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Malaysia ( or ) is a country in Southeast Asia consisting of thirteen states and three Federal Territories, with a total landmass of . The capital city is Kuala Lumpurmarker, while Putrajayamarker is the seat of the federal government. The population stands at over 28 million. The country is separated by the South China Seamarker into two regions, Peninsular Malaysiamarker and Malaysian Borneo (also known as East Malaysia). Malaysia borders Thailandmarker, Indonesiamarker, Singaporemarker and Bruneimarker. It is near the equator and has a tropical climate. Malaysia's head of state is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, an elected monarch, and the head of government is the Prime Minister. The government is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system.

Malaysia as a unified state did not exist until 1963. Previously, the United Kingdom had established influence in colonies in the territory from the late 18th century. The western half of modern Malaysiamarker was composed of several separate kingdoms. This group of colonies was known as British Malaya until its dissolution in 1946, when it was reorganized as the Malayan Unionmarker. Due to widespread opposition, it was reorganized again as the Federation of Malayamarker in 1948 and later gained independence on 31 August 1957. Singaporemarker, Sarawakmarker, British North Borneo and the Federation of Malaya merged to form Malaysia on 16 September 1963. Tensions in the early years of the new union sparked an armed conflict with Indonesia, and the expulsion of Singapore on 9 August 1965.

During the late 20th century, Malaysia experienced an economic boom and underwent rapid development. It borders the Strait of Malaccamarker, an important international shipping crossroad, and international trade is integral to its economy. Manufacturing makes up a major sector of the country's economy. Malaysia has a biodiverse range of flora and fauna, and is also considered one of the 17 megadiverse countries.


Malaysia appears on a 1914 map from a United States atlas.

The name Malaysia was adopted in 1963 when the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak formed a 14-state federation. However the name itself had been vaguely used to refer to areas in Southeast Asia prior to that. A map published in 1914 in Chicago has the word Malaysia printed on it referring to certain territories within the Malay Archipelago. Politicians in the Philippinesmarker once contemplated naming their state "Malaysia", but in 1963 Malaysia adopted the name first. At the time of the 1963 federation, other names were considered: among them was Langkasuka, after the historic kingdom located at the upper section of the Malay Peninsula in the first millennium of the common era.

In 1850 the English ethnologist George Samuel Windsor Earl, writing in the Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, proposed naming the islands of Indonesia as Melayunesia or Indunesia. He favoured the former.



Archaeological remains have been found throughout peninsular Malaysia, Sabahmarker and Sarawak. The Semang, an ethnic Negrito group, have a deep ancestry within the Malay Peninsula, dating to migration from Africa over 50,000 years ago. They are considered an indigenous people to the area.

The Senoi appear to be a composite group, with approximately half of the maternal DNA lineages tracing back to the ancestors of the Semang and about half to later ancestral migrations from Indochina. Scholars suggest they are descendants of early Austronesian-speaking agriculturalists, who brought both their language and their technology to the southern part of the peninsula approximately 5,000 years ago. They united and coalesced with the indigenous population.

The Aboriginal Malays are more diverse. Although they show some connections with island Southeast Asia, some also have an ancestry in Indochina around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum, about 20,000 years ago.

Anthropologists support the notion that the Proto Malays originated from what is today Yunnanmarker, China.R.H von Geldern, J.H.C Kern, J.R Foster, J.R Logen, Slametmuljana and Asmah Haji Omar.
A history of Malaya and her neighbours‎ - Page 21 - by Francis Joseph Moorhead, published by Longmans of Malaysia, 1965
India and ancient Malaya (from the earliest times to circa A.D. 1400)‎ - Page 3 - by D. Devahuti, Published by D. Moore for Eastern Universities Press, 1965
The making of modern Malaya: a history from earliest times to independence‎ - Page 5 - by N. J. Ryan, Oxford University Press, 1965
The cultural heritage of Malaya‎ - Page 2 - by N. J. Ryan published by Longman Malaysia, 1971
A history of Malaysia and Singapore‎ - Page 5 - by N. J. Ryan published by Oxford University Press, 1976
"How the dominoes fell": Southeast Asia in perspective‎ - Page 7 - by Mae H. Esterline, Hamilton Press, 1986
A design guide of public parks in Malaysia‎ - Page 38 - by Jamil Abu Bakar published by Penerbit UTM, 2002, ISBN 9835202745, ISBN 9789835202742
An introduction to the Malaysian legal system‎ - Page 1 - by Min Aun Wu, Heinemann Educational Books (Asia), 1975
A short history of Malaysia‎ - Page 22 - by Harry Miller published by F.A. Praeger, 1966
Malaya and its history‎ - Page 14 - by Sir Richard Olaf Winstedt published by Hutchinson University Library, 1962
Southeast Asia, past & present‎ - Page 10 - by D. R. SarDesai published by Westview Press, 1994
Malaya‎ - Page 17 - by Norton Sydney Ginsburg, Chester F. Roberts published by University of Washington Press, 1958
Asia: a social study‎ - Page 43 - by David Tulloch published by Angus and Robertson, 1969
Area handbook on Malaya University of Chicago, Chester F. Roberts, Bettyann Carner published by University of Chicago for the Human Relations Area Files, 1955
Thailand into the 80's‎ - Page 12 - by Samnak Nāyok Ratthamontrī published by the Office of the Prime Minister, Kingdom of Thailand, 1979
Man in Malaya‎ - Page 22 - by B. W. Hodder published by Greenwood Press, 1973
The modern anthropology of South-East Asia: an introduction, Volume 1 of The modern anthropology of South-East Asia, RoutledgeCurzon Research on Southeast Asia Series‎ - Page 54 - by Victor T. King, William D. Wilder published by Routledge, 2003, ISBN 0415297516, ISBN 9780415297516
Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society‎ - Page 17 - by Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Malaysian Branch, Singapore, 1936
Malay and Indonesian leadership in perspective‎ - Page 9 - by Ahmad Kamar, 1984
The Malay peoples of Malaysia and their languages‎ - Page 36 - by Asmah Haji Omar published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia, 1983
Encyclopedia of world cultures‎ Volume 5 - Page 174 - by David Levinson - History - 1993 published by G.K. Hall, 1993
Indigenous peoples of Asia‎ - Page 274 - by Robert Harrison Barnes, Andrew Gray, Benedict Kingsbury published by the Association for Asian Studies, 1995
Peoples of the Earth: Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia edited by Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard published by Danbury Press, 1973
American anthropologist‎ Vol 60 - Page 1228 - by American Anthropological Association, Anthropological Society of Washington (Washington, D.C.), American Ethnological Society, 1958
Encyclopaedia Of Southeast Asia (set Of 5 Vols.)‎ - Page 4 - by Brajendra Kumar published by Akansha Publishing House, 2006, ISBN 818370073X, ISBN 9788183700733

