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Motto: Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu
Location Malaysia ASEAN.svg
Location of Malaysia (dark green)

– in Asia (dark gray & white)
– in ASEAN

 (dark gray)

Largest cityKuala Lumpur
Official language
Recognised languageEnglish[c]
Ethnic groups
See below
See below
GovernmentFederal parliamentary constitutional elective monarchy
• Monarch
Anwar Ibrahim
Dewan Negara (Senate)
Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives)
31 August 1957[2]
22 July 1963
31 August 1963[3]
16 September 1963
• Total
330,803 km2 (127,724 sq mi) (67th)
• Water (%)
• 2022 estimate
33,871,431[4] (43rd)
• 2020 census
• Density
98/km2 (253.8/sq mi) (116th)
GDP (PPP)2022 estimate
• Total
Increase $1.089 trillion [6] (31st)
• Per capita
Increase $32,901[6] (54th)
GDP (nominal)2022 estimate
• Total
Increase $439.373 billion[6] (34th)
• Per capita
Increase $13,268[6] (66th)
Gini (2015)Positive decrease 41[7]
HDI (2021)Decrease 0.803[8]
very high · 62nd
CurrencyRinggit (RM) (MYR)
Time zoneUTC+8 (MST)
Date formatdd-mm-yyyy
Driving sideleft
Calling code+60
ISO 3166 codeMY

Malaysia (/məˈlziə, -ʒə/ (listen) mə-LAY-zee-ə, -⁠zhə; Malay: [məlejsiə]) is a country in Southeast Asia. The federal constitutional monarchy consists of thirteen states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Sea into two regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo's East Malaysia. Peninsular Malaysia shares a land and maritime border with Thailand and maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. East Malaysia shares land and maritime borders with Brunei and Indonesia and a maritime border with the Philippines and Vietnam. Kuala Lumpur is the national capital, largest city and the seat of the legislative branch of the federal government. The nearby planned capital of Putrajaya is the administrative capital, which represents the seat of both the executive branch (Cabinet, federal ministries and agencies) and the judicial branch of the federal government. With a population of over 32 million, Malaysia is the world's 45th-most populous country. The southernmost point of continental Eurasia is in Tanjung Piai. In the tropics, Malaysia is one of 17 megadiverse countries, home to numerous endemic species.

Malaysia has its origins in the Malay kingdoms which, from the 18th century, became subject to the British Empire, along with the British Straits Settlements protectorate. Peninsular Malaysia was unified as the Malayan Union in 1946. Malaya was restructured as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and achieved independence on 31 August 1957. The independent Malaya united with the then British crown colonies of North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore on 16 September 1963 to become Malaysia. In August 1965, Singapore was expelled from the federation and became a separate independent country.[9]

The country is multiethnic and multicultural, which has a significant effect on its politics. About half the population is ethnically Malay, with minorities of Chinese, Indians, and indigenous peoples. The country's official language is Malaysian Malay, a standard form of the Malay language. English remains an active second language. While recognising Islam as the country's established religion, the constitution grants freedom of religion to non-Muslims. The government is modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system and the legal system is based on common law. The head of state is an elected monarch, chosen from among the nine state sultans every five years. The head of government is the Prime Minister.

After independence, the Malaysian GDP grew at an average of 6.5% per annum for almost 50 years. The economy has traditionally been fuelled by its natural resources but is expanding in the sectors of science, tourism, commerce and medical tourism. Malaysia has a newly industrialised market economy, ranked third-largest in Southeast Asia and 33rd-largest in the world.[10] It is a founding member of ASEAN, EAS, OIC and a member of APEC, the Commonwealth and the Non-Aligned Movement.


The name "Malaysia" is a combination of the word "Malays" and the Latin-Greek suffix "-ia"/"-ία"[11] which can be translated as "land of the Malays".[12] The origin of the word 'Melayu' is subject to various theories. It may derive from the Sanskrit "Himalaya", referring to areas high in the mountains, or "Malaiyur-pura", meaning mountain town.[13] Another similar theory claims its origin lies in the Tamil words "malai" and "ur" meaning "mountain" and "city, land", respectively.[14][15][16] Another suggestion is that it derives from the Pamalayu campaign. A final suggestion is that it comes from a Javanese word meaning "to run", from which a river, the Sungai Melayu ('Melayu river'), was named due to its strong current.[13] Similar-sounding variants have also appeared in accounts older than the 11th century, as toponyms for areas in Sumatra or referring to a larger region around the Strait of Malacca.[17] The Sanskrit text Vayu Purana, thought to have been in existence since the first millennium CE, mentioned a land named 'Malayadvipa' which was identified by certain scholars as the modern Malay peninsula.[18][19][20][21][22] Other notable accounts are by the 2nd century Ptolemy's Geographia that used the name Malayu Kulon for the west coast of Golden Chersonese, and the 7th century Yijing's account of Malayu.[17]

