Actor calls for Brunei boycott

LONDON, 1 April 2019: Hollywood actor George Clooney called for a boycott of nine luxury hotels with links to Brunei, the BBC website reported at the weekend, after the country confirmed gay sex and adultery could soon be punishable by death.

The BBC confirmed that effective 3 April, homosexuals could face being whipped or stoned in the oil-rich nation, which is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In 2013, Brunei became the first East Asian country to adopt Islamic Sharia law despite widespread condemnation. The new justice code will exist in parallel with a penal code based on English common law that dates back to colonial rule under the British. 

However, Sharia law that has been introduced in phases, since it was gazetted in 2013, applies to Muslim and non-Muslim Bruneians

At the time, show business personalities condemned the changes in the law leading to protests outside the hotels owned by Brunei. Now once more the news of the imminent introduction of the final phase the introduction of Sharia law has resulted in calls for a boycott.

In January 2020, around 2,000 top travel executives from ASEAN and tour operators worldwide will join the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) that will be hosted by Brunei. Some of the region’s top travel and hospitality executives are members of the LBGT community, while transgender entertainers from Phuket and Pattaya in Thailand often join the ATF Travel Mart to promote tourism.

Transgender dressing is as an offence that carries a punishment of three months in jail and a fine of BND1,000. It would not be advisable for Thailand’s Transgender entertainers not to visit Brunei.

An outspoken champion of human rights, Clooney said the new laws amounted to “human rights violations”.

“In the onslaught of news where we see the world backsliding into authoritarianism this stands alone,” the actor wrote in a column for the entertainment website Deadline.

“Brunei is a monarchy and certainly any boycott would have little effect on changing these laws”, he said. “But are we really going to help pay for these human rights violations?”

He said Dorchester Collection hotels in the US, UK, France and Italy, which are owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, should be avoided by those who oppose the measures.

The agency counts some of the world’s top hotels in its portfolio, including the Dorchester in London and the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.

“I’ve stayed at many of them,” Clooney wrote, “because I hadn’t done my homework and didn’t know who owned them.”

The Dorchester in London is among the nine hotels  Clooney has said should be boycotted

“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,” he added.

Other public figures have also announced they are boycotting the Dorchester Collection.

According to the BBC report, filmmaker Dustin Lance Black wrote on Twitter: “If you continue to stay at or frequent the Beverley Hills Hotel, you are guilty of financially supporting these murderers.”

In 2014, Ellen DeGeneres and Stephen Fry vowed to boycott the group over Brunei’s anti-gay laws.

Brunei’s ruling royals possess a huge private fortune and its largely ethnic-Malay population enjoy generous state handouts and pay no taxes.

The Sultan introduced a tough Islamic penal code nearly five years ago, which he said would be introduced over a period of several years.

Under the new laws, theft will be punished by the amputation of the right hand at the wrist for a first offence and the amputation of the left foot at the ankle for a second offence.

(Source: BBC plus additional reporting)