Brunei: Country and Foreign Investment
Population, Language and Culture
This page was last updated on 22 May 2019.
Brunei was trading with China in the 6th century, and, through allegiance to the Javanese Majapahit kingdom (13th to 15th century), it came under Hindu influence. In the early 15th century Majapahit kingdom declined and there was widespread conversion to Islam. Brunei became an independent sultanate and was quite powerful from the 16th to the 19th century, ruling over the northern part of Borneo and adjacent islands.
In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate. Japan occupied Brunei during World War II until its liberation by Australia in 1945. The same family has ruled Brunei for over six centuries. The sultan regained control over internal affairs in 1959, but Britain retained responsibility for the state's defence and foreign affairs until 1984, when the sultanate became fully independent.
The population was estimated at 440,000 in May 2019. The ethnic composition is approximately 66% Malay, 10% Chinese and 24% other. The state religion, Sunni Islam, is adhered to by about 78% of the population. Of the rest, about 9% are Christian, 8% Buddhist and 5% other religions.
The official language is Malay, which is also spoken in neighbouring insular Malaysia and is virtually the same language as Bahasa Indonesia, the official language of Indonesia including southern Borneo. English is widely known and some Chinese languages are also spoken.