Brunei, an independent nation on the northwest coast of the island of Borneo. The official name is Brunei Darussalam ("Brunei, Abode of Peace"). It occupies an area of 2,226 square miles (5,765 km2) and is bounded by the Malaysian state of Sarawak and by the South China Sea. Brunei is divided into two parts by a narrow strip of land belonging to Sarawak. The country is consistently hot and humid, with abundant rainfall throughout the year.
Brunei's economy is based almost entirely on the extraction and processing of oil and natural gas. Income from these sources gives the country a per capita income that ranks among the highest in the world. Oil and natural gas come from fields near the western border with Sarawak and from offshore wells. Farming, livestock raising, fishing, and tourism are important local activities. Paved roads serve coastal cities. One freight railway serves the oil-producing area. Brunei has an international airport near Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital. Muara, near the capital, is the chief deepwater port. Brunei's basic currency unit is the Brunei dollar.
About two-thirds of the people of Brunei are Malays. Chinese make up the largest non-Malay group—about 15 per cent of the population. Islam is the official religion. Malay is the official language, but English is widely used.
Brunei is ruled by a sultan who exercises virtually absolute power. The sultan serves as the prime minister and the defense minister. Brunei is a member of the British Commonwealth. In 2004, the sultan revived the country's Legislative Council, which had been disbanded in 1984. The sultan appoints between 20 and 30 members to the council, which advises him on legislation.
Brunei was a powerful state in the early 16th century, when it governed much of Borneo and several smaller islands. The sultan's control over these lands began to weaken at the end of the 16th century. By the mid-1800's, the sultanate was reduced to its present size through various concessions of land, particularly to Great Britain. The Sultanate of Brunei became a protectorate of Great Britain in 1880. In 1984 it was granted independence.