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Flag of Malaysia
Map of Malaysia
Introduction Malaysia
Malaysia was formed in 1963 through a merging of the former British colonies of Malaya and Singapore, including the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo. 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 in 1965.
Geography Malaysia
Southeastern Asia, peninsula and northern one-third of the island of Borneo, bordering Indonesia and the South China Sea, south of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates:
2 30 N, 112 30 E
Map references:
Southeast Asia
total: 329,750 sq km
water: 1,200 sq km
land: 328,550 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than New Mexico
Land boundaries:
total: 2,669 km
border countries: Brunei 381 km, Indonesia 1,782 km, Thailand 506 km
4,675 km (Peninsular Malaysia 2,068 km, East Malaysia 2,607 km)
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation; specified boundary in the South China Sea
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
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: 5.54%
permanent crops: 17.61%
other: 76.85% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
3,650 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
flooding, landslides, forest fires
Environment - current issues:
air pollution from industrial and vehicular emissions; water pollution from raw sewage; deforestation; smoke/haze from Indonesian forest fires
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography - note:
strategic location along Strait of Malacca and southern South China Sea
People Malaysia
22,662,365 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 34.1% (male 3,974,532; female 3,753,407)
15-64 years: 61.6% (male 6,995,451; female 6,969,435)
65 years and over: 4.3% (male 424,776; female 544,764) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.91% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
24.22 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
5.16 deaths/1,000 population (2002 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 (2002 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
19.66 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 71.39 years
female: 74.21 years (2002 est.)
male: 68.75 years
Total fertility rate:
3.18 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.42% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
49,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
1,900 (1999 est.)
noun: Malaysian(s)
adjective: Malaysian
Ethnic groups:
Malay and other indigenous 58%, Chinese 24%, Indian 8%, others 10% (2000)
Muslim, Buddhist, Daoist, Hindu, Christian, Sikh; note - in addition, Shamanism is practiced in East Malaysia
Bahasa Melayu (official), English, Chinese dialects (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai; note - in addition, in East Malaysia several indigenous languages are spoken, the largest of which are Iban and Kadazan
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 83.5%
male: 89.1%
female: 78.1% (1995 est.)
Government Malaysia
Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Malaysia
former: Federation of Malaysia
Government type:
constitutional monarchy
note: Malaya (what is now Peninsular Malaysia) formed 31 August 1957; Federation of Malaysia (Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore) formed 9 July 1963 (Singapore left the federation on 9 August 1965); nominally headed by the paramount ruler and a bicameral Parliament consisting of a nonelected upper house and an elected lower house; Peninsular Malaysian states - hereditary rulers in all but Melaka, Penang, Sabah, and Sarawak, where governors are appointed by the Malaysian Government; powers of state governments are limited by the federal constitution; under terms of the federation, Sabah and Sarawak retain certain constitutional prerogatives (e.g., the right to maintain their own immigration controls); Sabah - holds 20 seats in House of Representatives, with foreign affairs, defense, internal security, and other powers delegated to federal government; Sarawak - holds 28 seats in House of Representatives, with foreign affairs, defense, internal security, and other powers delegated to federal government
Kuala Lumpur
Administrative divisions:
13 states (negeri-negeri, singular - negeri) and 2 federal territories* (wilayah-wilayah persekutuan, singular - wilayah persekutuan); Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Labuan*, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Pulau Pinang, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Terengganu, Wilayah Persekutuan*
note: the city of Kuala Lumpur is located within the federal territory of Wilayah Persekutuan; the terms therefore are not interchangeable; there is a new federal territory named Putrajaya, but this change has not yet been approved by the US Board on Geographic Names (BGN)
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
21 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Paramount Ruler Tuanku SYED SIRAJUDDIN ibni Almarhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail, the Raja of Perlis (since 12 December 2001); replaced Paramount Ruler Sultan TUNKU SALAHUDDIN Abdul Aziz Shah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Hissammuddin Alam Shah who died in office 21 November 2001
head of government: Prime Minister MAHATHIR bin Mohamad (since 16 July 1981); Deputy Prime Minister ABDULLAH bin Ahmad Badawi (since 8 January 1999)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister from among the members of Parliament with consent of the paramount ruler
