The island of Borneo (the third largest island in the world after Greenland and New Guinea with around 755,000 square kilometers) was already before the middle of the third millennium BC. settled when peoples from the back of India and southern China immigrated to the island. Around the 3rd century AD Hinduism and later Buddhism spread through Indian merchants and missionaries. From the 9th century the existence of a Hindu kingdom Brunei in northern Borneo is documented. Until the 15th century, this kingdom was largely dependent on the Indonesian empires (Srivijaya, from the 14th century majapahit).
From the 10th century, Arab merchants had settled on the north coast of Borneo and spread Islam there. In 1410 the Kingdom of Brunei declared itself an independent sultanate, Islam became the state religion. Within a few decades, Brunei was able to extend its influence to almost the entire island of Borneo and, thanks to its large fleet, rose to become the dominant trading power in the South China Sea.
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The decline of the Sultanate began with the European colonization of Southeast Asia. In 1580 the Spaniards were able to conquer part of Brunei, but only for a short time. From the beginning of the 17th century, the Netherlands became the dominant colonial power on the Southeast Asian islands. The island of Borneo came under the control of the Netherlands, with the exception of the origin of the Sultanate of Brunei on the north coast.
In 1841 the Sultan of Brunei, with the help of British troops led by Sir James Brooke, put down an uprising in Sarawak. In gratitude for the support, the Sultan appointed the British officer governor of Sarawak province. British colonial power also became increasingly important in the fight against piracy in the South China Sea, for which purpose the Sultan of Brunei left the offshore island of Labuan to the British in 1846. In 1877 the Sultan had to sell the province of Sabah to the British trading company “North Borneo Company”. The rest of the Sultanate was placed under British protection in 1888.
Formally, Brunei remained independent as a sultanate, but it was under the control of a British resident, while the sultan only had a representative function. In 1929 large oil deposits were discovered on the territory of Brunei.
During the Second World War, the island of Borneo (as well as almost all of Southeast Asia) was occupied by Japanese troops. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, Brunei became a British administrative area again: these were only parts of the original sultanate. Much of Borneo became part of the newly formed “Republic of the United States of Indonesia” under the name “Kalimantan”. The provinces of Sarawak and Sabah became British crown colonies in 1946.
According to AbbreviationFinder, the Sultanate of Brunei received the right to internal self-government and a first constitution in 1959. This established the almost unlimited power of the sultan. After an uprising by the Brune People’s Party in 1962, the state of emergency was declared (and is still in force today).
The colonial power of Great Britain wanted to join the Sultanate of Malaysia (Malaya, Singapore, Sabah, Sarawak), which was founded in 1963, but the country, which had become extremely rich thanks to oil production, refused to join.
Brunei received full internal autonomy in 1971, but remained a British protectorate at its own request. It was only in January 1984 that “Brunei Darussalam” became independent as a state and in the same year became a member of the East Asian association “ASEAN” (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) founded in 1967. Bandar Seri Begawan was officially named the capital. In September 1984 Brunei was admitted to the United Nations.
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Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah had ruled the country as an absolute monarch since 1967. He banned parties in 1988 – the only opposition party allowed is the National Democratic Party, which was founded in 1985 and which is unsuccessfully pushing for democratization.
To date, the country’s foreign policy guidelines have been determined by the continued close ties to the former colonial power of Great Britain and the integration into the ASEAN community of states. The ASEAN Free Trade Agreement entered into force in 2002. Brunei also has good relations with the western industrialized nations and the USA.