Brunei backs off in face of boycott

BANGKOK, 8 May 2019:  Boycott Brunei campaigners claimed a victory at the weekend after the Sultan of Brunei declared a moratorium on executions for people convicted of adultery or practising gay sex.

Actor George Clooney one of the leading lights that instigated the boycott on the Sultan of Brunei’s hotel empire welcomed the moratorium, but declared he would continue to boycott the hotels until the  “execution laws are taken off the books.”

Brunei announced Sunday it has introduced an execution moratorium on capital punishment for a raft of offences including gay sex and adultery.

“This is a huge step forward after a giant leap backwards. It promises that the citizens of Brunei won’t be executed for being gay,” Clooney said in a statement quoted by The Wrap online news service.

“Having said that, the law to stone their citizens is still in place. Meaning that as soon as the pressure dies down they could simply start the process of carrying out executions. So in reference to the boycott, everyone should do what they feel is correct. For my family and me we simply can’t walk away until this draconian law is no longer on the books.”

On Sunday, the New York Times reported that Brunei had declared a moratorium on executing people who committed adultery or practised gay sex, which was quickly picked up by international news services.

“As evident for more than two decades, we have practised a de facto moratorium on the death penalty for cases under the common law. This will also be applied to cases under the” Sharia penal code,” Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah stated.

The country still has harsh penalties for a number of other crimes such as theft including whipping and amputation.

Since the law is on the book, it can be enforced on a moments notice. The bad news is jail time remains almost certain for sexual offences.

The oil-rich state has focused more attention on tourism in recent years as its oil reserves dwindle but over the past few months, the boycott campaign recruited considerable support within the travel industry worldwide.

Efforts to organise the ASEAN Tourism Forum scheduled for January 2020 faced difficulties and some cancellations mainly from international travel companies (trade show buyers) and hospitality or travel content suppliers from ASEAN nations who threatened to skip the 2020 trade show.

However, that is likely to ease up now following the Sultan’s assurances on executions although misgivings over the country’s long-term commitment to implement harsh sentences under the Sharia law code remain.