Pic: Peter Tatchell Foundation
Around 400 people besieged the Dorchester Hotel in London on Saturday to demand that Brunei revoke new laws punishing homosexuality and adultery with death by stoning.
The hotel is one of nine luxury hotels around the world owned by the Brunei Investment Agency which is in turn owned by Brunei’s monarch, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
At one point, protesters broke through the hotel’s barriers and peacefully demonstrated at the front doors, shouting “F*ck the Sultan” and demanding he rescinds the death penalty.
Hundreds of rainbow-coloured stones were dumped on the hotel’s steps and anti-Sultan slogans were scrawled on the forecourt. A rainbow flag was hoisted on the hotel’s veranda
New Sharia law penalties came into force in Brunei last week, including whipping, torture, and death by stoning for same-sex acts and amputation of a hand and a foot for those found guilty of theft.
“The Sultan is enforcing the same barbaric stonings enacted by ISIS in Syria and Iraq,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, which helped Benali Hadamache of the LGBTIQA+ Greens co-ordinate the protest.
He argued that the southeast Asian kingdom should be treated as a pariah state. “Brunei needs to be isolated by governments and consumers worldwide through a combination of boycotts, disinvestment, and sanctions. We need to show the Sultan that his brutal, inhuman policies have a financial cost. Our goal is to hit him in the pocket where it hurts,” said Tatchell.
There have also been calls for a boycott of the sultan’s hotels by celebrities such as George Clooney, Elton John, and Ellen DeGeneres – and the campaign is spreading.
At least two companies, TV Choice magazine and the Financial Times have announced that they will cancel events at the Dorchester Hotel, while Deutsche Bank said it will no longer make use of the sultan’s hotels for staff.
Peter Tatchell Foundation
Youth travel services company STA Travel confirmed it would stop selling flights on Royal Brunei Airlines, “in protest at recent changes to the law in Brunei.”
One local group, however, is opposed to this strategy. The Brunei Project does not currently support a boycott because it believes that such an action could be viewed by citizens as “a direct attack on the people of Brunei and the country as a whole, rather than the policies and laws of the Brunei Government.”
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has been ranked among the wealthiest individuals in the world, worth an estimated $20 billion in 2008, and is said to live in a 1,800-room palace.