UK abandon Brunei?

Should the UK withdraw military support from Brunei?


Statement on Brunei from the Minister of State for Asia

Government response

Statement from the Minister of State for Asia, Mark Field on the new Sharia laws introduced in Brunei

Minister of State for Asia, Mark Field said:

I am disappointed that hudud punishments under the Sharia Penal Code were introduced in Brunei today. This is despite the UK and the international community repeatedly raising our deep concerns regarding these laws with the Government of Brunei.

The UK strongly opposes capital and corporal punishment, whatever the crime.

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Should the UK withdraw military support from Brunei?

By Joe Harker

Brunei has introduced strict new laws making anal sex and adultery punishable by stoning to death, reports the BBC. Other harsh punishments include amputation of limbs for theft.

Homosexuality in Brunei was already illegal and punishable by 10 years in prison, but now it carries the death penalty. Much of what the country has adopted into the legal system is tenets of Sharia Law, which has been integrated into Brunei since 2014.

The nation has been condemned by the international community and people are calling for boycotts of the Sultan's businesses, including a number of high-end hotels.

The Claim:

The British government has made an official statement on the situation in Brunei. Mark Field, minister for Asia, was "disappointed" that hudud punishments under the Sharia Penal Code had been introduced to Brunei.

The minister noted that the international community had condemned Brunei's decision and had spoken with their government about the matter, citing "deep concerns".

Brunei's government has assured the UK that the penal codes for Common Law will run in parallel with Sharia Law, with Common Law continuing to be the primary system of justice in the country. Field called on Brunei to confirm to the international community that it was true and to "uphold its international human rights obligations".

The Counter Claim:

Writing in The Independent, Suraj Girijashanker argues that the UK has the "perfect opportunity" to punish Brunei for adopting harsh laws against the LGBT community.

They write that the laws and punishments will not just affect the LGBT community but also women and religious minorities. Women who are found to have had abortions are flogged and it is a criminal offence to expose Muslim children to the beliefs of other religions.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah cares deeply about the opinion of the UK, which formerly held Brunei as a colony and has propped up the absolute rule of the Sultan since an attempted coup in 1962. The Sultan pays the expenses of the British troops stationed in his country

With an economy heavily reliant on oil and gas exports, falling fuel prices have placed Brunei in a precarious situation. Girijashanker argues that the UK's role in supporting the Sultan gives them a unique bargaining tool with which to apply pressure.

Girijashanker suggests that the UK should discuss with Brunei what exactly the role of British troops stationed in the country is, as they previously helped put down an attempted coup. Potential economic hardship and rising dissatisfaction at the monarchy at the imposition of harsher laws would make those troops all the more valuable to the Sultan. With such a valuable bargaining chip the UK should advocate for human rights in Brunei.

The Facts:

Since 1962 Brunei has been under emergency rule by the Sultan. This occurred after the winning party in elections was not recognised by the monarch, leading to a coup being put down with the help of British troops. Brunei has been independent from the UK since 1984.

Since then the British army has maintained around 2,000 troops in the country, predominantly Gurkhas. This is part of an ongoing defence deal to which the last extension was signed in 2015 and committed to a British army presence in Brunei for another five years. It expires in February 2020, a useful bargaining tool if the UK feels like putting pressure on the Sultan.

The British government has said the stationing of troops in Brunei allows them to maintain a military presence in South Asia and provide hot weather training for soldiers.

Brunei has been revising its penal code since 2014, introducing harsher punishments. The UN has condemned the application of the death penalty for a wide range of crimes, saying it "contravenes international law".

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