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State

Capital

Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur

Currency unit

Ringgit

Connections

Empire

Indonesia

Islam

Singapore

South East Asia

Population

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

History

This is an area of south east Asia whose culture comes from the west, that is Islam. The Malay speaking people have a lot in common with Indonesians, many of whose languages are closely related to Malay. The religion of the main group living in the Malay peninsula is Islam. However, many of the peoples of the northern Borneo states - Sarawak and Sabah - practice traditional religion or mission Christianity.

The country was conquered by the British from about 1819 and used for growing rubber and mining tin.

During the second world war the whole territory was occupied by the Japanese, after a campaign that included the disaster of the Fall of Singapore when a large British Army surrendered, almost without fighting.

The federation is a union of three Malay speaking areas, all formerly British colonies: Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah (North Borneo).

Malaya itself is a federation of Sultanates. When the federation was set up Singapore was a member, but it left after distrust by the Malays of its Chinese majority population. This reflects the fact that the indigenous Malays are only just a majority in Malaysia as a whole and would have become a minority if Singapore's Chinese were included. This was also a reason for including the Malays of Borneo, even though they had little in common with those of the peninsula. Sarawak was ruled from 1840-1946 by the British family of Brook - who were granted the kingdom by the Sultan of Brunei in return for ridding the coast of Pirates, though the founder of the family has himself been described as a "buccaneer" - a freelance adventurer. The Brooks became known as the "White Rajahs".

Following the war the British re-occupied the territories but there was a war against communist guerrillas mainly from the Chinese community. This "Malayan Emergency" was against Communist, mostly Chinese, guerrillas. They were defeated because the Malay rural inhabitants did not support the guerrillas. The British used the technique of creating strategic villages which cut off supplies to the guerrillas. The technique was later copied in Vietnam but failed because in that country the peasants did support the guerrillas. The Malays were promised independence which they gained in 1965. This war had reduced to a small intensity before independence. The few remaining guerrillas are believed to have surrendered during 1989.

After the formation of the Federation there was a further war with Indonesia on the Borneo borders, in which British troops patrolled the borders on behalf of the Malaysian government. Indonesia, led by President Soekarno, wanted to take over what it regarded as extensions of Indonesian territory. This ended with the Coup d'Etat in Indonesia of 1965.

The large Chinese community has traditionally controlled much of the commercial and professional life. This has been resented by the indigenous Malays. In 1969 there were race riots. Since then the government, Malay dominated, has tried to favor the Malays with quotas for jobs and access to education. This remains the main source of potential instability. There are also citizens of Indian origin.

Could the Indonesians revive the conflict over Borneo? Probably not soon.

Languages

Malay

(close to Bahasa Indonesia)

Chinese (various dialects)

Tamil

English

 History

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Politics

There is nominally a multi-party system. However, the opposition has never won an election. The Prime Minister is accused of using dubious legal tactics to prevent opposition parties organizing. The rule of law is threatened by use of extralegal government force, including preventive detention. There is also control of the press, which does not criticize the government.

Dr Mahathir Mohammed retired in October 2003 and was succeeded by Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (also known as Pak Lah). Will the new government be more democratic, or will the single party dominance continue? The ruling party is the United Malay National Organisation.

The federation is headed by an elected symbolic king who is one of the kings of the component Malay states.

Interesting reading

 History

 Politics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Economics

Malaysia counts with Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan as one of the Asian Tigers where economic development is proceeding fast. In British times the economy was based on the export of plantation rubber (the world's first rubber plantations were in Malaya), tin and tropical agricultural products. There is now a large manufacturing sector, including electronics.

The previous prime minister Mahathir Mohammed refused to agree to the IMF demands during the currency crisis of the 1990s, and instead the government ordered controls of currency trades and the transfer of capital. Some observers say that as a result Malaysia suffered much less from the crisis than its neighbors (such as Indonesia and Thailand) who did follow the IMF plan.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Rights

 Climate

Green/Ecology

The state of the rain forests in both the Malay Peninsula and Borneo is serious. Clear felling for timber is destroying large areas and the livelihood of the forest peoples. Government ministers are alleged to be gaining from the destruction.

Government wants to raise birth rate, as they believe there are too few people. They say there are not enough workers for the jobs available.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Climate

Human Rights

Imprisonment without trial. The judges were sacked in 1988 and replaced by political appointees.

The previous Prime Minister resisted calls for Commonwealth standards of "Good Government" .

Amnesty reports torture, routinely of "illegal immigrants" .

The previous Prime Minister has said:"we must not be slaves of democracy". and complained that the British press had criticized Malaysian standards of business, and apparently believes this is a British government view. i.e. he does not understand the concept of a free press.

The media are controlled by the government.

Climate effects

Last revised 19/07/11


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