Malaysia boasts one of south-east Asia’s most vibrant economies, the fruit of decades of industrial growth and political stability.
Consisting of two regions separated by some 640 miles of the South China Sea, Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious federation of 13 states and three federal territories.
The majority Muslim ethnic Malay are dominant politically, and benefit from positive discrimination in business, education and the civil service, but a large ethnic Chinese minority holds economic power. The communities coexist in relative harmony, although there is little racial interaction, and a religious divide persists.
The country is benefiting from a growth in manufacturing, and is a major tourist destination, but there are fears that development could harm the environment, particularly the rainforests of northern Borneo, which are under pressure from palm oil plantations and illegal logging.
- Federation of Malaysia
- Capital: Kuala Lumpur
- Population: 29.3 million (UN, 2012)
- Area: 329,847 sq km (127,355 sq miles)
- Major languages: Malay (official), English, Chinese dialects, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam
- Major religions: Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism
- Life expectancy: 73 years (men), 77 years (women)
- Currency: Ringgit