On 27 May 1961, then Malayan Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman announced plans to bring together five territories in Southeast Asia, namely, Singapore, Malaya, Sarawak, North Borneo (Sabah) and Brunei, into a political and economic union known as “Malaysia”. The sultan of Brunei regarded the Malaysia project as “very attractive” and had indicated his interest to join the federation. However, he was met with open opposition from within his country. The armed resistance to challenge Brunei’s entry into Malaysia that followed became a pretext for Indonesia to launch its policy of Konfrontasi (or Confrontation, 1963–1966) with Malaysia.
On 8 December 1962, Brunei was rocked by an armed uprising, which became known as the “Brunei Revolt”. The revolt’s main instigator was A. M. Azahari, leader of the Partai Ra’ayat (People’s Party), which was a radical political party in Brunei at the time. Under the banner of its clandestine military wing, the self-styled Tentara Nasional Kalimantan Utara (North Borneo National Army), the insurgents rapidly seized control of the oil fields in Seria and took Europeans as hostages. They also attacked several police stations and other government buildings in Brunei town. The unrest soon spread to the neighbouring territories of North Borneo and Sarawak. To bolster support for the uprising, the insurgents tried to capture the sultan of Brunei in a bid to make him endorse the uprising. The sultan, however, denounced the revolt and immediately sought help from the British. The British sent troops, including Gurkha guards, from Singapore within 12 hours of the uprising and recaptured Seria on 11 December, causing the armed insurrection to disintegrate.
The outbreak of the revolt implied that there was widespread resistance to the Malaysia plan within Brunei, and this may have contributed to the sultan of Brunei's decision in July 1963 not to join Malaysia. The revolt also revealed the strategic importance of the British troops based in Singapore. The Brunei Revolt and its quick suppression by British troops sparked open opposition from the Philippines and Indonesia to the creation of Malaysia.
1. Mighty “Malaysia”. (1961, May 29). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Malaysia project 'very attractive' Brunei's Sultan tells Council. (1961, December 6). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Leifer, M. (1978, April). Decolonisation and international status: Brunei. International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944- ), 54(2), 242–243. Retrieved from JSTOR.
3. Mazlan Nordin. (1961, July 7). Self-rule first, says Brunei politician. The Straits Times, p. 1; Borneo people and Tengku's Malaysia plan. (1961, July 18). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Leifer, Apr 1978, p. 243.
4. Leifer, Apr 1978, p. 243; Lefier, M. (1996). Dictionary of modern politics of South-East Asia (p. 72). London; Routledge, New York. Call no.: RSING 959.053 LEI.
5. Kahin, G. M. (c2003). Southeast Asia: A testament (p. 161). London: RoutledgeCurzon. Call no.: RSEA 959.05 KAH.
6. Leifer, Apr 1978, p. 243; Chin, K. W. (1983). The defence of Malaysia and Singapore: The transformation of a security system, 1957–1971 (pp. 63–65). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Call no.: RSING 355.0330595 CHI.
7. Brunei Revolt: 2 towns captured. (1962, December 9). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Leifer, 1996, p. 71.
8. Chin, 1983, pp. 63–65.
9. Leifer, Apr 1978, p. 243.
10. Chin, 1983, p. 65.
11. Kahin, c2003, p. 160.
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.