Renewed Boycott Of Dorchester Collection Over Brunei Anti-Gay Laws

Filed Under: Hotels

Brunei is a small, oil-rich country in Southeast Asia. I had the chance to briefly visit a while back while reviewing Royal Brunei, as I spent over 24 hours in Bandar Seri Begawan. The city was small, and seemed quiet and peaceful. I even met some awesome local readers. As I wrote in a post at the time, “Visiting Brunei: Things Aren’t Always As They Seem.”

However, the country has long been controversial for their Sultan, given the harsh law his government has put in place. By the way, can I just point out — completely unrelated to everything — that the Sultan hired Paris Hilton to entertain him on New Years Eve 2016?

Here’s the thing — there are a lot of countries with outdated laws that just haven’t been changed, but Brunei is a country that keeps making their laws worse.

Brunei’s new anti-gay and anti-adultery laws

In 2014 the country introduced sharia law, and they’ve been progressively rolling out more laws ever since. For example, starting April 3, 2019, adultery and gay sex will be punishable by being stoned to death, and the punishment will be “witnessed by a group of Muslims.”

So while this was announced in 2014, it’s being implemented in the coming week.

It goes without saying that these laws are sickening. Like I said, there are a lot of countries that have outdated laws that aren’t enforced, and those countries have a record of not enforcing them in the past few decades. Meanwhile Brunei is making their laws worse in 2019.

Brunei owns Dorchester Collection

On the hospitality front, one of the interesting things to note is that Brunei owns Dorchester Collection, one of the highest end hotel groups out there. Dorchester Collection owns several hotels, including The Dorchester London, Hotel Bel-Air, The Beverly Hills Hotel, etc.

Some might remember that in 2014 a boycott was called of their hotels by many in Hollywood. It lasted for a brief period, though like most things, was largely forgotten.

George Clooney is leading a new boycott

Well, now George Clooney has started that up again, in a piece he wrote for Deadline. Clooney is calling on the boycott of Dorchester Collection in light of what they’re doing. In part it reads as follows:

At the head of it all is the Sultan of Brunei who is one of the richest men in the world. The Big Kahuna. He owns the Brunei Investment Agency and they in turn own some pretty spectacular hotels.

A couple of years ago two of those hotels in Los Angeles, The Bel-Air and The Beverly Hills Hotel were boycotted by many of us for Brunei’s treatment of the gay community. It was effective to a point. We cancelled a big fundraiser for the Motion Picture Retirement Home that we’d hosted at the Beverly Hills Hotel for years. Lots of individuals and companies did the same. But like all good intentions when the white heat of outrage moves on to the hundred other reasons to be outraged, the focus dies down and slowly these hotels get back to the business of business. And the Brunei Investment Agency counts on that. They own nine of the most exclusive hotels in the world. Full disclosure: I’ve stayed at many of them, a couple of them recently, because I hadn’t done my homework and didn’t know who owned them.

They’re nice hotels. The people who work there are kind and helpful and have no part in the ownership of these properties. But let’s be clear, every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery. Brunei is a Monarchy and certainly any boycott would have little effect on changing these laws. But are we really going to help pay for these human rights violations? Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens? I’ve learned over years of dealing with murderous regimes that you can’t shame them. But you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way.

I’ll be curious to see if this boycott actually grows and sticks for a while. It’s one I certainly support.

My take on all of this

I’m obviously disgusted by these kinds of laws. I’m also disgusted by old laws that exist that aren’t enforced in other countries. For that matter, I’m disgusted that a majority of US states continue to allow practices like gay conversion therapy, even on minors. All of these laws (or lack of protections) are sickening to me.

I’ve long said that I think there’s value in having dialogue with others you disagree with regarding issues like this. Let’s use the UAE, for example. The country has some laws against adultery and gay sex, yet they generally haven’t been enforced in decades. I have several gay friends in the UAE living happy and open lives.

Should these countries do better? Yes. But I think the way to make things better is to continue to be open and drive home that point, rather than refusing to talk to them.

