Malaysia (i/məˈleɪʒə/ mə-lay-zhə or i/məˈleɪsiə/ mə-lay-see-ə) (Malaysian pronunciation: [malaɪsiə] or Malay pronunciation: [malajsiə]) is a federal constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia. It consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and has a total landmass of 329,847 square kilometres (127,350 sq mi) separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. Land borders are shared with Thailand, Indonesia, and Brunei, and maritime borders exist with Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. In 2010 the population was 28.33 million, with 22.6 million living on the Peninsula. The southernmost point of continental Eurasia, Tanjung Piai is in Malaysia, located in the tropics. It is one of 17 megadiverse countries on earth, with large numbers of endemic species.
Malaysia has its origins in the Malay Kingdoms present in the area which, from the 18th century, became subject to the British Empire. The first British territories were known as the Straits Settlements, whose establishment was followed by the Malay kingdoms becoming British protectorates. The territories on Peninsular Malaysia were first unified as the Malayan Union in 1946. Malaya was restructured as the Federation of Malaya in 1948, and achieved independence on 31 August 1957. Malaya united with North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore on 16 September 1963, with si being added to give the new country the name Malaysia. Less than two years later in 1965, Singapore was expelled from the federation.
The country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, which plays a large role in politics. The constitution declares Islam the state religion while protecting freedom of religion. The government system is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system and the legal system is based on common law. The head of state is the king, known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. He is an elected monarch chosen from the hereditary rulers of the nine Malay states every five years. The head of government is the Prime Minister.
Since independence, Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia, with GDP growing an average 6.5% for almost 50 years. The economy has traditionally been fueled by its natural resources, but is expanding in the sectors of science, tourism, commerce and medical tourism. Today, Malaysia has a newly industrialised market economy, ranked third largest in Southeast Asia and 29th largest in the world. It is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the East Asia Summit and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and a member of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
The name ‘Malaysia’ is a combination of the word Malay and the Latin/Greek suffix -sia/-σία. Another theory suggests that it came from the addition of “si” to Malaya, in honour of Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak that joined the federation in 1963. In modern terminology, “Malay” is the name of an ethnoreligious group of Austronesian people predominantly inhabiting the Malay peninsula and portions of adjacent islands of Southeast Asia, including the east coast of Sumatra, the coast of Borneo, and smaller islands that lie between these areas. The origins of the word Melayu (‘Malay’) itself are disputed. Among notable theories are, it is derived from the Malay/Javanese terms melayu or mlayu (to steadily accelerate or to run), to describe the strong current of a river in Sumatra that today bore the name Sungai Melayu. The name was later possibly adopted by the Melayu Kingdom that existed in the 7th century on Sumatra. Another theory hold that it originates from the Tamil words Malai and ur meaning “mountain” and “city, land”, respectively.