At some point, the Melayu Kingdom took its name from the Sungai Melayu.[13][23] 'Melayu' then became associated with Srivijaya,[17] and remained associated with various parts of Sumatra, especially Palembang, where the founder of the Malacca Sultanate is thought to have come from.[24] It is only thought to have developed into an ethnonym as Malacca became a regional power in the 15th century. Islamisation established an ethnoreligious identity in Malacca, with the term 'Melayu' beginning to appear as interchangeable with 'Melakans'. It may have specifically referred to local Malays speakers thought loyal to the Malaccan Sultan. The initial Portuguese use of Malayos reflected this, referring only to the ruling people of Malacca. The prominence of traders from Malacca led 'Melayu' to be associated with Muslim traders, and from there became associated with the wider cultural and linguistic group.[17] Malacca and later Johor claimed they were the centre of Malay culture, a position supported by the British which led to the term 'Malay' becoming more usually linked to the Malay peninsula rather than Sumatra.[24]

Before the onset of European colonisation, the Malay Peninsula was known natively as "Tanah Melayu" ("Malay Land").[25] Under a racial classification created by a German scholar Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, the natives of maritime Southeast Asia were grouped into a single category, the Malay race.[26][27] Following the expedition of French navigator Jules Dumont d'Urville to Oceania in 1826, he later proposed the terms of "Malaysia", "Micronesia" and "Melanesia" to the Société de Géographie in 1831, distinguishing these Pacific cultures and island groups from the existing term "Polynesia". Dumont d'Urville described Malaysia as "an area commonly known as the East Indies".[28] In 1850, the English ethnologist George Samuel Windsor Earl, writing in the Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, proposed naming the islands of Southeast Asia as "Melayunesia" or "Indunesia", favouring the former.[29] The name Malaysia gained some use to label what is now the Malay Archipelago.[30] In modern terminology, "Malay" remains the name of an ethnoreligious group of Austronesian people predominantly inhabiting the Malay Peninsula and portions of the adjacent islands of Southeast Asia, including the east coast of Sumatra, the coast of Borneo, and smaller islands that lie between these areas.[31]

The state that gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1957 took the name the "Federation of Malaya", chosen in preference to other potential names such as "Langkasuka", after the historic kingdom located at the upper section of the Malay Peninsula in the first millennium CE.[32][33] The name "Malaysia" was adopted in 1963 when the existing states of the Federation of Malaya, plus Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak formed a new federation.[34][d] One theory posits the name was chosen so that "si" represented the inclusion of Singapore, North Borneo, and Sarawak to Malaya in 1963.[34] Politicians in the Philippines contemplated renaming their state "Malaysia" before the modern country took the name.[36]


Evidence of modern human habitation in Malaysia dates back 40,000 years.[37] In the Malay Peninsula, the first inhabitants are thought to be Negritos.[38] Traders and settlers from India and China arrived as early as the first century AD, establishing trading ports and coastal towns in the second and third centuries. Their presence resulted in strong Indian and Chinese influences on the local cultures, and the people of the Malay Peninsula adopted the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Sanskrit inscriptions appear as early as the fourth or fifth century.[39] The Kingdom of Langkasuka arose around the second century in the northern area of the Malay Peninsula, lasting until about the 15th century.[32] Between the 7th and 13th centuries, much of the southern Malay Peninsula was part of the maritime Srivijayan empire. By the 13th and the 14th century, the Majapahit empire had successfully wrested control over most of the peninsula and the Malay Archipelago from Srivijaya.[40] In the early 15th century, Parameswara, a runaway king of the former Kingdom of Singapura linked to the old Srivijayan court, founded the Malacca Sultanate.[41] The spread of Islam increased following Parameswara's conversion to that religion. Malacca was an important commercial centre during this time, attracting trade from around the region.[42]

Dutch fleet vs Portuguese armada
The Dutch fleet battling with the Portuguese armada as part of the Dutch–Portuguese War in 1606 to gain control of Malacca

