Malaysia

Introduction During the late 18th and 19th centuries, Great Britain established colonies and protectorates in the area of current Malaysia; these were occupied by Japan from 1942 to 1945. In 1948, the British-ruled territories on the Malay Peninsula formed the Federation of Malaya, which became independent in 1957. Malaysia was formed in 1963 when the former British colonies of Singapore and the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo joined the Federation. The first several years of the country's history were marred by a Communist insurgency, Indonesian confrontation with Malaysia, Philippine claims to Sabah, and Singapore's secession from the Federation in 1965. During the 22-year term of Prime Minister MAHATHIR bin Mohamad (1981-2003), Malaysia was successful in diversifying its economy from dependence on exports of raw materials, to expansion in manufacturing, services, and tourism.
History

Prehistory

Archaeological remains have been found throughout Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. The Semang have a deep ancestry within the Malay Peninsula, dating to the initial settlement from Africa over 50,000 years ago. The Senoi appear to be a composite group, with approximately half of the maternal lineages tracing back to the ancestors of the Semang and about half to Indochina. This is in agreement with the suggestion that they represent the descendants of early Austronesian speaking agriculturalists, who brought both their language and their technology to the southern part of the peninsula approximately 4,000 years ago and coalesced with the indigenous population. The Aboriginal Malays are more diverse, and although they show some connections with island Southeast Asia, some also have an ancestry in Indochina around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum, followed by an early-Holocene dispersal through the Malay Peninsula into island Southeast Asia.

Early history

Ptolemy showed the Malay Peninsula on his early map with a label that translates as "Golden Chersonese", the Straits of Malacca were referred to as "Sinus Sabaricus".[citation needed] From the mid to the late first millennium, much of the Peninsula as well as the Malay Archipelago were under the influence of Srivijaya.

There were numerous Malay kingdoms in the 2nd and 3rd century CE—as many as 30 according to Chinese sources. Kedah—known as Kedaram, Cheh-Cha (according to I-Ching) or Kataha, in ancient Pallava or Sanskrit—was in the direct route of invasions of Indian traders and kings. Rajendra Chola, Tamil Emperor who is now thought to have laid Kota Gelanggi to waste, put Kedah to heel in 1025 but his successor, Vir Rajendra Chola, had to put down a Kedah rebellion to overthrow the invaders. The coming of the Chola reduced the majesty of Srivijaya which had exerted influence over Kedah and Pattani and even as far as Ligor.

The Buddhist kingdom of Ligor took control of Kedah shortly after, and its King Chandrabhanu used it as a base to attack Sri Lanka in the 11th century, an event noted in a stone inscription in Nagapattinum in Tamil Nadu and in the Sri Lankan chronicles, Mahavamsa. During the first millennium, the people of the Malay peninsula adopted Hinduism and Buddhism and the use of the Sanskrit language until they eventually converted to Islam.

A Famosa in Malacca. It was built by the Portuguese in the 15th century.

There are reports of other areas older than Kedah—the ancient kingdom of Gangga Negara, around Beruas in Perak, for instance, pushes Malaysian history even further into antiquity. If that is not enough, a Tamil poem, Pattinapillai, of the second century CE, describes goods from Kadaram heaped in the broad streets of the Chola capital. A seventh century Sanskrit drama, Kaumudhimahotsva, refers to Kedah as Kataha-nagari. The Agnipurana also mentions a territory known as Anda-Kataha with one of its boundaries delineated by a peak, which scholars believe is Gunung Jerai. Stories from the Katasaritasagaram describe the elegance of life in Kataha.

Sultan Abdul Samad Building in Kuala Lumpur houses the High Court of Malaya and the Trade Court. Kuala Lumpur was the capital of the Federated Malay States and is the current Malaysian capital.

In the early 15th century, the Malacca Sultanate was established under a dynasty founded by Parameswara or Sultan Iskandar Shah, a prince from Palembang with bloodline related to the royal house of Srivijaya, who fled from Temasek (now Singapore). Parameswara decided to establish his kingdom in Malacca after witnessing an astonishing incident where a white mouse deer kicked one of his hunting dogs into a nearby river. He took this show of bravery by the mouse deer as a good sign and named his kingdom "Melaka" after the tree under which he was resting at the time. At its height, the sultanate controlled the areas which are now Peninsula Malaysia, southern Thailand (Patani), and the eastern coast of Sumatra. It existed for more than a century, and within that time period Islam spread to most of the Malay Archipelago. Malacca was the foremost trading port at the time in Southeast Asia.

