The tiny state of Brunei has one of the world’s highest standards of living thanks to its bountiful oil and gas reserves.
Its ruling royals, led by the head of state Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, possess a huge private fortune and its largely ethnic-Malay population enjoy generous state handouts and pay no taxes.
A British protectorate since 1888, Brunei was the only Malay state in 1963 which chose to remain so rather than join the federation that became Malaysia. Full independence came relatively late in 1984.
Despite a significant non-Muslim minority presence in the country and strong condemnation from international rights group, in 2014 Brunei became the first East Asian country to adopt strict Islamic sharia law which allows punishment such as stoning for adultery and amputation for theft.
- Brunei Darussalam
- Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan
- Population 413,000
- Area 5,765 sq km (2,226 sq miles)
- Major languages Malay, English, Chinese
- Ethnicity 65% ethnic Malay, 10% Chinese
- Religious make-up 78% Muslim, 8% Christian, 7% Buddhist
- Life expectancy 76 years (men), 81 years (women)