In 1511, Malacca was conquered by Portugal,[42] after which it was taken by the Dutch in 1641. In 1786, the British Empire established a presence in Malaya, when the Sultan of Kedah leased Penang Island to the British East India Company. The British obtained the town of Singapore in 1819,[43] and in 1824 took control of Malacca following the Anglo-Dutch Treaty. By 1826, the British directly controlled Penang, Malacca, Singapore, and the island of Labuan, which they established as the crown colony of the Straits Settlements. By the 20th century, the states of Pahang, Selangor, Perak, and Negeri Sembilan, known together as the Federated Malay States, had British residents appointed to advise the Malay rulers, to whom the rulers were bound to defer by treaty.[44] The remaining five states in the peninsula, known as the Unfederated Malay States, while not directly under British rule, also accepted British advisers around the turn of the 20th century. Development on the peninsula and Borneo were generally separate until the 19th century. Under British rule the immigration of Chinese and Indians to serve as labourers was encouraged.[45] The area that is now Sabah came under British control as North Borneo when both the Sultan of Brunei and the Sultan of Sulu transferred their respective territorial rights of ownership, between 1877 and 1878.[46] In 1842, Sarawak was ceded by the Sultan of Brunei to James Brooke, whose successors ruled as the White Rajahs over an independent kingdom until 1946, when it became a crown colony.[47]

In the Second World War, the Japanese Army invaded and occupied Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore for over three years. During this time, ethnic tensions were raised and nationalism grew.[48] Popular support for independence increased after Malaya was reconquered by Allied forces.[49] Post-war British plans to unite the administration of Malaya under a single crown colony called the "Malayan Union" met with strong opposition from the Malays, who opposed the weakening of the Malay rulers and the granting of citizenship to the ethnic Chinese. The Malayan Union, established in 1946, and consisting of all the British possessions in the Malay Peninsula with the exception of Singapore, was quickly dissolved and replaced on 1 February 1948 by the Federation of Malaya, which restored the autonomy of the rulers of the Malay states under British protection.[50]

During this time, the mostly ethnically Chinese rebels under the leadership of the Malayan Communist Party launched guerrilla operations designed to force the British out of Malaya. The Malayan Emergency (1948–1960) involved a long anti-insurgency campaign by Commonwealth troops in Malaya.[51] On 31 August 1957, Malaya became an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations.[52] After this a plan was put in place to federate Malaya with the crown colonies of North Borneo (which joined as Sabah), Sarawak, and Singapore. The date of federation was planned to be 31 August 1963 so as to coincide with the anniversary of Malayan independence; however, federation was delayed until 16 September 1963 in order for a United Nations survey of support for federation in Sabah and Sarawak, called for by parties opposed to federation including Indonesia's Sukarno and the Sarawak United Peoples' Party, to be completed.[53][54]

Federation brought heightened tensions including a conflict with Indonesia as well continuous conflicts against the Communists in Borneo and the Malayan Peninsula which escalates to the Sarawak Communist Insurgency and Second Malayan Emergency together with several other issues such as the cross border attacks into North Borneo by Moro pirates from the southern islands of the Philippines, Singapore being expelled from the Federation in 1965,[55][56] and racial strife. This strife culminated in the 13 May race riots in 1969.[57] After the riots, the controversial New Economic Policy was launched by Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, trying to increase the share of the economy held by the bumiputera.[58] Under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad there was a period of rapid economic growth and urbanization beginning in the 1980s. The economy shifted from being agriculturally based to one based on manufacturing and industry. Numerous mega-projects were completed, such as the Petronas Towers, the North–South Expressway, the Multimedia Super Corridor, and the new federal administrative capital of Putrajaya.[34] However, in the late 1990s, the Asian financial crisis almost caused the collapse of the currency and the stock and property markets, although they later recovered.[59] The 1MDB scandal was a major global corruption scandal that implicated then-Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2015.[60] The scandal contributed to the first change in the ruling political party since independence in the 2018 general election.[61] In the 2020s, the country was gripped by a political crisis that coincided with health and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.[62] This was then followed by an earlier general election in November 2022, which resulted in the first hung parliament in the nation's history. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition won 82 seats and former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional (PN) gained 73 seats. Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition was the biggest loser securing just 30 seats in the 222-member parliament.[63] On 24 November 2022, Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia.[64]

Government and politics

White tall building and two arches
The Parliament of Malaysia, the building that houses the members of the Dewan Rakyat