This was 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". He referred to the Straits of Malacca as Sinus Sabaricus. From the mid to the late first millennium, much of the Peninsula as well as the Malay Archipelago was under the influence of Srivijaya.

The Chinese and Indians established kingdoms in the area in the 2nd and 3rd centuries 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, the ancient Tamil emperor who is now thought to have laid Kota Gelanggi to waste, controlled Kedah in 1025. His successor, Vira 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, Pattani and as far as Ligor.

The Buddhist kingdom of Ligor took control of Kedah shortly after. Its king Chandrabhanu used it as a base to attack Sri Lankamarker in the 11th century, an event noted in a stone inscription in Nagapattinum in Tamil Nadumarker 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. They later converted to Islam.

Areas older than Kedah appeared in historical writings. The ancient kingdom of Gangga Negara, around Beruasmarker in Perak, for instance, pushes Malaysian history further into antiquity. "Pattinapalai", a Tamil poem of the second century CE, describes goods from Kadaram heaped in the broad streets of the Chola capital. A 7th-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.

Between the 7th and the 13th century, much of Peninsular Malaysia was under the Srivijaya empire, which was centred in Palembangmarker on the island of Sumatramarker. Following that, a wider Majapahit empire, based on Javamarker island, had influence over most of Indonesia, Peninsular Malaysia, and the coasts of Borneomarker island.

In the early 15th century, Parameswara, a prince from Palembangmarker from the once Srivijayan empire, established a dynasty and founded the Malacca Sultanate. Conquest forced him and many others to flee Palembang. Parameswara in particular sailed to Temasek to escape persecution. There he came under the protection of Temagi, a Malay chief from Patani who was appointed by the King of Siammarker as Regent of Temasek. Within a few days, Parameswara killed Temagi and appointed himself regent. Some five years later he had to leave Temasek, due to threats from Siam. During this period, a Javanese fleet from Majapahit attacked Temasek.

Parameswara headed north to found a new settlement. At Muarmarker, Parameswara considered siting his new kingdom at either Biawak Busuk or at Kota Buruk. Finding that the Muar location was not suitable, he continued his journey northwards. Along the way, he reportedly visited Sening Ujong (former name of present-day Sungai Ujong) before reaching a fishing village at the mouth of the Bertam River (former name of the Malaccamarker River). Over time this developed into modern-day Malacca Townmarker. According to the Malay Annals, here Parameswara saw a mouse deer outwitting a dog resting under a Malacca tree. Taking this as a good omen, he decided to establish a kingdom called Malacca. He built and improved facilities for trade.

According to a theory, Parameswara became a Muslim when he married a Princess of Pasai and he took the fashionable Persian title "Shah", calling himself Iskandar Shah. There are also references that indicate that some members of the ruling class and the merchant community residing in Malacca were already Muslims. Chinese chronicles mention that in 1414, the son of the first ruler of Malacca visited the Mingmarker emperor to inform them that his father had died. Parameswara's son was then officially recognised as the second ruler of Malacca by the Chinese Emperor and styled Raja Sri Rama Vikrama, Raja of Parameswara of Temasek and Melaka and he was known to his Muslim subjects as Sultan Sri Iskandar Zulkarnain Shah or Sultan Megat Iskandar Shah. He ruled Malacca from 1414 to 1424.

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 Malaccamarker sultanate) to the south. After the fall of Malacca, three nations struggled for the control of Malacca Straitmarker: the Portuguese (in Malacca), the Sultanate of Johor, and the Sultanate of Acehmarker. This conflict went on until 1641, when the Dutchmarker (allied to the Sultanate of Johor) gained control of Malacca.

British arrival

Britainmarker established its first colony in the Malay Peninsula in 1786, with the lease of the island of Penangmarker 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 Settlementsmarker, uniting its four possessions in Malaya: Penang, Malacca, Singapore and the island of Labuanmarker. The Straits Settlements were initially administered under the East India Company in Calcuttamarker, before first Penang, and later Singapore became the administrative centre of the crown colony, 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 and Malay gangsters employed in a political tussle between Ngah Ibrahim and Raja Muda Abdullah, 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 Pahangmarker, Selangormarker, Perakmarker, and Negeri Sembilanmarker, known together as the Federated Malay Statesmarker (not to be confused with the Federation of Malayamarker), 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.

