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Malaysia Introduction

Malaysia has two main land masses, the Malaysian Peninsula, south of Thailand and  where Singapore is right at its tip, and two states on north of the Island of Borneo which is otherwise part of Indonesia.  We visited the capital of Kuala Lumpur for three nights which is on the Peninsula and the island of Langkawi.  This is situated just of the North West coast of the Peninsula close to the Thai border and was an hours flight from Kuala Lumpur, we were also here for three nights.

Like other countries in the region there is a diversity of people with a mix of Malays, Chinese and Indians forming the largest communities.  Trade routes between China, Indian and the Malaysian Peninsula have been present since pre-historic times and this early contact shapes some aspects of the country.  Later from around 11th Centaury Muslim traders came to the region and in the 15th Centaury the first Muslim sultanate had formed in the area.  The Malays absorbed the Islamic faith but still retained elements of earlier customs.  Malaysia is an Islamic State.   From the 15th Centaury the Europeans also started to trade in the region with first the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch and British.  The Malay Peninsula's importance dwindled while the Dutch established its centre of operation in Jakarta but as Raffles established Singapore for the British the balance began to change.  Britain influence and dominance grew until it had effective control over the Malaya Peninsula, the Straits and Borneo by 1914.

Along with other countries in the region, Malaysia was occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War. Though the British were welcomed on return at the end of the war the seeds for independence were sown.  Though resistance initially came from Chinese communists with a guerrilla army, the Malay community were also starting to call for Independence and negotiations started in 1951.  A key concern was the uniting of the different cultural communities and their individual concerns.  Independence was reached in 1957 and Malaya became a constitutional monarchy with a King elected every five years from among the nine ruling houses of the Malayan rulers.  Parliament consisted of a fully elected lower house and a senate of nominated members.  Each state also has its own elected assembly.  

In 1961 the formation of Malaysia a federation of Malaya, Singapore, British North Borneo (Sabah), Sawark and Brunei was proposed.  Brunei opted out but the other States agreed and the Malaysian federation was formed in 1963.  Singapore had initially been divided about the issue and in 1965 became an independent Country.  Territorial disputes also continued for a few years with Indonesia and the Philippines and full recognition of Malaysia from these countries took place in 1966.  Much of Malaysia's current prosperity developed under the rule of Mathathir Mohammad, Prime Minister from 1981 to his retirement in 2003.  During his time in office Malaysia has had an economic boom and seen much development but many feel that he also increased his own personal power at the expense of the Monarchy and the Judiciary, however his party continues to rule through strong electoral wins and some of the concerns of corruption are being addressed.

We had a very enjoyable stay here and the country is well worth a visit.

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