Malaysia is a federal constitutional elective monarchy; the only federal country in Southeast Asia.[65] The system of government is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system, a legacy of British rule.[66] The head of state is the King, whose official title is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The King is elected to a five-year term by and from among the nine hereditary rulers of the Malay states. The other four states, which have titular Governors, do not participate in the selection. By informal agreement the position is rotated among the nine,[66] and has been held by Abdullah of Pahang since 31 January 2019.[67] The King's role has been largely ceremonial since changes to the constitution in 1994, picking ministers and members of the upper house.[68]

Legislative power is divided between federal and state legislatures. The bicameral federal parliament consists of the lower house, the House of Representatives and the upper house, the Senate.[69] The 222-member House of Representatives is elected for a maximum term of five years from single-member constituencies. All 70 senators sit for three-year terms; 26 are elected by the 13 state assemblies, and the remaining 44 are appointed by the King upon the Prime Minister's recommendation.[42] The parliament follows a multi-party system and the government is elected through a first-past-the-post system.[42][70] Parliamentary elections are held at least once every five years,[42] the most recent of which took place in May 2018.[61] Before 2018, registered voters aged 21 and above could vote for the members of the House of Representatives and, in most of the states, for the state legislative chamber. Voting is not mandatory.[71] In July 2019, a bill to lower the voting age to 18 years old was officially passed.[72]

Large building with a series of flags in front of it
The Perdana Putra houses the office of Malaysia's Prime Minister

Executive power is vested in the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister. The prime minister must be a member of the House of Representatives, who in the opinion of His Majesty the King, commands the support of a majority of members. The Cabinet is chosen from members of both houses of Parliament.[42] The Prime Minister is both the head of cabinet and the head of government.[68] As a result of the 2018 general election Malaysia was governed by the Pakatan Harapan political alliance,[61] although Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad resigned amid a political crisis in 2020. In March 2020, the Perikatan Nasional coalition formed under Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin,[73] before Muhyiddin lost majority support and was replaced by deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, a veteran politician from UMNO, in August 2021.[74][75]As a result of the 2022 Malaysian general election, a hung parliament was elected. Anwar Ibrahim of the PH coalition was appointed as the new Prime Minister to lead the coalition government of PH, BN, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) and several other political parties and independents. Meanwhile PN, the only political coalition not in the coalition government became the Opposition. Malaysia's legal system is based on English Common Law.[42] Although the judiciary is theoretically independent, its independence has been called into question and the appointment of judges lacks accountability and transparency.[76] The highest court in the judicial system is the Federal Court, followed by the Court of Appeal and two high courts, one for Peninsular Malaysia and one for East Malaysia. Malaysia also has a special court to hear cases brought by or against royalty.[77]

Race is a significant force in politics.[42] Affirmative actions such as the New Economic Policy[58] and the National Development Policy which superseded it, were implemented to advance the standing of the bumiputera, consisting of Malays and the indigenous tribes who are considered the original inhabitants of Malaysia, over non-bumiputera such as Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indians.[78] These policies provide preferential treatment to bumiputera in employment, education, scholarships, business, and access to cheaper housing and assisted savings. However, it has generated greater interethnic resentment.[79] There is ongoing debate over whether the laws and society of Malaysia should reflect Islamism or secularism.[80] Islamic criminal laws passed by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party with the support of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) state assemblymen in the state legislative assembly of Kelantan have been blocked by the federal government on the basis that criminal laws are the responsibility of the federal government.[81][82][83]

After the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) lost power at the 2018 Malaysian general election, Malaysia's ranking increased by 9 places in the 2019 Democracy Index to 43th compared to the previous year, and is classified as a 'flawed democracy'.[84] Malaysia's ranking in the 2020 Press Freedom Index increased by 22 places to 101st compared to the previous year, making it one of two countries in Southeast Asia without a 'Difficult situation' or 'Very Serious situation' with regards to press freedom.[85] However, it fell 18 places the following year due to the policies of the Perikatan Nasional government.[86]

Malaysia is marked at 48 and 62nd place according to the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, indicating above average levels of corruption. Freedom House noted Malaysia as "partly free" in its 2018 survey.[87] A lawsuit filed by Department of Justice (DOJ), alleged that at least $3.5 billion involving former prime minister Najib Razak had been stolen from Malaysia's 1MDB state-owned fund, known as the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal.[88][89][90]