I think a great example of this is Richard Quest. When he travels to new countries and does media, he almost always makes some sort of point about gay rights, even if it’s extremely controversial. In the case of Kenya he caused an uproar for doing so, but I have so much respect for that. As he said to Kenya media in regards to his home cities of New York and London:

“They are both cities that people in this country can admire, would aspire to be in and would look forward to visiting. There is a reason why I live in those cities…There is a reason why those cities attract the talent and wherever because we can live our lives as we wish. We can love who we wish.

I am obviously going to be advancing an agenda that says there should be at least the decriminalization of same sexual activity. It is straight forward, I am not gonna mess around with that one. That is obviously my belief…I do not for a moment, doubt the sincerity of those people who are against me on this issue.

And I can respect their point of view, I merely say that in this day and age, if you want to succeed, if you want Kenya to be a thriving, vibrant modern economy, you are going to look at this in a different way and ask yourself what is it about these very successful places that we need to at least try to attract. That is the way you do it. You let people live their lives, love who they want and the way they wish.”

Bottom line

It will be interesting to see if this Dorchester Collection boycott sticks. It sucks that a lot of nice people work for the hotel brand and may be impacted by it, but I also support the idea of sending a message to Brunei here.

But it’s also worth acknowledging that it can be a slippery slope as to where to draw the line on boycotts. Personally Brunei’s new laws cross the line for me in terms of my comfort of visiting Brunei. The laws are new, and we don’t know to what extent they’ll be enforced. The same goes Tanzania, which I’m not visiting for now.

(Tip of the hat to @musatechnow)

  1. “Let’s use the UAE, for example. The country has some laws against adultery and gay sex, yet they haven’t been enforced in decades”

    Genuine question – do you do any research for these stories? That claim didn’t sound believable so I spent 2 minutes searching and found numerous examples of prosecutions (and jail sentences and deportations) for having gay sex or being transgender. Granted it seems far lower than other Middle Eastern countries, but they do in fact seem to be enforced on occasion.

  2. Gay people are tolerated in Kenya provided they keep the relationship “under the radar”.

  3. @ Callum — I do. Maybe I should have said “generally,” so I’ll add that. You’re absolutely right regarding transgender, but that’s a whole different topic. I have seen very few stories in the past couple of decades from the UAE regarding actions taken against gays. For example, there are the terrible stories listed here:

    But in most cases there’s a bit more to the stories than just a straightforward “this person had gay sex and therefore is being jailed.”

  4. I feel like your reaction to the fact that the leader of this country said he would literally have you murdered for being who you are is way too mild. Unfortunately, with any boycott, middle men get hurt. I’m sure a lot of nice people worked for the bus companies in the south during those boycotts at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. But I guarantee you it wouldn’t have been a success had centrists who were more concerned about paychecks than injustice convinced everyone to just play nice. Isolation, alienation, and a clear and present signal that tells Brunei that their intolerance and hate are not acceptable to us is the only way to respond to this. The sultan is one of the richest men in the world. He isn’t some sheltered child who doesn’t know any better. He probably watches Keeping Up with the Kardashians and orders crap online. He knows how the world works. There is no incentive he has to even engage in a dialogue with people about his desire to murder gay people. He sees the world around him. He sees the acceptance of the LGBT community in other places and he said “Not in MY yard!” He has no reason to NOT implement a law to murder gay people right now. He is still rich. Still running his country like a mob boss. You aren’t going to educate or talk a billionaire out of their hate. The only way to get through to a guy like that is through his wallet and/or ego. I feel like it is woefully naive, especially in this day and age, to think “dialogue” is enough to advocate for the LGBT people who may suffer from the existence of laws such as this. While you dialogue, people will die. Just a couple of years ago, an anti-LGBT law was introduced in Georgia and several businesses and celebrities wrote letters saying they would pull operations and stunt the growth of Atlanta’s burgeoning film industry if the law passed. As a result, the conservative Republican governor of a deeply red state VETOED the bill due to the mere possibility of those boycotts. That is the only “dialogue” you should be considering as a gay man. There is no compromise when it comes to human rights. We are at war for people’s lives.

  5. Right. If a gay teenage boy decides that he really wants to be a woman, we should by all means chop his genitals off and pump him full of crazy hormones — all of which will never make him happy, as surgical treatment of gender dysphoria has a extremely low rate of long-term success, and most trans people who do it still end up struggling with other mental health issues.

