Malaysia stretches 1240 miles (2000 km) across southeast Asia from the Malay peninsula to Sabah in eastern Borneo. Federated in 1963, it included Singapore for two years.
Geography: The Malay Peninsula has central mountains, an eastern coastal belt, and fertile western plains. Swampy coastal plains rise to mountains on Borneo.
Climate: Warm equatorial. Rainfall always heavy, but with distinct rainy seasons.
People and Society: The key distinction is between Malays (Bumiputras, literally “sons of the soil”) and the Chinese, who traditionally controlled most economic activity. Since the 1970’s, Malays have been favoured for education and jobs, in order to address this imbalance.
The Economy: Successful industrial base include manufacturing and heavy industry. Tourism is a major earner. Leading producer of palm oil, tin, and tropical hardwoods.
Insight: Malaysia is southeast Asia’s major tourist destination, with over 20 million visitors a year
Official Name: Federation of Malaysia
Date of Formation: 1963
Capital: Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya
Population: 27.5 million
Total Area: 127,316 sq. miles (329,750 sq. km)
Density: 217 people per sq. mile
Languages: Bahasa Malaysia*, Malay, Chinese, Tamil, English
Religions: Muslim 53%, Buddhist 19%, Chinese faiths 12%, other 9%, Christian 7%
Ethnic Mix: Malay 50%, Chinese 25%, indigenous tribes 11%, other 14%
Government: Parliamentary system
Currency: Ringgit = 100 sen