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Malaysia*Malaysia flag
Basic facts
The country 
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Capital: Kuala Lumpur
Area: 329,758 sq km; 127,320 sq miles
Population: 22,229,040 (July 2001 est.)
Urbanisation: Urban 56 per cent (1998 Estimate); Rural 44 per cent (1998 Estimate)


Exports: Electronic equipment, petroleum and petroleum products, palm oil, wood and wood products, rubber, textiles

Industry: Rubber and palm oil processing and manufacturing, logging and processing timber, light manufacturing, electronics, tin mining and smelting, petroleum production and refining, agricultural processing

Agriculture: Natural rubber, palm oil, rice, timber, coconut, pepper

Currency: 1 ringgit Malaysia (RM), consisting of 100 sen

Natural resources: Tin, petroleum, timber, copper, iron ore, natural gas, bauxite


The people

Ethnic: Malay 65.1 per cent, Chinese 26 per cent Indian 7.7 per cent, Other 1.2 per cent

Language: West Malaysia: Bahasa Malaysia (official), Chinese dialects, Tamil, other indigenous languages, English. State of Sabah: English, Bahasa Malaysia, numerous indigenous languages, Chinese (Mandarin and Hakka dialects predominate) State of Sarawak: English, Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin, numerous indigenous languages Bahasa Malaysia is the official language and is spoken throughout the country. The ethnic Chinese also speak one of various Chinese dialects such as Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien, Mandarin, or Min. On the island of Borneo, in Sabah and Sarawak, many indigenous languages are spoken. Most Malaysians are bilingual if not multilingual and English is spoken in all but the most remote areas.

Religion: West Malaysia: Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu State of Sabah: Muslim 38 per cent, Christian 17 per cent, Indigenous beliefs and other 45 per cent. State of Sarawak: Indigenous beliefs 35 per cent, Buddhist and Confucianist 24 per cent, Muslim 20 per cent, Christian 16 per cent, Other 5 per cent. Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, although the constitution guarantees freedom of worship. Ethnic Malays are virtually all Muslim. The Chinese on the peninsula are chiefly Buddhist, with some Taoists, Christians and Confucianists. Some Malays practise principles from all three. The Indians are generally Hindu, but some are Christian. In the states of Sabah and Sarawak, the denomination percentages are different. In Sabah, about 38 per cent are Muslim, 17 per cent Christian and the rest follow indigenous beliefs. In Sarawak, where there are more Chinese, 24 per cent are Buddhist and Confucianist, 20 per cent Muslim, 16 per cent Christian and the rest follow indigenous or other beliefs. Throughout Malaysia many people follow traditional beliefs and customs as well as those of their religion.


The history

Independence: 31 August 1957 (from the United Kingdom)

Government: The federation of Malaysia is made up of 13 states: The King is head of state, but executive power lies mainly with the Prime Minister and cabinet. The present King is Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Putra Jamalullail, who took office on 14 December 2001, following the death of the previous King. He will be formally crowned on 25 April. Since independence, political power has been in the hands of the UMNO and since 1981 its President, Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, has been Prime Minister.

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