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Southeast Asia

Area 5,000,000 km²
Population 581,000,000
Density 116.5 people per km²
Countries 12
Bruneimarker, Cambodiamarker, Indonesiamarker, Laosmarker, Malaysiamarker, Myanmarmarker, Papua New Guineamarker, Philippinesmarker, Singaporemarker, Thailandmarker, Timor-Lestemarker, Vietnammarker
Territories 9
GDP $900 billion (exchange rate)

$3 trillion (purchasing power parity)
GDP per capita $1,584 (exchange rate)

$4,900 (purchasing power parity)
Languages Afro-Asiatic:

Khmer, Vietnamese, Nicobarese

Indonesian, Buginese, Malay, Tetum, Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Bikol, Waray-Waray, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Javanese, Sundanese, Madura

Creoles: Chavacano, Hiri Motu, Tok Pisin

Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu

Indo-European: English, Portuguese, Spanish, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi

Kradai: Thai, Lao


Sino-Tibetan: Burmese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Min, Taiwanese , Lan-Nang

and many others
Time Zones UTC+5:30 (Andaman and Nicobar Islands) to UTC+9:00 (Indonesia)
Capital cities Bandar Seri Begawanmarker
Kuala Lumpurmarker
Phnom Penhmarker
Port Moresbymarker

Largest cities



Ho Chi Minh Citymarker

Kuala Lumpurmarker







Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of Chinamarker and Taiwanmarker, east of Indiamarker and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic and volcanic activity.

Southeast Asia consists of two geographic regions: the Asian mainland (aka. Indochina), and island arcs and archipelagoes to the east and southeast. The mainland section consists of Burma marker, Cambodiamarker, Laosmarker, Thailandmarker, Vietnammarker and Peninsular Malaysiamarker while the maritime section consists of Andaman and Nicobar Islandsmarker (India), Bruneimarker, East Malaysia, East Timormarker, Indonesiamarker, Papua New Guineamarker, The Philippinesmarker, and Singaporemarker.

Austronesian peoples predominate in this region. The major religions are Islam and Buddhism, followed by Christianity. However a wide variety of religions are found throughout the region, including many Hindu and animist-influenced practices.



Definitions of "Southeast Asia" vary, but most definitions include the area represented by the countries:

All of the above excluding East Timor are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (commonly abbreviated ASEAN.) The area, together with part of South Asia, was widely known as the East Indies or simply the Indies until the twentieth century. Christmas Islandmarker and the Cocos Islandsmarker are considered part of Southeast Asia though they are governed by Australia. Sovereignty issues exist over some islands in the South China Sea. Papuamarker is politically part of Southeast Asia through Indonesia, although geographically it is often considered as part of Oceania. As of 2009, Papua New Guineamarker has stated that it might join ASEAN, indicating a possible switch in its geographic locale.


Location of Southeast Asia.

The eastern parts of Indonesia and East Timor (east of Wallace Line) are considered to be geographically parts of Oceania.

[[Image:Location-Asia-UNsubregions.png|thumb|left|225px|Compare Regions of Asia described by UN:


Southeast Asia is geographically divided into two subregions, namely Mainland Southeast Asia (or Indochina) and Maritime Southeast Asia (or the Malay Archipelago) (Indonesian language: Nusantara).

The Andaman and Nicobar Islandsmarker of India are geographically considered part of Southeast Asia. Bangladeshmarker and the Seven Sister States of Indiamarker are culturally part of Southeast Asia and sometimes considered both South Asian and Southeast Asian. The Seven Sister States of Indiamarker are also geographically part of southeast asia. Hainan Islandmarker and several other southern Chinese regions such as Yunnanmarker, Guizhoumarker and Guangxi are considered both East Asian and Southeast Asian. The rest of New Guineamarker is sometimes included so are Palaumarker, Guammarker, and the Northern Mariana Islandsmarker, which were all part of the Spanish East Indies.