A poster depicting the Malaysia Day celebration in 1963.
(Majulah Malaysia means "Onwards Malaysia".)

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 Siamesemarker control. The other unfederated state, Johormarker, 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 adviser.

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

Following the Japanese Invasion of Malaya and its subsequent occupation during World War II, popular support for independence grew. Post-war British plans to unite the administration of Malaya under a single crown colony called the Malayan Unionmarker foundered on strong opposition from the Malays, who opposed the emasculation of the Malay rulers and the granting of citizenship to the ethnic Chinese. 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 Malayamarker, 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. 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 actual proposed date for the formation of Malaysia was 31 August 1963, to coincide with the independence day of Malaya and the British giving self-rule to Sarawak and Sabah. However, the date was delayed by opposition from the Indonesianmarker government led by Sukarno and also attempts by the Sarawak United People's Party to delay the formation of Malaysia. Due to these factors, an 8-member United Nations team has to be formed to re-ascertain whether Sabah and Sarawak truly wanted to join Malaysia.

The early years of independence were marred by the conflict with Indonesia (Konfrontasi) over the formation of Malaysia, Singapore's eventual exit in 1965, and racial strife in the form of race riots in 1969. The Philippinesmarker 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.After the 13 May race 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. 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 Towersmarker (at the time the tallest building in the world, and still retains its status as the tallest twin building), KL International Airportmarker (KLIA), North-South Expressway, the Sepang International Circuitmarker, the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), the Bakun hydroelectric dam and Putrajayamarker, the 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. 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 on 10 November campaigning for electoral reform. It was precipitated by allegations of corruption and discrepancies in the Malaysian election system that heavily favour the ruling political party, Barisan Nasional, which has been in power since Malaysia achieved its independence in 1957. Another rally was held on 25 November in the Malaysian capital lead by HINDRAF. The rally organiser, the Hindu Rights Action Force, had called the protest over alleged discriminatory policies that favour ethnic Malays. The crowd was estimated to be between 5,000 and 30,000. In both cases the government and police were heavy-handed and tried to prevent the gatherings from taking place. In 16 October 2008, HINDRAF was banned as the government labelled the organisation as "a threat to national security".

Government and 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. 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 Lumpurmarker, one each from federal territories of Labuanmarker and Putrajayamarker, and 40 are appointed by the king. Besides the Parliament at the federal level, each state has a unicameral state legislative chamber ( ) 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. Registered voters of age 21 and above may vote for the members of the House of Representatives and in most of the states, the state legislative chamber as well. Voting is not compulsory.

Executive power is vested in the cabinet led by the prime minister; the Malaysian constitution stipulates that the prime minister must be a member of the lower house of parliament who, in the opinion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commands a majority in parliament. 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, although this rule is subject to the rulers' discretions.

Foreign relations

Malaysia is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and participates in many international organisations such as the United Nations. As a former British colony, it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is a member of the Developing 8 Countries. Malaysia has diplomatic relations with many countries but does not recognize the State of Israel. As such, no traveller with a Malaysian passport can enter Israel.


Malaysia defence requirements are assigned to the Malaysian Armed Forces (Angkatan Tentera Malaysia-ATM). The armed forces has three branches, the Royal Malaysian Navy (Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia-TLDM), Malaysian Army (Tentera Darat Malaysia-TD), and the Royal Malaysian Air Force (Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia-TUDM). The Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia operates both American made and Russian made fighter aircraft.

Administrative divisions

Administratively, Malaysia consists of 13 states (11 in peninsular Malaysia and 2 in Malaysian Borneo) and 3 federal territories. Each state is further divided into districts (daerah or jajahan in Kelantanmarker) and a subdivision of a district is called mukim. As Malaysia is a federation, the governance of the country is divided between the federal and the state governments.
Name Capital Pop. Area (km²)
Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpurmarker 1,887,674 243
Federal Territory of Labuanmarker Bandar Labuanmarker 85,000 92
Federal Territory of Putrajayamarker 50,000 46
Johor Bahrumarker 3,300,000 19,984
Alor Setarmarker 1,818,188 9,426
Kota Bharumarker 2,100,000 14,922
Bandar Melakamarker 733,000 1,650
Serembanmarker 1,004,807 6,645
Kuantanmarker 1,396,500 35,964
Ipohmarker 2,260,576 21,006
Kangarmarker 215,000 810
George Townmarker 1,503,000 1,046
Kota Kinabalumarker 3,387,880 76,115
Shah Alammarker 5,000,000 7,956
Kuchingmarker 2,500,000 124,450
Kuala Terengganumarker 1,150,286 12,955


Map of peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Malaysian Borneo).

Malaysia is the 43rd most populated country and the 66th largest country by total land area in the world, with a population of about 28 million and a land area of over 320,000 km2 respectively. It is comparable in population to Saudi Arabiamarker and Venezuelamarker, and is roughly similar in size to Norway and Vietnammarker, along with the U.S. state of New Mexicomarker.

The two distinct parts of Malaysia, separated from each other by the South China Seamarker, share a largely similar landscape in that both Westmarker and East Malaysia feature coastal plains rising to often densely forested hills and mountains, the highest of which is Mount Kinabalumarker at on the island of Borneomarker. The local climate is equatorial and characterised by the annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons.

Tanjung Piaimarker, located in the southern state of Johormarker, is the southernmost tip of continental Asia. The Strait of Malaccamarker, lying between Sumatramarker and Peninsular Malaysia, is arguably the most important shipping lane in the world.