Administrative divisions

Malaysia is a federation of 13 states and three federal territories.[91] These are divided between two regions, with 11 states and two federal territories on Peninsular Malaysia and the other two states and one federal territory in East Malaysia. Each state is divided into districts, which are then divided into mukim. In Sabah and Sarawak districts are grouped into divisions.[92]

Governance of the states is divided between the federal and the state governments, with different powers reserved for each, and the Federal government has direct administration of the federal territories.[93] Each state has a unicameral State Legislative Assembly whose members are elected from single-member constituencies. State governments are led by Chief Ministers,[42] who are state assembly members from the majority party in the assembly. In each of the states with a hereditary ruler, the Chief Minister is normally required to be a Malay, appointed by the ruler upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister.[94] Except for state elections in Sarawak, by convention state elections are held concurrently with the federal election.[68]

Lower-level administration is carried out by local authorities, which include city councils, district councils, and municipal councils, although autonomous statutory bodies can be created by the federal and state governments to deal with certain tasks.[95] The federal constitution puts local authorities outside of the federal territories under the exclusive jurisdictions of the state government,[96] although in practice the federal government has intervened in the affairs of state local governments.[97] There are 154 local authorities, consisting of 14 city councils, 38 municipal councils and 97 district councils.

The 13 states are based on historical Malay kingdoms, and 9 of the 11 Peninsular states, known as the Malay states, retain their royal families. The King is elected by and from the nine rulers to serve a five-year term.[42] This King appoints governors serving a four-year term for the states without monarchies, after consultations with the chief minister of that state. Each state has its own written constitution.[98] Sabah and Sarawak have considerably more autonomy than the other states, most notably having separate immigration policies and controls, and a unique residency status.[99][100][101] Federal intervention in state affairs, lack of development, and disputes over oil royalties have occasionally led to statements about secession from leaders in several states such as Penang, Johor, Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak, although these have not been followed up and no serious independence movements exist.[102][103][104][105]


A list of thirteen states and each state capital (in brackets):

Federal territories
  1. Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur
  2. Labuan Federal Territory of Labuan
  3. Putrajaya Federal Territory of Putrajaya

Foreign relations and military

With Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad
Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Prime Minister's Office in Putrajaya
, 2018

A founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)[106] and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC),[107] the country participates in many international organisations such as the United Nations,[108] the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation,[109] the Developing 8 Countries,[110] and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).[111] It has chaired ASEAN, the OIC, and the NAM in the past.[42] A former British colony, it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.[112] Kuala Lumpur was the site of the first East Asia Summit in 2005.[113]

Malaysia's foreign policy is officially based on the principle of neutrality and maintaining peaceful relations with all countries, regardless of their political system.[114] The government attaches a high priority to the security and stability of Southeast Asia,[113] and seeks to further develop relations with other countries in the region. Historically the government has tried to portray Malaysia as a progressive Islamic nation[114] while strengthening relations with other Islamic states.[113] A strong tenet of Malaysia's policy is national sovereignty and the right of a country to control its domestic affairs.[68] Malaysia signed the UN treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.[115][116]

The Spratly Islands are disputed by many states in the area, and a large portion of the South China Sea is claimed by China. Unlike its neighbours of Vietnam and the Philippines, Malaysia historically avoided conflicts with China.[117] However, after the encroachment of Chinese ships in Malaysian territorial waters,[118] Malaysia has become active in condemning China.[119][120] Brunei and Malaysia in 2009 announced an end to claims of each other's land, and committed to resolve issues related to their maritime borders.[121] The Philippines has a dormant claim to the eastern part of Sabah.[122] Singapore's land reclamation has caused tensions,[123] and minor maritime and land border disputes exist with Indonesia.[122][124]

Clockwise from top right: Scorpène-class submarine, PT-91M MBT tank, Malaysian Army paratrooper with M4, and Su-30MKM fighter aircraft

The Malaysian Armed Forces have three branches: the Malaysian Army, Royal Malaysian Navy and the Royal Malaysian Air Force. There is no conscription, and the required age for voluntary military service is 18. The military uses 1.5% of the country's GDP, and employs 1.23% of Malaysia's manpower.[125] Malaysian peacekeeping forces have contributed to many UN peacekeeping missions, such as in Congo, Iran–Iraq, Namibia, Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Somalia, Kosovo, East Timor and Lebanon.[42][126]

