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During the late 18th and 19th centuries, Great Britain established colonies and protectorates in the area of current Malaysia; these were occupied by Japan from 1942 to 1945. In 1948, the British-ruled territories on the Malay Peninsula formed the Federation of Malaya, which became independent in 1957. Malaysia was formed in 1963 when the former British colonies of Singapore and the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo joined the Federation. The first several years of the country's history were marred by Indonesian efforts to control Malaysia, Philippine claims to Sabah, and Singapore's secession from the Federation in 1965.


Southeastern Asia, peninsula bordering Thailand and northern one-third of the island of Borneo, bordering Indonesia, Brunei, and the South China Sea, south of Vietnam

Geographic coordinates:

2 30 N, 112 30 E


total: 329,750 sq km
land: 328,550 sq km
water: 1,200 sq km

Land boundaries:

total: 2,669 km
border countries: Brunei 381 km, Indonesia 1,782 km, Thailand 506 km


4,675 km (Peninsular Malaysia 2,068 km, East Malaysia 2,607 km)

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation; specified boundary in the South China Sea


tropical; annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons


coastal plains rising to hills and mountains

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Gunung Kinabalu 4,100 m

Natural resources:

tin, petroleum, timber, copper, iron ore, natural gas, bauxite

Land use:

arable land: 5.46%
permanent crops: 17.54%
other: 77% (2005)

Irrigated land:

3,650 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

flooding, landslides, forest fires

Environment - current issues:

air pollution from industrial and vehicular emissions; water pollution from raw sewage; deforestation; smoke/haze from Indonesian forest fires

Geography - note:

strategic location along Strait of Malacca and southern South China Sea


24,385,858 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 32.6% (male 4,093,859/female 3,862,730)
15-64 years: 62.6% (male 7,660,680/female 7,613,537)
65 years and over: 4.7% (male 509,260/female 645,792) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 24.1 years
male: 23.6 years
female: 24.8 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

1.78% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

22.86 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

5.05 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population
note: does not reflect net flow of an unknown number of illegal immigrants from other countries in the region (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 17.16 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 19.87 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 14.25 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 72.5 years
male: 69.8 years
female: 75.38 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

3.04 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.4% (2003 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

52,000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

2,000 (2003 est.)

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria are high risks in some locations (2005)


noun: Malaysian(s)
adjective: Malaysian

Ethnic groups:

Malay 50.4%, Chinese 23.7%, Indigenous 11%, Indian 7.1%, others 7.8% (2004 est.)


Muslim, Buddhist, Daoist, Hindu, Christian, Sikh; note - in addition, Shamanism is practiced in East Malaysia


Bahasa Melayu (official), English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai
note: in East Malaysia there are several indigenous languages; most widely spoken are Iban and Kadazan


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 88.7%
male: 92%
female: 85.4% (2002)

Country name:

conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Malaysia
former: Federation of Malaysia

Government type:

constitutional monarchy
note: nominally headed by paramount ruler and a bicameral Parliament consisting of a nonelected upper house and an elected lower house; all Peninsular Malaysian states have hereditary rulers except Melaka and Pulau Pinang (Penang); those two states along with Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia have governors appointed by government; powers of state governments are limited by federal constitution; under terms of federation, Sabah and Sarawak retain certain constitutional prerogatives (e.g., right to maintain their own immigration controls); Sabah holds 25 seats in House of Representatives; Sarawak holds 28 seats in House of Representatives


Kuala Lumpur
note: Putrajaya is referred to as administrative center not capital; Parliament meets in Kuala Lumpur

Administrative divisions:

13 states (negeri-negeri, singular - negeri) Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Pulau Pinang, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, and Terengganu; and one federal territory (wilayah persekutuan) with three components, city of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan, and Putrajaya


31 August 1957 (from UK)

National holiday:

Independence Day/Malaysia Day, 31 August (1957)


31 August 1957; amended 16 September 1963

Legal system:

based on English common law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court at request of supreme head of the federation; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction; Islamic law is applied to Muslims in matters of family law


