IAS Working Paper No. 56

Mahirah Nazatul Hazimah & Lian Kwen Fee


There are an estimated 14,000 to 20,000 Iban living in Brunei, most of them in the Ulu Belait and Temburong districts. They migrated to Brunei from Sarawak just before the Second World War in search of new land and opportunity to improve their livelihood.

Not recognized as one of the seven puak by the state, the common narrative is that they face challenges of incorporation into the Sultanate.

In Mukim Sukang (Ulu Belait) there are eight Iban longhouses. This case study of the Iban of Melilas documents how one particular community has successfully negotiated and managed their acceptance as full citizens of Brunei while retaining their Iban identity.

Keywords: Iban, Melilas, Brunei, identity, ethnic


Mahirah Nazatul Hazimah graduated in 2019 with BA Hons in Sociology & Anthropology from Universiti Brunei Darussalam. She is half Iban and has a special interest in studying the community in Brunei.

Contact: zat.eul@gmail.com

Lian Kwen Fee is Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Asian Studies, Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

Contact: kwenfee.lian@ubd.edu.bn