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Thursday 18th April
Malaysia Information - Page 2
Stone age remains provide evidence that Malaysia was inhabited by early man.

The peninsula of Malaysia, like Singapore, was important historically as a meeting place for traders between China and India. Remains of a Hindu-Buddhist civilization in Kedah date back to 300 AD. (It is thought that the founder of Malacca may have been a descendant of Alexander the Great).

Islam was brought to the area by Arab and Indian traders in the thirteenth century.

Europeans came to the area to trade for spices, silks, and silver. The Portuguese were the first to arrive followed by the Dutch then the British.

In 1819 Sir Stamford Raffles established a British post in Singapore and in 1824 the British acquired Malacca from the Dutch. Two years later, Malacca joined with Penang and Singapore to form the Straits Settlements.

During the Second World War, from 1941, the Japanese occupied the area.

Malaya became independent in 1957 and in 1963 the Federation of Malaysia consisting of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak was formed. Singapore left the Federation in 1965.

In 1967, ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) - an economic cooperative - came into existence. Members were Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam and Vietnam.

Malaysia's first involvement in the modern world economy came with the establishment of the rubber plantations which made the country the world's largest rubber producer. The oil palm is another introduction which has become an important contributor to the economy.

Malaysia's forest resources have made the country a major timber exporter. Agriculture remains an important sector of the economy with rice, coconuts, pepper and cocoa among the significant crops.

Before the establishment of the rubber plantations, tin was Malaysia's most important resource. Copper and iron are also mined in significant amounts. Commercial exploitation of the oil resources began in the early years of this century. Oil and gas resources are controlled by Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas).

Manufacturing has grown in importance. Among goods produced are electronic products and processed food.

1985 saw the creation of Proton, Malaysia's national car company. In 1996 Proton bought Lotus, the British car manufacturer. Proton's market is mainly concentrated in Asia but the UK has become a focus for sales.

Between 1986 and 1996 annual economic growth rates in Malaysia were over eight percent. Foreign investment was made in South Africa and European companies.

During the 1990s substantial investments were made in the transport and communications infrastructure. The railway system now links all the major towns. Two major highways have been completed: the West Coast's North-South Expressway and the East-West highway. There is a good network of internal air flights, while the islands and coastal towns are linked by hydrofoils and ferries.

The government's 2020-plan sees a fully industrialized Malaysia. The need to balance industrialization with the needs of the rainforests and the environment is accepted.

Tourism is an increasingly important contributor to the economy, with over millions of visitors from overseas every year. The rich environment of the rainforest is an attraction for the growing ecotourism market.

The arts of Malaysia draw upon the separate traditions of its many peoples.

Chinese and classical Indian dance are among the activities whose origins lie outside Malaysia. The indigenous Malay culture has its own style of dance and theatre, including the makyung, which combines dance, opera and drama.

Woodcarving, silver-smithing and weaving are all important local crafts. Batik, a technique which uses wax patterns on cloth to achieve multiple layers of colour dying is also popular. Kain songket is a special cloth, once made only for Malaysia's royalty, in which silver and gold threads are interwoven with silk to produce a rich brocade.

The traditional sports of Malaysia include sepak takraw, a ball game in which a ball made of rattan has to be kept in the air using any part of the body except the hands. Seni Silat, the Malaysian form of martial arts, is another traditional sporting activity.

Football and golf are popular in Malaysia and motor sports also have a large following. With such a long coastline Malaysia offers wonderful facilities for sailing, scuba-diving and other water sports.

The religious festivals of Malaysia's many ethnic and religious groups are celebrated: the Chinese New Year; Deepavali - the Festival of Lights; Wesak Day remembering the death and Enlightenment of Buddha; Islamic Holy days and the Christian holidays of Good Friday and Christmas Day

Malaysia's National Day is celebrated on 31st August. In September there is a festival of Malaysian food, arts and culture in Kuala Lumpur.

News from Malaysia is available from Newslink.

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