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Brunei 2017 Crime & Safety Report

East Asia & Pacific > Brunei; East Asia & Pacific > Brunei > Bandar Seri Begawan

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Bandar Seri Begawan does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Bandar Seri Begawan as being a low-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Please review OSAC’s Brunei webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Brunei Darussalam is a small country (5,765 square kilometers) situated in northwest Borneo, an island in Southeast Asia shared with Malaysia and Indonesia. With a population of approximately 423,000, Bandar Seri Begawan is the capital and the center of all government services. Brunei’s main source of national income is the exportation of oil and gas, which has allowed the country to prosper for several decades.

Crime Threats

Crimes against expatriates are uncommon. Most crimes are non-violent crimes of opportunity (petty theft, residential/vehicle burglaries). Violent crimes are rare, but they do occur. Many crimes carry severe penalties, including jail, fines, caning, or, in the case of foreigners, deportation.

Credit card fraud is not rampant, but it remains a risk on par with any major international city. If using an ATM, travelers are encouraged to search for an indoor area with controlled entry. Travelers should routinely monitor credit card and bank statements for fraudulent use.

Firearms, alcohol, prostitution, drugs, and gambling are illegal. The importation of firearms, including parts or components, is strictly prohibited, and the illegal possession of firearms or explosives carries severe penalties. Attempts to circumvent alcohol controls can result in arrest and criminal prosecution. Harsh penalties can result from engaging in the solicitation of prostitutes. Police continue to target prostitution by foreign workers.

Local laws/penalties do apply to visitors. Penalties for drug offenses and violent crimes are severe and can include the death penalty. Corporal punishment (“caning”) is also prescribed for rape, vandalism, and other crimes.

Alcohol may only be consumed in a private residence or hotel room. There are no public commercial establishments that serve alcohol legally. Attempts to circumvent alcohol controls can result in arrest and criminal prosecution.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

There are approximately 2,153 kilometers of roads in Brunei. The roads are comparable to most Western countries and are well-maintained. The best developed road network is in the Brunei-Muara district, where most people live. There is a coastal highway (the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Highway) that runs from Muara to Jerudong and Tutong and ends at Kuala Belait. This road network is the primary means of movement for goods and services on land and has seen the volume of traffic increase in recent years.

Brunei has a lower traffic injury and death rate than all other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, except Singapore. Vehicle ownership is estimated to be greater than 210,000, but only about 160,000 of all vehicles on the roads in any year are registered.

The Royal Brunei Police Force routinely sets up checkpoints, particularly at night and on holiday weekends, for 1) routine license/registration checks; 2) prevent driving while intoxicated; and 3) searchs for contraband. If stopped, drivers should be prepared to show their identification card, vehicle registration, and insurance policy. In case of an accident, all three documents will be required.

Public Transportation Conditions

Most Bruneians own cars. As a result, public transport and taxis exist but are not in great demand. A bus system operates during the day in Bandar Seri Begawan, though routes and frequency are not convenient for use as a normal means of transportation. A limited number of buses also operate between city centers. Chauffeur-driven or rental cars are available for hire through major hotels or the airport. Taxis can be more expensive than rates in the U.S. It is sometimes possible to negotiatiate the fare before entering a taxi. The fare from the airport to Bandar Seri Begawan varies from about US$12-$30, depending on the availability of taxis and the driver.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Bandar Seri Begawan as being low-threat for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There are no known indigenous terrorist organizations in Brunei, and the country is not a known base of support or sympathy for transnational terrorists. Due to its close proximity to Indonesia and the southern Philippines, Brunei faces the same threat of transnational terrorism as other countries in the region; however, Brunei has not experienced any terrorism-related incidents, and the government remains proactive in countering potential threats.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Bandar Seri Begawan as being a low-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. 

The government of Brunei provides an abundance of social support to its citizens and generous benefits to government employees that have resulted in domestic stability since Brunei’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1984. 

Civil Unrest

Demonstrations are permitted, but they must be authorized by the government under strict controls. With the exception of a 2009 protest over unpaid wages by Bangladeshi workers, there have been no other recorded demonstrations or protests, and none are anticipated in the near future. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

In 2009, Brunei experienced severe flooding in many parts of the country, causing serious damage and resulting in two deaths. Heavy rain in early 2014 also caused flooding, landslides, and road closures. 

Personal Identity Concerns

Brunei is a Muslim nation, and the implementation of Sharia Law does have implications related to gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, and disability.

The Sultan of Brunei announced the adoption of a Sharia Penal Code (SPC) in October 2013 that was to be rolled out in three phases.
The first phase, which generally includes laws punishable by fines or imprisonment, went into effect May 1, 2014.
Phases two and three include more severe penalties, such as amputation/death for crimes including theft, apostasy, and sodomy, have not yet been implemented, and no implementation dates have been announced.

Some of these laws -- laws against eating during fasting hours of Ramadan, drinking alcohol in public, and an unmarried couple cohabitating, if one or both is Muslim -- may be unfamiliar to Westerners, especially non-Muslims. There has been limited enforcement of the SPC, and it mostly does not affect U.S. citizens. There has been one prosecution of a case under new statutes that involved an immigrant Indonesian worker charged with smoking during the fasting hours of Ramadan. The accused was convicted and served a six-month sentence in lieu of a fine. There have also been cases of khalwat, or close proximity causing suspicion, but these cases were brought under the more limited Sharia law that predated the SPC. There have been no other reported arrests under the SPC, though authorities have cited the law in warnings to people who posted comments online that were considered against official religious practice.

Visitors should be especially mindful of laws concerning the “outrage of modesty.” Any unwanted advance, touch, or statement can mean criminal charges and jail time. Avoid any behavior that could be interpreted as molestation/unwanted touching.

All religious activities should be limited to places of worship.

Drug-related Crimes

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines or, in some cases, even the death penalty. Brunei has a mandatory death penalty for many narcotics offenses. Possession of the following carries the death penalty: more than 15 grams of heroin, ecstasy, and morphine derivatives; more than 30 grams of cocaine; more than 500 grams of cannabis; more than 50 grams of methamphetamine; or more than 1.2 kilograms of opium. Possession of lesser amounts can result in a minimum 20-year jail term and caning. The biggest reported drug seizures in 2016 were for cannabis and methamphetamine.

Police Response

Travelers are strongly urged to carry a copy of their passport on their person, as police will typically ask for identification for all parties involved in any type of incident.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

In the event of police detention, Americans should request that authorities contact the U.S. Embassy. The 24-hour number of the Embassy is +673-238-4616 x 2162 and the Duty Officer is +673-873-0691. The Embassy Local Guard Force operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and guard supervisors speak English.

Crime Victim Assistance

Ambulance: 991
Police: 993
Fire: 995
Search & Rescue: 998

U.S. Embassy: +673-238-4616
Duty Officer (after-hours emergencies): +673-873-0691
Royal Brunei Police Force (switchboard): +673-245-9500

Police/Security Agencies

The two main civil law enforcement agencies are the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) and the Brunei Internal Security Department (BISD).
The RBPF is a uniformed force comparable to any big city police department. They are generally professional and courteous. Response times vary, and delays up to 30 minutes can be expected. Most officers speak English, but some, especially from the reserve units, have limited English ability.
The BISD is similar to the FBI, with a broader mandate regarding national security concerns (terrorism, organized crime, smuggling, internal threats).

Medical Emergencies

The emergency medical phone number is 991. There is adequate care for basic medical conditions; however, due to unpredictable shortages of materials and uncertain support staff, surgeries or complicated care is best obtained in countries with a better developed healthcare system, such as Singapore.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Jerudong Park Medical Centre (JPMC) is a private hospital that is a joint venture with Gleneagles of Singapore. JPMC offers a comprehensive range of medical and surgical facilities that include an internationally-recognized specialized cardiology and cardiothoracic surgical care unit. JPMC has routine medical care facilities that can accommodate those cases from the simplest of conditions to the most severe. However, Jerudong does not have a trauma unit.

Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) is in Bandar Seri Begawan and has emergency room services and screened blood supplies. RIPAS is a large government hospital that has a surgical ICU, a pediatric ward, and an Accident and Emergency unit.

RIPAS and JPMC share many of the same doctors.

Available Air Ambulance Services

Although air ambulance service is not available in Brunei, it can be coordinated out of Singapore.

Insurance Guidance

Ensure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation, including an air ambulance coverage should that become necessary.  

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Brunei is a tropical rain forest and has a variety of wildlife, including many venomous snakes and animals. RIPAS hospital carries anti-venom for most locally found species.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Brunei.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is currently no OSAC Country Council in Brunei. American businesses were briefed on the roles and benefits in December 2013, and while there was initial interest from company representatives, there has been little follow-up. This may be due to the low threat rating against Americans in country and the historic lack of an organization in Brunei representing U.S. economic interests. The recent establishment of the Brunei-U.S. Association (BUSA) offers an opportunity to organize an OSAC committee under the BUSA umbrella. The Regional Security Officer can answer security-related questions and can be reached at +673-238-4616 ext. 2141.

Please contact OSAC’s East Asia Pacific team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Bandar Seri Begawan
Simpang 336-52-16-9
Jalan Duta, Bandar Seri Begawan

Business hours: Mon-Fri, 0745-1630

Embassy Contact Numbers

Embassy switchboard: +673-238-4616
Duty Officer (after-hours emergencies): +673-873-0691
Regional Security Officer: +673-238-4616 ext. 2141

Embassy Guidance

Travelers should review consular information available online or contact the U.S. Embassy in Brunei for up-to-date information on the new Sharia Penal Code and its application.

Additional Resources

Brunei Country Information Sheet