Countries and territories data


Country Area (km2) Population (2009 est.) Density (/km2) Capital
5,765 400,000 69.4 Bandar Seri Begawanmarker
676,578 50,020,000 73.9 Naypyidawmarker
181,035 14,805,000 81.8 Phnom Penhmarker
14,874 1,134,000 76.2 Dilimarker
1,904,569 229,965,000 120.7 Jakartamarker
236,800 6,320,000 26.7 Vientianemarker
329,847 27,468,000 83.3 Kuala Lumpurmarker
300,000 91,983,000 306.6 Manilamarker
710.2 4,987,600 7,022.8 City of Singapore (Downtown Core)
513,120 67,764,000 132.1 Bangkokmarker
331,210 88,069,000 265.0 Hanoimarker


Territory Area (km2) Population Density (/km2)
135 1,402 10.4
14 596 42.6


Solheim and others have shown evidence for a Nusantao (Nusantara) maritime trading network ranging from Vietnammarker to the rest of the archipelago as early as 5000 BCE to 1 CE.The peoples of Southeast Asia, especially those of Austronesian descent, have been seafarers for thousands of years, some reaching the island of Madagascarmarker. Their vessels, such as the vinta, were ocean-worthy. Magellan's voyage records how much more maneuvreable their vessels were, as compared to the European ships.

Passage through the Indian Oceanmarker aided the colonization of Madagascar by the Austronesian people, as well as commerce between West Asia and Southeast Asia. Gold from Sumatramarker is thought to have reached as far west as Romemarker, while slaves from the Sulu Seamarker was believed to have been used in Magellan's voyage as a translator.

Originally most people were animist. This was later replaced by Brahmanic Hinduism. Theravada Buddhism soon followed in 525. In 1400s, Islamic influences began to enter. This forced the last Hindu court in Indonesia to retreat to Balimarker.

In Mainland Southeast Asia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand retained the Theravada form of Buddhism, brought to them from Sri Lanka. This type of Buddhism was fused with the Hindu-influenced Khmer culture.

Indianized kingdoms

Very little is known about Southeast Asian religious beliefs and practices before the advent of Indian merchants and religious influences from the second century BCE onwards. Prior to the 13th century, Buddhism and Hinduism were the main religions in Southeast Asia.

The Jawa Dwipamarker Hindu kingdom in Javamarker and Sumatramarker existed around 200 BCE. The history of the Malay-speaking world begins with the advent of Indian influence, which dates back to at least the 3rd century BC. Indian traders came to the archipelago both for its abundant forest and maritime products and to trade with merchants from China, who also discovered the Malay world at an early date. Both Hinduism and Buddhism were well established in the Malay Peninsula by the beginning of the 1st century CE, and from there spread across the archipelago.

Cambodiamarker was first influenced by Hinduism during the beginning of the Funan kingdom. Hinduism was one of the Khmer Empire's official religions. Cambodia is the home to one of the only two temples dedicated to Brahma in the world. Angkor Watmarker is also a famous Hindu temple of Cambodia. The Champa civilization was located in what is today central Vietnammarker, and was a highly indianized Hindu Kingdom.

The Majapahit Empire was an Indianized kingdom based in eastern Javamarker from 1293 to around 1500. Its greatest ruler was Hayam Wuruk, whose reign from 1350 to 1389 marked the empire's peak when it dominated other kingdoms in the southern Malay Peninsula, Borneomarker, Sumatramarker, and Balimarker.

The Cholas excelled in maritime activity in both military and the mercantile fields. Their raids of Kedahmarker and the Srivijaya, and their continued commercial contacts with the Chinese Empire, enabled them to influence the local cultures. Many of the surviving examples of the Hindu cultural influence found today throughout the Southeast Asia are the result of the Chola expeditions.

Islamization of Southeast Asia

In the 11th century, a turbulent period occurred in the history of Maritime Southeast Asia, the Indianmarker Chola navy crossed the ocean and attacked the Srivijaya kingdom of Sangrama Vijayatungavarman in Kadaram (Kedah), the capital of the powerful maritime kingdom was sacked and the king was taken captive. Along with Kadaram, Pannai in present day Sumatramarker and Malaiyur and the Malayan peninsula were attacked too. Soon after that, the king of Kedah Phra Ong Mahawangsa became the first ruler to abandon the traditional Hindu faith, and converted to Islam with the Sultanate of Kedah established in year 1136. Samudera Pasai converted to Islam in the year 1267, the King of Malacca Parameswara married with princess of Pasai, the son became the first sultan of Malacca, soon Malacca became the center of Islam study and maritime trade, other rulers followed suit. Indonesianmarker religious leader and Islamic scholar Hamka (1908–1981) wrote in 1961: "The development of Islam in Indonesia and Malayamarker is intimately related to a Chinese Muslim, Admiral Zheng He."

