Malaysia, with its capital in Kuala Lumpur, is comprised of the Malaysian peninsula, or “West Malaysia”, and the northern half of the island of Borneo, or “East Malaysia.” Malaysia shares land borders with Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, and Indonesia. The total area of Malaysia is 329,758 square kilometers, with a population estimated at 29.5 million (Dec 2012 est.). Close to 70% of Malaysia’s population are ethnic Malay or indigenous to Malaysia (Bumiputera), 25% are of Chinese descent, and 7% are ethnically Indian (2010 census).
Malay is the official language and English is widely spoken, followed by Chinese, Indian, and indigenous languages. As stated in its Constitution, Islam is the official religion in Malaysia and is practiced by over 60% of the population. Other faiths practiced include Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism.
Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy. It was formed in 1963 as a federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak, all former British colonial territories. Singapore left the federation in 1965. Today, Malaysia is comprised of 13 states and three federal territories. Each state has its own elected assembly and head of state. Nine of the states are ruled by traditional monarchs, known as sultans, who elect the Malaysian Head of State, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Malaysia has a bi-cameral federal parliament based on the British Westminster system of government. Members of the upper house, or Senate, are representatives elected by the 13 states and appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Members of the lower house or House of Representatives are directly elected every five years. The political party obtaining the majority of seats in the House of Representatives can form the government, which is led by the Prime Minister. Malaysia has been ruled by the National Front (Barisan Nasional) coalition dominated by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) since the first general election.
Malaysia has the third highest GDP per capita, surpassed by Brunei and Singapore. It has the third largest economy of the ASEAN Member States, behind Thailand and Indonesia.
Malaysia joined the United Nations (UN) on 16 September 1963. Malaysia is also a member of the following intergovernmental organizations: the World Health Organization (WHO), World Trade Organization (WTO), World Bank Group and the International Labour Organization (ILO). Malaysia is not a member of the International Organization for Migration.
Malaysia is a member of various regional organizations, among others, the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Asian African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO), Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Forum for East Asia – Latin America Cooperation (FEALAC), and other international groupings such as the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).