Kuala Lumpurmarker is the official capital and largest city of Malaysia. Putrajayamarker is the federal administrative capital. Although many executive and judicial branches of the federal government have moved there (to ease growing congestion within Kuala Lumpur), Kuala Lumpur is still recognised as the legislative capital of Malaysia since it houses the seat of the Parliament of Malaysia. It is also the main commercial and financial centre of the country.

Other major cities include George Townmarker, Ipohmarker, Johor Bahrumarker, Kuchingmarker, Kota Kinabalumarker, Mirimarker, Alor Starmarker, Malacca Townmarker, Kuala Terengganumarker, Kota Bharumarker, Kuantanmarker and Petaling Jayamarker.

Natural resources

Malaysia is well-endowed with natural resources in areas such as agriculture, forestry and minerals. In terms of agriculture, Malaysia is one of the top exporters of natural rubber and palm oil, which together with sawn logs and sawn timber, cocoa, pepper, pineapple and tobacco dominate the growth of the sector. Palm oil is also a major generator of foreign exchange.
Palm oil estate in Malaysia.
Rolling tea fields in Malaysia.

Regarding forestry resources, it is noted that logging only began to make a substantial contribution to the economy during the 19th century. Today, an estimated 59% of Malaysia remains forested. The rapid expansion of the timber industry, particularly after the 1960s, has brought about a serious erosion problem in the country's forest resources. However, in line with the Government's commitment to protect the environment and the ecological system, forestry resources are being managed on a sustainable basis and accordingly the rate of tree felling has been on the decline.

In addition, substantial areas are being silviculturally treated and reforestation of degraded forestland is being carried out. The Malaysian government provide plans for the enrichment of some 312.30 square kilometers (120.5 sq mi) of land with rattan under natural forest conditions and in rubber plantations as an inter crop. To further enrich forest resources, fast-growing timber species such as meranti tembaga, merawan and sesenduk are also being planted. At the same time, the cultivation of high-value trees like teak and other trees for pulp and paper are also encouraged. Rubber, once the mainstay of the Malaysian economy, has been largely replaced by oil palm as Malaysia's leading agricultural export.

Tin and petroleum are the two main mineral resources that are of major significance in the Malaysian economy. Malaysia was once the world's largest producer of tin until the collapse of the tin market in the early 1980s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, tin played a predominant role in the Malaysian economy. It was only in 1972 that petroleum and natural gas took over from tin as the mainstay of the mineral extraction sector. Meanwhile, the contribution by tin has declined. Petroleum and natural gas discoveries in oil fields off Sabah, Sarawak and Terengganu have contributed much to the Malaysian economy. Other minerals of some importance or significance include copper, bauxite, iron-ore and coal together with industrial minerals like clay, kaolin, silica, limestone, barite, phosphates and dimension stones such as granite as well as marble blocks and slabs. Small quantities of gold are produced.

In 2004, a minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Mustapa Mohamed, revealed that Malaysia's oil reserves stood at while natural gas reserves increased to 89 trillion cubic feet (2,500 km3). This was an increase of 7.2%. As of 1 January 2007, Petronas reported that oil and gas reserves in Malaysia amounted to equivalent.

The government estimates that at current production rates Malaysia will be able to produce oil up to 18 years and gas for 35 years. In 2004, Malaysia is ranked 24th in terms of world oil reserves and 13th for gas. 56% of the oil reserves exist in the Peninsula while 19% exist in East Malaysia. The government collects oil royalties of which 5% are passed to the states and the rest retained by the federal government.


Rubber latex.
Malaysia was the world's largest producer of rubber.

Southeast Asia has been a centre of trade for centuries. Various items such as porcelain and spices were actively traded even before Malacca and Singaporemarker rose to prominence.

In the 17th century, they were found in several Malay states. Later, as the British started to take over as administrators of Malaya, rubber and palm oil trees were introduced for commercial purposes. Over time, Malaysia became the world's largest major producer of tin, rubber, and palm oil. These three commodities, along with other raw materials, firmly set Malaysia's economic tempo well into the mid-20th century.

Instead of relying on the local Malays as a source of labour, the British brought in Chinese and Indians to work in on the mines, plantations and fill up the void in professional expertise. Although many of them returned to their respective home countries after their agreed tenure ended, some remained in Malaysia and settled permanently.

As Malaya moved towards independence, the government began implementing economic five-year plans, beginning with the First Malayan Five Year Plan in 1955. Upon the establishment of Malaysia, the plans were re-titled and renumbered, beginning with the First Malaysia Plan in 1965.

In the 1970s, Malaysia began to imitate the four Asian Tiger economies (Republic of Korea (South Korea), Republic of China (Taiwan), then British Crown Colony of Hong Kong and the Republic of Singapore) and committed itself to a transition from being reliant on mining and agriculture to an economy that depends more on manufacturing. With Japanese investment, heavy industries flourished and in a matter of years, Malaysian exports became the country's primary growth engine . Malaysia consistently achieved more than 7% GDP growth along with low inflation in the 1980s and the 1990s. Today, Malaysia is one of the world's largest computer hard disk manufacturing sites.

During the same period, the government tried to eradicate poverty with the controversial New Economic Policy (NEP), after the May 13 Incident of racial rioting in 1969. Its main objective was the elimination of the association of race with economic function, and the first five-year plan to begin implementing the NEP was the Second Malaysia Plan. The success or failure of the NEP is the subject of much debate, although it was officially retired in 1990 and replaced by the National Development Policy (NDP). Recently much debate has surfaced once again concerning the results and relevance of the NEP. Some have argued that the NEP has indeed successfully created a Middle/Upper Class of Malay businesspersons and professionals. Despite some improvement in the economic power of Malays in general, the Malaysian government maintains a policy of discrimination that favours ethnic Malays over other races—including preferential treatment in employment, education, scholarships, business, access to cheaper housing and assisted savings. This special treatment has sparked envy and resentment between non-Malays and Malays.

