Brunei [State of Brunei Darussalam] (Malay Negara Brunei Darussalam)
- Virginia Gorlinski
[State of Brunei Darussalam] (Malay Negara Brunei Darussalam)
Country in South-east Asia. An independent Islamic sultanate, Brunei is located on the north-west coast of the island of Borneo, about 440 kilometres north of the equator. The country is bounded on its northern edge by the South China Sea and on all other sides by the Malaysian state of Sarawak.
Despite a relatively small land mass of 5765 km² Brunei is anything but geographically and demographically homogeneous. Swampy tidal plains line the coast, hilly lowlands mark the western interior, and thickly-forested mountains rise in the east to 1850 metres above sea-level. The inland areas are sparsely inhabited compared to the coastal plains, where more than 85% of the population resides. According to 1998 estimates, the population of the sultanate is approximately 323,600. About 67% of this figure comprises the ‘Brunei Indigenous’ peoples, a governmental category officially embracing Brunei Malays, Kedayan, Tutong, Belait, Bisaya, Dusun and Murut communities. The Brunei Malays are numerically (and culturally) dominant, having been reported in various sources to amount to more than 50% of the total population. Recent censuses, however, do not provide figures for the less statistically substantial groups, largely because of increasing ambiguity of ethnic affiliations, the result of intermarriage and cultural assimilation. Consequently, diverse Brunei Indigenous peoples are typically subsumed under the official rubric ‘Malay’, despite differences in language, history and religion etc. Second to the Brunei Malays in numerical significance are the ethnic Chinese, who constitute their own census category. Government statistics indicate that 15% of the population is Chinese, though studies conducted during the 1990s suggest that a much higher figure, 25–30%, might be more accurate. ‘Other Indigenous’ communities, primarily Iban and Kelabit peoples who have entered the sultanate through Sarawak, form about 6% of the population. The remaining inhabitants of Brunei include Europeans (mainly British), Indians and assorted non-indigenous groups....