election results: Tuanku SYED SIRAJUDDIN ibni Almarhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail elected paramount ruler following the death of TUNKU SALAHUDDIN Abdul Aziz Shah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Hisammuddin Alam Shah
elections: paramount ruler elected by and from the hereditary rulers of nine of the states for five-year terms; election last held 12 December 2001 (next to be held NA 2006); prime minister designated from among the members of the House of Representatives; following legislative elections, the leader of the party that wins a plurality of seats in the House of Representatives becomes prime minister
Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament or Parlimen consists of the Senate or Dewan Negara (69 seats; 43 appointed by the paramount ruler, 26 appointed by the state legislatures) and the House of Representatives or Dewan Rakyat (193 seats; members elected by popular vote weighted toward the rural Malay population to serve five-year terms)
election results: House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NF 56%, other 44%; seats by party - NF 148, PAS 27, DAP 10, NJP 5, PBS 3
elections: House of Representatives - last held 29 November 1999 (next must be held by 20 December 2004)
Judicial branch:
Federal Court (judges appointed by the paramount ruler on the advice of the prime minister)
Political parties and leaders:
Alternative Coalition or Barisan Alternatif-BA (includes the following parties: Party Islam Se-Malaysia or PAS [FADZIL Mohamad Noor], National Justice Party or NJP [WAN AZIZAH Wan Ismail], and Malaysian People's Party or PRM [SYED HUSIN]); National Front or NF (ruling coalition dominated by the United Malays National Organization or UMNO [MAHATHIR bin Mohamad], includes the following parties: Malaysian Indian Congress or MIC [S. Samy VELLU], Malaysian Chinese Association or MCA [LING Liong Sik], Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia or Gerakan [LIM Keng Yaik], Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu or PBB [Patinggi Haji Abdul TAIB Mahmud], Parti Angkatan Keadilan Rakyat Bersatu or Akar [PANDIKAR Amin Mulia], Parti Bangsa Dayak Sarawak or PBDS [Leo MOGGIE], Parti Bersatu Sabah or PBS [Joseph PAIRIN Kitingan], Sabah United People's Party or SUPP [Jeffrey KITINGAN], Liberal Democratic Party or LDP [CHONG Kah Kiat], Sabah Progressive Party or SAPP [YONG Teck Lee], People's Progressive Party or PPP [M. KAYVEAS], Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah or PBRS [Joseph KURUP], Sarawak National Party or SNAP [Amar James WONG], Parti Demokratik Sabah or PDS [leader NA], and United Pasok Momogun Kadazan Organization or UPKO (state level only) [Bernard DOMPOK]); Parti Bersekutu [HARRIS Salleh]; State Reform Party of Sarawak or STAR [PATAU Rubis]; Democratic Action Party or DAP [LIM Kit Siang]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador GHAZZALI bin Sheikh Abdul Khalid
chancery: 2401 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles and New York
FAX: [1] (202) 483-7661
telephone: [1] (202) 328-2700
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Marie T. HUHTALA
embassy: 376 Jalan Tun Razak, 50400 Kuala Lumpur
mailing address: P. O. Box No. 10035, 50700 Kuala Lumpur; American Embassy Kuala Lumpur, APO AP 96535-8152
telephone: [60] (3) 2168-5000
FAX: [60] (3) 2142-2207
Flag description:
14 equal horizontal stripes of red (top) alternating with white (bottom); there is a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a yellow crescent and a yellow fourteen-pointed star; the crescent and the star are traditional symbols of Islam; the design was based on the flag of the US
Economy Malaysia
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 is almost exclusively driven by exports - particularly of electronics - and, as a result Malaysia was hard hit by the global economic downturn and the slump in the Information Technology (IT) sector in 2001. GDP in 2001 grew only 0.3% due to an estimated 11% contraction in exports, but a substantial fiscal stimulus package has mitigated the worst of the recession and the economy is expected to grow by 2% to 3% in 2002 as the world economy rebounds. Kuala Lumpur's healthy foreign exchange reserves and relatively small external debt make it unlikely that Malaysia will experience a crisis similar to the crisis of 1997, but the economy remains vulnerable to a more protracted downturn in the US and Japan, top export destinations and key sources of foreign investment.
purchasing power parity - $200 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
0.3% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $9,000 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 12%
industry: 40%
services: 48% (2001)
Population below poverty line:
8% (1998 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 38% (1997 est.)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
49 (1997)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
1.5% (2001 est.)
Labor force:
9.9 million (2001 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
local trade and tourism 28%, manufacturing 27%, agriculture, forestry, and fisheries 16%, services 10%, government 10%, construction 9% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate:
3.7% (2001 est.)
revenues: $20.3 billion
expenditures: $27.2 billion, including capital expenditures of $9.4 billion (2001 est.)
Peninsular Malaysia - rubber and oil palm processing and manufacturing, light manufacturing industry, electronics, tin mining and smelting, logging and processing timber; Sabah - logging, petroleum production; Sarawak - agriculture processing, petroleum production and refining, logging
Industrial production growth rate:
-4% (2001 est.)
