Background Notes: Malaysia

PA/PC Source: Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public Affairs Date: Feb 15, 19922/15/92 Category: Country Data Region: Southeast Asia Country: Malaysia Subject: Travel, History, International Organizations, Trade/Economics [TEXT] February 1992 Official Name: Malaysia


Area: 329,749 sq. km. (127,316 sq. mi.); slightly larger than New Mexico. Cities: Capital--Kuala Lumpur (pop. 1 million). Other cities--Penang, Petaling Jaya, Ipoh, Malacca, Johore Bahru, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu. Terrain: Coastal plains and interior, jungle-covered mountains; Peninsular Malaysia is separated from East Malaysia in Borneo by 644 km. (400 mi.) of the South China Sea. Climate: Tropical; temperatures average 270C (800F) year round with high humidity.
Nationality: Noun and adjective-- Malaysian(s). Population (1990): 18 million. Annual growth rate (1990): 2.5%. Ethnic groups: Malay and other indigenous 61%, Chinese 30%, Indian 8%, Others 1%. Religions: Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Christian, traditional. Languages: Malay, Chinese dialects, English, Tamil, other indigenous. Education: Years compulsory--9. Attendance--99% (primary), 65% (secondary). Literacy--80% in Peninsular Malaysia, 60% in Sabah and Sarawak. Health: Infant mortality rate-- 20/1,000. Life expectancy--71 yrs. Work force: 7.2 million. GDP by industrial origin, 1991 est.: Manufacturing--28%. Agriculture--18%. Government--10%. Mining and petroleum--9%. Local trade and tourism--11%. Transportation and communications- -7%. Finance--10%.
Type: Federal parliamentary democracy on the Westminster model with a constitutional monarch. Independence: August 31, 1957. Constitution: 1957. Branches: Executive--Yang di-Pertuan Agong (head of state, with ceremonial duties), prime minister (head of government), cabinet. Legislative--bicameral parliament, comprising 69-member Senate (26 elected by the 13 state assemblies, 43 appointed by the king) and 180-member House of Representatives (elected from single- member districts). Judicial--Supreme Court, high courts. Subdivisions: 13 states and the federal territory (capital). Each state has an assembly and government headed by a chief minister. Nine of these states have hereditary rulers, generally titled "sultan," while the remaining four have appointed governors in counterpart positions. Political parties: Barisan Nasional (National Front)--a broad coalition comprising the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and 12 other parties, most of which are ethnically based; Democratic Action Party (DAP); Parti Se-Islam Malaysia (PAS); Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS); Semangat 46. There are more than 30 registered political parties, including the foregoing, 13 of which are represented in the federal parliament. Suffrage: Universal adult. Central government budget (1988): $11 billion. Defense (1987 est.): 4% of GNP. Flag: 14 horizontal red and white stripes with a yellow crescent and a star on a dark blue field in the upper left corner.
GNP (1990): $41 billion. Annual real growth rate (1991 est.): 8%. Per capita nominal growth rate (1990): 11%. Avg. inflation rate (1990): 3%. Natural resources: Petroleum, liquefied natural gas (LNG), tin, minerals. Agriculture: Products--palm oil, rubber, timber, cocoa, rice, pepper, pineapples. Industry: Types--electronics, electrical products, rubber products, automobile assembly, textiles. Trade (1990): Exports--$29 billion: electronic components, petroleum, timber and logs, palm oil, natural rubber, LNG, electrical products, textiles. Major markets--Singapore 23%, US 17%, Japan 15%, EC 15%. Imports--$27 billion: intermediate goods, machinery, metal products, food products, consumer durables, transport equipment. Major suppliers--Japan 24%, US 17%, Singapore 15%, EC 15%. Fiscal year: Calendar year. Exchange rate: 2.75 Malaysian ringgit (M$)=US$1. US aid received (1990): Military program grants--$946,000. Narcotics suppression--$105,000.
