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 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 bin 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 Mohamed NAJIB bin Abdul Razak (in office since April 2009) has continued these pro-business policies and has introduced some civil reforms.

Other Information

Natural Resources

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

Land Use

arable land: 5.44%
permanent crops: 17.49%
other: 77.07% (2011)


30,073,353 (July 2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 44

Ethnic Groups

Malay 50.1%, Chinese 22.6%, indigenous 11.8%, Indian
6.7%, other 0.7%, non-citizens 8.2% (2010 est.)


Muslim (official) 61.3%, Buddhist 19.8%, Christian 9.2%,
Hindu 6.3%, Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional
Chinese religions 1.3%, other 0.4%, none 0.8%, unspecified 1% (2010 est.)


Bahasa Malaysia (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: 93.1%
male: 95.4%
female: 90.7% (2010 est.)


Kuala Lumpur

Government Type

constitutional monarchy note: nominally headed by paramount ruler (commonly referred to as the king) and a bicameral Parliament consisting of a nonelected upper house and an elected lower house; all Peninsular Malaysian states have hereditary rulers (comm


31 August 1957 (from the UK)

National Holiday

Independence Day 31 August (1957) (independence of Malaya); Malaysia Day 16 September (1963) (formation of Malaysia)