Brunei sharia boycott widens

Airlines, London’s transport network, travel agents and financial institutions have joined the businesses cutting ties with Brunei-owned firms to protest over the introduction of the death penalty for gay sex and adultery.

The former British protectorate implemented sharia laws this week. The punishments for sodomy, adultery and rape is now death, including by stoning. Thieves face amputation of a right hand on their first offence and a left foot on their second.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is an absolute monarch who also holds the title of prime minister, defence, finance and foreign minister. He first proposed the laws in 2013 to a wave of protest.

High-profile events and awards shows, including by the Financial Times, have already been cancelled at London’s Dorchester.

A corporate backlash gathered pace after George Clooney and Sir Elton John called for a boycott of hotels owned by the Brunei authorities, including the exclusive Dorchester in London, the Beverley Hills Hotel in Los Angeles and the Plaza Athenee in Paris.

Most of the Brunei-owned hotels have deleted their social media accounts following a wave of protest.

STA Travel, owned by Swiss conglomerate Diethelm Keller Group, said it would no longer sell flights on Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA).

“We’ve taken this stance to add our voice to the calls on Brunei to reverse this change in the law and in support of LGBTQI people everywhere,” said the travel agency.

Transport For London (TfL) removed adverts promoting Brunei as a tourism destination from the capital’s crowded transport network.

“Given recent information that has come to light, it is clear that this is an issue of great public sensitivity and controversy so the advert will be removed from our network,” TfL announced.

Virgin Australia Airlines, Australia’s second-biggest airline, ended an agreement that offered discounted tickets on RBA for staff.

The national airline has deals with about 40 airlines, including British Airways, Air France-KLM and Qantas, allowing it to sell other carriers’ tickets.

British Airways stated: “We keep all our agreements under constant review.”

Deutsche Bank banned its staff from staying in the nine Dorchester Collection hotels, which are owned by Brunei’s sovereign wealth fund, the Brunei Investment Agency.

The luxury hotel group said its values were “far removed from the politics of ownership”.

“We understand people’s anger and frustration but this is a political and religious issue that we don’t believe should be played out in our hotels and amongst our 3,630 employees,” the Dorchester Collection said online.


Brunei attracts limited international attention. Picture credit: Wikimedia