International Affiliations
UN and some of its specialized and related agencies, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), UNESCO, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN); Asian Development Bank (ADB); Five-Power Defense Arrangement (FPDA); South-South Commission (G-15); Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC); Commonwealth; Nonaligned Movement; Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC); INTELSAT.


Malaysia's population continues to grow at a rate of more than 2% a year; about 37% are under 15 years of age. Population distribution is uneven, with some 15 million residents concentrated on the Peninsular Malaysia lowlands, an area slightly smaller than the state of Michigan. Malaysia's population comprises many ethnic groups; the Malays are a slight majority. The politically dominant Malays are indigenous and, by constitutional definition, all Muslim. Nearly one-third of the Malaysians are Chinese. They are mainly urban and, by virtue of their important role in trade, business, and finance, possess considerable economic power. The majority are Buddhists, Taoists, or Christians. Malaysians of Indian descent comprise just over 8% of the population. About 85% of the Indian community are Tamils. They are divided among Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims. Malaysian Indians are well represented in the professions as well as in agriculture and the service trades. Non-Malay indigenous groups make up more than 50% of Sarawak's population and about 66% of Sabah's. They are divided into dozens of distinct ethnic groups but they share some general patterns of living and culture. Until the 20th century, most practiced traditional beliefs, but many have become Christians or Muslims. About 85% of Malaysia's population speak Malay, the "national language." English is used widely in government and business.


In the first century AD, two far-flung but related events helped stimulate Malaysia's emergence in international trade in the ancient world. At that time, India had two principal sources of gold and other metals: the Roman Empire and China. The overland route from China was cut by marauding Huns, and about the same time, the Roman Emperor Vespasian cut off shipments of gold to India. As a result, the Indians sent large and seaworthy ships, with crews reported to have numbered in the hundreds, to Southeast Asia, including the Malayan Peninsula, to seek alternative sources. In the centuries that followed, rich Malaysian tin deposits assumed great significance in Indian Ocean trade, and the region prospered. As maritime trade among Middle Eastern, Indian, and Chinese ports flourished, the peninsula benefited from its location as well as from development of its diverse resources, including tropical woods and spices. Malay ships became prominent in that trade, and Malay ports served as transshipment centers. Indian trade brought Indian culture, economy, religion, and politics, with historic results for what eventually became Malaysia. The early Buddhist Malay kingdom of Srivijaya, based at what is now Palembang, Sumatra, dominated much of the Malay Peninsula from the 9th to the 13th centuries AD. The powerful Hindu kingdom of Majapahit, based on Java, gained control of the Malay Peninsula in the 14th century. Conversion of the Malays to Islam, beginning in the early 14th century, accelerated with the rise of the state of Malacca under the rule of a Muslim prince in the 15th century. Malacca was a major regional entrepot, where Chinese, Arab, Malay, and Indian merchants traded precious goods. Drawn by this rich trade, a Portuguese fleet conquered Malacca in 1511, marking the beginning of European expansion in Southeast Asia. The Dutch ousted the Portuguese from Malacca in 1641 and, in 1795, were replaced by the British, who had occupied Penang in 1786. In 1826, the British settlements of Malacca, Penang, and Singapore were combined to form the Colony of the Straits Settlements. From these strong points, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the British established protectorates over the Malay sultanates on the peninsula. Four of these states were consolidated in 1895 as the Federated Malay States. During British control, a well-ordered system of public administration was established, public services were extended, and large-scale rubber and tin production was developed. This control was interrupted by the Japanese invasion and occupation from 1942 to 1945. Popular sentiment for independence swelled during and after the war, and, in 1957, the Federation of Malaya, established from the British-ruled territories of Peninsular Malaysia in 1948, negotiated independence from the United Kingdom under the leadership of Tunku Abdul Rahman, who became prime minister. The British colonies of Singapore, Sarawak, and Sabah (called North Borneo) joined the Federation of Malaya to form Malaysia on September 16, 1963. Singapore withdrew, however, on August 9, 1965, and became an independent republic. Neighboring Indonesia objected to the formation of Malaysia and pursued a program of economic, political, diplomatic, and military "confrontation" against the new country. This "confrontation" policy ended only after the fall of Indonesia's President Sukarno in 1966, after which cordial Malaysian-Indonesian relations were established. Following World War II, local communists, nearly all Chinese, launched a long, bitter insurgency, prompting the imposition of a state of emergency in 1948 which was lifted in 1960. Small bands of guerrillas remained in bases along the rugged border with southern Thailand, occasionally entering northern Malaysia. These guerrillas finally signed a peace accord with the Malaysian Government in December 1989. A separate small-scale communist insurgency that began in the mid-1960s in Sarawak also ended with the signing of a peace accord in October 1990.


Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, nominally headed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (paramount ruler), customarily referred to as the king. Kings are elected for 5-year terms from among the nine sultans of the peninsular Malaysian states. The king also is the leader of the Islamic faith in Malaysia. Executive power is vested in the cabinet led by the prime minister; the Malaysian constitution stipulates that the prime minister must be a member of the lower house of parliament who, in the opinion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commands a majority in parliament. The cabinet is chosen from among members of both houses of parliament and is responsible to that body. The bicameral parliament consists of the Senate (Dewan Negara) and the House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat). All members sit for 6-year terms. Representatives of the House are elected in single-member districts by universal adult suffrage. The 180 members of the House of Representatives are elected to maximum terms of 5 years. Legislative power is divided between federal and state legislatures. The Malaysian legal system is based on English common law. The Supreme Court reviews decisions referred from the high courts; it has original jurisdiction in constitutional matters and in disputes between states or between the federal government and a state. Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia in Borneo each have a high court. The federal government has authority over external affairs, defense, internal security, justice (except civil law cases among Malays and other indigenous peoples, adjudicated under Islamic and traditional law), federal citizenship, finance, commerce, industry, communications, transportation, and other matters. The states of East Malaysia enjoy guarantees of state rights with regard to immigration, civil service, and customs matters. Control over oil and timber, and the distribution of revenues from taxes from these resources, as well as state autonomy in areas such as education and information, remain sources of controversy between the federal government and the states of East Malaysia, particularly Sabah.
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs--Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad Foreign Minister--Datuk Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi Ambassador to the US--Abdul Majid bin Mohamed Ambassador to the UN--Razali bin Ismail Malaysia maintains an embassy in the US at 2401 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202 -328- 2700); a consulate general in the World Trade Center, 350 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA (tel. 213 -621-2991); and a consulate general at 140 E 45th Street, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-490-2722).


The principal political force in Malaysia from the struggle for independence until 1973 was the Alliance, a coalition of communally based parties--the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), and the Malaysian Indian Congress. Several opposition parties also date from this period. Communist parties are illegal. During the transition to independence, the Alliance provided stable and effective government for the former Federation of Malaya. In May 1969, however, this stability was threatened by the outbreak of communal riots in Kuala Lumpur. This violence, primarily pitting Chinese against Malays, was fueled by underlying tensions that came to the surface when the Chinese-dominated opposition registered impressive gains at the polls. As a result of these riots, parliament was suspended and a National Operations Council (NOC) was created, composed of nine members, headed by the deputy prime minister, and given full power to restore order. Normal parliamentary government was restored in February 1971, and the passage of legislation against public or parliamentary debate on certain sensitive communal topics soon followed. In addition, the Malaysian Government adopted the 20-year New Economic Policy (NEP), an affirmative action program aimed at improving the socio-economic status of ethnic Malays. At the same time, Tunku Abdul Rahman stepped down as Prime Minister and was replaced by Tun Abdul Razak. In 1973, the Alliance was replaced with a broader coalition, the Barisan Nasional, composed of 13 parties. In the August 1974 elections, Barisan garnered more than 70% of the popular vote, winning 135 of the 154 seats in the House of Representatives, and capturing control of all the state assemblies. With the death of Tun Abdul Razak in January 1976, Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Onn became Prime Minister, continuing the development programs begun by his