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Brunei/Malaysia

Limbang is a district in the Sarawak State, East Malaysia that divides Brunei's land into two separate parts. When the states of Sabah and Sarawak joined Singapore and Malaya to form Malaysia in 1963, Brunei wanted to reclaim Limbang. In 2005, Brunei built a security fence along its 20-kilometer border with Limbang, Malaysia in order to control illegal immigration and smuggling. Three geographical features carry the name Limbang: (i) the river (batang); (ii) the principal town; and (iii) the district. The Batang Limbang has a length of about 225 km and is situated between the two parts of Brunei; it is navigable by vessels of three metres draught as far as Limbang town fifteen kilometers above the rivermouth. In the middle of the 19th century, the inhabitants of the area paid taxes to the Brunei nobles and the district was considered thereby to be part of the Sultanate.

According to the stipulations of the Protectorate Agreement he had to acquiesce to the decisions taken by Her Majesty's Government. The Sultan, in return, claimed that the Limbang was part of Brunei and consequently the problem was an internal - not an external - one, and therefore the Protectorate Agreement did not apply. However, the British who, after Trevenen's report of 1891, considered the Limbang as having been independent before the annexation, reminded the Sultan of his acceptance that Sarawak was a "foreign state". In the perception of international law at the time, protectorate agreements per se did not involve an intention to guarantee the borders and integrity of territory. Limbang was the closest river district in the vicinity of Brunei Town, and therefore the main source of revenue for support of the largely unproductive population of the Sultanate's capital.

Limbang is a border town and the capital of Limbang District of northern Sarawak, East Malaysia. The bustling river port of Limbang (pronounced lim-bahng) is something of a backwater. It's a popular weekend destination among visitor from Brunei Sultanate. Brunei dropped all territorial claims over Limbang, thus ceding the district to the state of Sarawak and recognising it as Malaysian territory, Prime Minister Dato' Seri Abdullah Hj Ahmad Badawi was reported to have told Malaysian media 17 March 2009. This was among the boundary issues resolved under the Letters of Exchange (LoE), which included the establishment of a "Commercial Arrangement Area" (CAA) and the right of passage for Malaysian vessels across Bruneian waters. His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Malaysian Prime Minister signed the documents at the Istana Nurul Iman.

Dato' Seri Abdullah said that the Sultanate had agreed to drop the "Limbang issue" as a result of the two nations resolving their land and maritime disputes. "With this resolution, there are no more issues to haunt the close relationship between Brunei and Malaysia," the prime minister was quoted to have said at a press conference at the Malaysian High Commission here which was restricted to only registered Malaysian media due to "security" concerns. In a joint statement, leaders of both nations noted the agreement of their respective governments on the key elements contained in the LoE, particularly the "final delimitation of maritime boundaries" between the two countries and the establishment of CAA, which resolves the dispute over oil and gas reserves located in the overlapping areas of the Exclusive Economic Zones of Brunei and Malaysia.

The modalities of the final demarcation of land boundaries were also included in the LoE, for which a joint technical committee will be tasked to sort out the final formalities. It will be resolved on the basis of five existing historical agreements between the governments of Brunei and Sarawak, and where appropriate, on the watershed principle.

Malaysia and Brunei agreed to establish a final and permanent maritime boundary in the Exchange of Letters on March 16, 2009. The statement said that under the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982, Brunei is entitled to exercise sovereign rights over the two Malaysian blocks situated within Brunei's maritime areas. However, the establishment of the Commercial Arrangement Area ( CAA) incorporating these blocks provided for a sharing of revenues from the exploitation of oil and gas in the CAA between the two states, said the statement. The Exchange of Letters' contents, approved by the Malaysian Cabinet, was the culmination of 20 years of tough negotiations between Malaysia and Brunei on various issues. The successful exchange of letters resulted in a new beginning in the bilateral relations between the two nations.





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