Introduction :: Malaysia


The adoption of Islam in the 14th century saw the rise of a number of powerful sultanates on the Malay Peninsula and island of Borneo. The Portuguese in the 16th century and the Dutch in the 17th century were the first European colonial powers to establish themselves on the Malay Peninsula and Southeast Asia. However, it was the British who ultimately secured their hegemony across the territory and during the late 18th and 19th centuries established colonies and protectorates in the area that is now Malaysia. These holdings were occupied by Japan from 1942 to 1945. In 1948, the British-ruled territories on the Malay Peninsula except Singapore formed the Federation of Malaya, which became independent in 1957. Malaysia was formed in 1963 when the former British colonies of Singapore, as well as Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo, joined the Federation. The first several years of the country’s independence were marred by a communist insurgency, Indonesian confrontation with Malaysia, Philippine claims to Sabah, and Singapore’s withdrawal in 1965. During the 22-year term of Prime Minister MAHATHIR Mohamad (1981-2003), Malaysia was successful in diversifying its economy from dependence on exports of raw materials to the development of manufacturing, services, and tourism. Prime Minister MAHATHIR and a newly-formed coalition of opposition parties defeated Prime Minister Mohamed NAJIB bin Abdul Razak’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO) in May 2018, ending over 60 years of uninterrupted rule by UMNO. MAHATHIR resigned in February 2020 amid a political dispute. King ABDULLAH then selected Tan Sri MUHYIDDIN Yassin as the new prime minister.

Geography :: Malaysia


Southeastern Asia, peninsula bordering Thailand and northern one-third of the island of Borneo, bordering Indonesia, Brunei, and the South China Sea, south of Vietnam

Geographic coordinates

2 30 N, 112 30 E

Map references

Southeast Asia


total: 329,847 sq km

land: 328,657 sq km

water: 1,190 sq km

Area – comparative

Area comparison map

Land boundaries

total: 2,742 km

border countries (3): Brunei 266 km, Indonesia 1881 km, Thailand 595 km


4,675 km (Peninsular Malaysia 2,068 km, East Malaysia 2,607 km)

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation; specified boundary in the South China Sea


tropical; annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons


coastal plains rising to hills and mountains


mean elevation: 419 m

lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m

highest point: Gunung Kinabalu 4,095 m

Natural resources

tin, petroleum, timber, copper, iron ore, natural gas, bauxite

Land use

agricultural land: 23.2% (2011 est.)

arable land: 2.9% (2011 est.) /** permanent crops:** 19.4% (2011 est.) /** permanent pasture:** 0.9% (2011 est.)

forest: 62% (2011 est.)

other: 14.8% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

3,800 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

a highly uneven distribution with over 80% of the population residing on the Malay Peninsula

Natural hazards

flooding; landslides; forest fires

Environment – current issues

air pollution from industrial and vehicular emissions; water pollution from raw sewage; deforestation; smoke/haze from Indonesian forest fires; endangered species; coastal reclamation damaging mangroves and turtle nesting sites

Environment – international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography – note

strategic location along Strait of Malacca and southern South China Sea

People and Society :: Malaysia


32,652,083 (July 2020 est.)


noun: Malaysian(s)

adjective: Malaysian

Ethnic groups

Bumiputera 62% (Malays and indigenous peoples, including Orang Asli, Dayak, Anak Negeri), Chinese 20.6%, Indian 6.2%, other 0.9%, non-citizens 10.3% (2017 est.)


Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai

note: Malaysia has 134 living languages – 112 indigenous languages and 22 non-indigenous languages; in East Malaysia, there are several indigenous languages; the most widely spoken are Iban and Kadazan


Muslim (official) 61.3%, Buddhist 19.8%, Christian 9.2%, Hindu 6.3%, Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 1.3%, other 0.4%, none 0.8%, unspecified 1% (2010 est.)

Age structure

population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 44.2

youth dependency ratio: 33.8

elderly dependency ratio: 10.4

potential support ratio: 9.7 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 29.2 years

male: 28.9 years

female: 29.6 years (2020 est.)

Population growth rate

1.29% (2020 est.)

Birth rate

18.3 births/1,000 population (2020 est.)

Death rate

5.3 deaths/1,000 population (2020 est.)