predecessor. Hussein Onn retired in July 1981 and was succeeded by his deputy, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, as leader of the UMNO and as Prime Minister. In April 1982, Dr. Mahathir called elections, which Barisan won by a landslide, securing 140 of the 154 seats in the lower house of parliament. In state assembly elections, Barisan swept 282 of 312 seats, thereby retaining control of all state assemblies. In its next electoral test, August 1986, Barisan won 148 of the 177 parliamentary districts and again retained control of all 11 peninsular state assemblies. Malaysia's predominant political party, UMNO, held party elections in April 1987; Dr. Mahathir successfully defended the presidency against his challenger, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. In February 1988, the high court, in dismissing a case brought by 11 members of the group that supported Tengku Razaleigh in the party elections, held that because of irregularities in the registration of a number of its branches, UMNO was not a legally registered party at the time of the party elections. A new party (UMNO Baru) was formed under Dr. Mahathir, who remained Prime Minister. In October 1990, Barisan turned back an unprecedented opposition challenge spearheaded by Tengku Razaleigh's new party, Semangat 46. Razaleigh had brought together a loose opposition front composed of ideologically diverse parties, including Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) which had bolted from the Barisan coalition on the eve of elections. Barisan won 127 out of 180 parliamentary districts, but lost control of two states: the Islamic opposition party (PAS) captured control of Kelantan, while PBS retained control of Sabah. Since their entry into Malaysia in 1963, the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak have been largely controlled by the ruling coalition. During a brief period in the mid-1960s, Sarawak was ruled by a renegade chief minister. Also, prior to the recent PBS defection from Barisan, Sabah was ruled by PBS as an opposition party from April 1985 until June 1986, when PBS was admitted to Barisan.


At independence, Malaysia inherited an economy dominated by two commodities--rubber and tin. In the 35 years since, Malaysia's economic record has been one of the most successful in Asia. From 1965 to 1990, the economy experienced a period of broad diversification and sustained rapid growth averaging between 7% and 8%. Per capita gross national product (GNP) reached nearly $2,000 in 1984. By 1990, the figure was $2,300. Palm oil, timber, cocoa, and pepper were added to Malaysia's export crops. Malaysia is the world's leading producer of rubber and palm oil, the number four producer of tin, and the largest exporter of tropical timber. The petroleum sector expanded rapidly after 1980, making Malaysia a significant exporter of oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG). New foreign and domestic investment in manufacturing, much of it from the United States, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore, led to increasing exports of electronic components, electrical consumer goods, textile products, and other manufactures. Manufacturing grew from 13% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1970 to an estimated 27% in 1990. The worldwide recession in 1981-82 hurt the Malaysian economy by depressing the prices of Malaysia's traditional commodity exports; growth slackened, and investment fell. The government sought to stimulate the economy and speed up the growth of industry through increased spending on a number of heavy industry and infrastructure projects. Public entities and government-owned companies also spent heavily to acquire majority control of most of the large foreign-owned plantation companies. Much of the increased public spending was financed by foreign borrowing, pushing Malaysia's foreign debt from $4 billion in 1980 to $15 billion in 1984. Malaysia's long period of high growth came to an abrupt halt in 1985-86. The sharp fall in world commodity prices (oil and palm oil prices were halved) sent Malaysia's economy into recession. Real output was stagnant during 1985-86, but the worsening of Malaysia's terms of trade (the prices of the country's exports compared to the prices of imports) caused nominal GNP to fall by a combined 12% in 1985 and 1986. Per capita GNP fell from $2,000 in 1984 to $1,600 in 1986. Malaysia's recovery from its recession began in late 1986 and gained strength during 1987. Improved commodity prices and strong growth in exports of manufactured goods led the recovery. The government estimated that real GNP grew 10% in 1988, 10% in 1989, and 11% in 1990. Growth was expected to decline to 8% in 1991. The economic expansion