US concerned by Brunei’s penal code

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iol pic wld BEH007_USA-_0505_11 Reuters TV personality Jay Leno (centre) attends a rally protesting against Brunei's new penal code outside the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei, in Beverly Hills, California. Picture: Jonathan Alcorn

Washington -

The United States has raised concerns with Brunei about a new penal code introduced by the sultan which would include Islamic sharia law penalties such as stoning to death, US officials said on Tuesday.

But the State Department is not following a growing boycott of a luxury hotel chain linked to all-powerful Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

“Our ambassador has relayed our concerns privately to the government of Brunei,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

But she said the department did not “take a position on” the boycott, which has seen a growing list of celebrities spurn the luxury Dorchester Collection.

“It's our understanding that the boycott specifically targets the Dorchester Collection of hotels which issued a statement that it does not tolerate any forms of discrimination of any kind,” Psaki said.

“As such, the State Department has no specific restrictions prohibiting an employee from staying in a Dorchester hotel.”

Oil-rich Brunei's new penal code, which will eventually include tough Islamic sharia penalties such as severing of limbs and death by stoning, was due to officially come into effect on Thursday.

The initial phase beginning then introduces fines or jail terms for offences including indecent behaviour, failure to attend Friday prayers and out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

A second phase covering crimes such as theft and robbery is to start later this year, involving more stringent penalties such as severing of limbs and flogging.

Late next year, punishments such as death by stoning for offenses including sodomy and adultery will be introduced.

US television star Jay Leno on Monday joined a growing list of celebrities vowing to boycott the hotel chain, along with comedian Stephen Fry, TV host Sharon Osbourne and comedian Ellen DeGeneres.

The Dorchester Collection is reportedly owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, a sovereign wealth fund under the oil-rich sultanate's Ministry of Finance. - Sapa-AFP



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