Net migration rate

-0.3 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2020 est.)

Population distribution

a highly uneven distribution with over 80% of the population residing on the Malay Peninsula


urban population: 77.2% of total population (2020)

rate of urbanization: 2.13% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas – population

7.997 million KUALA LUMPUR (capital), 1.024 million Johor Bahru, 814,000 Ipoh (2020)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.9 male(s)/female

total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

29 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 11.4 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 13.2 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 9.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2020 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 75.9 years

male: 73 years

female: 78.9 years (2020 est.)

Total fertility rate

2.43 children born/woman (2020 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

52.2% (2014)

Drinking water source

improved:** urban:** 100% of population

rural: 89.3% of population

total: 96.7% of population

unimproved:** urban:** 0% of population

rural: 11.7% of population

total: 3.3% of population (2017 est.)

Current Health Expenditure

3.9% (2017)

Physicians density

1.54 physicians/1,000 population (2015)

Hospital bed density

1.9 beds/1,000 population (2017)

Sanitation facility access

improved:** urban:** 100% of population

rural: 98.7% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved:** urban:** 0% of population

rural: 1.3% of population

total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate

0.4% (2018 est.)

HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS

87,000 (2018 est.)

HIV/AIDS – deaths

2,600 (2018 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: intermediate (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: dengue fever

water contact diseases: leptospirosis

Obesity – adult prevalence rate

15.6% (2016)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

13.7% (2016)

Education expenditures

4.7% of GDP (2017)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 93.7%

male: 96.3%

female: 91.1% (2016)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 13 years

male: 13 years

female: 14 years (2017)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 10.5%

male: 9.8%

female: 11.4% (2016 est.)

Government :: Malaysia

Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Malaysia

local long form: none

local short form: Malaysia

former: Federation of Malaya

etymology: the name means “Land of the Malays”

Government type

federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy

note: all Peninsular Malaysian states have hereditary rulers (commonly referred to as sultans) except Melaka (Malacca) and Pulau Pinang (Penang); those two states along with Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia have governors appointed by government; powers of state governments are limited by the federal constitution; under terms of federation, Sabah and Sarawak retain certain constitutional prerogatives (e.g., right to maintain their own immigration controls)


name: Kuala Lumpur; note – nearby Putrajaya is referred to as a federal government administrative center but not the capital; Parliament meets in Kuala Lumpur

geographic coordinates: 3 10 N, 101 42 E

time difference: UTC+8 (13 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: the Malay word for “river junction or estuary” is “kuala” and “lumpur” means “mud”; together the words render the meaning of “muddy confluence”

Administrative divisions

13 states (negeri-negeri, singular – negeri); Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Pulau Pinang, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Terengganu; and 1 federal territory (Wilayah Persekutuan) with 3 components, Kuala Lumpur, Labuan, and Putrajaya


31 August 1957 (from the UK)

National holiday

Independence Day (or Merdeka Day), 31 August (1957) (independence of Malaya); Malaysia Day, 16 September (1963) (formation of Malaysia)


history: previous 1948; latest drafted 21 February 1957, effective 27 August 1957

amendments: proposed as a bill by Parliament; passage requires at least two-thirds majority vote by the Parliament membership in the bills second and third readings; a number of constitutional sections are excluded from amendment or repeal; amended many times, last in 2010

Legal system

mixed legal system of English common law, Islamic (sharia) law, and customary law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Federal Court at request of supreme head of the federation

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt


citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Malaysia

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 10 out 12 years preceding application


18 years of age; universal (2019)

Executive branch

chief of state: King Sultan ABDULLAH Sultan Ahmad Shah (since 24 January 2019); note – King MUHAMMAD V (formerly known as Tuanku Muhammad Faris Petra) (selected on 14 October 2016; installed on 13 December 2016) resigned on 6 January 2019; the position of the king is primarily ceremonial, but he is the final arbiter on the appointment of the prime minister

head of government: Prime Minister Tan Sri MUHYIDDIN Yassin (since 1 March 2020); note – Prime Minister MAHATHIR resigned on 24 February 2020 but King ABDULLAH asked that he stay on as interim prime minister until Malaysian’s King ABDULLAH picked MUHYIDDIN to step in as Prime Minister; note – previous Deputy Prime Minister WAN AZIZAH Wan Ismail (21 May 2018 – 24 February 2020) was the first female in this position (2019)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister from among members of Parliament with the consent of the king; note – cabinet dissolved 24 February 2020 with Prime Minister MAHATHIR resignation

elections/appointments: king elected by and from the hereditary rulers of 9 states for a 5-year term; election is on a rotational basis among rulers of the 9 states; election last held on 24 January 2019 (next to be held in 2024); prime minister designated from among members of the House of Representatives; following legislative elections, the leader who commands support of the majority of members in the House becomes prime minister

