This week, Brunei’s new army chief made his introductory visit to Singapore, one of the sultanate’s closest defense partners in the region. The trip, which came just months after his appointment was officially announced, reinforces the significance of bilateral defense ties amid a series of domestic and regional developments affecting the two countries.
As I have noted before, Singapore and Brunei have long had a close defense relationship as part of their broader bilateral ties. This is reflected not just in traditional aspects like exchanges, visits, and exercises, but also the fact that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) holds training in Brunei, as it does with several other countries given the land scarcity that the city-state continues to face (See: “Where are Singapore-Brunei Defense Ties?”).
Regular interactions have continued into 2018 as expected amid ongoing changes in both countries at home and abroad. Brunei in particular has had a busy few months domestically as I have been observing in these pages as the sultanate seeks to sort out its priorities for the year amid significant economic challenges (See: “What’s Behind Brunei’s New Defense Hike?”). Amid this process, we have seen a number of changes on the defense side as well, including the appointment of a new commander of the Royal Brunei Land Forces (RBLF), Brigadier General Awang Khairul Hamed bin Awang Haji Lampoh.
Following those changes, we have seen more defense interactions by top Brunei defense officials recently with regional states. Indeed, just last week, Brunei’s new military chief, Major General Pengiran Dato Seri Pahlawan Aminan bin Pengiran Haji Mahmud, paid an introductory visit to Singapore, where he met top Singapore officials and visited some key military facilities.
From April 9 to 11, we witnessed yet another interaction on the defense side when Khairul Hamed paid an introductory visit to Singapore. During his visit, Khairul Hamed visited several Singapore officials including Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen, Chief of Defense Force Major-General Melvyn Ong, and Chief of Army Brigadier-General Goh Si Hou.
As part of his visit, Khairul Hamed also visited some Singapore facilities. According to Singapore’s Defense Ministry (MINDEF), his visit included a stop at the SAFTI Military Institute, where he was briefed on learning and training, as well as the headquarters of the 4th Singapore Armored Brigade at Sungei Gedong Camp.
No further details were released regarding the trip, including agenda items that were discussed during the private meeting. In a standard statement, MINDEF said that the visit had underscored the close and longstanding defense ties between the two sides and was an example of how such interactions could foster mutual understanding and enhance interoperability between the two armies.