21 years of age; universal

Legislative branch:

bicameral Parliament or Parlimen consists of the Senate or Dewan Negara (70 seats; 44 appointed by the paramount ruler, 26 appointed by the state legislatures) and the House of Representatives or Dewan Rakyat (219 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: House of Representatives - last held 21 March 2004 (next must be held by 2009)
election results: House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - BN 91%, DAP 5%, PAS 3%, other 1%; seats by party - BN 199, DAP 12, PAS 6, PKR 1, independent 1

Judicial branch:

Federal Court (judges appointed by the paramount ruler on the advice of the prime minister)

Economy - overview:

Malaysia, a middle-income country, transformed itself from 1971 through the late 1990s from a producer of raw materials into an emerging multi-sector economy. Growth was almost exclusively driven by exports - particularly of electronics. As a result, Malaysia was hard hit by the global economic downturn and the slump in the information technology (IT) sector in 2001 and 2002. GDP in 2001 grew only 0.5% because of an estimated 11% contraction in exports, but a substantial fiscal stimulus package equal to US $1.9 billion mitigated the worst of the recession, and the economy rebounded in 2002 with a 4.1% increase. The economy grew 4.9% in 2003, notwithstanding a difficult first half, when external pressures from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Iraq War led to caution in the business community. Growth topped 7% in 2004 and 5% in 2005. As an oil and gas exporter, Malaysia has profited from higher world energy prices, although the cost of government subsidies for domestic gasoline and diesel fuel has risen and offset some of the benefit. Malaysia "unpegged" the ringgit from the US dollar in 2005, but so far there has been little movement in the exchange rate. Healthy foreign exchange reserves, low inflation, and a small external debt are all strengths that make it unlikely that Malaysia will experience a financial crisis over the near term similar to the one in 1997. The economy remains dependent on continued growth in the US, China, and Japan - top export destinations and key sources of foreign investment.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$248.7 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$121.2 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

5.2% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$10,400 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 7.2%
industry: 33.3%
services: 59.5% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

10.67 million (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 14.5%
industry: 36%
services: 49.5% (2000 est.)

Unemployment rate:

3.6% (2005 est.)

Population below poverty line:

8% (1998 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 1.4%
highest 10%: 39.2% (2003 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

49.2 (1997)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

2.9% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

20.3% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $30.57 billion
expenditures: $34.62 billion; including capital expenditures of $9.4 billion (2005 est.)

Public debt:

48.3% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

Peninsular Malaysia - rubber, palm oil, cocoa, rice; Sabah - subsistence crops, rubber, timber, coconuts, rice; Sarawak - rubber, pepper, timber


Peninsular Malaysia - rubber and oil palm processing and manufacturing, light manufacturing industry, electronics, tin mining and smelting, logging, timber processing; Sabah - logging, petroleum production; Sarawak - agriculture processing, petroleum production and refining, logging

Industrial production growth rate:

4.8% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

79.28 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

73.63 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - exports:

100 million kWh (2003)

Oil - production:

770,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)

Oil - consumption:

510,000 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - exports:

230,200 bbl/day (2003)

Oil - proved reserves:

3.1 billion bbl (2005 est.)

Natural gas - production:

53.5 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:

28.53 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - exports:

22.41 billion cu m (2001 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

2.124 trillion cu m (2005)

Current account balance:

$15.35 billion (2005 est.)


$147.1 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

electronic equipment, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, wood and wood products, palm oil, rubber, textiles, chemicals

Exports - partners:

US 18.8%, Singapore 15%, Japan 10.1%, China 6.7%, Hong Kong 6%, Thailand 4.8% (2004)


$118.7 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

electronics, machinery, petroleum products, plastics, vehicles, iron and steel products, chemicals

Imports - partners:

Japan 16.1%, US 14.6%, Singapore 11.2%, China 9.9%, Thailand 5.5%, Taiwan 5.5%, South Korea 5%, Germany 4.5%, Indonesia 4% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$78.9 billion (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$56.72 billion (30 June 2005 est.)