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Parliament of Malaysia or Parlimen Malaysia consists of:

Senate or Dewan Negara (70 seats; 44 members appointed by the king and 26 indirectly elected by 13 state legislatures; members serve 3-year terms)
House of Representatives or Dewan Rakyat (222 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 5-year terms) (2019)
elections: Senate – appointed

House of Representatives – last held on 9 May 2018 (next to be held no later than May 2023)
election results:
Senate – appointed; composition – men 54, women 14, percent of women 20.6%
House of Representatives – percent of vote by party/coalition – PH 45.6%, BN 33.8%, PAS 16.9%, WARISAN 2.3%, other 1.4%; seats by party/coalition – PH 113, BN 79, PAS 18, WARISAN 8, USA 1, independent 3; composition – men 199, women 23, percent of women 10.4%; note – total Parliament percent of women 12.8%

note: as of 16 November 2019, seats by party – PH 129, BN 41, GS 18, GPS 18, WARISAN 9, GBS 3, UPKO 1, PSB 1, independent 1, vacant 1

Judicial branch

highest courts: Federal Court (consists of the chief justice, president of the Court of Appeal, chief justice of the High Court of Malaya, chief judge of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak, 8 judges, and 1 “additional” judge); note – Malaysia has a dual judicial hierarchy of civil and religious (sharia) courts

judge selection and term of office: Federal Court justices appointed by the monarch on advice of the prime minister; judges serve until mandatory retirement at age 66 with the possibility of a single 6-month extension

subordinate courts: Court of Appeal; High Court; Sessions Court; Magistrates’ Court

Political parties and leaders

National Front (Barisan Nasional) or BN:
Malaysian Chinese Association (Persatuan China Malaysia) or MCA [LIOW Tiong Lai]
Malaysian Indian Congress (Kongres India Malaysia) or MIC [S. SUBRAMANIAM]
United Malays National Organization or UMNO [MOHAMAD Hasan, acting]
(Formerly – Coalition of Hope (Pakatan Harapan) or PH (formerly the People’s Alliance, before former PM MAHATHIR resigns 24 February 2020):
Democratic Action Party (Parti Tindakan Demokratik) or DAP [TAN Kok Wai]
Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia) or PPBM [Tan Sri MUHYIDDIN Yassin; note – former PM MAHATHIR steps down 24 Feb 2020]
National Trust Party (Parti Amanah Negara) or AMANAH [Mohamad SABU]
People’s Justice Party (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) or PKR [ANWAR Ibrahim]

New – Fighters of the Nation Party (Parti Pejuang Tanah Air) or Pejuang [former PM MAHATHIR bin Mohamad; interim president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir note – started August 2020]

Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (Parti Islam se Malaysia) or PAS [Abdul HADI Awang]
Progressive Democratic Party or PDP [TIONG King Sing]
Sabah Heritage Party (Parti Warisan Sabah) or WARISAN [SHAFIE Apdal]
Sarawak Parties Alliance (Gabungan Parti Sarawak) or GPS [ABANG JOHARI Openg] (includes PBB, SUPP, PRS, PDP)
Sarawak People’s Party (Parti Rakyat Sarawak) or PRS [James MASING]
Sarawak United People’s Party (Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sarawak) or SUPP [Dr. SIM Kui Hian]
United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organization (Pertubuhan Pasko Momogun Kadazan Dusun Bersatu) or UPKO [Wilfred Madius TANGAU]
United Sabah Alliance or USA (Gabungan Sabah)
United Sabah Party (Parti Bersatu Sabah) or PBS [Maximus ONGKILI]
United Sabah People’s (Party Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah) or PBRS [Joseph KURUP]
United Traditional Bumiputera Party (Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersata) or PBB; note – PBB is listed under GPS above