The Five Power Defence Arrangements is a regional security initiative which has been in place for almost 40 years. It involves joint military exercises held among Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.[127] Joint exercises and war games have also been held with Brunei,[128] China,[129] India,[130] Indonesia,[131] Japan,[132] and the United States.[133] Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam have agreed to host joint security force exercises to secure their maritime border and tackle issues such as illegal immigration, piracy, and smuggling.[134][135][136] Previously there were fears that extremist militants activities in the Muslim areas of the southern Philippines[137] and southern Thailand[138] would spill over into Malaysia. Because of this, Malaysia began to increase its border security.[137]

Human rights

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia,[139][140] and the authorities has imposed punishments such as caning and imprisonment.[141][142] Human trafficking and sex trafficking in Malaysia are significant problems.[143][144] There has also been cases of vigilante executions and beatings against LGBT individuals in Malaysia.[145][146] The illegality of homosexuality in Malaysia has also been the forefront of Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trials, which Anwar has responded to it being politically motivated, a response supported by the United Nations' (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention along with Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch.[147][148][149]

The death penalty is in use for serious crimes such as murder, terrorism, drug trafficking, and kidnapping,[150][151] but in June 2022, Malaysian law minister Wan Junaidi pledged to abolish the capital punishment and replace it with other punishments at the discretion of the court.[152]


Malaysia is the 66th largest country by total land area, with a land area of 329,613 km2 (127,264 sq mi). It has land borders with Thailand in West Malaysia, and Indonesia and Brunei in East Malaysia.[153] It is linked to Singapore by a narrow causeway and a bridge. The country also has maritime boundaries with Vietnam[154] and the Philippines.[155] The land borders are defined in large part by geological features such as the Perlis River, the Golok River and the Pagalayan Canal, whilst some of the maritime boundaries are the subject of ongoing contention.[153] Brunei forms what is almost an enclave in Malaysia,[156] with the state of Sarawak dividing it into two parts. Malaysia is the only country with territory on both the Asian mainland and the Malay archipelago.[157] The Strait of Malacca, lying between Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia, is one of the most important thoroughfares in global commerce, carrying 40 per cent of the world's trade.[158]

The two parts of Malaysia, separated from each other by the South China Sea, share a largely similar landscape in that both Peninsular and East Malaysia feature coastal plains rising to hills and mountains.[153] Peninsular Malaysia, containing 40 per cent of Malaysia's land area,[157] extends 740 km (460 mi) from north to south, and its maximum width is 322 km (200 mi).[159] It is divided between its east and west coasts by the Titiwangsa Mountains,[160] rising to a peak elevation of 2,183 metres (7,162 ft) at Mount Korbu,[161] part of a series of mountain ranges running down the centre of the peninsula.[157] These mountains are heavily forested,[citation needed] and mainly composed of granite and other igneous rocks. Much of it has been eroded, creating a karst landscape.[157] The range is the origin of some of Peninsular Malaysia's river systems.[citation needed] The coastal plains surrounding the peninsula reach a maximum width of 50 kilometres (31 mi), and the peninsula's coastline is nearly 1,931 km (1,200 mi) long, although harbours are only available on the western side.[159]

East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo, has a coastline of 2,607 km (1,620 mi).[153] It is divided between coastal regions, hills and valleys, and a mountainous interior.[157] The Crocker Range extends northwards from Sarawak,[157] dividing the state of Sabah. It is the location of the 4,095 m (13,435 ft) high Mount Kinabalu,[162][163] the tallest mountain in Malaysia. Mount Kinabalu is located in the Kinabalu National Park, which is protected as one of the four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Malaysia.[164] The highest mountain ranges form the border between Malaysia and Indonesia. Sarawak contains the Mulu Caves, the largest cave system in the world, in the Gunung Mulu National Park which is also a World Heritage Site.[157] The largest river in Malaysia is the Rajang.

Around these two halves of Malaysia are numerous islands, the largest of which is Banggi.[165] The local climate is equatorial and characterised by the annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons.[159] The temperature is moderated by the presence of the surrounding oceans.[157] Humidity is usually high, and the average annual rainfall is 250 cm (98 in).[159] The climates of the Peninsula and the East differ, as the climate on the peninsula is directly affected by wind from the mainland, as opposed to the more maritime weather of the East. Local climates can be divided into three regions, highland, lowland, and coastal. Climate change is likely to affect sea levels and rainfall, increasing flood risks and leading to droughts.[157]

Biodiversity and conservation

Native species in Malaysia, clockwise from top-right: oriental pied hornbills, hawksbill sea turtle, proboscis monkey, and Malayan tiger