Hundreds of anti-discrimination demonstrators gathered outside the Brunei-owned luxury Dorchester Hotel in London over the southeast Asian country's adoption of harsh new sharia laws, including the death penalty for gay sex.

Led by human rights activist Peter Tatchell, several hundred people gathered outside the hotel, many armed with rainbow flags, placards and banners calling for homophobia to be stamped out.

A tough penal code in the tiny country on tropical Borneo island - ruled by the all-powerful Sultan Hassan al Bolkiah - came into force last Wednesday after several years of delay.

It has sparked a storm of global criticism from politicians, celebrities and rights groups, with actor George Clooney and pop star Elton John calling for Brunei-owned hotels to be boycotted.

Mr Tatchell told the crowd if Brunei failed to revoke the laws, the British government - which has a military garrison there - should sever ties with its former protectorate.

"If the Sultan will not listen to reason and compassion we believe the British government should sever all diplomatic, economic and military ties with the regime," he said.

Britain's government has described the new laws, which also include the amputation of hands and feet for thieves, as "a backward step" for Brunei.

However, it has resisted calls for a stronger response over the penal code, including for the British Commonwealth to consider expelling Brunei.

Mark Fields, a junior foreign minister, told the House of Commons on Thursday: "Rather than making threats... a more positive way is to try to hold them close, recognise that there are very some strong connections there."