The ethinic Chinese control of the locally owned sector of the country's economy, meanwhile, has been ceded largely in favour of the Bumiputras/Malays in many essential or strategic industries such as petroleum retailing, transportation, agriculture, automobile manufacturing, and other industries.The rapid economic boom led to a variety of supply problems, however. Labour shortages soon resulted in an influx of millions of foreign workers, many illegal. Cash-rich PLCs and consortia of banks eager to benefit from increased and rapid development began large infrastructure projects. This all ended when the Asian Financial Crisis hit in the fall of 1997, delivering a massive shock to Malaysia's economy.

Since 1994, the Malaysian car company, Proton, has owned Lotus, a previously British company that produces the Lotus Europa S (pictured here) and other models.

As with other countries affected by the crisis, there was speculative short-selling of the Malaysian currency, the ringgit. Foreign direct investment fell at an alarming rate and, as capital flowed out of the country, the value of the ringgit dropped from MYR 2.50 per USD to, at one point, MYR 4.80 per USD. The Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange's composite index plummeted from approximately 1300 points to around 400 points in a matter of weeks. After the controversial sacking of finance minister Anwar Ibrahim, a National Economic Action Council was formed to deal with the monetary crisis. Bank Negara imposed capital controls and pegged the Malaysian ringgit at 3.80 to the US dollar. Malaysia refused economic aid packages from the International Monetary Fundmarker (IMF) and the World Bank, however, surprising many analysts.

In March 2005, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published a paper on the sources and pace of Malaysia's recovery, written by Jomo K.S. of the applied economics department, University of Malayamarker, Kuala Lumpurmarker. The paper concluded that the controls imposed by Malaysia's government neither hurt nor helped recovery. The chief factor was an increase in electronics components exports, which was caused by a large increase in the demand for components in the United States, which was caused, in turn, by a fear of the effects of the arrival of the year 2000 (Y2K) upon older computers and other digital devices.

However, the post Y2K slump of 2001 did not affect Malaysia as much as other countries. This may have been clearer evidence that there are other causes and effects that can be more properly attributable for recovery. One possibility is that the currency speculators had run out of finance after failing in their attack on the Hong Kong dollar in August 1998 and after the Russian ruble collapsed. (See George Soros)

Regardless of cause and effect claims, rejuvenation of the economy also coincided with massive government spending and budget deficits in the years that followed the crisis. Later, Malaysia enjoyed faster economic recovery compared to its neighbours. The country has recovered to the levels of the pre-crisis era – as an example, the KLCI Composite Index hit an all time high of 1,386 on 20 June 2007 which is approximately 100 points higher than the pre-crisis record of 1,275 in 1993.

While the pace of development today is not as rapid, it is seen to be more sustainable. Although the controls and economic housekeeping may or may not have been the principal reasons for recovery, there is no doubt that the banking sector has become more resilient to external shocks. The current account has also settled into a structural surplus, providing a cushion to capital flight. Asset prices are generally back to their pre-crisis heights, despite the effects of the global financial crisis. Malaysia is also the world's largest Islamic banking and financial centre.

The fixed exchange rate was abandoned in July 2005 in favour of a managed floating system within an hour of China's announcing of the same move. In the same week, the ringgit strengthened a percent against various major currencies and was expected to appreciate further. As of December 2005, however, expectations of further appreciation were muted as capital flight exceeded USD 10 billion. According to Bank Negara's published figures, Malaysia's foreign exchange reserves increased steadily since the initial capital flight, from USD75.2 billion as at 15 July 2005 (just before the peg was removed) to peak at USD125.7 billion as at 31 July 2008, a few months before the global credit crisis that started in September 2008. As at 29 May 2009, the reserves stood at USD88.3 billion.

In September 2005, Sir Howard J. Davies, director of the London School of Economicsmarker, at a meeting in Kuala Lumpurmarker, cautioned Malaysian officials that if they want a flexible capital market, they will have to lift the ban on short-selling put into effect during the crisis. In March 2006, Malaysia removed the ban on short selling. It is however interesting to note that in response to the global financial crisis, some of the measures taken by the Malaysian government in response to the Asian crisis, such as the ban on short selling, were swiftly adopted by the very countries that had previously been critical of the Malaysian response.

Malaysia is also one of the region's top education and healthcare destinations. Malaysia is recognised as a newly industrialised country. In 2008, GDP per capita of Malaysia stands at US$14,215, ranking her 48th in the world, and 2nd in Southeast Asia, lagging far behind neighbouring Singaporemarker, the only developed economy in Southeast Asia, with a GDP per capita (PPP) of US$49,288, ranking 3rd in the world. By comparison, Thailand has a per capita income of US$7,703 (ranked 81st) and Indonesia with US$3,975 (ranked 106th).


Malaysia's population comprises many ethnic groups, with the Malays at 50.4% making up the majority and other bumiputra/indigenous (Aborigine) groups in Sabahmarker and Sarawakmarker at 11% of the population. By constitutional definition, Malays are Muslims who practice Malay customs (adat) and culture. Therefore, technically, a Muslim of any race who practices Malay customs and culture can be considered a Malay and have equal rights when it comes to Malay rights as stated in the constitution. Non-Malay bumiputra groups make up more than half of the state of Sarawak's population (of which 30% are Ibans), and close to 60% of Sabah's population (of which 18% are Kadazan-Dusuns, and 17% are Bajaus). There also exist aboriginal groups in much smaller numbers on the Peninsula, where they are collectively known as Orang Asli.