Electricity - production:
63.069 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 88%
hydro: 12%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
58.59 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
75 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
11 million kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
Peninsular Malaysia - rubber, palm oil, cocoa, rice; Sabah - subsistence crops, rubber, timber, coconuts, rice; Sarawak - rubber, pepper; timber
$94.4 billion f.o.b. (2001 est.)
Exports - commodities:
electronic equipment, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, wood and wood products, palm oil, rubber, textiles, chemicals
Exports - partners:
US 20%, Singapore 17%, Japan 14%, Hong Kong 4.5%, Netherlands 4.5%, China 4%, Thailand 4% (2001 est.)
$76.9 billion f.o.b. (2001 est.)
Imports - commodities:
electronics, machinery, petroleum products, plastics, vehicles, iron and steel and iron and steel products, chemicals
Imports - partners:
Japan 20%, US 17%, Singapore 13%, Taiwan 5%, China 4%, Germany 4%, Thailand 4% (2001 est.)
Debt - external:
$44.7 billion (2001 est.)
ringgit (MYR)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
ringgits per US dollar - 3.8000 (January 2002), 3.8000 (2001), 3.8000 (2000), 3.8000 (1999), 3.9244 (1998), 2.8133 (1997)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Malaysia
Telephones - main lines in use:
4.6 million (2000)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
5 million (2000)
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: 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)
10.9 million (1999)
Television broadcast stations:
1 (plus 15 high-power repeaters) (2001)
10.8 million (1999)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
7 (2000)
Internet users:
5.7 million (2002)
Transportation Malaysia
total: 1,801 km
narrow gauge: 1,801 km 1.000-m gauge (148 km electrified) (2001)
total: 64,672 km
paved: 48,707 km (including 1,192 km of expressways)
note: in addition to these national and main regional roads, Malaysia has thousands of kilometers of local roads that are maintained by local jurisdictions (1999)
unpaved: 15,965 km
7,296 km
note: Peninsular Malaysia 3,209 km, Sabah 1,569 km, Sarawak 2,518 km
crude oil 1,307 km; natural gas 379 km
Ports and harbors:
Bintulu, Kota Kinabalu, Kuantan, Kuching, Kudat, Labuan, Lahad Datu, Lumut, Miri, Pasir Gudang, Penang, Port Dickson, Port Kelang, Sandakan, Sibu, Tanjung Berhala, Tanjung Kidurong, Tawau
Merchant marine:
total: 363 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 4,952,119 GRT/7,229,299 DWT
note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Australia 1, China 1, Germany 2, Hong Kong 15, Indonesia 3, Japan 4, Monaco 1, Philippines 2, Singapore 78, South Korea 2, Vietnam 1 (2002 est.)
ships by type: bulk 57, cargo 114, chemical tanker 35, container 62, liquefied gas 20, livestock carrier 1, passenger 2, petroleum tanker 60, roll on/roll off 5, specialized tanker 1, vehicle carrier 6
116 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 35
over 3,047 m: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 7 (2002)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 11
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 79
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 6
under 914 m: 72 (2002)
1 (2002)
Military Malaysia
Military branches:
Malaysian Army, Royal Malaysian Navy, Royal Malaysian Air Force, Royal Malaysian Police Field Force, Marine Police, Sarawak Border Scouts
Military manpower - military age:
21 years of age (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 5,933,296 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 3,592,997 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 196,042 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$1.69 billion (FY00 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
2.03% (FY00)
Transnational Issues Malaysia
Disputes - international:
Malaysia involved in a complex dispute over the Spratly Islands with China, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, and possibly Brunei; Malaysia and Singapore are considering taking the dispute over Pulau Batu Putih (Pedra Branca Island) to ICJ; Malaysia concerned over Singapore's land reclamation works on Johor, which affect the maritime boundary, shipping lanes, and water ecology in the Tebrau Reach; since 1998, ICJ has been considering Malaysia's longstanding Sipadan and Ligitan islands dispute with Indonesia; ICJ rejected the Philippines' application to intervene in this case in October 2001; Sultanate of Sulu granted the Philippine Government power of attorney to pursue his sovereignty claim over Malaysia's state of Sabah, over which the Philippines have not fully revoked their claim; a one km stretch of Malaysia-Thailand territory at the mouth of the Kolok river remains in dispute, despite overall success in boundary redemarcation
Illicit drugs:
transit point for some illicit drugs; drug trafficking prosecuted vigorously and carries severe penalties

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003