Malaysia Brief History

During my travels in Malaysia, I was often greeted by “Hello Sir, where are you from?”. When I replied that I was from Sweden, many people thought I came from Switzerland, our countries were often confused. When I explained Sweden’s geographical location, many men started listing the names of Swedish football players! This is a small example of the interest that Malaysians show visitors in their country. What a difference this was compared to the previous trip to the Baltic countries, in which people were anything but nice.

Traveling around Malaysia is easy. There are trains to a number of destinations and an excellent network of buses and boats that cover other places that a tourist may visit. Many people speak English, which is why it is easy to make themselves understood. Here are beautiful beaches to relax on and jungle for those who want to hike in an exciting environment. Malaysia is a good country to “train on” for round trips in a little more “hard-hitting” Asian countries.

Among the things I will remember best from my trip in Malaysia is the very good food, which you get no matter where you eat, but I opted out of goodies such as chicken feet, cow skull, frog and pig penis. As one Malaysian told me “We live to eat”. Other things I will remember with joy are the visits to the old city centers of Malacca and Georgetown, both of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the crowds at the night markets in the country’s capital Kuala Lumpur and the jungle walks in Cameron Highlands where I also saw the rare rafflesia world arnoldi largest flower. I also had an experience in Kuala Lumpur that could have ended really badly.

History of Malaysia in brief

According to commit4fitness, the earliest evidence scientists have found of human habitation in this region is the 40,000-year-old skull found in a cave in Sarawak. These residents are believed to have been related to Aborigines from Australia and New Guinea.

When the southeast and southwest monsoons meet off the Malacca Peninsula, ancient sailing ships en route between India and China were often forced to stop in these waters while waiting for the wind to turn. The Malays lived on the Malacca Peninsula already when Indian and Chinese merchants arrived there about 2,000 years ago.

Some important years in Malaysia’s history

Malaysia history, older


Europeans are aware of the existence of the Malacca Peninsula through Roman trade to India and China

200s Founded one of the first Indo-Malay kingdoms on the Malacca Peninsula


From this century and for several centuries onwards, the area was dominated by the Hindu-Indonesian Srivijaya Empire. Its base was on the island of Sumatra

1400s – 15th century Islam spread with missionaries from India

15th century, beginning

Founded a Javanese prince Malacca, which became an important port city. The Malacca Sultanate extended its control to most of the peninsula through a system of vassal states

1511 The Portuguese conquered the city of Malacca

1641 Malacca was conquered by the Dutch

18th century, late

The British are trying to gain control of the trade route to China through the Straits of Malacca

1786 Penang Island becomes a trading center under British control

1795 The British conquered Malacca


The Sultan of Johor gave the British East India Company permission to found Singapore, which became a new trading city. The three free trade cities of Singapore, Malacca and Penang formed the British Straits Settlements


The Sultan of Brunei was installed on the island of Borneo, a Briton as the first of the white Rajos to rule Sarawak for over a century.


The British discovered large tin deposits on the west coast of the Malacca Peninsula and soon Malaya became one of the world’s foremost tin producers and later also rubber. Due to large-scale labor immigration, the Malays ended up to a certain extent outside modern economic life


Four sultanates were brought together to form the administrative unit of the Federated States of Malaysia, with Kuala Lumpur as its capital. Malaya became the name of the British-dominated parts of the Malacca Peninsula, with the exception of Singapore


Japan invaded Malaya and Singapore around New Year. The British fled, while the Malaysian rulers largely chose to cooperate with the Japanese. Only some Chinese who heard about the Japanese’s brutal abuses in China seriously tried to oppose the occupiers. The Chinese therefore became the ethnic group hardest hit during the Japanese occupation


After the re-establishment of the British administration, the British wanted to form a Union state of Malaya with equal rights for all ethnic groups in the country, which was rejected by the Malay elite.


The United Malays National Organization (UMNO) was formed, which began negotiations with the British

Sabah and Sarawak became British crown colonies


Malaya became a federation, with certain privileges for the Malay enshrined in the constitution. Formally, all power came from the sultans. Singapore, Sabah or Sarawak were not part of the new federation but remained separate crown colonies

The federation provoked negative reactions from many Chinese for not being allowed to become full citizens. The Chinese-dominated Communist Party therefore launched a guerrilla war against the British and the Federation

Malaysia history, modern


Before the country’s independence, tensions between the various ethnic groups were reduced by the Malaysian party UMNO forming an alliance with the bourgeois Chinese party MCA and with the Indian MIC. The Alliance won this year’s election


The Malaya Federation gained full independence and the country’s first prime minister was Tunku Abdul Rahman from the UMNO party.


The federation was expanded with Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore and changed its name to the Federation of Malaysia. The Philippines and Indonesia protested against the incorporation of Sabah and Sarawak. Indonesia claimed both states and the Philippines on Sabah


Relations with Indonesia improved when its President Sukarno was overthrown

The Chinese-dominated Singapore was excluded from the federation, which after this was only called Malaysia


The parliamentary elections were a setback for UMNO’s Chinese coalition partner MCA, as many Chinese thought the MCA was too Malay – friendly. In racial riots after the election, several hundred people were killed. Shortly afterwards, it was forbidden to publicly discuss certain sensitive issues, such as the privileges of the Malays. The ruling coalition was expanded with more parties. The leader of the new coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) became Tun Abdul Razak from UMNO


Tun Abdul Razak from UMNO became Prime Minister

During the year, NEP, New Economic Policy, or the so-called bumiputra policy was initiated. Its aim was to eradicate poverty until 1990 and provide bumiputra, in practice mainly Malays, better education and higher incomes, including through quotas


Grew up a new Malay middle class alongside the Chinese. Younger well-educated Malays began to question the sultans and their privileges

1981 Mahathir Mohamad became Prime Minister


Falling tin prices contributed to a downturn in Malaysia’s economy. The rulers were accused of corruption. There were anti-government sentiments in Sabah and Sarawak

1986 The Barisan Nasional (BN) party wins this year’s parliamentary elections

1987 The conflict between Malays and Chinese results in a wave of arrests


The last guerrilla group that began fighting the federation in 1948 formally gave up the fight

The National Front also won this year’s parliamentary elections


A scandal in the Sultanate of Johor gave Prime Minister Mahathir the opportunity to revoke the sultans’ protection from attacks in the press. After newspaper articles about luxury life and laziness in the royal palaces


The nine sultans were deprived of additional privileges as a result of the previous scandal

1995 The parliamentary elections were successful for the National Front

1997 Malaysia, and the rest of Southeast Asia, was hit by an economic crisis


In September, Anwar was fired from his post as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and expelled from the UMNO party due to political differences. He was subsequently arrested and charged with corruption and “sodomy”, that is, sexual intercourse between men.


In April, Anwar was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption. He was later sentenced to another nine years in prison for sodomy

In November, an earlier parliamentary election was held during protests from the opposition. The National Front and UMNO won the election, despite a huge success for the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which wants Malaysia to become an Islamic state governed by sharia law

Malaysia Brief History

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