oil-rich country rarely makes headlines in Asean. But when it did it
was among the most-read.
|• Sultan of Brunei Darussalam
On August 7, tabloids and dailies alike from
Australia to England ran on their front page the story of the Sultan of
Brunei who won a court battle in Australia over an alleged agreement to
buy a 400- year-old gold-lined miniature Koran for $8 million.
said Southeast Asian potentate’s extraordinary wealth has its limits.
Once the world’s richest and now among the globe’s top-ten, The
61-year-old sultan had allegedly agreed to buy it as a wedding present
for his third wife, a glamorous television hostess 32 years his junior,
and then backed out of a deal with Australian businessmen to buy the
matchbox-size holy book.
The Australians claimed to have bought the
tiny treasure from a former colonel in the KGB, who told them the
Ottoman Empire relic had been in his family’s possession for more than
Since the Australian judge ruled that the case was outside the court’s jurisdiction and that the three businessmen should instead pursue it through
Brunei’s legal system, the victory was the Sultan’s.
The prospects of
the Aussies pursuing their case in Brunei is almost zero because the
Sultan, a graduate of Sandhurst, is immune to prosecution in his
tropical fiefdom, a former British protectorate on the north coast of
The lawyers for the sultan had earlier argued that the case
should be dismissed, calling it “a joke”.
or the Great Lake, apparently, Asean’s largest freshwater lake that
touches six provinces, has attracted the attention of Cambodian
authorities who believe the lake has onshore oil and gas reserves.
government has set up a body to manage the lake located about 200
kilometers (120 miles) northwest of the capital Phnom Penh.
which covers about 250,000 hectares (618,000 acres) during the dry
season and expands to about 1.25 million hectares (3 million acres)
during the rainy season, holds a rich biosphere of more than 200
species of fish, 42 types of reptiles, 225 species of birds and 46
kinds of mammals.
won’t comment on their tasks or on prospective oil and gas reserves but
promise that they will make sure there is no pollution from the
Environmentalists have expressed concern about the impact any future oil projects may have on the environment in the basin.
geological studies in the basin have been conducted to look for
possible oil and gas reserves, which could help the country reduce
In 2005, US
energy giant Chevron Corp. discovered oil off the Cambodian coast and
plans to drill 10 more wells by the end of 2007.
Sceptics worry the income from oil could exacerbate the already widespread corruption.
|• Slums on the bank of Tonle Sap