    But if that teenage boy decides that he wants to be straight and wants to talk to someone about that — oh no, that would be horrible. A person’s gender and sexuality can be fluid and non-binary, and in fact there are actually 112 genders, and a gay or straight person can be bi, but the one thing a gay person can never become is straight.

    To be clear, I don’t think “gay conversion therapy” is a good idea, but it’s clearly much, much less harmful to people than an incredible number of self-destructive things that many in the gay community promote as normal. Instead of talking to a therapist about becoming straight, it would be far better for that boy to go to bugchasing so that he can infect himself.

  6. @ brteacher — I’m curious, do you really think that gay conversion therapy, the way it’s typically implemented, is “talking to someone” about that your feelings? I’m also curious, do you think there’s a correlation between families that aren’t accepting and those that encourage their children to go to gay conversion therapy?

    Studies show that gay teens coming from non-accepting environments are eight times more likely to commit suicide than those coming from accepting environments.

    You really don’t think there’s a correlation there?

  7. There’s a big difference between laws that criminalize gay sex that haven’t been enforced in decades and brand new (likely to be enforced) new laws that punish it by death. It’s horrifying. Even if no one is actually put to death under this law, think about the lives people like us will have to live to avoid it. Not that I was going to be staying in any of these hotels, but keeping in mind terrified gay Brunei citizens who’ve done nothing worse than be themselves makes it an easy choice for me to boycott them anyway.

    When the stakes are raised to death for being who you are with newly enacted laws, there’s no room for “dialogue.”

  8. I mean I agree, some of these laws are a little crazy. But you can’t push western values on everyone. In these countries the religion and culture is different and they don’t accept gays. It’s their country they can do whatever they like. Obviously killing anyone is wrong, that,s where the line should be drawn. But they can ban, restrict, or not accept anyone they choose as any nation can. Also Ive said before I thought this was a blog based on airlines reviews, hotel reviews and miles & points usage. Lucky you always put in something about gay rights/social issues! start a gay blog if you want to do that. Keep this blog impartial from that.

  9. @ james — Maybe you’re not keeping up here, but we *are* talking about killing gays. So are you saying they can do whatever they want, or that the line should be drawn short of killing people? If the latter, what’s your issue?

    Gay rights are basic human rights. I don’t talk about this all the time. But when we see countries add laws like this in 2019, I think travelers should know. I assume you’re straight, so wouldn’t you like to know that a country is threatening to stone people who cheat on their spouses?

  10. “Right. If a gay teenage boy decides that he really wants to be a woman, we should by all means chop his genitals off and pump him full of crazy hormones — all of which will never make him happy, as surgical treatment of gender dysphoria has a extremely low rate of long-term success, and most trans people who do it still end up struggling with other mental health issues.”

    It could the attitudes and constant judgments and discrimination of people like yourself that makes trans people unhappy.

  11. The sultan like other straight guys is just afraid that the lesbians will get all the cute women and leave the fatties for him.

  12. I was disgusted by this as well but I understand it only applies to Muslims in that country. I have never been to Brunei so I do not know what their culture is like but I’m more interested to hear what they think (because we all know what the West thinks about it.)
    To us, it is shocking and disgusting, but I’d imagine for residents of Brunei who are religious Muslims they may be content to have this law.
    As far as the boycott goes, I’m not sure if it will accomplish much but I’m glad they’re doing it to send a message. It reminds me of the whole Chik-Fil-A boycott here in the USA.

  13. I worked for this family in the 90s and saw the coach loads of prostitutes the sultan and his brother Jefri had at their disposal. Both are married men. Will the hypocrites be stoned for their adultery

    Also prince Jefris youngest son prince Bahar is also gay. They keep it very quiet. But I am pretty sure he won’t be in line to be stoned.

    These people are hideous hypocrites!!!!

  14. While I understand this is close to your heart, understand that the large majority of Americans disapprove of a gay lifestyle. (CNN polls never get numbers right). While you have the right to elect that lifestyle, others have the right to disapprove of that lifestyle.
    There is a noisy minority, like on most liberal issues, but while the majority is silent, they are still the majority. Nobody will start a campaign to support the Sultan. They will just continue to travel as usual.
    So, I seriously doubt that any significant number of travellers will avoid the hotels over this. The issue is just not relevant to enough people.

