Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia. It consists of thirteen states and three federal territories. The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. In 2010 the population exceeded 27.5 million, with over 20 million living on the Peninsula.
Malaysia has fought to freely export tropical timber in spite of international regulation, and has been largely successful in combating regulation efforts. Malaysian officials grant forest concessions to timber companies that are either owned by politicians or their relatives. The demand for timber resources has been a major impetus towards a massive cutting of the nation's tropical rain forests.
World production of palm oil, the most widely traded edible oil, has also seen significant leaps in production and planted areas; production had almost doubled from 1990 to 2001, with Malaysia and Indonesia contributing to most of the increased production.
Sarawak is the largest state of Malaysia which is located in the northern part of Borneo. There are four major forest types in Sarawak, which comprise intact forest, secondary forest, peat swamp forest and mangrove forest. Oil palm plantation in Sarawek has increased from 28,500 ha in year 1985 to 744,372 ha in 2008.
The country is strongly divided along ethnic lines with the three largest ethnic groups being (in order of size) Malays, Chinese and Indians. In addition, there are a number of smaller indigenous peoples in the territories of Sarawak and Sabah. That this amalgam of races and ethnic diversity has been moulded together and has (post the awful riots of 1969) worked reasonably well is truly one of the great success stories of the last thirty years.
There is an underlying societal demand for stronger Islamic commitment on the part of Malay politicians. The term "Malay" should be stressed in this context, as it is mainly the ethnic Malays (55% of the Malaysian population) who consider themselves the Muslims of the country.
Prior to the colonial era, the inhabitants of the Malay world conceived of the whole archipelago, comprising roughly present-day Southeast Asia, as their homeland. Inter-regional mobility was not uncommon between the peoples, who enjoyed, with only the slightest variation, affinity in terms of culture, language, physical appearance and a syncretic worldview as conditioned by elements of animism, Hinduism and Buddhism.
In 1785, the British, who needed a port for their ships to dock while in route to China, persuaded the Sultan of Kedah to let them build a fort on Penang. After the French conquered the Netherlands in 1795, the Dutch allowed England to oversee the port of Malacca rather than turn it over the the French. This was the first in a series of "swaps" to and from each country regarding this area.
Foreign investments (in Malaysia) continued to be very significant in financial services as well as manufacturing growth, both for import substitution from the 1960s and for export from the 1970s. Private investments were attracted by government provision of infrastructure, cheap but schooled labour, tax incentives, lax environmental regulations and an undervalued currency.
Economic liberalization and the growing influence of business interests and political elites have undermined the government’s developmental role, culminating in the 1997–8 financial crisis and lacklustre growth since.
The once-mighty United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which leads a 13-party multiracial governing coalition, looks increasingly vulnerable at a future election. A judiciary that was seen as beholden to its political masters has begun to assert its independence, and has sided with free-speech plaintiffs in prickly faith-related cases.