There are several theories to the Islamization process in Southeast Asia. The first theory is trade. The expansion of trade among West Asia, Indiamarker and Southeast Asia helped the spread of the religion as Muslim traders brought Islam to the region. The second theory is the role of missionaries or Sufis. The Sufi missionaries played a significant role in spreading the faith by syncretising Islamic ideas with existing local beliefs and religious notions. Finally, the ruling classes embraced Islam and that further aided the permeation of the religion throughout the region. The ruler of the region's most important port, Malacca Sultanate, embraced Islam in the 15th century, heralding a period of accelerated conversion of Islam throughout the region as the religion provided a unifying force among the ruling and trading classes.

Trade and colonisation


Chinese merchants have traded with the region for a long time as evidence of Magellan's voyage records that Bruneimarker possessed more cannon than the European ships so it appears that the Chinese fortified them.

Malaysian legend has it that a Chinese Ming emperor sent a princess, Han Li Po to Malacca, with a retinue of 500, to marry Sultan Mansur Shah after the emperor was impressed by the wisdom of the sultan. Han Li Po's well (constructed 1459) is now a tourist attraction there, as is Bukit Cina, where her retinue settled.

The strategic value of the Strait of Malaccamarker, which was controlled by Sultanate of Malacca in the 15th and early 16th century, did not go unnoticed by Portuguese writer Duarte Barbosa, who in 1500 wrote "He who is lord of Malacca has his hand on the throat of Venicemarker".


Western influence started to enter in the 1500s, with the arrival of the Portuguese and Spanish in Moluccasmarker and the Philippinesmarker. Later the Dutch established the Dutch East Indiesmarker; the French Indochina; and the British Strait Settlementsmarker. All southeast Asian countries were colonized except for Thailandmarker.

European explorers were reaching Southeast Asia from the west and from the east. Regular trade between the ships sailing east from the Indian Ocean and south from mainland Asia provided goods in return for natural products, such as honey and hornbill beaks from the islands of the archipelago.

Europeans brought Christianity allowing Christian missionaries to become widespread. Thailand also allowed Western science and technology to enter its country.


During World War II, the Imperial Japanmarker invaded most of the former western colonies. The Shōwa occupation regime committed violent actions against indigenous civilians such as the Manila Massacre and the implementation of a system of forced labor, such as the one involving 4 to 10 million romusha in Indonesia. A later UN report stated that four million people died in Indonesia as a result of famine and forced labour during the Japanese occupation.


Most countries in the region enjoy national autonomy. Democratic forms of government and the recognition of human rights are taking root. ASEAN provides a framework for the integration of commerce.

Conflicting territorial and maritime claims continue to exist, including the conflicting claims by Taiwanmarker, Chinamarker, and the Philippinesmarker over the Spratly Islandsmarker.


Geologically, the Indonesian archipelagomarker is one of the most active vulcanological regions in the world. Geological uplift in the region have also produced some impressive mountains, culminating in Mount Kinabalumarker in Sabahmarker, Malaysia on the island of Borneo with a height of 4,101 metres (13,455 ft), while the second tallest peak is Puncak Jayamarker in Papuamarker, Indonesia at 4,884 metres (16,024 ft), on the island of New Guineamarker, it is the only place where ice glacier can be found in Southeast Asia. The tallest is Hkakabo Razi at 5,967 meters and can be found in northern Myanmar. The largest archipelago in the world by size is Indonesia (according to the CIA World Factbook)


The Australian continentmarker defines a region adjacent to Southeast Asia, which is also politically separated from the countries of Southeast Asia. But a cultural touch point lies between Papua New Guineamarker and the Indonesian region of Papuamarker and West Papuamarker, which shares the island of New Guineamarker with Papua New Guinea.