The first evidence of Islam in the Malay peninsula dates from the 14th century in Terengganu, but according to the Kedah Annals, the 9th sultan of Kedah, Maharaja Derbar Raja, converted to Islam and changed his name to Sultan Muzaffar Shah. In 1511, Malacca was conquered by Portugal, which established a colony there. The sons of the last Sultan of Malacca established two sultanates elsewhere in the peninsula—the Sultanate of Perak to the north, and the Sultanate of Johor (originally a continuation of the old Malacca sultanate) to the south. After the fall of Malacca, three nations struggled for the control of Malacca Strait: the Portuguese (in Malacca), the Sultanate of Johor, and the Sultanate of Aceh. This conflict went on until 1641, when the Dutch (allied to the Sultanate of Johor) gained control of Malacca.

British arrival

Britain established its first colony in the Malay peninsula in 1786, with the lease of the island of Penang to the British East India Company by the Sultan of Kedah. In 1824, the British took control of Malacca following the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 which divided the Malay Archipelago between Britain and the Netherlands, with Malaya in the British zone. In 1826, Britain established the crown colony of the Straits Settlements, uniting its three possessions in Malaya: Penang, Malacca and Singapore. The Straits Settlements were administered under the East India Company in Kolkata until 1867, when they were transferred to the Colonial Office in London.

During the late 19th century, many Malay states decided to obtain British help in settling their internal conflicts. The commercial importance of tin mining in the Malay states to merchants in the Straits Settlements led to British government intervention in the tin-producing states in the Malay Peninsula. British gunboat diplomacy was employed to bring about a peaceful resolution to civil disturbances caused by Chinese gangsters and Malay gangsters, and the Pangkor Treaty of 1874 paved the way for the expansion of British influence in Malaya. By the turn of the 20th century, the states of Pahang, Selangor, Perak, and Negeri Sembilan, known together as the Federated Malay States (not to be confused with the Federation of Malaya), were under the de facto control of British Residents appointed to advise the Malay rulers. The British were "advisers" in name, but in reality they exercised substantial influence over the Malay rulers.

The remaining five states in the peninsula, known as the Unfederated Malay States, while not directly under rule from London, also accepted British advisers around the turn of the 20th century. Of these, the four northern states of Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu had previously been under Siamese control. The other unfederated state, Johor, was the only state which managed to preserve its independence throughout most of the 19th century. Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor and Queen Victoria were personal acquaintances, and recognised each other as equals. It was not until 1914 that Sultan Abu Bakar's successor, Sultan Ibrahim accepted a British advisor.

On the island of Borneo, Sabah was governed as the crown colony of British North Borneo, while Sarawak was acquired from Brunei as the personal kingdom of the Brooke family, who ruled as White Rajahs.

Following the Japanese Invasion of Malaya its occupation during World War II, popular support for independence grew.[27] Post-war British plans to unite the administration of Malaya under a single crown colony called the Malayan Union foundered on strong opposition from the Malays, who opposed the emasculation of the Malay rulers and the granting of citizenship to the ethnic Chinese.[28] The Malayan Union, established in 1946 and consisting of all the British possessions in Malaya with the exception of Singapore, was dissolved in 1948 and replaced by the Federation of Malaya, which restored the autonomy of the rulers of the Malay states under British protection.

During this time, rebels under the leadership of the Malayan Communist Party launched guerrilla operations designed to force the British out of Malaya. The Malayan Emergency, as it was known, lasted from 1948 to 1960, and involved a long anti-insurgency campaign by Commonwealth troops in Malaya. Although the insurgency quickly stopped there was still a presence of Commonwealth troops, with the backdrop of the Cold War.[29] Against this backdrop, independence for the Federation within the Commonwealth was granted on 31 August 1957.

Post independence

In 1963, Malaya along with the then-British crown colonies of Sabah (British North Borneo), Sarawak and Singapore, formed Malaysia. The Sultanate of Brunei, though initially expressing interest in joining the Federation, withdrew from the planned merger due to opposition from certain segments of its population as well as arguments over the payment of oil royalties and the status of the Sultan in the planned merger.

