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BRITAIN’S military presence in the south-east Asian nation of Brunei is facing fresh criticism from campaigners after the country’s autocratic ruler passed a new law making adultery and homosexuality punishable by death.
The group ForcesWatch reacted: “Given the British military’s claims to be progressive on LGBT+ will they be taking this issue up with Brunei’s Sandhurst-trained sultan?
“We have personnel permanently based in the country ... withdrawing would be a powerful bargaining chip, unless [the Ministry of Defence is] happy to prop up a brutal autocracy?”
The Sultan of Brunei has said stoning and whipping of homosexuals will come into force on Wednesday.
The British army has three military bases in Brunei at Sittang Camp, Medicina Lines and Tuker Lines, housing around 2,000 troops under an agreement signed by then prime minister David Cameron in 2015.
Many of the British soldiers are Gurkha mercenaries from Nepal, reinforced by army helicopters.
Although the troops use Brunei for jungle warfare training, critics say Britain’s presence there helps support the sultan — one of the world’s wealthiest men — who has ruled since 1967.
Brunei was a British protectorate until 1984 and Anglo-Dutch company Shell has major oil reserves in Brunei dating back to 1929.
The Ministry of Defence told the Morning Star that the new law will not affect any British LGBT soldiers stationed in Brunei as they are protected by a separate bilateral agreement.
However the Foreign Office has written to Brunei expressing concerns about the new law.
A spokesperson said: “Capital punishment goes against our national values and has been banned in the United Kingdom for decades.
“The Minister for Asia and High Commissioner have raised their concerns in person, and we have updated the travel advice to alert British citizens of the new local laws in Brunei.”
The Tory MP Penny Mordaunt, who is Minister for Women and Equalities, tweeted: “No-one should face the death penalty because of who they love.
“Brunei’s decision is barbaric and the UK stands with the LGBT+ community and those who defend their rights.
“LGBT+ rights are human rights.”
British troops are based in all these countries – but this is the Foreign Office’s travel advice:
- Singapore – “Male homosexual acts are illegal in Singapore”
- Oman – “Homosexuality is illegal”
- Bahrain – “Some reported cases of individuals punished for same-sexual activity”
- UAE – “All sex outside marriage is illegal”
- Qatar – “Homosexual behaviour is illegal in Qatar”
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