  15. @ Ken Adams — Fascinating! Could you please share the polls/statistics you’re looking at regarding a “large majority of Americans disapproving of a gay lifestyle?”

  16. I dont understand why people need to disapprove such articles as they didnt pay anything to read this. This is Lucky’s blog and he has to right to write whatever he wishes. If you dont like it then move on.

  17. This is just silly. I don’t see anyone leading a boycott of Emirates, Saudia, Qatar, Etihad or other Middle Eastern airlines that are wholly state-owned or majority state-owned. Nor do I see anyone leading a boycott of the UAE’s lavish hotels, which are often owned by the royal family. Or what about the way in which Middle Eastern airlines have been accused of treating passengers with Israeli passports?

  18. Sharia law is sharia law. If you don’t like it, don’t go there. We must respect other peoples culture even if we disagree, right? Multiculturalism is the platform of the left in America.

  19. @ rjb — I’m curious where you draw the line on that? Would you respect a country that criminalizes Christianity?

  20. What I would like to know is this: why does the same political party in the USA who claims to be oh-so-pro LGBTQ rights, constantly act as the defender for the religion on which sharia law is based? And furthermore, why do they never have anything to say when a nation like Brunei moves in the more fundamentalist sharia direction. Meanwhile, various members of that party call for boycotts of Israel, but seem to have nothing to say about countries that stone people to death for being gay.

    Food for thought, folks.

  21. Lucky do you also cross the USA off your list of countries to go to, given all the shitty things that Trump and the Republicans are doing?

  22. Wow, the nutters are out in full force today. Having lived all over the country, I can personally vouch against Ken’s crazy 1950’s fantasy world. There have been plenty of gay people in every place I’ve lived, again, all over the country, and have not had any issues. Obviously there are some uptight/religious wackos but that is definitely not the majority. Most people don’t give a damn.

    Here with you, Ben, and I get where you’re coming from with your views.

  23. UAE regularly prosecute women who have been raped for adultery, having sex out of wedlock. So I don’t know why we should use them as a shining beacon of laws being there but not being put in to practise. Even Singapore has a ban on gay sex, but they are probably the furthest from doing anything to enforce the laws. Yet, Singapore does ban foreign nationals with PR to participate in the pride (pink dot)

    There is no excusing any country with these laws. Dialogue is fine, but some countries are very unlikely to even allow you to have the dialogue.

  24. Lucky,
    It’s unclear from the article whether you will affirmative boycott these properties and Brunei. Or would you still go there if there is a great point redemption or if there is a new airline route/product to review?
    You at one point were considering going to Saudi Arabia even though they also have pretty strict laws on things that are unacceptable to western countries, but seems like the only difference is they are pre existing laws.

  25. @Yojimbo it’s completely disingenuous to compare the US with Brunei. While Trump and the republicans are, indeed, doing many things that I’m not especially happy with (to put it mildly), the most egregious offenses have been quickly struck down by our independent judiciary. This is nowhere close to an absolute monarchy decreeing the death penalty for the “crime” of being gay.

  26. I’m 100% behind you as well Ben. Some people who aren’t part of a minority don’t understand that we just want to be treated like everybody else.

    I’m not sure how they don’t see why we would feel upset or bothered by laws like this. Where we could be killed just for being who we are.

  27. You all must learn to love accept Sharia Law and everything that is included with living in a country that has Sharia Law. Killing of gays and adulterers is perfectly fine under the law. Having a 10yo bride is also totally 100% legal. Forcing unbelievers to pay a tax or put to death is also 100% permitted under Sharia law. Women are 2nd class citizens and cant go out in public with out a male relative. Embrace Sharia Law or suffer the consequences

  28. @Ken Adams “While I understand this is close to your heart, understand that the large majority of Americans disapprove of a gay lifestyle.”

    Did you type this bit of blather on a Commodore 64 back in 1982?

  29. The problem is mainly Sharia Law. These people believe in stoning gay people so strongly that they will put the faith and religion before money.

