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Located in the northwestern part of Borneo Island, in Southeast Asia, Brunei Darussalam is bordered by the South China Sea to the north, and near Sarawak, an East Malaysian state, on all other sides.

Although Brunei is the only country completely on Borneo, it takes up only a small portion of the island. More than two-thirds of the island belongs to Indonesia, but Brunei is not bordered by Indonesia. A portion of East Malaysian Sarawak separates Brunei into two unequal parts. The western part of Brunei is the larger and includes the city of Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city of Brunei.

The other portion, the Temburong District, is separated from the main part of Brunei by Brunei Bay and Malaysia. Although there are a few small villages, Bangar is the only town in the district and serves as the administrative center for the district. Most of the district is taken up by the Ulu Temburong National Park, the first national park in Brunei. Temburong has 42 miles of roads connecting Bangar to the interior villages, while another 34 miles of roads connect the villages to one another. A scientific research facility is accessible only by boat. Pristine forest covers most of the district.

The main part of Brunei is divided into three districts: the Brunei-Muara District, the Tutong District, and the Belait District, with most of the country's population concentrated in the Brunei-Muara District in the northeast. Apart from the capital city, other major towns are Muara, Seria, and Kuala Belait. Other than the populated cities, most of Brunei is covered by rainforests.

Officially named the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace, Brunei is an independent Islamic sultanate. Its early history is uncertain. Borneo is known to have been paying tribute to China in the 6th Century. By the 14th Century, it was paying tribute to the Majapahit Empire, based in Java. When Magellan anchored off the coast of Brunei in 1521, Sultan Bolkiah, the fifth Sultan of Brunei, controlled most of Borneo and neighboring islands. By the end of the 16th Century, Islam was firmly rooted in Brunei but the region was experiencing internal strife.

Brunei's power declined through the 19th Century, particularly given the cession of Sarawak in 1599, and Britain's claim to the island of Labuan, in Brunei Bay. Lastly, Brunei lost Sabah, in northeastern Borneo.

Brunei became a British protectorate in 1888 and, by 1906, a British resident was given authority over the Sultan of Brunei. Occupied by the Japanese during World War II, Britain returned to Brunei following the war. Soon afterward, negotiations began for the independence of Brunei.

In the late 1950s, Brunei was given the right of self-government, although Britain remained responsible for its foreign policy and defense. In 1959, Brunei adopted a constitution but its independence was interrupted by a revolt in 1962, requiring the assistance of Britain. The sultan then suspended most of the provisions of the constitution.

Brunei became an independent state in 1984, governed as an Islamic sultanate. The sultan became prime minister and also held other ministerial posts, appointing members of his family to most of the other positions of government. Two political parties were briefly permitted but soon banned.

The government of Brunei is an Islamic monarchy. Its legal system is based on English common law, but Sharia Law supersedes this in some cases. Brunei has a parliament, but no elections have been held since 1962. Brunei has been under martial law since the 1962 Brunei Revolt.

The most common language of the people of Brunei is Brunei Malay, although Standard Malay is the official language, and English, Chinese, and Arabic are also spoken by many. Brunei also has a large expatriate community from Australia, Cambodia, India, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

Sunni Islam is the state religion, and about two-thirds of the country's population are adherents to Islam. Other religions include Buddhism, Christianity, and Freethinkers, largely practiced by its Chinese population. The culture of Brunei is largely Malay, as that is the predominant ethnicity of its people. The culture is heavily influenced by Islam, generally said to be more conservative than Indonesia and Malaysia. As an Islamic sultanate, Sharia Law is in effect. The sale and use of alcohol in public are prohibited, although non-Muslims are permitted to bring a limited amount of alcohol into the country for their own consumption. Homosexuality is illegal, and homosexual acts are punishable by the death penalty by stoning. However, as of this writing, there have been no cases in which this sentence has been imposed.


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