The adoption of Islam in the 14th century saw the rise of a number of powerful sultanates on the Malay Peninsula and island of Borneo. The Portuguese in the 16th century and the Dutch in the 17th century were the first European colonial powers to establish themselves on the Malay Peninsula and Southeast Asia. However, it was the British who ultimately secured their hegemony across the territory and during the late 18th and 19th centuries established colonies and protectorates in the area that is now Malaysia. These holdings were occupied by Japan from 1942 to 1945. In 1948, the British-ruled territories on the Malay Peninsula except Singapore formed the Federation of Malaya, which became independent in 1957. Malaysia was formed in 1963 when the former British colonies of Singapore, as well as Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo, joined the Federation. The first several years of the country's independence were marred by a communist insurgency, Indonesian confrontation with Malaysia, Philippine claims to Sabah, and Singapore's withdrawal in 1965. During the 22-year term of Prime Minister MAHATHIR Mohamad (1981-2003), Malaysia was successful in diversifying its economy from dependence on exports of raw materials to the development of manufacturing, services, and tourism. Prime Minister MAHATHIR and a newly-formed coalition of opposition parties defeated Prime Minister Mohamed NAJIB bin Abdul Razak's United Malays National Organization (UMNO) in May 2018, ending over 60 years of uninterrupted rule by UMNO. MAHATHIR resigned in February 2020 amid a political dispute. King ABDULLAH then selected Tan Sri MUHYIDDIN Yassin as the new prime minister.



2.30° N, 112. 30° E
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


329,847 sq km
328,657 sq km
1,190 sq km

land boundaries

2,742 km


4,675 km


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


coastal plains rising to hills and mountains


419 m
lowest point
Indian Ocean
0 m
highest point
Gunung Kinabalu
4,095 m

natural resources

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

land use

arable land
2.9 %
permanent crops
19.4 %
permanent pasture
0.9 %
62 %
14.8 %

population distribution

a highly uneven distribution with over 80% of the population residing on the Malay Peninsula



  • 32,652,083
  • 42
    global rank


  • Malaysian(s)
  • Malaysian

ethnic groups

62 %
20.6 %
6.2 %
0.9 %
10.3 %


  • Bahasa Malaysia
  • English
  • Chinese
    Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow
  • Tamil
  • Telugu
  • Malayalam
  • Panjabi
  • Thai


61.3 %
19.8 %
9.2 %
6.3 %
other traditional Chinese religions
1.3 %
0.4 %
0.8 %
1 %

birth rate

  • 18.3
    per 1,000 population
  • 85
    global rank

death rate

  • 5.3
    per 1,000 population
  • 191
    global rank

urban population

77.2 %

major urban areas

  • Kuala Lumpur
    pop. 7,997,000
  • Johor Bahru
    pop. 1,024,000
  • Ipoh
    pop. 814,000

life expectancy

  • 75.9
    total population
  • 108
    global rank

adult obesity rate

  • 15.6%
    percent of adults
  • 125
    global rank


country name


  • none
    long form
  • Malaysia
    short form


  • none
    long form
  • Malaysia
    short form

government type

federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy note: all Peninsular Malaysian states have hereditary rulers (commonly referred to as sultans) except Melaka (Malacca) 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 the federal constitution; under terms of federation, Sabah and Sarawak retain certain constitutional prerogatives (e.g., right to maintain their own immigration controls)


Kuala Lumpur; note - nearby Putrajaya is referred to as a federal government administrative center but not the capital; Parliament meets in Kuala Lumpur
3.10 N, 101.42 E


national holidays

  • Independence Day
    31 August
  • Malaysia Day
    16 September

legal system

mixed legal system of English common law, Islamic (sharia) law, and customary law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Federal Court at request of supreme head of the federation

flag description

14 equal horizontal stripes of red (top) alternating with white (bottom); there is a dark blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a yellow crescent and a yellow 14-pointed star; the flag is often referred to as Jalur Gemilang (Stripes of Glory); the 14 stripes stand for the equal status in the federation of the 13 member states and the federal government; the 14 points on the star represent the unity between these entities; the crescent is a traditional symbol of Islam; blue symbolizes the unity of the Malay people and yellow is the royal color of Malay rulers

national colors

  • gold
  • black

national anthem

"Negaraku" (My Country)