The climate in Southeast Asia is mainly tropical–hot and humid all year round with plentiful rainfall. Southeast Asia has a wet and dry season caused by seasonal shift in winds or monsoon. The tropical rain belt causes additional rainfall during the monsoon season. The rain forest is the second largest on earth (with the Amazon being the largest). An exception to this type of climate and vegetation is the mountain areas in the northern region, where high altitudes lead to milder temperatures and drier landscape. Other parts fall out of this climate because they are desert like.


Water Buffalo.
Wallace's hypothetical line between Australasian and Southeast Asian fauna.
All of Southeast Asia falls within the warm, humid tropics, and its climate generally can be characterized as monsoonal.The animals of Southeast Asia are diverse; on the islands of Borneomarker and Sumatramarker, the Orangutan (man of the forest), the Asian Elephant, the Malayan tapir, the Sumatran Rhinoceros and the Bornean Clouded Leopard can be also found. Six subspecies of the Binturong or bearcat exist in the region, though the one endemic to the island of Palawanmarker is now classed as vulnerable.

The Komodo Dragon is the largest living species of lizard and inhabits the islands of Komodomarker, Rincamarker, Floresmarker, and Gili Motangmarker in Indonesiamarker.

The Wild Asian Water Buffalo, and on various islands related dwarf species of Bubalus such as Anoa were once widespread in Southeast Asia, nowadays the Domestic Asian Water buffalo is common across the region, but its remaining relatives are rare and endangered.

The mouse deer, a small tusked deer as large as a toy dog or cat, can be found on Sumatra, Borneo and Palawan Islands. The gaur, a gigantic wild ox larger than even wild Water buffalo, is found mainly in Indochina.

Birds such as the peafowl and drongo live in this subregion as far east as Indonesiamarker. The babirusa, a four-tusked pig, can be found in Indonesia as well. The hornbill was prized for its beak and used in trade with China. The horn of the rhinoceros, not part of its skull, was prized in China as well.

The Indonesian Archipelago is split by the Wallace Line. This line runs along what is now known to be a tectonic plate boundary, and separates Asian (Western) species from Australasian (Eastern) species. The islands between Java/Borneo and Papua form a mixed zone, where both types occur, known as Wallacea. As the pace of development accelerates and populations continue to expand in Southeast Asia, concern has increased regarding the impact of human activity on the region's environment. A significant portion of Southeast Asia, however, has not changed greatly and remains an unaltered home to wildlife. The nations of the region, with only few exceptions, have become aware of the need to maintain forest cover not only to prevent soil erosion but to preserve the diversity of flora and fauna. Indonesia, for example, has created an extensive system of national parks and preserves for this purpose. Even so, such species as the Javan rhinoceros face extinction, with only a handful of the animals remaining in western Java.

The shallow waters of the Southeast Asian coral reefs have the highest levels of biodiversity for the world's marine ecosystems, where coral, fish and molluscs abound. According to Conservation International, marine surveys suggest that the marine life diversity in the Raja Ampat area is the highest recorded on Earth.[1] Diversity is considerably greater than any other area sampled in the Coral Triangle composed of Indonesia, Philippines and Papua New Guinea. The Coral Triangle is the heart of the world's coral reef biodiversity, making Raja Ampat quite possibly the richest coral reef ecosystems in the world. The whale shark, the world's largest species of fish and 6 species of pawikans can also be found in the South China Seamarker and the Pacific Oceanmarker territories of the Philippinesmarker.

The trees and other plants of the region are tropical; in some countries where the mountains are tall enough, temperate-climate vegetation can be found. These rainforest areas are currently being logged-over, especially in Borneo.

While Southeast Asia is rich in flora and fauna, Southeast Asia is facing severe deforestation which causes habitat loss for various endangered species such as orangutan and the Sumatran tiger. Predictions have been made that more than 40% of the animal and plant species in Southeast Asia could be wiped out in the 21st century. At the same time, haze has been a regular occurrence. The two worst regional hazes were in 1997 and 2006 in which multiple countries were covered with thick haze, mostly caused by "slash and burn" activities in Indonesia. In reaction, several countries in Southeast Asia signed the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution in order to combat haze pollution.


