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Did you know: 

Malaysia is to host the tenth biennial conference of the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management and the fifth Forum of Commonwealth Public Service Ministers in Kuala Lumpur in October 2014; and at the 2013 CHOGM in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Malaysia offered to host CHOGM 2019.

Tash Aw was a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize regional winner with The Harmony Silk Factory in 2006; and Sri Lankan Rani Manicka, who was born in Malaysia, with her novel, The Rice Mother, in 2003.

Scholarships for postgraduate study are awarded by Malaysia to citizens of other Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 
29,717,000 (2013)
3.5% p.a. 1990–2013
world ranking 62
Official language: 
GMT plus 8hr
ringgit or Malaysian dollar (M$)


329,758 sq km
Capital city: 
Kuala Lumpur
Population density (per sq. km): 


Lying north of the equator in central South-East Asia, above Singapore and south of Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia is separated by about 540 km of the South China Sea from the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, which share the island of Borneo with Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam. Malaysian islands include Labuan, Penang and the Langkawi Islands.

The Federation of Malaysia comprises three federal territories (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan) and 13 states (Sabah, Sarawak and the 11 states of Peninsular Malaysia). The peninsular states are the nine sultanates of Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu, plus Melaka and Penang.

Main towns: 

Kuala Lumpur (capital, pop. 1.48m in 2010), Subang Jaya (Selangor, contiguous with Kuala Lumpur, 1.55m), Kelang (Selangor, 1.11m), Johor Baharu (Johor, 916,400), Ampang Jaya (Selangor, 804,900), Ipoh (Perak, 704,600), Shah Alam (Selangor, 671,300), Kuching (Sarawak, 658,500), Petaling Jaya (Selangor, 638,500), Kota Kinabalu (Sabah, 604,100), Batu Sembilan Cheras (Selangor, 601,500), Sandakan (Sabah, 501,200), Kajang Sungai Chua (Selangor, 448,200), Seremban (Negeri Sembilan, 439,300), Kuantan (Pahang, 422,000), Tawau (Sabah, 381,700), Kuala Terengganu (Terengganu, 286,300), Miri (280,500), Kota Baharu (Kelantan, 272,600), Bukit Mertajam (Penang, 228,000), Alor Setar (Kedah, 212,600), Taiping (Perak, 212,600), Melaka (Melaka, 201,400) and George Town (Penang, 157,700).


There are 144,400 km of roads, 80 per cent paved. A good network in Peninsular Malaysia including a motorway from north to south. Toll motorways (such as parts of the North–South Expressway) have been built by private groups.

There is a railway network of 2,250 km operated by Malaysian Railway, in Peninsular Malaysia, linking with Singapore in the south and Thailand to the north. Express trains are modern. Sabah has a coastal line; Sarawak has no railway.

Kuala Lumpur’s light railway system commenced operations in the late 1990s. It combines underground and raised track and covers the entire city, connecting city centre with airports and suburbs.

Ferry services run between ports on the peninsula and link the peninsula with Sabah and Sarawak. River transport is well developed in the east and the only form of transport in remote areas.

The new Kuala Lumpur International Airport at Sepang, 55 km to the south of Kuala Lumpur, was completed in 1998, in time for the Commonwealth Games. Other international airports are at Penang (16 km south of George Town), Kota Kinabalu (Sabah), and Kuching (Sarawak).

International relations: 

Malaysia is a member of Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization.


Peninsular Malaysia has a mountainous spine (highest peak Gunong Tahan, 2,156 metres) with low plains on either side. In the west, mangrove swamps and mudflats at the coast give way to cultivated plains. Sandy beaches lie along the east coast. The main rivers are the Perak and the Pahang. Sabah’s mountains include Mount Kinabalu (4,094 metres), the highest peak in South-East Asia. Sarawak’s highest mountain is Murud (2,385 metres), its main river the Rejang.


Tropical, with heavy annual rainfall and high humidity. The daily temperature throughout Malaysia varies from 21–32°C. In Kuala Lumpur, April and May are the hottest months, December the coldest and April the wettest.


The most significant environmental issues are deforestation; air pollution by industrial and motor emissions; water pollution by raw sewage; and smoke or haze from Indonesian forest fires.


 Intensive logging and replanting operations are gradually changing the forest’s form. Most cleared areas are in the north-east and west of Peninsular Malaysia. Huge tracts of Sabah’s forests were felled in the 1970s and 1980s; the government is trying to curb logging. Forest covers 62 per cent of the land area, having declined at 0.4 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Arable land comprises five per cent and permanent cropland 18 per cent of the total land area.


East Malaysia has one of the largest and most varied bird populations in the world, including many species of parrots, hornbills and broadbills. The endangered orangutan, the proboscis monkey and massive wild ox, the seladang or Malayan gaur, also occur. In the country as a whole 70 mammal species and 42 bird species are thought to be endangered (2014).