since 1987 has been led by foreign demand for Malaysia's exports, with net exports accounting for more than three-quarters of growth. Domestic consumer spending and private investment have also picked up, and unemployment fell to 6% in 1990 from 9% in 1987. In 1988, the strong export performance resulted in Malaysia's first current account surplus since 1979, hitting $1.7 billion. Increased imports of manufactured items (especially intermediate goods) and services, however, have since driven the current account into an estimated deficit of $3 billion for 1991. Despite this deficit and the rise in the dollar value of loans denominated in yen and European currencies, Malaysia has reduced its foreign debt from $20 billion in 1986 to an estimated $15 billion in 1991. Net foreign exchange reserves stood at $10 billion at the end of 1990, equal to four and a half months of merchandise imports. Malaysia's prospects for continuing growth and prosperity are excellent with growth rates in the 6%-8% range at least through the early 1990s. Malaysia possesses abundant resources and land, a well-educated work force, good infrastructure, and a stable political environment. Strong domestic savings provide adequate funds for investment, and Malaysia remains attractive to foreign investors. Rising costs of production in Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea have heightened Malaysia's competitive position in the region. The economy, however, remains vulnerable to external shocks. Exports account for roughly 70% of GNP, and a recession in the industrial economies could have severe repercussions for the country. Manufacturing is now the Malaysian economy's largest sector, accounting for an estimated 27% of GDP in 1990. Major products include electronic components (Malaysia is the world's largest exporter of semiconductor devices), electrical goods, air conditioners, and textiles and apparel. Agriculture is the economy's second largest sector, accounting for an estimated 19% GDP in 1990 and 30% of employment. Agricultural products (including forest products) account for an estimated 31% of exports. Malaysia is the world's largest producer of natural rubber, accounting for 25% of world production. In the 1980s, palm oil began to overshadow rubber as the "golden" crop. Palm oil is a vegetable oil used for a variety of purposes, such as cooking oil, soap, and as an ingredient in margarine. Malaysia produces 60% of the world's palm oil (6.6 million metric tons in 1990), and production will continue to increase as new acreage is developed and trees mature. Timber and timber products account for 17% of all exports in 1990. Malaysia is the world's largest exporter of tropical hardwood. Most of the raw timber exported from Malaysia comes from Sabah and Sarawak. Peninsular Malaysia exports plywood, moldings, and other wood products. Malaysia is now the world's fourth largest producer of cocoa. It also exports pepper (from Sarawak), coconut products, and fresh fruits. It is a net exporter of pork and chicken but relies on imports of beef, dairy, vegetable, wheat, and some fruit products. The petroleum sector became increasingly important during the 1980s as periodically high prices and rising production volumes boosted Malaysia's export revenues. In 1990, oil, LNG, and petroleum products accounted for 18% of total exports. Oil production in 1990 averaged 626,400 barrels per day and is expected to be over 600,000 barrels per day in 1991. Major customers for Malaysian crude oil are Singapore, Japan, and South Korea. Some of the oil exported to Singapore is then imported back into Malaysia as refined products. All of Malaysia's LNG exports are shipped from Sarawak to Japan, although Malaysia expects to expand LNG exports to include Taiwan and South Korea. Oil production is roughly split between fields in the South China Sea off Borneo and those off Peninsular Malaysia. Gas reserves off of Peninsular Malaysia are currently being developed to fuel power stations and to supply industries in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. All exploration is conducted under production-sharing contracts between the national oil company, PETRONAS, and foreign oil companies. The only foreign oil companies currently producing oil and gas are Exxon and Shell. Malaysia is no longer the world's leading tin producer. The collapse of the International Tin Council in 1985 depressed prices and forced many of Malaysia's smaller mines to close. In 1990, production fell 11% from the previous year to 28,468 metric tons. The government encourages foreign investment and participation. The 1986 Promotion of Investment Act and the Free Trade Zone Act of 1972 provide substantial incentives to foreign investors. Total US