BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN Oct 22 Oil-rich Brunei will
enforce sharia criminal law next year, the Islamic kingdom's
sultan announced on Tuesday, with possible punishments including
stoning to death for adultery and flogging for drinking alcohol.
The law would be enforced from April, said the 67-year-old
sovereign, Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the world's wealthiest
people, who has presided over a shift to more conservative Islam
and anti-sedition laws in recent years.
Power is concentrated with the monarchy and the country does
not hold elections.
"It is because of our need that Allah the Almighty, in all
his generosity, has created laws for us, so that we can utilise
them to obtain justice," said the sultan, who also holds the
post of prime minister.
Many crimes under the new code have a high burden of proof
and sharia court judges would have discretion over punishments,
which could also include amputations for theft.
The tiny kingdom, which has Southeast Asia's highest
per-capita income after Singapore, has been preparing to
introduce the sharia penal code for years. In the past, the
sultan has said that sharia criminal law should be established
to work alongside the country's civil law more prominently.
Brunei, which neighbours two Malaysian states on Borneo
island and has a population of just over 400,000, already
enforces Islamic teachings more sternly than Malaysia and
Indonesia, the other majority Muslim countries in Southeast
Asia. The sale of alcohol is banned and evangelism by other
religions is strictly forbidden.
The sultan added that the government's overall policies
would not be affected by the legal change, in a possible nod to
With its oil reserves set to run out in about two decades,
the government has embarked on a strategy to promote development
in sectors such as tourism, halal products and manufacturing.
(Reporting by Malai Hassan Othman; Writing by Stuart Grudgings;
Editing by Nick Macfie)