23.7% of the population are Malaysians of Chinese descent, while Malaysians of Indian descent comprise 7.1% of the population. Indians began migrating to Malaysia in the early 19th century. The majority of the Indian community are Tamils but various other groups are also present, including Telugus, Malayalismarker, Punjabis,Bengalis and Gujaratis. Other Malaysians also include those whose origin, can be traced to the Middle East, Thailandmarker and Indonesiamarker. Europeans and Eurasians include British who settled in Malaysia since colonial times, and a strong Kristang community in Malaccamarker. A small number of Cambodians and Vietnamese settled in Malaysia as Vietnam War refugees.

The population distribution is highly uneven, with some 20 million residents concentrated on the Malay Peninsula, while East Malaysia is relatively less populated. Due to the rise in labour intensive industries, Malaysia has 10 to 20% foreign workers with the uncertainty due in part to the large number of illegal workers. There are a million legal foreign workers and perhaps another million unauthorised foreigners. The state of Sabah alone has nearly 25% of its 2.7 million population listed as illegal foreign workers in the last census. However, this figure of 25% is thought to be less than half the figure speculated by NGOs.

Additionally, according to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Malaysia hosts a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 155,700. Of this population, approximately 70,500 refugees and asylum seekers are from the Philippinesmarker, 69,700 from Burmamarker, and 21,800 from Indonesiamarker. The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants named Malaysia as one of the Ten Worst Places for Refugees on account of the country's discriminatory practices toward refugees. Malaysian officials are reported to have turned deportees directly over to human smugglers in 2007, and Malaysia employs the RELA, a volunteer militia, to enforce its immigration law.


Islam is the largest and the official religion of Malaysia, though it is a multi-religious society with many other religions prevailing. According to the Population and Housing Census 2000 figures, approximately 60.4 percent of the population practiced Islam; 19.2 percent Buddhism; 9.1 percent Christianity; 6.3 percent Hinduism; and 2.6 percent practice Confucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese religions. The remaining was accounted for by other faiths, including Animism, Folk religion, Sikhism and other faiths while 0.9% either reported as having no religion or did not provide any information.

All ethnic Malays are considered Muslim (100%) as defined by Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia. Additional statistics from the 2000 Census indicate that ethnic Chinese are predominantly Buddhist (75.9%), with significant numbers of adherents following Taoism (10.6%) and Christianity (9.6%). The majority of ethnic Indians follow Hinduism (84.5%), with a significant minority identifying as Christians (7.7%) and Muslims (3.8%). Christianity is the predominant religion of the non-Malay Bumiputra community (50.1%) with an additional 36.3% identifying as Muslims and 7.3% follow folk religion.

The Malaysian constitution guarantees religious freedom. Muslims are obliged to follow the decisions of Syariah courts when it comes to matters concerning their religion. The Islamic judges are expected to follow the Shafi`i legal school of Islam, which is the main madh'hab of Malaysia. The jurisdiction of Shariah court is limited only to Muslims over matters such as marriage, inheritance, apostasy, religious conversion, and custody among others. No other criminal or civil offenses are under the jurisdiction of the Syariah courts, which have a similar hierarchy to the Civil Courts. Despite being the supreme courts of the land, the Civil Courts (including the Federal Court) in principle cannot overrule any decision made by the Syariah Courts.


Education in Malaysia is monitored by the federal government Ministry of Education.

Most Malaysian children start schooling between the ages of three to six, in kindergarten. Most kindergartens are run privately, but there are a few government-run kindergartens.

Primary education
Children begin primary schooling at the age of seven for a period of six years. There are two major types of government-operated or government-assisted primary schools. The vernacular schools (Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan) use either Chinese or Tamil as the medium of teaching. Before progressing to the secondary level of education, pupils in Year 6 are required to sit for the Primary School Achievement Test (Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah, UPSR). A programme called First Level Assessment (Penilaian Tahap Satu, PTS) was used to measure the ability of bright pupils, and to allow them to move from Year 3 to 5, skipping Year 4. However, this programme was abolished in 2001.

Secondary education
Secondary education in Malaysia is conducted in secondary schools (Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan) for five years. National secondary schools use Malay as the main medium of instruction. The only exceptions are the Mathematics and Science subjects as well as languages other than Malay, however this was only implemented in the year 2003, and before that all non-language subjects were taught in Malay. At the end of Form Three, which is the third year, students are evaluated in the Lower Secondary Assessment (Penilaian Menengah Rendah, PMR). In the final year of secondary education (Form Five), students sit for the Malaysian Certificate of Education (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, SPM) examination, which is equivalent to the former British Ordinary or 'O' Levels. The oldest school in Malaysia is Penang Free School, also the oldest school in South East Asia. The government has decided to abandon the use of English in teaching Math and Science and revert to Bahasa Malaysia, starting in 2012.

Malaysian national secondary schools are sub-divided into several types, namely National Secondary School (Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan), Religious Secondary School (Sekolah Menengah Agama), National-Type Secondary School (Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan) which is also referred as Mission Schools, Technical Schools (Sekolah Menengah Teknik), Residential Schools and MARA Junior Science College (Maktab Rendah Sains MARA).