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

Ambassador Dato’ AZMIL Zabidi (since February 2019)
chancery: 3516 International Court NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: 1 572-9700

FAX: 1 572-9882
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles, New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Kamala Shirin LAKHDHIR (since 21 February 2017)

telephone: 60 2168-5000

embassy: 376 Jalan Tun Razak, 50400 Kuala Lumpur

mailing address: US Embassy Kuala Lumpur, APO AP 96535-8152

FAX: 60 2142-2207

Flag description

14 equal horizontal stripes of red (top) alternating with white (bottom); there is a dark blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a yellow crescent and a yellow 14-pointed star; the flag is often referred to as Jalur Gemilang (Stripes of Glory); the 14 stripes stand for the equal status in the federation of the 13 member states and the federal government; the 14 points on the star represent the unity between these entities; the crescent is a traditional symbol of Islam; blue symbolizes the unity of the Malay people and yellow is the royal color of Malay rulers

note: the design is based on the flag of the US

National symbol(s)

tiger, hibiscus; national colors: gold, black

National anthem


Economy :: Malaysia

Economy – overview

Malaysia, an upper middle-income country, has transformed itself since the 1970s from a producer of raw materials into a multi-sector economy. Under current Prime Minister NAJIB, Malaysia is attempting to achieve high-income status by 2020 and to move further up the value-added production chain by attracting investments in high technology, knowledge-based industries and services. NAJIB’s Economic Transformation Program is a series of projects and policy measures intended to accelerate the country’s economic growth. The government has also taken steps to liberalize some services sub-sectors. Malaysia is vulnerable to a fall in world commodity prices or a general slowdown in global economic activity.

The NAJIB administration is continuing efforts to boost domestic demand and reduce the economy’s dependence on exports. Domestic demand continues to anchor economic growth, supported mainly by private consumption, which accounts for 53% of GDP. Nevertheless, exports – particularly of electronics, oil and gas, and palm oil – remain a significant driver of the economy. In 2015, gross exports of goods and services were equivalent to 73% of GDP. The oil and gas sector supplied about 22% of government revenue in 2015, down significantly from prior years amid a decline in commodity prices and diversification of government revenues. Malaysia has embarked on a fiscal reform program aimed at achieving a balanced budget by 2020, including rationalization of subsidies and the 2015 introduction of a 6% value added tax. Sustained low commodity prices throughout the period not only strained government finances, but also shrunk Malaysias current account surplus and weighed heavily on the Malaysian ringgit, which was among the regions worst performing currencies during 2013-17. The ringgit hit new lows following the US presidential election amid a broader selloff of emerging market assets.

Bank Negara Malaysia (the central bank) maintains adequate foreign exchange reserves; a well-developed regulatory regime has limited Malaysia’s exposure to riskier financial instruments, although it remains vulnerable to volatile global capital flows. In order to increase Malaysias competitiveness, Prime Minister NAJIB raised possible revisions to the special economic and social preferences accorded to ethnic Malays under the New Economic Policy of 1970, but retreated in 2013 after he encountered significant opposition from Malay nationalists and other vested interests. In September 2013 NAJIB launched the new Bumiputra Economic Empowerment Program, policies that favor and advance the economic condition of ethnic Malays.

Malaysia signed the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement in February 2016, although the future of the TPP remains unclear following the US withdrawal from the agreement. Along with nine other ASEAN members, Malaysia established the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, which aims to advance regional economic integration.

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$933.3 billion (2017 est.)
$881.3 billion (2016 est.)
$845.6 billion (2015 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$312.4 billion (2017 est.)

GDP – real growth rate

5.9% (2017 est.)
4.2% (2016 est.)
5.1% (2015 est.)

GDP – per capita (PPP)

$29,100 (2017 est.)
$27,900 (2016 est.)
$27,100 (2015 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

Gross national saving

28.5% of GDP (2017 est.)
28.3% of GDP (2016 est.)
28.2% of GDP (2015 est.)

GDP – composition, by end use

household consumption: 55.3% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 12.2% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 25.3% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0.3% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 71.4% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -64.4% (2017 est.)

GDP – composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 8.8% (2017 est.)

industry: 37.6% (2017 est.)

services: 53.6% (2017 est.)

