BRUNEI, May 6 (CGTN) -- Brunei announced on Sunday it would extend a moratorium on capital punishment on sharia laws introduced last month. The legislation punishes people convicted of having gay sex and adultery with death by stoning, and has drawn criticism from the United Nations, celebrities and multinational companies.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah made the announcement in a televised speech on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan – the first time he has publicly addressed the new penal code, called Syariah Penal Code Order (SPCO).

"I am aware that there are many questions and misperceptions with regard to the implementation of the SPCO," read an English translation of the speech published by his office.

He said "misperceptions may cause apprehension," but defended the law, positing that its "merit will be evident."

"As evident for more than two decades, we have practiced a de facto moratorium on the execution of death penalty for cases under the common law. This will also be applied to cases under the SPCO which provides a wider scope for remission."

The Muslim-majority nation has a dual-track legal system, with sharia laws, which follow Islamic rules, operating alongside civil courts.

Under the civil code, some crimes, like premeditated murder and drug trafficking, are already punished by death. But the country has not carried out any executions since the 1990s.

The SPCO was rolled out in phases since 2014, and fully implemented on April 3. The first section introduced fines or jail terms for such offences as skipping Friday prayers, but tougher punishments, including amputation and stoning, were unveiled last month.

Under the new rules, rape, robbery and sodomy are punishable by death. Insulting or defaming Prophet Muhammad also commands capital punishment. Those convicted with lesbian sex would be caned 40 times and/or jailed for up to 10 years, and theft crimes are punished by amputation.

The harsh measures against gay sex, already illegal in the country, sparked public outcry, giving rise to calls to boycott the sultan's upscale hotels in the U.S., the UK and other European countries.

"I appeal to the government to stop the entry into force of this draconian new penal code, which would mark a serious setback for human rights protections for the people of Brunei if implemented," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet ahead of the laws taking effect.

Actor George Clooney in an article he penned for entertainment website Deadline Hollywood called for a boycott of nine luxury hotels owned by the sultan's Brunei Investment Agency, including the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles and the Dorchester in London. British singer Elton John joined Clooney's call to action, writing on his Twitter, "We must send a message, however we can, that such treatment is unacceptable."

JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank also instructed their staff not to stay in these hotels.

Gay sex is still a crime in 70 United Nations member states, according to a report released by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) earlier this year. In Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia, same-sex sexual acts are punished by death.