  30. Trying to understand how imposing the gay-rights movement on sharia-law jurisdictions is not cultural imperialism? Or does that only apply if we are talking about traditional Western cultural values (e.g. natural law theory, Christianity, etc.)? For instance, some in Mexico are asking for an apology from Spain for imposing Spanish values upon them. This notwithstanding the fact that the Aztecs at the time of colonization practiced child sacrifice, which seems to me as brutal as the sharia death penalty for homosexual acts.

  31. The middle east regularly abuses its citizens and visitors.

    There was a man who accidentally touched someone in a busy night club in dubai, and he was accused of sexual assault because his hand touched another man’s, and he was sent to prison, but later cleared.

    Abuse of people, regardless of gender, sexuality, sexual orientation, and so on happens a lot in dictatorships like the UAE, north korea, china, america. Please, have some humanity and stop travelling to these places with horrid regimes.

  32. Posting your social liberal political views on your supposedly miles and points focused website will only make your loyal readers go away, mate. Just chill, alright?

  33. You referred that “you’re disgusted that many states stills allows conversion therapy”, as long as it’s not mandated, leave it alone. This is called the invasion of personal liberty, and also unconstitutional.

  34. Crazy as it sounds, there are many states in the US where you can be fired simply for being gay. No federal protection against it. And while most states have laws against it, many do not. So you can get married to your partner on the weekend, and be fired for pinning up a picture of your wedding when you get back to the office on Monday. Its sick, and really regressive.

    And then you have countries like Brunei with exponentially more sick policies and practices. Though it should never be a comparison or competition. In other words, we should never be content and say “well, at least you have it better here than you would in Brunei.” Instead, we should strive to progress as much as possible on this issue, and make the dichotomy even more stark.

  35. @ Andrew/Gregory (or any of the other names you frequently comment under) — To the contrary, in a formed society, the state has an obligation to protect its citizens, particularly vulnerable populations. Personal liberty does not extend to permitting child abuse, as the very act deprives another individual of their inalienable rights.

    If you find that so intolerably liberal as to drive readers away, I don’t know what to tell you.

  36. Lol. Slightly off topic but do you still remember that once when a man forced female flight attendants to wipe his butt for him and the FAs held a news conference to just to express how bad they felt, and you said “let’s give this guy the benefit of doubt”? Sometimes it becomes confusing whether some of you guys are after equality or just privilege..

  37. The US allows for Capital Punishment. I assume all countries who do not allow it should boycott all US hotels.

  38. @michael, seriously?

    While I find capital punishment abhorrent. It’s used for people who murder other people. Not for Government who kills someone for being who they are. And being who they are is not a choice. That’s apples and oranges.

  39. Lucky,

    Thanks for writing this. Although politically conservative detractors have predictably howled in protest, this is your blog, you’re gay, and you certainly have a right to express an opinion about personally running the risk, in some jurisdictions, of being stoned to death in front of a Muslim audience.

  40. Lucky – I’m sure it’s not how you meant it to come across, but why are you implying that respecting the rights of transgender people is less important than gay people? It’s not really “a whole different topic”, it’s the oppression and abuse of a minority (you and they do share the same LGBT acronym!) – if I hadn’t been reading this blog for years, my takeaway from this would be you only care about gay rights because you’re gay (which I’m sure is not true!).

    Michael – The equivalent would be to boycott Trump hotels, and yes – I would encourage anyone with a grain of humanity to do so.

    Jake – Tell that to the innocent people who have been killed, or spent tortured years on death row awaiting their murder (165 known cases since 1973 – including one this year). As for not killing based on “who they are” – look at how many of them were black or latino…

  41. It’s called as Shell”fare”state as Shell pays ~15 usd for every barrel they pump from this place.
    Singapore manages its currency

    If boycott means….clooney has to stop flying his private jet and stop eating as all his banks have majority ownership by Singapore government who fund his moronic movies.

    Pardon me…… It’s easier to organize than actually follow-up to see its logical end…. All plain words

  42. @Ken Adams, as a gay man, I really don’t care what you or the majority think about my sexual orientation. That is because you have no right or entitlement to any opinion on my sexual orientation. I have no right to judge you for who you marry, date or have sex with. And you have no right to an opinion about me or any other gay person. So no, I have no respect for your opinion and you can go shove it where the sun don’t shine.