Currency (code):

ringgit (MYR)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

4,446,300 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

14,611,900 (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: modern system; international service excellent
domestic: good intercity service provided on Peninsular Malaysia mainly by microwave radio relay; adequate intercity microwave radio relay network between Sabah and Sarawak via Brunei; domestic satellite system with 2 earth stations
international: country code - 60; submarine cables to India, Hong Kong, and Singapore; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 1 Pacific Ocean) (2001)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 35, FM 391, shortwave 15 (2001)

Television broadcast stations:

mainland Malaysia 51; Sabah 16; Sarawak 21; note - many are low power stations (2006)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

151,239 (2005)

Internet users:

10.04 million (2005)


117 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 37
over 3,047 m: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 7
1,524 to 2,437 m: 10
914 to 1,523 m: 8
under 914 m: 7 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 80
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 72 (2005)


1 (2005)


condensate 279 km; gas 5,047 km; oil 1,841 km; refined products 114 km (2004)


total: 1,890 km (207 km electrified)
standard gauge: 57 km 1.435-m gauge (57 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 1,833 km 1.000-m gauge (150 km electrified) (2004)


total: 71,814 km
paved: 55,943 km
unpaved: 15,871 km (2001)


7,200 km
note: Peninsular Malaysia 3,200 km, Sabah 1,500 km, Sarawak 2,500 km (2005)

Merchant marine:

total: 312 ships (1000 GRT or over) 5,360,403 GRT/7,353,105 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 18, cargo 105, chemical tanker 38, container 45, liquefied gas 26, livestock carrier 1, passenger 1, passenger/cargo 6, petroleum tanker 62, roll on/roll off 5, vehicle carrier 5
foreign-owned: 74 (China 1, Germany 2, Hong Kong 14, Japan 1, Singapore 56)
registered in other countries: 66 (The Bahamas 12, Belize 1, Cayman Islands 1, Panama 13, Philippines 1, Singapore 35, US 3) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Bintulu, Johor, Labuan, Lahad Datu, Lumut, Miri, George Town (Penang), Port Kelang, Tanjung Pelepas

Military branches:

Malaysian Armed Forces (Angkatan Tentera Malaysia, ATM): Malaysian Army (Tentera Darat Malaysia), Royal Malaysian Navy (Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia, TLDM), Royal Malaysian Air Force (Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia, TUDM) (2005)

Disputes - international:

Malaysia has asserted sovereignty over the Spratly Islands together with China, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, and possibly Brunei; while the 2002 "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" has eased tensions over the Spratly Islands, it is not the legally binding "code of conduct" sought by some parties; Malaysia was not party to the March 2005 joint accord among the national oil companies of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam on conducting marine seismic activities in the Spratly Islands; disputes continue over deliveries of fresh water to Singapore, Singapore's land reclamation, bridge construction, maritime boundaries, and Pedra Branca Island/Pulau Batu Putih - but parties agree to ICJ arbitration on island dispute within three years; ICJ awarded Ligitan and Sipadan islands, also claimed by Indonesia and Philippines, to Malaysia but left maritime boundary in the hydrocarbon-rich Celebes Sea in dispute, culminating in hostile confrontations in March 2005 over concessions to the Ambalat oil block; separatist violence in Thailand's predominantly Muslim southern provinces prompts measures to close and monitor border with Malaysia to stem terrorist activities; Philippines retains a now dormant claim to Malaysia's Sabah State in northern Borneo; in 2003, Brunei and Malaysia ceased gas and oil exploration in their disputed offshore and deepwater seabeds and negotiations have stalemated prompting consideration of international adjudication; Malaysia's land boundary with Brunei around Limbang is in dispute; piracy remains a problem in the Malacca Strait

Refugees and internally displaced persons:

refugees (country of origin): 15,181 (Indonesia) 9,601 (Burma) (2005)

Illicit drugs:

regional transit point for some illicit drugs; drug trafficking prosecuted vigorously and carries severe penalties