The early years of independence were marred by conflict with Indonesia (Konfrontasi) over the formation of Malaysia, Singapore's eventual exit in 1965, and racial strife in the form of racial riots in 1969.[32][8] The Philippines also made an active claim on Sabah in that period based upon the Sultanate of Brunei's cession of its north-east territories to the Sulu Sultanate in 1704. The claim is still ongoing.[33] After the May 13 racial riots of 1969, the controversial New Economic Policy—intended to increase proportionately the share of the economic pie of the bumiputras ("indigenous people", which includes the majority Malays, but not always the indigenous population) as compared to other ethnic groups—was launched by Prime Minister Abdul Razak. Malaysia has since maintained a delicate ethno-political balance, with a system of government that has attempted to combine overall economic development with political and economic policies that promote equitable participation of all races.

Between the 1980s and the mid 1990s, Malaysia experienced significant economic growth under the premiership of Mahathir bin Mohamad.[35] The period saw a shift from an agriculture-based economy to one based on manufacturing and industry in areas such as computers and consumer electronics. It was during this period, too, that the physical landscape of Malaysia has changed with the emergence of numerous mega-projects. The most notable of these projects are the Petronas Twin Towers (at the time the tallest building in the world), KL International Airport (KLIA), North-South Expressway, the Sepang F1 Circuit, the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), the Bakun hydroelectric dam and Putrajaya, a new federal administrative capital.

In the late 1990s, Malaysia was shaken by the Asian financial crisis as well as political unrest caused by the sacking of the deputy prime minister Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim.[36] In 2003, Dr Mahathir, Malaysia's longest serving prime minister, retired in favour of his deputy, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. On November 2007 Malaysia was rocked by two anti-government rallies. The 2007 Bersih Rally numbering 40,000 strong was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on November 10 campaigning for electoral reform. It was precipitated by allegations of corruption and discrepancies in the Malaysian election system that heavily favor the ruling political party, Barisan Nasional, which has been in power since Malaysia achieved its independence in 1957.[37] The 2007 HINDRAF rally was held in Kuala Lumpur on November 25. The rally organizer, the Hindu Rights Action Force, had called the protest over alleged discriminatory policies which favour ethnic Malays. The crowd was estimated to be between 5,000 to 30,000. In both cases the government and police were heavy handed and tried to prevent the gatherings from taking place.

Geography Location: Southeastern Asia, peninsula bordering Thailand and northern one-third of the island of Borneo, bordering Indonesia, Brunei, and the South China Sea, south of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates: 2 30 N, 112 30 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 329,750 sq km
land: 328,550 sq km
water: 1,200 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly larger than New Mexico
Land boundaries: total: 2,669 km
border countries: Brunei 381 km, Indonesia 1,782 km, Thailand 506 km
Coastline: 4,675 km (Peninsular Malaysia 2,068 km, East Malaysia 2,607 km)
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation; specified boundary in the South China Sea
Climate: tropical; annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons
Terrain: coastal plains rising to hills and mountains
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Gunung Kinabalu 4,100 m
Natural resources: tin, petroleum, timber, copper, iron ore, natural gas, bauxite
Land use: arable land: 5.46%
permanent crops: 17.54%
other: 77% (2005)
Irrigated land: 3,650 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 580 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 9.02 cu km/yr (17%/21%/62%)
per capita: 356 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: flooding, landslides, forest fires
Environment - current issues: air pollution from industrial and vehicular emissions; water pollution from raw sewage; deforestation; smoke/haze from Indonesian forest fires
Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
Geography - note: strategic location along Strait of Malacca and southern South China Sea
Politics

Malaysia is a federal constitutional elective monarchy. The federal head of state of Malaysia is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commonly referred to as the King of Malaysia. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is elected to a five-year term among the nine hereditary Sultans of the Malay states; the other four states, which have titular Governors, do not participate in the selection.

The system of government in Malaysia is closely modeled on that of Westminster parliamentary system, a legacy of British colonial rule. In practice however, more power is vested in the executive branch of government than in the legislative, and the judiciary has been weakened by sustained attacks by the government during the Mahathir era. Since independence in 1957, Malaysia has been governed by a multi-party coalition known as the Barisan Nasional (formerly known as the Alliance).

