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Country Reports
BRUNEI, Landmine Monitor Report 1999


Mine Ban Policy

Brunei signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 4 December 1997, but has yet to ratify. Compared to neighboring Malaysia and the Philippines, Brunei's support for a total ban on antipersonnel mines evolved more gradually. Starting out as an observer in the Ottawa strategy conference on 3-5 October 1996, it moved to vote in favor of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 51/45 S dated 10 December 1996, urging states to vigorously pursue an international agreement banning APMs. As a member of the ASEAN, Brunei was also co-signatory to the final declaration of the 12th EU-ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (in February 1997 in Singapore), wherein the parties "agreed to attach a high priority to efforts to deal with the suffering and destruction caused by the indiscriminate use of anti-personnel mines and called on states to work towards an agreement banning the use, stockpile, production and transfer of APMs."

However, Brunei failed to endorse the pro-ban treaty Brussels Declaration in June 1997, and attended only as an observer to the Oslo treaty negotiations in September 1997. Yet, it voted in favor of the 1997 U.N. General Assembly Resolution 52/38A supporting the December 1997 treaty signing, and then signed the treaty on 4 December 1997. It subsequently endorsed the UNGA Resolution A/C.1/53/L.33 dated 4 November 1998 welcoming new state-signatories to the Mine Ban Treaty, urging its full realization, and inviting all state parties to the First Meeting of State Parties in Mozambique in May 1999.

Brunei's signing of the MBT has been described as largely a "political decision" on the part of its monarch, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who responded positively to the urging of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Anan as well as of pro-ban foreign leaders led by Canadian officials during the 1996 APEC summit held in Canada.[1] The position of most ASEAN member states also helped Brunei assume a pro-treaty stance.[2]

Brunei has not ratified the treaty. According to an officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, discussions among concerned agencies, particularly the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs, have yet to be held in order to move the process forward, including possibly drafting an instrument of ratification in coordination with the Attorney-General's office, for approval of the concerned Ministers.[3]

As a small state with a population of approximately 300,000 and a total land area of 2,226 square miles, landmines have played a central role in Brunei's defense strategy. Thus, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defense (MINDEF), Dato Mohd Alimin Abdul Wahab stated, although Brunei supports the ban on landmines, the current security environment remains fluid and not ideal for ratification. He indicated Brunei needs to retain the option of using these mines should it be necessary to the state's security since it cannot not rely on any other country or agency to defend it, and for this reason, it may not be in the position as yet to meet all the responsibilities of ratification.[4]

Ratification requires the Cabinet's endorsement and the King's approval. Notably, His Majesty Hassanal Bolkiah sits concurrently as Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and his brother, His Royal Highness Mohammad Bolkiah, is the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Brunei has not signed the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling and Use

The MINDEF claims that Brunei is not a landmine producer. Neither does it produce any military hardware, including ammunition and guns, as these are all brought from abroad. Nor does Brunei have any intent to go into research and development of armaments. There are also no reports of Brunei exporting or being used as a transit point for the transfer of mines.[5]

In 1984 Brunei imported 600 M-18A1 Claymore mines from the United States.[6] It is not known what other mines Brunei possesses. APM stocks are maintained in Explosive Safety Houses in designated camps, but there has been no need for their use for warfare or defense purposes. "If there should be any need for it, it would be in a situation of war," said MINDEF's Permanent Secretary, indicating that landmines have been retained largely for training purposes.[7] It is doubtful the number of APMs is very large, considering that Brunei's armed forces and police force are small, with only approximately 5,000 and 4,000 men, respectively. There are no plans for the destruction of stocks.

Landmine Problem

Brunei is not mine-affected. There have been no reported incidents of injuries or deaths resulting from landmines.

Mine Action

Brunei has not participated in any humanitarian mine action program although it sent two members of its police force as observers to the peacekeeping operation in Cambodia in 1992. The MINDEF does not see Brunei contributing to humanitarian mine action in the near future due to its limited capability.


[1]Interview with Ministry of Defense Permanent Secretary Dato Mohd Alimin Abdul Wahab at the Bolkiah Garrison, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam, 11 February 1999. To quote: "There were initial reservations ... (But) (I)t was His Majesty himself who said that we should subscribe (to the MBT)."

[2] Ibid. He said, "We have to see our situation as not exclusive to the fact that our neighbors have got a similar position on landmines because then we feel more comfortable ...not just purely as an ASEAN thing but an ASEAN spirit...taking stock of how we project our own survival in the years to come."

[3] Telephone interview with Mr. Yahya Idris, Acting Deputy Director, Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam, 11 February 1999.

[4] Interview with MINDEF Permanent Secretary, 11 February 1999.

[5] Ibid.

[6] U.S. Army, Armament, Munitions, and Chemical Command (USAMCCOM), Letter to Human Rights Watch, 25 August 1993, and attached statistical tables, provided under the Freedom of Information Act. (no page number)

[7] Interview with MINDEF Permanent Secretary, 11 February 1999.