Agriculture – products

Peninsular Malaysia – palm oil, rubber, cocoa, rice;Sabah – palm oil, subsistence crops; rubber, timber;Sarawak – palm oil, rubber, timber; pepper


Peninsular Malaysia – rubber and oil palm processing and manufacturing, petroleum and natural gas, light manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, medical technology, electronics and semiconductors, timber processing;Sabah – logging, petroleum and natural gas production;Sarawak – agriculture processing, petroleum and natural gas production, logging

Industrial production growth rate

5% (2017 est.)

Labor force

14.94 million (2017 est.)

Labor force – by occupation

agriculture: 11%

industry: 36%

services: 53% (2012 est.)

Unemployment rate

3.4% (2017 est.)
3.5% (2016 est.)

Population below poverty line

3.8% (2009 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1.8%
highest 10%: 34.7% (2009 est.)


revenues: 51.25 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 60.63 billion (2017 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

16.4% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-3% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Public debt

54.1% of GDP (2017 est.)
56.2% of GDP (2016 est.)

note: this figure is based on the amount of federal government debt, RM501.6 billion ($167.2 billion) in 2012; this includes Malaysian Treasury bills and other government securities, as well as loans raised externally and bonds and notes issued overseas; this figure excludes debt issued by non-financial public enterprises and guaranteed by the federal government, which was an additional $47.7 billion in 2012

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

3.8% (2017 est.)
2.1% (2016 est.)

note: approximately 30% of goods are price-controlled

Current account balance

$9.296 billion (2017 est.)
$7.236 billion (2016 est.)


$187.9 billion (2017 est.)
$165.3 billion (2016 est.)

Exports – partners

Singapore 15.1%, China 12.6%, US 9.4%, Japan 8.2%, Thailand 5.7%, Hong Kong 4.5% (2017)

Exports – commodities

semiconductors and electronic equipment, palm oil, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, wood and wood products, palm oil, rubber, textiles, chemicals, solar panels


$160.7 billion (2017 est.)
$141 billion (2016 est.)

Imports – commodities

electronics, machinery, petroleum products, plastics, vehicles, iron and steel products, chemicals

Imports – partners

China 19.9%, Singapore 10.8%, US 8.4%, Japan 7.6%, Thailand 5.8%, South Korea 4.5%, Indonesia 4.4% (2017)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$102.4 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$94.5 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

Debt – external

$217.2 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$195.3 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

Exchange rates

ringgits (MYR) per US dollar –
4.343 (2017 est.)
4.15 (2016 est.)
4.15 (2015 est.)
3.91 (2014 est.)
3.27 (2013 est.)

Energy :: Malaysia

Electricity access

electrification – total population: 100% (2016)

Electricity – production

148.3 billion kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity – consumption

136.9 billion kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity – exports

3 million kWh (2015 est.)

Electricity – imports

33 million kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity – installed generating capacity

33 million kW (2016 est.)

Electricity – from fossil fuels

78% of total installed capacity (2016 est.)

Electricity – from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)

Electricity – from hydroelectric plants

18% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)

Electricity – from other renewable sources

4% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)

Crude oil – production

647,000 bbl/day (2018 est.)

Crude oil – exports

326,200 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil – imports

166,000 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil – proved reserves

3.6 billion bbl (1 January 2018 est.)

Refined petroleum products – production

528,300 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products – consumption

704,000 bbl/day (2016 est.)

Refined petroleum products – exports

208,400 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products – imports

304,600 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Natural gas – production

69.49 billion cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas – consumption

30.44 billion cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas – exports

38.23 billion cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas – imports

2.803 billion cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas – proved reserves

1.183 trillion cu m (1 January 2018 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy

226.8 million Mt (2017 est.)

Communications :: Malaysia

Telephones – fixed lines

total subscriptions: 6,433,300

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 20 (2018 est.)

Telephones – mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 42,413,400

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 133 (2018 est.)