  43. “I was disgusted by this as well but I understand it only applies to Muslims in that country”

    “I’d imagine for residents of Brunei who are religious Muslims they may be content to have this law.”

    Yeah but you’re assuming that all Muslims in that country feel that way, which might not be necessarily true. And even if it applies to Muslims only, what if there are gay Muslims in Brunei?

    “why does the same political party in the USA who claims to be oh-so-pro LGBTQ rights, constantly act as the defender for the religion on which sharia law is based?”

    Those are defending people’s right to worship as they please, as long as that worship doesn’t affect or hurt other people. Not necessarily defending sharia.

    “Meanwhile, various members of that party call for boycotts of Israel, but seem to have nothing to say about countries that stone people to death for being gay.”

    Actually, many members of “that party” can and do both. It isn’t a zero-sum game. Crazy, I know, right?

  44. Jojimbo left brainwashed liberal.. must u go to politics? this is a travel blog??? Also where is the outrage on how women in Muslim countries are treated!!as 2md class citizens??????

  45. @dotti…
    Travel blog = Brunei as a destination. Owner of high end hotels used as resting place for TRAVEL.

  46. To every commenter talked about “this is other culture,this is other country’s law”.Please think about what nazi did in Germany.Yes that was their culture,that was German law at that time.Do you want to respect them?Even USSR made a docunmentary described that as “Ordinary Fascism”.

  47. @brteacher: you really need to get yourself educated otherwise you would realize the half truths and rubbish you are spouting.

  48. Totally on board with this, but hard to miss the hypocrisy of George Clooney and others who boycott relatively powerless Brunei (which doesn’t really enforce these laws strenuously and exist mostly for appearances) whilst ignoring rather more powerful Saudi Arabia and Iran, which really do (particularly Iran) enforce their Sharia laws with the death penalty and kill gays quite commonly as an everyday matter. The UAE (Dubai, Abu Dhabi) has such laws on the books just like Brunei, but Clooney won’t say a word against them or boycott its many government/Royal Family owned businesses. As such, it comes off as demagogic bullying rather than sincere protest.

  49. Mak – Slightly different though as Brunei are strengthening their laws whereas the others don’t seem to be (happy to be corrected if they are?).

    It doesnt excuse it of course, but it’s why I’m happy to be more critical of the UK/US etc when they reduce protections, despite still being leagues ahead of many other countries.

  50. Boycott Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, Hainan, etc. Do not boycott China Airlines or EVA.

    Boycott Aeroflot, S7, etc. Do not boycott United and American.

    Boycott Royal Brunei. Do not boycott Singapore Airlines.

    Boycott Delta. Do not boycott Alaska Airlines.

  51. @Callum So you concede that this is all just a rhetorical virtue signalling exercise? You say we should be more agitated that Brunei is “strengthening” their unenforced laws rather than the fact that Iran and Saudi Arabia are actually using their existing laws to kill human beings as a matter of routine law enforcement for decades, and ignore that Dubai and Abu Dhabi have the identical laws on the books for years because they are static? Sorry, that makes no sense to me.

  52. Lucky, you should list the specific hotels. Makes it easier to come up in a search to know whether or not to boycott any specific hotel.

  53. What a bunch of idiots in comment section.
    I applaud the line Lucky drew and principle he has.

  54. Ha! People are so easily offended. Brunei doesn’t want to have dudes banging each other in their country? That’s their prerogative. Not sure why that would or should bother anyone. All the faux outrage is hilarious…oh well, less of a crowd to deal with for grabbing an evening cocktail at the Polo Lounge.

  55. Too bad that there are “nice people” working in Brunei-owned hotels. They voluntarily chose to work for this employer. There is lots of demand out there for qualified service staff so it should be easy enough to relocate to a different employer. Similarly, I belive that no self-respecting person should be traveling on Royal Brunei any more at all. If Brunei chooses to violate the most essential human rights and become a murder-and-torture regime (amputation for theft is torture) we should attempt to cut them off from the civilized part of the world. Hopefully this will frustrate the population and bring up their rebellious spirit as no regime will be able to deal with a frustrated and rebellious population indefinitely.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *