The implementation of laws set to take effect in Brunei this week which impose death by stoning for gay sex and adultery, and amputations for theft have led to calls for boycotts of the Brunei-owned Dorchester Collection of luxury five-star hotels in Europe and the United States.
However, the Brunei Investment Agency owns assets worldwide including Brisbane’s Royal on the Park Hotel, land on the Gold Coast and investments in Australian financial companies.
The investment agency is worth approximately US$40 billion despite the nearly US$15 billion the Sultan’s younger brother Jefri swindled from it a few years ago.
In recent years, the Sultan of Brunei has moved the agency under the control of the Ministry of Finance but as absolute dictator of Brunei, he is the ultimate beneficiary.
His personal wealth is estimated at US$20 billion.
Regarding the Dorchester Collection, George Clooney said, “Every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels, we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery.”
Elton John acknowledged that boycotting the hotels would affect the earnings of gay employees, “Our hearts go out to the good, hardworking employees of properties owned by the Sultan of Brunei, many of whom we know to be gay.
“We must send a message, however we can, that such treatment is unacceptable.”
Gay Bruneians have expressed support for the boycotts to bring attention to the laws, though they doubt the Sultan will change his mind.
Locals say the man once known as the Sultan of Swing has no real interest in religion — he cares about power.
With dwindling natural resources, unemployment and growing dissent the Sultan can use the sharia law to quash dissent and consolidate power.
In addition to the Sultanate’s investments in Australia about 450 Bruneian students are studying here at any one time.
Students are advising each other to claim to be Malaysian when people ask where they are from. Meanwhile, LGBTIQ Bruneians are seeking advice on internet forums about how to leave the country.
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