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: one of the most advanced telecom networks in the developing world; strong commitment to developing a technological society; Malaysia is promoting itself as an information tech hub in the Asian region; closing the urban rural divide; 4G and 5G networks with strong competition, mobile dominance over fixed-broadband; roll-out of a national broadband network (2020)

domestic: fixed-line 20 per 100 and mobile-cellular teledensity exceeds 133 per 100 persons; domestic satellite system with 2 earth stations (2018)

international: country code – 60; landing points for BBG, FEA, SAFE, SeaMeWe-3 & 4 & 5, AAE-1, JASUKA, BDM, Dumai-Melaka Cable System, BRCS, ACE, AAG, East-West Submarine Cable System, SEAX-1, SKR1M, APCN-2, APG, BtoBe, BaSICS, and Labuan-Brunei Submarine and MCT submarine cables providing connectivity to Asia, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Australia and Europe; satellite earth stations – 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean, 1 Pacific Ocean); launch of Kacific-1 satellite in 2019 (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic’s effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry – mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable, and satellite – has moderated

Broadcast media

state-owned TV broadcaster operates 2 TV networks with relays throughout the country, and the leading private commercial media group operates 4 TV stations with numerous relays throughout the country; satellite TV subscription service is available; state-owned radio broadcaster operates multiple national networks, as well as regional and local stations; many private commercial radio broadcasters and some subscription satellite radio services are available; about 55 radio stations overall (2019)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 25,829,444

percent of population: 81.2% (July 2018 est.)

Broadband – fixed subscriptions

total: 2.696 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 8 (2018 est.)

Military and Security :: Malaysia

Military and security forces

Malaysian Armed Forces (Angkatan Tentera Malaysia, ATM): Malaysian Army (Tentera Darat Malaysia), Royal Malaysian Navy (Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia, TLDM), Royal Malaysian Air Force (Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia, TUDM); Ministry of Home Affairs: the Royal Malaysian Police (PRMD, includes the General Operations Force, a paramilitary force with a variety of roles, including patrolling borders, counter-terrorism, maritime security, and counterinsurgency) (2019)

note: Malaysia created a National Special Operations Force in 2016 for combating terrorism threats; the force is comprised of personnel from the Armed Forces, the Royal Malaysian Police, and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (Malaysian Coast Guard, MMEA)

Military expenditures

1% of GDP (2019)
1% of GDP (2018)
1.1% of GDP (2017)
1.4% of GDP (2016)
1.5% of GDP (2015)

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Malaysian Armed Forces have approximately 115,000 active duty troops (80,000 Army; 18,000 Navy; 17,000 Air Force); approximately 18,000 General Operations Force (2019 est.)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the Malaysian Armed Forces field a diverse mix of imported weapons systems; the chief suppliers since 2010 are Germany, South Korea, Spain, and Turkey (2019)

Military deployments

820 Lebanon (UNIFIL) (April 2020)

Military service age and obligation

17 years 6 months of age for voluntary military service (younger with parental consent and proof of age); mandatory retirement age 60; women serve in the Malaysian Armed Forces; no conscription (2017)

Maritime threats

the International Maritime Bureau reports that the territorial and offshore waters in the Strait of Malacca and South China Sea remain high risk for piracy and armed robbery against ships; in the past, commercial vessels have been attacked and hijacked both at anchor and while underway; hijacked vessels are often disguised and cargo diverted to ports in East Asia; crews have been murdered or cast adrift; 11 attacks were reported in 2018 including eight ships boarded and seven crew taken hostage

Transportation :: Malaysia

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 13 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 270

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 60,481,772 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 1,404,410,000 mt-km (2018)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

9M (2016)


114 (2013)

Airports – with paved runways

total: 39 (2017)

over 3,047 m: 8 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 8 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 7 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m: 8 (2017)

under 914 m: 8 (2017)

Airports – with unpaved runways

total: 75 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 6 (2013)

under 914 m: 69 (2013)


4 (2013)


354 km condensate, 6439 km gas, 155 km liquid petroleum gas, 1937 km oil, 43 km oil/gas/water, 114 km refined products, 26 km water (2013)


total: 1,851 km (2014)

standard gauge: 59 km 1.435-m gauge (59 km electrified) (2014)

narrow gauge: 1,792 km 1.000-m gauge (339 km electrified) (2014)


total: 144,403 km (excludes local roads) (2010)

paved: 116,169 km (includes 1,821 km of expressways) (2010)

unpaved: 28,234 km (2010)


7,200 km (Peninsular Malaysia 3,200 km; Sabah 1,500 km; Sarawak 2,500 km) (2011)