Legislative power is divided between federal and state legislatures. The bicameral parliament consists of the lower house, the House of Representatives or Dewan Rakyat (literally the "Chamber of the People") and the upper house, the Senate or Dewan Negara (literally the "Chamber of the Nation"). The 222-member House of Representatives are elected from single-member constituencies that are drawn based on population for a maximum term of five years. All 70 Senators sit for three-year terms; 26 are elected by the 13 state assemblies, two representing the federal territory of Kuala Lumpur, one each from federal territories of Labuan and Putrajaya, and 40 are appointed by the king. Besides the Parliament at the federal level, each state has a unicameral state legislative chamber (Malay: Dewan Undangan Negeri) whose members are elected from single-member constituencies. Parliamentary elections are held at least once every five years, with the last general election being in March 2008. The cabinet is chosen from among members of both houses of Parliament and is responsible to that body.

State governments are led by Chief Ministers (Menteri Besar in Malay states or Ketua Menteri in states without hereditary rulers), who is a state assembly member from the majority party in the Dewan Undangan Negeri. In each of the states with a hereditary ruler, the Chief Minister is required to be a Malay Muslim.

Citizenship

Most Malaysians are granted citizenship by lex soli. All Malaysians are Federal citizens with no formal citizenships within the individual states, except for the states of Sabah and Sarawak and the federal territory of Labuan in East Malaysia, where state citizenship is a privilege and distinguishable from the Peninsula. Every citizen is issued with a biometric smartchip identity card, known as MyKad, at the age of 12, and must carry the card at all times. A citizen is required to present his or her identity card to the police, or in the case of an emergency, to any military personnel, to be identified. If the card cannot be produced immediately, the person technically has 24 hours under the law to produce it at the nearest police station.