Malaysia, an upper middle-income country, has transformed itself since the 1970s from a producer of raw materials into a multi-sector economy. Under current Prime Minister NAJIB, Malaysia is attempting to achieve high-income status by 2020 and to move further up the value-added production chain by attracting investments in high technology, knowledge-based industries and services. NAJIB's Economic Transformation Program is a series of projects and policy measures intended to accelerate the country's economic growth. The government has also taken steps to liberalize some services sub-sectors. Malaysia is vulnerable to a fall in world commodity prices or a general slowdown in global economic activity. The NAJIB administration is continuing efforts to boost domestic demand and reduce the economy's dependence on exports. Domestic demand continues to anchor economic growth, supported mainly by private consumption, which accounts for 53% of GDP. Nevertheless, exports - particularly of electronics, oil and gas, and palm oil - remain a significant driver of the economy. In 2015, gross exports of goods and services were equivalent to 73% of GDP. The oil and gas sector supplied about 22% of government revenue in 2015, down significantly from prior years amid a decline in commodity prices and diversification of government revenues. Malaysia has embarked on a fiscal reform program aimed at achieving a balanced budget by 2020, including rationalization of subsidies and the 2015 introduction of a 6% value added tax. Sustained low commodity prices throughout the period not only strained government finances, but also shrunk Malaysia’s current account surplus and weighed heavily on the Malaysian ringgit, which was among the region’s worst performing currencies during 2013-17. The ringgit hit new lows following the US presidential election amid a broader selloff of emerging market assets. Bank Negara Malaysia (the central bank) maintains adequate foreign exchange reserves; a well-developed regulatory regime has limited Malaysia's exposure to riskier financial instruments, although it remains vulnerable to volatile global capital flows. In order to increase Malaysia’s competitiveness, Prime Minister NAJIB raised possible revisions to the special economic and social preferences accorded to ethnic Malays under the New Economic Policy of 1970, but retreated in 2013 after he encountered significant opposition from Malay nationalists and other vested interests. In September 2013 NAJIB launched the new Bumiputra Economic Empowerment Program, policies that favor and advance the economic condition of ethnic Malays. Malaysia signed the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement in February 2016, although the future of the TPP remains unclear following the US withdrawal from the agreement. Along with nine other ASEAN members, Malaysia established the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, which aims to advance regional economic integration.


933,300,000,000 USD

agriculture products

  • palm oil
  • rubber
  • cocoa
  • rice
  • palm oil
  • subsistence crops
  • rubber
  • timber
  • palm oil
  • rubber
  • timber
  • pepper

poverty level



  • 51,250,000,000
    revenue (USD)
  • 60,630,000,000
    expenditures (USD)



    fixed lines

  • 6,433,300
    total subscriptions
  • 24
    global rank

    mobile cellular

  • 42,413,400
    total subscriptions
  • 35
    global rank

broadcast media

state-owned TV broadcaster operates 2 TV networks with relays throughout the country, and the leading private commercial media group operates 4 TV stations with numerous relays throughout the country; satellite TV subscription service is available; state-owned radio broadcaster operates multiple national networks, as well as regional and local stations; many private commercial radio broadcasters and some subscription satellite radio services are available; about 55 radio stations overall (2019)


country code


  • 25,829,444
  • 81.2
    % of population
  • 30
    global rank


electricity access



air transport

    national system

  • 12
    registered air carriers
  • 50,347,149
    annual passenger traffic


  • 114
  • 39


1,851 km
total length


144,403 km
total length


7,200 km
total length



expenditures here

service age