Merchant marine

total: 1,748

by type: bulk carrier 15, container ship 22, general cargo 176, oil tanker 140, other 1,395 (2019)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Bintulu, Johor Bahru, George Town (Penang), Port Kelang (Port Klang), Tanjung Pelepas

container port(s) (TEUs): Port Kelang (Port Klang) (11,978,000), Tanjung Pelepas (8,260,000) (2017)
LNG terminal(s) (export): Bintulu (Sarawak)
LNG terminal(s) (import): Sungei Udang

Terrorism :: Malaysia

Terrorist groups – foreign based

Jemaah Islamiyah (JI): aim(s): enhance networks in Malaysia and, ultimately, overthrow the secular Malaysian Government and establish a pan-Islamic state across Southeast Asia area(s) of operation: maintains a recruitment and operational presence, primarily in major cities (2018)

Transnational Issues :: Malaysia

Disputes – international

while the 2002 “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” has eased tensions over the Spratly Islands, it is not the legally binding “code of conduct” sought by some parties, which is currently being negotiated between China and ASEAN; Malaysia was not party to the March 2005 joint accord among the national oil companies of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam on conducting marine seismic activities in the Spratly Islands; disputes continue over deliveries of fresh water to Singapore, Singapore’s land reclamation, bridge construction, and maritime boundaries in the Johor and Singapore Straits; in 2008, ICJ awarded sovereignty of Pedra Branca (Pulau Batu Puteh/Horsburgh Island) to Singapore, and Middle Rocks to Malaysia, but did not rule on maritime regimes, boundaries, or disposition of South Ledge; land and maritime negotiations with Indonesia are ongoing, and disputed areas include the controversial Tanjung Datu and Camar Wulan border area in Borneo and the maritime boundary in the Ambalat oil block in the Celebes Sea; separatist violence in Thailand’s predominantly Muslim southern provinces prompts measures to close and monitor border with Malaysia to stem terrorist activities; Philippines retains a dormant claim to Malaysia’s Sabah State in northern Borneo; per Letters of Exchange signed in 2009, Malaysia in 2010 ceded two hydrocarbon concession blocks to Brunei in exchange for Brunei’s sultan dropping claims to the Limbang corridor, which divides Brunei; piracy remains a problem in the Malacca Strait

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 114,227 (Burma) (2018)

stateless persons: 9,631 (2018); note – Malaysia’s stateless population consists of Rohingya refugees from Burma, ethnic Indians, and the children of Filipino and Indonesian illegal migrants; Burma stripped the Rohingya of their nationality in 1982; Filipino and Indonesian children who have not been registered for birth certificates by their parents or who received birth certificates stamped “foreigner” are not eligible to attend government schools; these children are vulnerable to statelessness should they not be able to apply to their parents’ country of origin for passports

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Malaysia is a destination and, to a lesser extent, a source and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and women and children subjected to sex trafficking; Malaysia is mainly a destination country for foreign workers who migrate willingly from countries, including Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Nepal, Burma, and other Southeast Asian countries, but subsequently encounter forced labor or debt bondage in agriculture, construction, factories, and domestic service at the hands of employers, employment agents, and labor recruiters; women from Southeast Asia and, to a much lesser extent, Africa, are recruited for legal work in restaurants, hotels, and salons but are forced into prostitution; refugees, including Rohingya adults and children, are not legally permitted to work and are vulnerable to trafficking; a small number of Malaysians are trafficked internally and subjected to sex trafficking abroad

tier rating: Tier 2 Watch list – Malaysia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; in 2014, amendments to strengthen existing anti-trafficking laws, including enabling victims to move freely and to work and for NGOs to run protective facilities, were drafted by the government and are pending approval from Parliament; authorities more than doubled investigations and prosecutions but convicted only three traffickers for forced labor and none for sex trafficking, a decline from 2013 and a disproportionately small number compared to the scale of the countrys trafficking problem; NGOs provided the majority of victim rehabilitation and counseling services with no financial support from the government (2015)

Illicit drugs

drug trafficking prosecuted vigorously, including enforcement of the death penalty; heroin still primary drug of abuse, but synthetic drug demand remains strong; continued ecstasy and methamphetamine producer for domestic users and, to a lesser extent, the regional drug market


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