Even prior to the penetration of European interests, Southeast Asia was a critical part of the world trading system. The Ryukyu Kingdommarker often participated in maritime trade in Southeast Asia. A wide range of commodities originated in the region, but especially important were such spices as pepper, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. The spice trade initially was developed by Indianmarker and Arab merchants, but it also brought Europeans to the region. First Spaniardsmarker (Manila galleon) and Portuguesemarker, then the Dutchmarker, and finally the Britishmarker and Frenchmarker became involved in this enterprise in various countries. The penetration of European commercial interests gradually evolved into annexation of territories, as traders lobbied for an extension of control to protect and expand their activities. As a result, the Dutch moved into Indonesiamarker, the British into Malaya, and the French into Indochina.

While the region's economy greatly depends on agriculture, manufacturing and services are becoming more important. An emerging market, Indonesiamarker is the largest economy in this region. Newly industrialized countries include the Philippinesmarker, Malaysiamarker, and Thailandmarker, while Singaporemarker and Bruneimarker are affluent developed economies. The rest of Southeast Asia is still heavily dependent on agriculture, but Vietnammarker is notably making steady progress in developing its industrial sectors. The region notably manufactures textiles, electronic high-tech goods such as microprocessors and heavy industrial products such as automobiles. Reserves of oil are also present in the region.

Seventeen telecommunications companies have contracted to build a new submarine cable to connect Southeast Asia to the U.S. This is to avoid disruption of the kind recently caused by the cutting of the undersea cable from Taiwan to the U.S. in a recent earthquake.


Pie chart showing the distribution of population among the nations of Southeast Asia and among the islands of Indonesia
Southeast Asia has an area of approximately 4,000,000 km² (1.6 million square miles). As of 2004, more than 593 million people lived in the region, more than a fifth of them (125 million) on the Indonesian island of Javamarker, the most densely populated large island in the world. Indonesiamarker is the most populous country with 230 million people and also 4th most populous country in the world. The distribution of the religions and people is diverse in Southeast Asia and varies by country. Some 30 million overseas Chinese also live in Southeast Asia, most prominently in Christmas Islandmarker, Malaysiamarker, the Philippinesmarker, Singaporemarker, Indonesiamarker and Thailandmarker, and also, as the Hoa, in Vietnammarker.

Ethnic groups

According to a recent Stanfordmarker genetic study, the Southeast Asian population is far from being homogeneous. Although primarily descendants of Austronesian, Tai, and Mon-Khmer-speaking immigrants who migrated from Southern China during the Bronze Age and Iron Age, there are overlays of Arab, Chinese, Indian, Polynesian and Melanesian genes.

There are also large pockets of intermarriage between indigenous Southeast Asians and those of Chinese descent. They form a substantial part of everyday life in countries such as Vietnammarker, Singaporemarker, Thailandmarker and the Philippinesmarker. Indonesia and Malaysia also has a few mixed Southeast Asian-Chinese populations.
On the mainland the Khmer peoples of Cambodiamarker remain as ancestors of earlier Pareoean peoples. Similarly, remnants of the Mon group are found in parts of Myanmarmarker and Thailandmarker; the ethnic mixture there has been produced by overlaying Tibeto-Burman and Tai, Lao, and Shan peoples. The contemporary Vietnamese population originated from the Red River area in the north and may be a mixture of Tai and Malay peoples. Added to these major ethnic groups are such less numerous peoples as the Karens, Chins, and Nagas in Myanmar, who have affinities with other Asiatic peoples. Insular Southeast Asia contains a mixture of descendants of Proto-Malay (Nesiot) and Pareoean peoples who were influenced by Malayo-Polynesian and other groups. In addition, Arabic, Indian, and Chinese influences have affected the ethnic pattern of the islands.

In modern times, Javanese is the largest ethnic in Southeast Asia, with more than 86 millions people, mostly concentrated in Javamarker,Indonesiamarker. In Myanmar, the Burmese account for more than two-thirds of the ethnic stock in this country, while ethnic Thais and Vietnamese account for about four-fifths of the respective populations of those countries. Indonesia is clearly dominated by the Javanese and Sundanese ethnic groups, while Malaysia is more evenly split between the Malays and the Chinese. Within the Philippines, the Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, and Bicol groups are significant.


