Peninsular Malaysia (Malay: Semenanjung Malaysia; Jawi: سمننجڠ مليسيا; Chinese: 马来西亚半岛; Tamil: தீபகற்ப மலேசியா), historically known as Malaya (Malay: Tanah Melayu; Jawi: تانه ملايو), also known as West Malaysia or the Malaysian Peninsula, is the part of Malaysia that occupies the southern half of the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia and the nearby islands. Its area totals approximately 132,490 km2 (51,150 sq mi), which is nearly 40% of the total area of the country; the other 60% is in East Malaysia on the island of Borneo.
It shares a land border with Thailand to the north and a maritime border with Singapore to the south. Across the Strait of Malacca to the west lies the island of Sumatra, and across the South China Sea to the east lie the Natuna Islands of Indonesia. At its southern tip, across the Strait of Johor, lies the island country of Singapore. Most of Peninsular Malaysia's interior is forested, mountainous and rural; the majority of Malaysia's population and economy are concentrated on the coastal western half, which is where the country's prominent urban areas are located.
States and territories
Peninsular Malaysia consists of 11 out of the 13 states, and two out of the three federal territories of Malaysia, which includes the national capital of Kuala Lumpur. The states are listed as the following:
Originally comprising the states and territories of the Federation of Malaya, the then Federation under the Malaysia Agreement merged with the self-governing State of Singapore, the Crown Colony of North Borneo and the Crown Colony of Sarawak to form the new Federation called Malaysia. The merger was initially proposed in order to reunify Singapore with its hinterland in the Federation as they were originally associated under British Malaya but later separated and governed separately after the formation of the Malayan Union. Even when the Malayan Union transformed into the Federation of Malaya, Singapore was not a part of it. Although politically distinct, Malaya was then seen geographically as comprising the States of the Federation of Malaya in the Peninsula and Singapore. In order to facilitate the merger, the Borneo States (which initially included Brunei too) were brought in as well as it was believed that with the inclusion of the various ethnic groups in Borneo, the racial arithmetic would be offset such that the influx of ethnic Chinese from Singapore would not politically overwhelm Malaya, satisfying the Malay ultras.
Ultimately, both Malaysia and Singapore agreed that after a merger, Singapore would retain autonomy in labour, education and health, among others, unlike the other states in the Federation of Malaya. In exchange, Singapore received a underproportioned representation in the House of Representatives of Parliament. Singapore within Malaysia was seen as having a special status (similar to Northern Ireland in the scheme of the United Kingdom) and was thus not grouped with the other non-autonomous states in the Peninsula. Although this arrangement was brief and Singapore was ultimately expelled from the Federation two years later in 1965, becoming a fully sovereign country, the Interpretation Act 1965 of the Parliament of Singapore still defines Malaya as comprising the States of Malaya and Singapore in a geographical sense. Today, the States of Malaya are colloquially referred to as Peninsular Malaysia and West Malaysia, excluding the Borneo States and Singapore. The term should also not be confused with the Malay Peninsula, which includes lands that are a part of Myanmar and Thailand.
States of Malaya/Peninsular Malaysia comprises the States of Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor, and Terengganu, as well as the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.
Malaya comprises the States of Malaya and the Republic of Singapore.
The majority of people on Peninsular Malaysia are ethnic Malays, predominantly Muslim. Large Chinese and Indian populations exist. The Orang Asli are the indigenous people of Peninsular Malaysia; in 2022, they numbered around 209,575 and mostly lived in inland parts of the region.
East Coast and West Coast
The term East Coast (Malay: Pantai Timur; Jawi: ڤنتاي تيمور) is particularly used in Malaysia to describe the following states in Peninsular Malaysia facing the South China Sea, a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean:
The term West Coast (Malay: Pantai Barat; Jawi: ڤنتاي بارت) refers informally to a collection of states in Peninsular Malaysia situated towards the western coast generally facing the Strait of Malacca which is a component of the Indian Ocean, as opposed to the East Coast. Unlike the East Coast, the West Coast is partitioned further into three regions (as seen in #States and territories), including:
- The Northern Region: Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Perak.
- The Central Region: Selangor and the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.
- The Southern Region: Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor.
Even though Johor has a coastline facing the South China Sea on the Pacific Ocean, it is not generally regarded as an East Coast state, since the main coastline of the state is located on the Straits of Johor of the Indian Ocean.
West and East Malaysia
The distinction between West and East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) goes beyond the sphere of geography. Being separate regions administratively before the formation of the Malaysia, there exists more autonomy than the original States of Malaya, e.g. in having a different judicial court structure and separate immigration regulations. These rights were granted as part of Sarawak's 18-point agreement and Sabah's 20-point agreement with the Federation of Malaya during the formation of expanded federation.
- East Malaysia, the Bornean portion of Malaysia
- Geography of Malaysia
- Golden Chersonese
- Malaya (disambiguation)
- Malayan dollar
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Media related to Peninsular Malaysia at Wikimedia Commons
- Peninsular Malaysia travel guide from Wikivoyage