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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 July 2006, 22:33 GMT 23:33 UK
Lavish birthday for Brunei ruler
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah
The Sultan of Brunei has reigned for 39 years
The Sultan of Brunei has celebrated his 60th birthday with a lavish banquet, and announced the first pay rise in 20 years for the kingdom's civil servants.

Some 10,000 guests, including regional leaders, were invited to the event.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the world's richest men, urged the state employees to use their increases wisely and save for the unexpected.

Earlier, thousands of schoolchildren lined the streets of the capital as he arrived in his Rolls-Royce.

Sultan Hassanal was welcomed with a 21-gun cannon salute at a stadium in Bandar Seri Begawan.

Wearing a pillbox hat and military dress tunic bearing several medals, he walked onto the field under a parasol for a troop inspection.

Early birthday present

The festivities began early this month and continue until 18 August.

The leaders of the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore were among those attending the banquet, the high point of the festivities, at the sultan's Nurul Iman palace.

Bunting and flags are flying around the capital.

The throne hall at the Nurul Iman palace in Brunei
A lavish ceremony was held at the Nurul Iman palace

The sultan is one of the world's few remaining absolute monarchs and is also the supreme commander of the armed forces.

He has been absolute ruler of the oil-rich Asian state for nearly four decades.

His second wife delivered him an early present recently - a baby boy.

Earlier in the day a government official said: "Every member of the Brunei royal family will be there, except for the new baby."

One notable absentee was the sultan's younger brother, Jefri, who is living in exile in London blamed for financial blunders that cost $7bn in the 1990s.

But the celebrations are not quite on the same scale as for the sultan's 50th birthday - which attracted Michael Jackson and Britain's Prince Charles.


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Watch some of the lavish birthday celebrations



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