Refashioning the monarchy in Brunei
Sultan Omar Ali and the quest for royal absolutism
in Monarchies and decolonisation in Asia
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The British retreat and eventual withdrawal from Southeast Asia brought enormous challenges to the monarchy in Brunei. While neighbouring monarchies continued to play a symbolic role and accommodated political change, the monarchy in Brunei expanded its political power and influence and thwarted domestic political reform. Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin, who ascended the throne in 1950, and continued to play a dominant political role after his abdication in 1967, carefully refashioned the monarchy, accumulating more powers and strengthening royal institutions during a time of intense political change in the region. The monarchy also faced local resistance internally in the form of a domestic rebellion in 1962. With the wealth from oil revenue, the monarchy was able to reduce social discontent by providing a good standard of living. Oil wealth also gave Sultan Omar Ali the means to reshape the monarchy in an attempt to win support from the local population and enhance his legitimacy.

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