There are also 60 Chinese Independent High Schools in Malaysia, where most subjects are taught in Chinese. Chinese Independent High Schools are monitored and standardised by the United Chinese School Committees' Association of Malaysia (UCSCAM, more commonly referred to by its Chinese name, Dong Zong 董总), however, unlike government schools, every independent school is free to make its own decisions. Studying in independent schools takes 6 years to complete, divided into Junior Level (3 years) and Senior Level (3 years). Students will sit for a standardised test conducted by UCSCAM, which is known as the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) in Junior Middle 3 (equivalent to PMR) and Senior Middle 3 (equivalent to A level). A number of independent schools conduct classes in Malay and English in addition to Chinese, enabling the students to sit for the PMR and SPM as well.

As an interesting side note, the Pavilion shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur was built where a Malaysian National Girls' School once stood.

Tertiary education
Before the introduction of the matriculation system, students aiming to enter public universities had to complete an additional 18 months of secondary schooling in Form Six and sit for the Malaysian Higher School Certificate (Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia, STPM); equivalent to the British Advanced or 'A' levels. Since the introduction of the matriculation programme as an alternative to STPM in 1999, students who completed the 12-month programme in matriculation colleges (kolej matrikulasi in Malay) can enrol in local universities. However, in the matriculation system, only 10% of the places are open to non-Bumiputra students while the rest are reserved for Bumiputra students.

There are public universities such as University of Malayamarker, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, International Islamic University Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Universiti Utara Malaysia, Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka,Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia, and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Private universities are also gaining enough reputation for international quality education and many students from all over the world are attracted to these universities. Such as Multimedia University, Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahmanmarker etc. In addition, four international reputable universities have set up their branch campuses in Malaysia since 1998. A branch campus can be seen as an ‘offshore campus’ of the foreign university, which offers the same courses and awards as the main campus. Both local and international students can acquire these identical foreign qualifications in Malaysia at a lower fee. The foreign university branch campuses in Malaysia are: Monash University Malaysia Campus, Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus, Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campusmarker and University of Nottingham Malaysia Campusmarker.

Students also have the option of enrolling in private tertiary institutions after secondary studies. Most institutions have educational links with overseas universities especially in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, allowing students to spend a portion of their course duration abroad as well as getting overseas qualifications. One such example is SEGi College which partnered with University of Abertay Dundee. Malaysian students abroad study mostly in East Asia, Middle East, Oceania, Northern America and Western Europe.

International schools
In addition to the Malaysian National Curriculum, Malaysia has many international schools. International schools offer students the opportunity to study the curriculum of another country. These schools mainly cater to the growing expatriate population in the country. International schools include: the Australian International School, Malaysia (Australian curriculum), The Alice Smith School (British Curriculum), elc International school (British Curriculum), The Garden International Schoolmarker (British Curriculum), Lodge International School (British Curriculum), The International School of Kuala Lumpur (International Baccalaureate and American Curriculum), The Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur (Japanese Curriculum), The Chinese Taipei School, Kuala Lumpur and The Chinese Taipei School, Penang (Taiwanese Curriculum), The International School of Penang (International Baccalaureate and British Curriculum), Lycée Français de Kuala Lumpur (French Curriculum),Horizon International Turkish School amongst others.


The Malaysian government places importance on the expansion and development of health care, putting 5% of the government social sector development budget into public health care—an increase of more than 47% over the previous figure. This has meant an overall increase of more than RM 2 billion. With a rising and aging population, the Government wishes to improve in many areas including the refurbishment of existing hospitals, building and equipping new hospitals, expansion of the number of polyclinics, and improvements in training and expansion of telehealth. Over the last couple of years, the Malaysian Health Ministry has increased its efforts to overhaul the systems and attract more foreign investment.

The country generally has an efficient and widespread system of health care. It implements a universal healthcare system, and co-exists with private healthcare system. Infant mortality rate – a standard in determining the overall efficiency of healthcare – in 2005 was 10, comparing favourably with the United States and western Europe. Life expectancy at birth in 2005 was 74 years.

The Malaysian health care system requires doctors to perform a compulsory three years service with public hospitals to ensure the manpower of these hospitals is maintained. Recently foreign doctors have also been encouraged to take up employment here. There is still, however, a compound shortage of medical workforce, especially that of highly trained specialists resulting in certain medical care and treatment only available in large cities. Recent efforts to bring many facilities to other towns have been hampered by lack of expertise to run the available equipment made ready by investments.

The majority of private hospitals are in urban areas and, are very dense, unlike many of the public hospitals, are equipped with the latest diagnostic and imaging facilities. Private hospitals have not generally been seen as an ideal investment—it has often taken up to ten years before companies have seen any profits. However, the situation has now changed and companies are now looking into this area again, particularly in view of the increasing interest by foreigners in coming to Malaysia for medical care and the recent government focus to develop the health tourism industry.


Most Malaysians are granted citizenship by lex soli. Citizenship in the states of Sabahmarker and Sarawakmarker in Malaysian Borneo are distinct from citizenship in Peninsular Malaysiamarker for immigration purposes. Every citizen is issued a biometric smart chip identity card, known as MyKad, at the age of 12, and must carry the card at all times.


Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multilingual society. The population is 28 million. Figures from 2007 show the population consisting of 62% Bumiputeras (including Indigenous people), 24% Chinese, 8% Indians, with other minorities along with foreigners (mostly semi-skilled workers) (Dept of Stats. Malaysia). Ethnic tensions have been volatile in recent months in tandem with the rising temperature of the political scenario in the country.

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 Melaysia), which is the national language of the country. However, English is also widely spoken in major towns and cities across the country.