Islam is the most widely practiced religion in Southeast Asia, numbering approximately 240 million adherents which translate to about 40% of the entire population, with majorities in Bruneimarker, Indonesiamarker and Malaysiamarker. Countries in Southeast Asia practice many different religions. Mainland Southeast Asian countries, which are, Thailandmarker, Cambodiamarker, Laosmarker, Myanmarmarker, and Vietnammarker practice predominantly Buddhism. Singaporemarker is also predominantly Buddhist. Ancestor worship and Confucianism is also widely practised in Vietnammarker and Singaporemarker. In Maritime Southeast Asia, people living in Malaysia, western Indonesia and Brunei practice mainly Islam. Christianity is predominant in the Philippines, eastern Indonesia and East Timor. The Philippinesmarker has the largest Roman Catholic population followed very distantly by Vietnam. East Timormarker is also predominantly Roman Catholic due to a history of Portuguese rule.

The religious composition for each country is as follows. Some values are taken from the CIA World Factbook:

Religions and peoples are diverse in Southeast Asia and not one country is homogeneous. In the world's most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, Hinduism is dominant on islands such as Balimarker. Christianity also predominates in Philippinesmarker, New Guineamarker and Timormarker. Pockets of Hindu population can also be found around Southeast Asia in Singapore, Malaysia etc. Garuda (Sanskrit: Garuḍa), the phoenix who is the mount (vahanam) of Vishnu, is a national symbol in both Thailandmarker and Indonesiamarker; in the Philippinesmarker, gold images of Garuda have been found on Palawanmarker; gold images of other Hindu gods and goddesses have also been found on Mindanaomarker. Balinese Hinduism is somewhat different from Hinduism practiced elsewhere, as Animism and local culture is incorporated into it. Christians can also be found throughout Southeast Asia; they are in the majority in East Timor and the Philippines, Asia's largest Christian nation. In addition, there are also older tribal religious practices in remote areas of Sarawakmarker in East Malaysia and Papua in eastern Indonesia. In Myanmar, Sakka (Indra) is revered as a nat. In Vietnam, Mahayana Buddhism is practiced, which is influenced by native animism but with strong emphasis on Ancestor Worship.

Islam (67%), Buddhism (13%), Christianity (10%), others (indigenous beliefs, etc) (10%)
Theravada Buddhism (89%), Islam (4%), Christianity (4%), Animism (1%), others (2%)
Theravada Buddhism (95%), Islam, Christianity, Animism other (5%)
Buddhism (36%), Islam (25%), Christianity (18%), Taoism (15%), others (6%)
Sunni Islam (80%), others (20%)
Roman Catholicism (90%), Islam (5%), Protestant (3%), others (Buddhism, Hinduism, etc) (2%)
Islam (86.1%), Protestant (5.7%), Roman Catholicism (3%), Hinduism (1.8%), others including Buddhism, or unspecified (3.4%)
Theravada Buddhism (65%) with Animism (32.9%), Christianity (1.3%), others (0.8%)
Islam (60.4%), Mahayana Buddhism (19.2%), Christianity (9.1%), Hinduism (6.1%), Animism (5.2%)
Roman Catholicism (27%), Evangelical Lutheran (20%), United Church (12%), Seventh-day Adventist Church (10%), Pentecostal (9%), Evangelical (7%), Anglican (3%), other Christian (8%), others (4%)
Roman Catholicism (80%), Islam (5%), Evangelical (2.8%), Iglesia ni Cristo (2.2%), Philippine Independent Church (Aglipayan) (2%), other Christian (3%), others (Traditional beliefs, Buddhism, Judaism, nonreligious, etc) (5%)
Buddhism (42.5%), Islam (15%), Taoism (8%), Roman Catholicism (4.5%), Hinduism (4%), nonreligious (15%), Christian (10%), others (1%)
South China Sea Islands Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Islam, Taoism, nonreligious
Theravada Buddhism (94.6%), Islam (4.6%), others (1%)
Mahayana Buddhism (78%), Roman Catholicism (7%), Theravada Buddhism (5%), Cao Dai (2%), Protestant (1%), others (Animism, Hoa Hao, Islam, nonreligious, etc; 7%)


Each of the languages have been influenced by cultural pressures due to trade and historical colonization as well. Thus, for example, a Filipino, educated in English and Filipino, as well as in his native tongue (e.g., Visayan), might well speak another language, such as Spanish for historical reasons, or Chinese, Korean or Japanese for economic reasons; a Malaysian might well speak Malay, Chinese, Tamil as well as English as a second language.

