KUALA LUMPUR - Brunei has defended its right to implement Islamic laws that would allow death by stoning for adultery and homosexuality against growing global criticism.
Brunei, a Muslim-majority former British protectorate with a population of around 400,000, will implement the Syariah laws from April 3, punishing sodomy, adultery and rape with the death penalty, including by stoning, and theft with amputation.
The laws, elements of which were first adopted in 2014 and which have been rolled out in phases since then, will be fully implemented from next week, the prime minister's office said in a statement on Saturday (March 30).
"The (Syariah) Law, apart from criminalising and deterring acts that are against the teachings of Islam, also aims to educate, respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race,"the statement said.
Some aspects of the laws will apply to non-Muslims.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, 72, is the world's second-longest reigning monarch and is prime minister of the oil-rich country.
He ranks as one of the world's wealthiest people.
Brunei, which neighbours two Malaysian states on Borneo island, already enforces Islamic teachings more strictly than Malaysia and Indonesia, the other majority Muslim countries in south-east Asia.
The sale of alcohol is banned and evangelism by other religions is forbidden.
The country does not hold elections, but any discontent is assuaged with generous government polices including zero taxes, subsidised housing, and free healthcare and education.
The expected implementation of the strict Islamic laws has drawn widespread criticism. Politicians in Europe and the United States have attacked the plans and raised concerns with Brunei.