In the past, Malays wrote in Sanskrit or using Sanskrit-based alphabets . After the 15th century, Jawi (a script based on Arabic) became popular. Over time, romanised 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 roman 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 are mostly Buddhist (of Mahayana sect) or Taoist, although some of the younger generations are choosing Christianity as their religion. The Chinese community 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 the larger cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jayamarker, Ipohmarker, Klangmarker and Penangmarker speak decent English as well. There has also been an increasing number of the present generation Chinese who consider English as their first language. The Chinese have historically been dominant in the Malaysian business and commerce community.

The Indians in Malaysia are mainly Hindu Tamils from southern India whose native language is Tamil. There are also other Indian communities which are Telugu-, Malayalam- or Hindi-speaking, living mainly in the larger towns on the west coast of the peninsula. Many middle- to upper-middle class Indians in Malaysia speak English as a first language. A 200,000-strong Tamil Muslim community also thrives as an independent subcultural group. There are also Tamil Christian communities in major cities and towns. 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.There is also a sizable Punjabi-Sikh community in Malaysia of over 100,000. The Sikhs migrated to Malaya to work as police, soldiers and jagas (security guards).

Eurasians, Cambodians, Vietnamese, Thais, Bugis, Javanese 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 Sabahmarker. Descended from immigrants from the Philippinesmarker, some speak Chavacano, the only Spanish-based creole language in Asia. Cambodiansmarker and Vietnamese are mostly Buddhists (Cambodians of Theravada sect and Vietnamese, Mahayana sect). Thai Malaysians have been populating a big part of the northern peninsular states of Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Kelantan and Terengganu. Besides speaking Thai, most of them are Buddhists, celebrate Songkran (Water festival) and can speak Hokkien, but some of them are Muslim and speak the Kelantanese Malay Dialect. Bugis and Javanese make up a part of the population in Johore. In addition, there have been many foreigners and expatriates who have made Malaysia their second home, also contributing to Malaysia's population.

Chinese and Islamic forms heavily influence Malaysian traditional music. 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. In recent years, dikir barat has grown in popularity, and the government has begun to promote it as a national cultural icon.

Malaysia encompasses certain art forms with neighbouring Indonesiamarker, including wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre), silat (a stylised martial art) and craft techniques such as weaving and metallurgy.


Malaysians observe a number of holidays and festivities throughout the year. Some holidays are federal gazetted public holidays and some are public holidays observed by individual states. Other festivals are observed by particular ethnic or religion groups, but are not public holidays.

The most celebrated holiday is the "Hari Kebangsaan" (Independence Day), otherwise known as "Merdeka" (Freedom), on 31 August commemorating the independence of the Federation of Malayamarker in 1957, while Malaysia Day is only celebrated in the state of Sabahmarker on 16 September to commemorate the formation of Malaysia in 1963. Hari Merdeka, as well as Labour Day (1 May), the King's birthday (first Saturday of June) and some other festivals are federal gazetted public holidays.

Muslims in Malaysia celebrate Muslim holidays. The most celebrated festival, Hari Raya Puasa (also called Hari Raya Aidilfitri) is the Malay translation of Eid al-Fitr. It is generally a festival honoured by the Muslims worldwide marking the end of Ramadan, the fasting month. The sight of the new moon determines the end of Ramadan. This determines the new month, therefore the end of the fasting month. In addition to Hari Raya Puasa, they also celebrate Hari Raya Haji (also called Hari Raya Aidiladha, the translation of Eid ul-Adha), Awal Muharram (Islamic New Year) and Maulidur Rasul (Birthday of the Prophet).

Chinese in Malaysia typically celebrate festivals that are observed by Chinese around the world. Chinese New Year is the most celebrated among the festivals which lasts for fifteen days and ends with Chap Goh Mei (十五瞑). Other festivals celebrated by Chinese are the Qingming Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival. In addition to traditional Chinese festivals, Buddhists Chinese also celebrate Vesak.

The majority of Indians in Malaysia are Hindus and they celebrate Diwali/Deepavali, the festival of light, while Thaipusam is a celebration which pilgrims from all over the country flock to Batu Cavesmarker. Apart from the Hindus, Sikhs celebrate the Vaisakhi, the Sikh New Year.

Other festivals such as Good Friday (East Malaysia only), Christmas, Hari Gawai of the Ibans (Dayaks), Pesta Menuai (Pesta Kaamatan) of the Kadazan-Dusuns are also celebrated in Malaysia.

Despite most of the festivals being identified with a particular ethnic or religious group, all Malaysians celebrate the festivities together, regardless of their background. For years when the Hari Raya Puasa and Chinese New Year coincided, a portmanteau Kongsi Raya was coined, which is a combination of Gong Xi Fa Cai (a greeting used on the Chinese New Year) and Hari Raya (which could also mean "celebrating together" in Malay. Similarly, the portmanteau Deepa Raya was coined when Hari Raya Puasa and Deepavali coincided.

See also


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  2. CIA. The World Fact Book: Malaysia. Retrieved 9 December 2006.
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  21. "Malaya: Siege's End", Time, New York, 2 May 1960.
  22. "Malaysia: Hurray for Harry", Time, New York, 20 September 1963.
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Additional references

  • 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. Malay States.
  • Zainal Abidin bin Abdul Wahid; Khoo, Kay Kim; Muhd Yusof bin Ibrahim; Singh, D.S. Ranjit (1994). Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Menengah Sejarah Tingkatan 2. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.
  • Jeong Chun Hai. (2007). Principles of Public Administration: An Introduction. Kuala Lumpur: Karisma Publication. ISBN 978-983-195-2535.
  • Osborne, Milton (2000). Southeast Asia: An Introductory History. Allen & Unwin. ISBN

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