The language composition for each country is as follows: (official languages are in bold.)

Andaman and Nicobar Islands Nicobarese, Bengali, English, Hindi, Malayalam, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Shompen, Andamanese languages, others
Brunei Malay, English, Chinese, indigenous Borneian dialects
Burma (Myanmar) Burmese, Shan, Karen, Rakhine, Kachin, Chin, Mon, Chinese languages, Indian languages, others
Cambodia Khmer, English, French, Vietnamese, Thai, Chamic dialects, Chinese languages, others
Christmas Island English, Chinese, Malay
Cocos (Keeling) Islands English, Cocos Malay
East Timor Tetum, Portuguese, Indonesian, English, Mambae, Makasae, Tukudede, Bunak, Galoli, Kemak, Fataluku, Baikeno, others
Indonesia Indonesian, Acehnese, Batak, Minang, Sundanese, Javanese, Sasak, Tetum, Dayak, Minahasa, Toraja, Buginese, Halmahera, Ambonese, Ceramese; English, Dutch, Papuan languages, Chinese, and so much others
Laos Lao, Thai, Vietnamese, Hmong, Miao, Mien, Dao, Shan; French, English others
Malaysia Malay, English, Chinese dialects, Indian languages, Sarawakian and Sabahan languages, others
Philippines Filipino, English, Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Hiligaynon/Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, others
Singapore English, Mandarin (Chinese), Malay, Tamil, other Chinese languages, other Indian languages, Arabic dialects, others
South China Sea Islands English, Filipino, Malay, Mandarin (Chinese), Vietnamese
Thailand Thai, English, Chinese languages, Malay, Lao, Khmer, Isaan, Shan, Lue, Phutai, Mon, Mein, Hmong, Karen, Burmese, others
Vietnam Vietnamese, English, Chinese languages, French, Khmer, mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian, hmong)


The Banaue Rice Terraces in Luzon Island, Philippines.
Rice paddy agriculture has existed in Southeast Asia for thousands of years, ranging across the subregion. Some dramatic examples of these rice paddies populate the Banaue Rice Terracesmarker in the mountains of Luzonmarker in the Philippines. Maintenance of these paddies is very labor-intensive. The rice paddies are well-suited to the monsoon climate of the region.

Stilt houses can be found all over Southeast Asia, from Thailand and Laos, to Borneo, to Luzon in the Philippines, to Papua New Guinea.

The region has diverse metalworking, especially in Indonesiamarker. This include weaponry, such as the distinctive kris, and musical instruments, such as the gamelan.


The region's chief cultural influences have been from either China or India or both, with Vietnammarker considered by far the most Chinese-influenced. Myanmarmarker can be said to be influenced equally by both India and China. Western cultural influence is most pronounced in the Philippinesmarker, derived particularly from the period of Spanish rule.

As a rule, the peoples who ate with their fingers were more likely influenced by the culture of India, for example, than the culture of China, where the peoples first ate with chopsticks; tea, as a beverage, can be found across the region. The fish sauces distinctive to the region tend to vary.

The Arts

A Thai boy plays the khim, a traditional instrument from Cambodia and Thailand.* Khim audio

The arts of Southeast Asia have no affinity with the arts of other areas, except India. Dance in much of Southeast Asia also includes movement of the hands, as well as the feet to express the emotion and meaning of dance upon the story that the ballerina going to tell the audience.Most of Southeast Asian confirmed the Dance into their court, according to Cambodian royal ballet represent them in earlier of 7th century before Khmer Empire which highly influenced by Indianmarker Hinduism. Apsara Dance, famous for its strongly hand and feet movement, is a great example of Hindism symbol dance. Puppetry and shadow plays were also a favoured form of entertainment in past centuries as the famous one known as Wayang from Indonesiamarker.The Arts and Literature in some of Southeast Asia is quite influenced by Hinduism brought to them centuries ago.