People Population: 25,274,133 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 31.8% (male 4,135,013/female 3,898,761)
15-64 years: 63.3% (male 8,026,755/female 7,965,332)
65 years and over: 4.9% (male 548,970/female 699,302) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 24.6 years
male: 24 years
female: 25.3 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.742% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 22.44 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 5.02 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA
note: does not reflect net flow of an unknown number of illegal immigrants from other countries in the region (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 16.39 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 18.92 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 13.68 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.03 years
male: 70.32 years
female: 75.94 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.98 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.4% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 52,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 2,000 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2008)
Nationality: noun: Malaysian(s)
adjective: Malaysian
Ethnic groups: Malay 50.4%, Chinese 23.7%, indigenous 11%, Indian 7.1%, others 7.8% (2004 est.)
Religions: Muslim 60.4%, Buddhist 19.2%, Christian 9.1%, Hindu 6.3%, Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 2.6%, other or unknown 1.5%, none 0.8% (2000 census)
Languages: Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai
note: in East Malaysia there are several indigenous languages; most widely spoken are Iban and Kadazan
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 88.7%
male: 92%
female: 85.4% (2000 census)
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Malaysia
local long form: none
local short form: Malaysia
former: Federation of Malaya
Government type: constitutional monarchy
note: nominally headed by paramount ruler and a bicameral Parliament consisting of a nonelected upper house and an elected lower house; all Peninsular Malaysian states have hereditary rulers except Melaka and Pulau Pinang (Penang); those two states along with Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia have governors appointed by government; powers of state governments are limited by federal constitution; under terms of federation, Sabah and Sarawak retain certain constitutional prerogatives (e.g., right to maintain their own immigration controls); Sabah holds 25 seats in House of Representatives; Sarawak holds 28 seats in House of Representatives (it will have 31 seats after the next election)
Capital: name: Kuala Lumpur
geographic coordinates: 3 10 N, 101 42 E
time difference: UTC+8 (13 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
note: Putrajaya is referred to as administrative center not capital; Parliament meets in Kuala Lumpur
Administrative divisions: 13 states (negeri-negeri, singular - negeri) Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Pulau Pinang, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, and Terengganu; and one federal territory (wilayah persekutuan) with three components, city of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan, and Putrajaya
Independence: 31 August 1957 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day/Malaysia Day, 31 August (1957)
Constitution: 31 August 1957 (amended many times, latest in 2007)
Legal system: based on English common law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court at request of supreme head of the federation; Islamic law is applied to Muslims in matters of family law and religion; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 21 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Paramount Ruler Sultan MIZAN Zainal Abidin (since 13 December 2006)
head of government: Prime Minister ABDULLAH bin Ahmad Badawi (since 31 October 2003); Deputy Prime Minister Mohamed NAJIB bin Abdul Razak (since 7 January 2004)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister from among the members of Parliament with consent of the paramount ruler
elections: paramount ruler elected by and from the hereditary rulers of nine of the states for five-year terms; election last held on 3 November 2006 (next to be held in 2011); prime minister designated from among the members of the House of Representatives; following legislative elections, the leader of the party that wins a plurality of seats in the House of Representatives becomes prime minister
election results: Sultan MIZAN Zainal Abidin elected paramount ruler
note: position of paramount ruler is primarily ceremonial; in practice, selection is based on principle of rotation among rulers of states
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Parlimen consists of Senate or Dewan Negara (70 seats; 44 appointed by paramount ruler, 26 elected by 13 state legislatures; to serve three-year terms with limit of two terms) and House of Representatives or Dewan Rakyat (222 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: House of Representatives - last held on 8 March 2008 (next to be held by March 2013)
election results: House of Representatives - percent of vote - BN coalition 50.3%, opposition parties 46.8%, others 2.9%; seats - BN coalition 140, opposition parties 82
Judicial branch: Civil Courts include Federal Court, Court of Appeal, High Court of Malaya on peninsula Malaysia, and High Court of Sabah and Sarawak in states of Borneo (judges appointed by the paramount ruler on the advice of the prime minister); Sharia Courts include Sharia Appeal Court, Sharia High Court, and Sharia Subordinate Courts at state-level and deal with religious and family matters such as custody, divorce, and inheritance, only for Muslims; decisions of Sharia courts cannot be appealed to civil courts
Political parties and leaders: National Front (Barisan Nasional) or BN (ruling coalition) consists of the following parties: Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia Party or PGRM [KOH Tsu Koon - acting]; Liberal Democratic Party (Parti Liberal Demokratik - Sabah) or LDP [LIEW Vui Keong]; Malaysian Chinese Association (Persatuan China Malaysia) or MCA [ONG Ka Ting]; Malaysian Indian Congress (Kongres India Malaysia) or MIC [S. Samy VELLU]; Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah or PBRS [Joseph KURUP]; Parti Bersatu Sabah or PBS [Joseph PAIRIN Kitingan]; Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu or PBB [Abdul TAIB Mahmud]; Parti Rakyat Sarawak or PRS [James MASING]; Sabah Progressive Party (Parti Progresif Sabah) or SAPP [YONG Teck Lee]; Sarawak United People's Party (Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sarawak) or SUPP [George CHAN Hong Nam]; United Malays National Organization or UMNO [ABDULLAH bin Ahmad Badawi]; United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organization (Pertubuhan Pasko Momogun Kadazan Dusun Bersatu) or UPKO [Bernard DOMPOK]; People's Progressive Party (Parti Progresif Penduduk Malaysia) or PPP [M.Kayveas]; Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party or SPDP [William MAWAN]); opposition parties: Democratic Action Party (Parti Tindakan Demokratik) or DAP [KARPAL Singh]; Islamic Party of Malaysia (Parti Islam se Malaysia) or PAS [Abdul HADI Awang]; People's Justice Party (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) or PKR [WAN AZIZAH Wan Ismael]; Sarawak National Party or SNAP [Edwin DUNDANG]
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: ADB, APEC, APT, ARF, ASEAN, BIS, C, CP, EAS, FAO, G-15, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MINURSO, MONUC, NAM, OIC, OPCW, PCA, PIF (partner), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNMEE, UNMIL, UNMIS, UNMIT, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador RAJMAH binti Hussain
chancery: 3516 International Court NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 572-9700
FAX: [1] (202) 572-9882
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles, New York
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador James KEITH
embassy: 376 Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur 50400
mailing address: US Embassy Kuala Lumpur, APO AP 96535-8152
telephone: [60] (3) 2168-5000
FAX: [60] (3) 2142-2207
Flag description: 14 equal horizontal stripes of red (top) alternating with white (bottom); there is a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a yellow crescent and a yellow 14-pointed star; the crescent and the star are traditional symbols of Islam; the design was based on the flag of the US
Culture

Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multilingual society. The population as of February 2007 is 26.6 million consisting of 62% Malays, 24% Chinese, 8% Indians, with other minorities and indigenous peoples (Dept of Stats. Malaysia). Ethnic tensions have been rising in recent months.

