Mahathir Mohamad
Prime Minister


(pronounced "ma-hah-TEER mo-HAH-med")

"I'll be here for as long as the people want me."

Malaysia's estimated 22.7 million people (2002) come from a multitude of ethnic and religious backgrounds and are spread out over 329,757 sq km (127,584 sq mi). Malaysia is divided by the South China Sea into West Malaysia (the 11 states on the narrow Malay peninsula that stretches south from the Asian continent) and East Malaysia (the states of Sarawak and Sabah on the northern part of the island of Borneo). Western Malaysia borders its continental neighbor Thailand to the north on the peninsula and the island city-state Singapore on the southern tip of the peninsula. Its sits across from the Indonesian island of Sumatra on the eastern side of the narrow and strategically valuable Strait of Malacca (through which passes much of the world's oil from the Middle East on its way to Japan and the United States). The capital, Kuala Lumpur, is situated near the strait on the western side of the peninsula. Eastern Malaysia borders the Indonesian states to the south on the island of Borneo and wraps around the tiny and yet oil wealthy Sultanate of Brunei on the north coast of the island.

As with many former British colonies in Asia and Eastern Africa, Malaysia has a large indigenous ethnic population supplemented by a healthy number of races from the other parts of the Empire. Malaysia is some 60% Malay and other indigenous ethnic groups, with a significant number of Chinese (30%) and Indians (8%), mainly descended from traders and tin mine workers who emigrated to Malaysia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Malay is the state language. Some 52% of the population, mainly Malay, are Muslims (the state religion is Islam); 17% are Buddhist; 12% Chinese folk-religionist/Taoist; 7% Hindu; 6% Christian; and the remaining 6% practice local religions. The Malaysian unit of currency is the ringgit. Malaysia exports petroleum, timber, rubber, and palm oil. The per capita gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at US $9,000 in 2001.


Office of the Prime Minister
Jalan Dato Onn
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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