The Tai, coming late into Southeast Asia, brought with them some Chinese artistic traditions, but they soon shed them in favour of the Khmer and Mon traditions, and the only indications of their earlier contact with Chinese arts were in the style of their temples, especially the tapering roof, and in their lacquerware.

In Indonesia, despite conversion to Islam opposed to certain forms of art, they retained many forms of Hindu influenced practices, cultures, arts and literatures. An example will be the Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppet) and literatures like the Ramayana. This is also true for mainland Southeast Asia (excluding Vietnam). Dance movements, Hindu gods, arts were also fused into Thai, Khmer, Lao and Burmese cultures. It has been pointed out that Khmer and Indonesian classical arts were concerned with depicting the life of the gods, but to the Southeast Asian mind the life of the gods was the life of the peoples themselves—joyous, earthy, yet divine.

In Vietnam, the Vietnamese share many cultural similarities with the Chinese.


Traditional music in Southeast Asia is as varied as its many ethnic and cultural divisions. Main styles of traditional music can be seen: Court music, folk music, music styles of smaller ethnic groups, and music influenced by genres outside the geographic region.

Of the court and folk genres, Gong-chime ensembles and orchestras make up the majority (the exception being lowland areas of Vietnammarker). Gamelan orchestras from Indonesiamarker, Piphat /Pinpeat ensembles of Thailandmarker & Cambodiamarker and the Kulintang ensembles of the southern Philippinesmarker, Borneomarker, Sulawesimarker and Timormarker are the three main distinct styles of musical genres that have influenced other traditional musical styles in the region. String instruments also are popular in the region.


The history of Southeast Asia has led to a wealth of different authors, from both within and without writing about the region.

Originally, India were the ones who taught the native inhabitants about writing. This is shown through Brahmic forms of writing present in the region such as the Balinese script shown on split palm leaf called lontar, right:

The antiquity of this form of writing extends before the invention of paper around the year 100 in Chinamarker. Note each palm leaf section was only several lines, written longitudinally across the leaf, and bound by twine to the other sections. The outer portion was decorated. The alphabets of Southeast Asia tended to be abugidas, until the arrival of the Europeans, who used words that also ended in consonants, not just vowels. Other forms of official documents, which did not use paper, included Javanese copperplate scrolls. This would have been more durable in the tropical climate of Southeast Asia.

See also


  1. Papua New Guinea asks RP support for Asean membership bid Retrieved July 8, 2009
  2. Somare seeks PGMA's support for PNG's ASEAN membership bid Retrieved July 8, 2009
  3. This map primarily indicates ASEAN member countries, and therefore does not mark the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which are also geographically a part of Southeast Asia.
  4. Solheim, Journal of East Asian Archaeology, 2000, 2:1-2, pp. 273-284(12)
  5. Laurence Bergreen, Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe, HarperCollins Publishers, 2003, hardcover 480 pages, ISBN 0-06-621173-5
  6. The great temple complex at Prambanan in Indonesia exhibit a number of similarities with the South Indian architecture. See Nilakanta Sastri, K.A. The CōĻas, 1935 pp 709
  7. Chinese Muslims in Malaysia, History and Development by Rosey Wang Ma
  8. Library of Congress, 1992, "Indonesia: World War II and the Struggle For Independence, 1942-50; The Japanese Occupation, 1942-45" Access date: February 9, 2007.
  9. John W. Dower War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (1986; Pantheon; ISBN 0-394-75172-8)
  10. Biodiversity wipeout facing South East Asia, New Scientist, 23 July 2003
  11. Indonesia - The World Factbook
  12. CIA - The World Factbook -- Brunei
  13. CIA - The World Factbook -- Cambodia
  14. CIA - The World Factbook -- Christmas Island
  15. CIA - The World Factbook -- Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  16. CIA - The World Factbook -- East Timor
  17. CIA - The World Factbook -- Indonesia
  18. CIA - The World Factbook -- Laos
  19. CIA - The World Factbook -- Malaysia
  20. CIA - The World Factbook -- Philippines
  21. CIA - The World Factbook -- Thailand
  22. CIA - The World Factbook -- Vietnam

Further reading

External links

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