The Malays, who form the largest community, are defined as Muslims in the Constitution of Malaysia. The Malays play a dominant role politically and are included in a grouping identified as bumiputra. Their native language is Malay (Bahasa Melayu). Malay is the national language of the country.

In the past, Malays wrote in Sanskrit or using Sanskrit-based alphabets[citation needed]. After the 15th century, Jawi (a script based on Arabic) became popular[citation needed]. Over time, romanized script overtook Sanskrit and Jawi as the dominant script. This was largely due to the influence of the colonial education system, which taught children in romanised writing rather than in Arabic script.

The largest non-Malay indigenous tribe is the Iban of Sarawak, who number over 600,000. Some Iban still live in traditional jungle villages in long houses along the Rajang and Lupar rivers and their tributaries, although many have moved to the cities. The Bidayuhs, numbering around 170,000, are concentrated in the southwestern part of Sarawak. The largest indigenous tribe in Sabah is the Kadazan. They are largely Christian subsistence farmers. The 140,000 Orang Asli, or aboriginal peoples, comprise a number of different ethnic communities living in Peninsular Malaysia. Traditionally nomadic hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists, many have been sedentarised and partially absorbed into modern Malaysia.

The Chinese population in Malaysia is mostly Buddhist (of Mahayana sect) or Taoist. Chinese in Malaysia speak a variety of Chinese dialects including Mandarin Chinese, Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka and Teochew. A large majority of Chinese in Malaysia, especially those from larger cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and Penang speak English as well. There has also been an increasing number of the present generation Chinese who consider English as their first language. Chinese have historically been dominant in the Malaysian business community.

The Indians in Malaysia are mainly Hindu Tamils from southern India who native language is Tamil, there are also other Indian communities which is Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi-speaking, living mainly in the larger towns on the west coast of the peninsula. Many middle to upper-middle class Indians in Malaysia also speak English as a first language. A vigorous 200,000-strong Tamil Muslim community also thrives as an independent subcultural group.there are also prevalent Tamil christian communities in major cities and towns. There is also a sizable Sikh community in Malaysia of over 83,000. Most Indians originally migrated from India as traders, teachers or other skilled workers. A larger number were also part of the forced migrations from India by the British during colonial times to work in the plantation industry.

Eurasians, Cambodians, Vietnamese, and indigenous tribes make up the remaining population. A small number of Eurasians, of mixed Portuguese and Malay descent, speak a Portuguese-based creole, called Papiá Kristang. There are also Eurasians of mixed Filipino and Spanish descent, mostly in Sabah. Descended from immigrants from the Philippines, some speak Chavacano, the only Spanish-based creole language in Asia. Cambodians and Vietnamese are mostly Buddhists (Cambodians of Theravada sect and Vietnamese, Mahayana sect).

Malaysian traditional music is heavily influenced by Chinese and Islamic forms. The music is based largely around the gendang (drum), but includes other percussion instruments (some made of shells); the rebab, a bowed string instrument; the serunai, a double-reed oboe-like instrument; flutes, and trumpets. The country has a strong tradition of dance and dance dramas, some of Thai, Indian and Portuguese origin. Other artistic forms include wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre), silat (a stylised martial art) and crafts such as batik, weaving, including the ceremonial cloth pua kumbu, and silver and brasswork.

