The Boycott Brunei in Australia group have said the campaign against Brunei’s death-by-stoning penalty for “crimes” such as homosexuality, adultery, blasphemy and apostasy will continue despite Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s May 6 statement that he had reconsidered the April 3 order.
The activists welcomed the Sultan’s comments, but noted that the Syrariah Penal Code Order (SPCO) was only suspended, not cancelled, saying life for those who breached government diktats remained grim.
“We welcome the Sultan’s statement that the death penalty has been shelved,” said Boycott Brunei in Australia spokesperson Peter Hackney.
“We’re grateful to the Sultan for the moratorium and we congratulate everyone who opposed this heinous new law. To get this result in just one month is an incredible testament to the power of solidarity.”
But Hackney said male and female homosexuality is still illegal in Brunei, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
“Gender reassignment surgery is still banned, non-Sunni Muslims and practitioners of other religions are still discriminated against and a death penalty is still in place for several crimes, such as drug trafficking.”
Hackney said a planned Boycott Brunei National Day of Action on June 1 would be suspended in response to the Sultan’s announcement but that the boycott would continue until the death-by-stoning order for homosexuality and other so-called crimes was dropped altogether.
“For Australians, that includes not visiting Brunei, not using Royal Brunei Airlines, not patronising the Royal on the Park Hotel in Brisbane which is owned by the Sultanate and boycotting the Paterson Securities financial services firm, which is part-owned by the Sultan.”
Other human rights supporters agree.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, hailed the success of the Boycott Brunei movement, but indicated that the fight was far from over.
“[The Sultan] clearly underestimated the damage this law would cause to the Brunei brand,” Robertson told Asia Times.
“It’s not just Brunei’s overseas hotels that are taking a hit but partners in the petroleum industry are asking tough questions about the likely fate of LGBT persons under this law,” he said.
“This moratorium on the death penalty doesn’t go nearly far enough. It’s clear the Sultan is only addressing the most horrific part of the law in the hope of blunting international criticism and anger.”
Boycott Brunei in Australia will instead be meeting on June 1 to chart a course for the campaign.
Meanwhile, a petition organised by Melbourne activist Neil Pharaoh calling for Royal Brunei Airlines to be banned from Australia has gathered more than 27,000 signatures.
The Boycott Brunei in Australia group comprises individuals and organisations including Rodney Croome; Gay Egg; Rachel Evans; Ivan Hinton-Teoh; just.equal group; Mardi Gras ’78ers; Socialist Alliance; Australian Greens; and the Australian Labor Party.