association mulled to help Brunei, Malaysia businesses seek more trade opportunities

National Affairs
+ HM: Stand united, show the world we are peaceful
+ Brunei scores top marks in resilience, economic ties and resources
+ Local businesses pledge to reduce single-use plastics
+ HRW urges Brunei to repeal Sharia law
+ Competition Order To Be Enforced On 1st January 2020
+ Omar introduces bill sanctioning Brunei over anti-homosexuality law

Defense and Security
+ What's Behind Brunei's New Defense White Paper Talk?

Travel and Tourism
+ Is Islamic tourism Brunei’s answer?

ICT
+ National ICT standardisation network vital for Brunei, says minister

 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Multilateral Trade Agreements

Two big trade pacts offer antidote to tension, Brunei minister says Nikkei Asian Review 30th May 2019
Two sweeping multilateral partnership agreements, The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), offer hope for furthering Asian economic integration and promoting cooperation amid the trade tensions and inward-looking policies gripping some governments, Brunei's Second Finance and Economy Minister Amin Liew Abdullah said on Thursday.

Regional Affairs

Joint Force Commander Visit Highlights Brunei-Philippines Military Relations The Diplomat 5th Jun 2019
Last week, Brunei’s military joint force commander paid a visit to the Philippines. Though the scheduled trip was just one manifestation of the security relationship between the two Southeast Asian states, it nonetheless highlighted some of the ongoing activity within this dimension of ties.

Navy Chief Introductory Visit Puts Brunei-Singapore Relations Into Focus The Diplomat 22nd May 2019
This week, Brunei’s new naval chief paid his introductory visit to Singapore in his current capacity. The visit placed the focus on the defense side of the relationship between the two Southeast Asian states amid wider domestic and regional change. The meetings were an opportunity for both sides to reaffirm and review the state of their longstanding defense collaboration, in addition to discussions of mutual issues of concern and potential areas for strengthening ties.

New association mulled to help Brunei, Malaysia businesses seek more trade opportunities The Scoop 14th May 2019
Business owners from Malaysia and Brunei will soon be able to foster greater trade cooperation and draw upon one another’s strengths with the establishment of a friendship association.

National Affairs

HM: Stand united, show the world we are peaceful The Scoop 5th Jun 2019
As the country welcomes Hari Raya Aidilfitri on Thursday, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah called on Bruneians to stand united and remain “patient and steadfast” amid the global backlash over Brunei’s Syariah law.

Brunei scores top marks in resilience, economic ties and resources Borneo Bulletin 2nd Jun 2019
BRUNEI Darussalam ranks 19th in terms of the power it wields in the Asia-Pacific region of 25 countries, according to the latest Asia Power Index, a data-driven comparative assessment of power in the region by think-tank Lowy Institute. The Sultanate scored the highest in resilience (15th place); moved up in economic relationship (16th place) as well as in economic resources (17th place) but dropped two spot in diplomatic influence to 19th place. More work needs to be done in defence network (20th place) and future resources (23rd place), military capability (23rd place) and cultural influence (23rd place).

Local businesses pledge to reduce single-use plastics The Scoop 27th May 2019
Over 50 businesses, including cafes and restaurants, have committed to stop providing single use plastics at least one day a month in a bid to reduce Brunei’s plastic waste. The #zerowastebrunei campaign — spearheaded by local events company Big Bwn Project, with partners Laneige and Adxpert Marketing — is calling on other businesses to follow suit, with the aim of phasing out single-use plastics altogether

HRW urges Brunei to repeal Sharia law UPI 23rd May 2019
Human Rights Watch is urging Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei to not only repeal his country's newly enacted Sharia law penal code but to ratify international human rights accords it has already signed.

Competition Order To Be Enforced On 1st January 2020 Brunei Direct 6th Jun 2019
The Competition Order 2015, which will take effect January 1, 2020, has the objective to promote market efficiency and consumer welfare in Brunei Darussalam's economic landscape through the prohibition of anti-competitive conducts including Anti-Competitive Agreements (Cartel), Abuse of Dominant Position and Anti-Competitive Merger. Through deterring anti-competitive conducts, the Order aims to promote a healthy business eco-system which can build business efficiency and competitiveness that can benefit business ultimately in the export market and also benefit consumers through better choice of goods and quality and competitive pricing.

Omar introduces bill sanctioning Brunei over anti-homosexuality law TheHill 16th May 2019
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) this week introduced legislation that would bar any Brunei government official enforcing the nation’s "draconian" penal code from doing business with the U.S.

Defense and Security

What's Behind Brunei's New Defense White Paper Talk? The Diplomat 20th May 2019
Last week, Brunei’s second defense minister once again reiterated the fact that the Southeast Asian state would look to release the next iteration of its defense white paper in 2021. Though this is only one among developments in the country’s security domain, it nonetheless remains important to watch to assess the extent of continuity and change in elements of the country’s defense approach as well as its broader domestic and foreign policy.

Travel and Tourism 

Is Islamic tourism Brunei’s answer? The ASEAN Post 16th May 2019
As Brunei is looking to diversify, Islamic tourism may be the answer given that they already follow strict Islamic laws.

ICT

National ICT standardisation network vital for Brunei, says minister Borneo Bulletin 17th May 2019
With the increasing emphasis towards ‘Smart Nation’, Brunei Darussalam needs to prepare for the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), including 5G technology, said Minister of Transport and Infocommunications Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib bin Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yusof in his message for World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) 2019.