Economy Economy - overview: Malaysia, a middle-income country, has transformed itself since the 1970s from a producer of raw materials into an emerging multi-sector economy. Since coming to office in 2003, Prime Minister ABDULLAH has tried to move the economy farther up the value-added production chain by attracting investments in high technology industries, medical technology, and pharmaceuticals. The Government of Malaysia is continuing efforts to boost domestic demand to wean the economy off of its dependence on exports. Nevertheless, exports - particularly of electronics - remain a significant driver of the economy. As an oil and gas exporter, Malaysia has profited from higher world energy prices, although the rising cost of domestic gasoline and diesel fuel forced Kuala Lumpur to reduce government subsidies. Malaysia "unpegged" the ringgit from the US dollar in 2005 and the currency appreciated 6% per year against the dollar in 2006-07. Although this has helped to hold down the price of imports, inflationary pressures began to build in 2007. Healthy foreign exchange reserves and a small external debt greatly reduce the risk that Malaysia will experience a financial crisis over the near term similar to the one in 1997. The government presented its five-year national development agenda in April 2006 through the Ninth Malaysia Plan, a comprehensive blueprint for the allocation of the national budget from 2006-10. With national elections expected within the year, ABDULLAH has unveiled a series of ambitious development schemes for several regions that have had trouble attracting business investment. Real GDP growth has averaged about 6% per year under ABDULLAH, but regions outside of Kuala Lumpur and the manufacturing hub Penang have not fared as well.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $357.9 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $165 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 5.7% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $14,400 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 8.6%
industry: 47.8%
services: 43.6% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 10.91 million (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 13%
industry: 36%
services: 51% (2005 est.)
Unemployment rate: 3.1% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line: 5.1% (2002 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 1.4%
highest 10%: 39.2% (2003 est.)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 46.1 (2002)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.1%
note: approximately 30% of goods are price-controlled (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 20.2% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $41.01 billion
expenditures: $46.96 billion (2007 est.)
Public debt: 41% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: Peninsular Malaysia - rubber, palm oil, cocoa, rice; Sabah - subsistence crops, rubber, timber, coconuts, rice; Sarawak - rubber, pepper, timber
Industries: Peninsular Malaysia - rubber and oil palm processing and manufacturing, light manufacturing, electronics, tin mining and smelting, logging, timber processing; Sabah - logging, petroleum production; Sarawak - agriculture processing, petroleum production and refining, logging
Industrial production growth rate: 2.6% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 82.36 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 89.5%
hydro: 10.5%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 78.72 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 751,800 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption: 501,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 611,200 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 278,600 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 3 billion bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 60.9 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 31.84 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 29.06 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 2.037 trillion cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: $25.93 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $169.9 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: electronic equipment, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, wood and wood products, palm oil, rubber, textiles, chemicals
Exports - partners: US 18.8%, Singapore 15.4%, Japan 8.9%, China 7.2%, Thailand 5.3%, Hong Kong 4.9% (2006)
Imports: $132.7 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: electronics, machinery, petroleum products, plastics, vehicles, iron and steel products, chemicals
Imports - partners: Japan 13.3%, US 12.6%, China 12.2%, Singapore 11.7%, Thailand 5.5%, Taiwan 5.5%, South Korea 5.4%, Germany 4.4% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $31.6 million (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $104.8 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external: $57.83 billion (30 June 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $77.7 billion (2006 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $34.42 billion (2006 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $235.4 billion (2006)
Currency (code): ringgit (MYR)
Currency code: MYR
Exchange rates: ringgits per US dollar - 3.46 (2007), 3.6683 (2006), 3.8 (2005), 3.8 (2004), 3.8 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 4.342 million (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 19.464 million (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: modern system; international service excellent
domestic: good intercity service provided on Peninsular Malaysia mainly by microwave radio relay; adequate intercity microwave radio relay network between Sabah and Sarawak via Brunei; domestic satellite system with 2 earth stations; combined fixed-line and mobile cellular teledensity approaching 100 per 100 persons
international: country code - 60; landing point for several major international submarine cable networks that provide connectivity to Asia, Middle East, and Europe; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean, 1 Pacific Ocean) (2001)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 35, FM 391, shortwave 15 (2001)
Radios: 10.9 million (1999)
Television broadcast stations: 88 (mainland Malaysia 51, Sabah 16, and Sarawak 21) (2006)
Televisions: 10.8 million (1999)
Internet country code: .my
Internet hosts: 337,674 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 7 (2000)
Internet users: 11.292 million (2006)
Transportation Airports: 116 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 36
over 3,047 m: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 9
1,524 to 2,437 m: 8
914 to 1,523 m: 8
under 914 m: 6 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 80
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 72 (2007)
Heliports: 2 (2007)
Pipelines: condensate 282 km; gas 5,273 km; oil 1,750 km; oil/gas/water 19 km; refined products 114 km (2007)
Railways: total: 1,890 km
standard gauge: 57 km 1.435-m gauge (57 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 1,833 km 1.000-m gauge (150 km electrified) (2006)
Roadways: total: 98,721 km
paved: 80,280 km (includes 1,821 km of expressways)
unpaved: 18,441 km (2004)
Waterways: 7,200 km
note: Peninsular Malaysia 3,200 km; Sabah 1,500 km; Sarawak 2,500 km (2005)
Merchant marine: total: 304 ships (1000 GRT or over) 6,154,877 GRT/8,364,578 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 16, cargo 98, chemical tanker 30, container 47, liquefied gas 30, livestock carrier 1, passenger/cargo 5, petroleum tanker 68, roll on/roll off 5, vehicle carrier 4
foreign-owned: 43 (China 1, Germany 2, Hong Kong 14, Japan 4, Singapore 22)
registered in other countries: 67 (Bahamas 11, Kiribati 1, Marshall Islands 3, Mongolia 1, Panama 14, Philippines 2, Singapore 28, Thailand 3, US 4, unknown 1) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Bintulu, Johor Bahru, Kuantan, Labuan, George Town (Penang), Port Kelang, Tanjung Pelepas
Military Military branches: Malaysian Armed Forces (Angkatan Tentera Malaysia, ATM): Malaysian Army (Tentera Darat Malaysia), Royal Malaysian Navy (Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia, TLDM), Royal Malaysian Air Force (Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia, TUDM) (2008)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for voluntary military service (2005)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 5,584,231
females age 18-49: 5,510,345 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 4,574,854
females age 18-49: 4,613,321 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 244,418
females age 18-49: 231,896 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 2.03% (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: Malaysia has asserted sovereignty over the Spratly Islands together with China, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, and possibly Brunei; while the 2002 "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" has eased tensions over the Spratly Islands, it is not the legally binding "code of conduct" sought by some parties; Malaysia was not party to the March 2005 joint accord among the national oil companies of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam on conducting marine seismic activities in the Spratly Islands; disputes continue over deliveries of fresh water to Singapore, Singapore's land reclamation, bridge construction, and maritime boundaries in the Johor and Singapore Straits; in November 2007, the ICJ will hold public hearings in response to the Memorials and Countermemorials filed by the parties in 2003 and 2005 over sovereignty of Pedra Branca Island/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge; ICJ awarded Ligitan and Sipadan islands, also claimed by Indonesia and Philippines, to Malaysia but left maritime boundary and sovereignty of Unarang rock in the hydrocarbon-rich Celebes Sea in dispute; separatist violence in Thailand's predominantly Muslim southern provinces prompts measures to close and monitor border with Malaysia to stem terrorist activities; Philippines retains a dormant claim to Malaysia's Sabah State in northern Borneo; Brunei and Malaysia are still considering international adjudication over their disputed offshore and deepwater seabeds, where hydrocarbon exploration was terminated in 2003; Malaysia's land boundary with Brunei around Limbang is in dispute; piracy remains a problem in the Malacca Strait
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 19,153 (Indonesia), 14,208 (Burma) (2006)
Trafficking in persons: current situation: Malaysia is a destination and, to a lesser extent, a source and transit country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation; foreign victims, mostly women and girls from Burma, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, are trafficked to Malaysia for commercial sexual exploitation; economic migrants from countries in the region who work as domestic servants or laborers in the construction and agricultural sectors face exploitative conditions in Malaysia that meet the definition of involuntary servitude; some Malaysian women, primarily of Chinese ethnicity, are trafficked abroad for sexual exploitation
tier rating: Tier 3 - lack of satisfactory progress in combating trafficking in 2006; the government failed to prosecute traffickers arrested and detained under existing law and failed to provide adequate shelters and services to victims of trafficking
Illicit drugs: drug trafficking prosecuted vigorously and carries severe penalties; heroin still primary drug of abuse, but synthetic drug demand remains strong; continued ecstasy and methamphetamine producer for domestic users and, to a lesser extent, the regional drug market