investment alone is about $6 billion, two thirds of which is in petroleum development and electronic component production. Japan, Taiwan and Singapore also have substantial investments. The NEP of 1971 was established to eradicate poverty in Malaysia and to restructure the economy to end the identification of economic function with race. In particular, it was designed to enhance the economic standing of the ethnic Malays and indigenous peoples (collectively known as "bumiputras" in Malay). Rapid growth during the 1970s and early 1980s made it possible to expand the share of the economy for bumiputras without reducing the economic attainments of the other groups. The most controversial NEP goal was to alter the pattern of ownership of corporate equity in Malaysia. The NEP sought to ensure that by 1990, at least 30% of corporate equity was held by bumiputras, 40% by other Malaysians (primarily Chinese and Indian Malaysians), and no more than 30% by non-Malaysians. To this end, the government provided funds to purchase foreign-owned shareholdings on behalf of the bumiputra population. Foreign firms were urged to restructure their equity (often 100% foreign-owned) in line with the NEP guidelines. By the time the NEP expired at the end of 1990, the bumiputra equity share had risen to 20%. In June 1991, the government unveiled its National Development Policy, which is expected to continue many of the NEP's policies, although specific equity targets and time tables have been dropped.


From the late 1940s until recently, Malaysia's defense forces were oriented toward counter-insurgency. With the demise of the communist insurgency, however, Malaysia has launched a major program to expand and modernize its armed forces in order to meet potential external threats. Although budgetary constraints have obliged the government to defer some of its procurement, the army is being reorganized and its equipment upgraded as Malaysia moves toward development of a more conventional defense posture. While relying primarily on its own armed forces, Malaysia is a member of the Five-Power Defense Arrangement with the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. The arrangement provides a framework for consultations among the parties in the event of an external threat to Malaysia or Singapore.


As a founding member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)) established in 1967 Malaysia views regional cooperation as the cornerstone of its foreign policy. Malaysia supported its ASEAN partners--Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Brunei--in seeking a negotiated settlement of the Cambodian civil war which would provide self-determination for the Cambodian people. In world affairs, Malaysia maintains close, cordial relations with the United States, Japan, and the European Community. Malaysia is a member of the Commonwealth, the UN, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement. Malaysia maintains diplomatic relations with North Korea, China, and Vietnam. It hopes that changes in the affected region will permit closer economic and political integration with Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, perhaps including eventual membership in ASEAN. Prime Minister Mahathir emphasizes enhanced relations with Islamic countries and Asian neighbors, espousing a "Look East" policy, which views Japan and South Korea as models for economic development.


The United States has maintained friendly relations with Malaysia since its independence in 1957. Malaysia's contribution to stability in Southeast Asia, the growth of US-Malaysian economic and cultural ties, Malaysia's role in ASEAN, its self-reliant drive to develop its economy and preserve its independence, its participation in the Five-Power Defense Arrangement, and its strong commitment to the suppression of narcotics trafficking are in harmony with US policy and form a solid basis for US-Malaysian friendship. US support for Malaysia has been demonstrated by cooperation in many areas, including narcotics enforcement, cultural exchanges, and a Fulbright educational exchange program initiated in 1963. Malaysians, at about 14,000, represent one of the largest foreign student groups enrolled in American colleges and universities. Over more than 20 years, the cumulative total of Peace Corps volunteers serving there was 3,500, but as Malaysia's economy developed, the program was reduced and then phased out completely in 1983. The United States also has supported Malaysia's defense efforts by providing for Malaysian participation in US military education training programs and purchases of equipment under the foreign military sales program. The United States also actively promotes American trade and investment in Malaysia.
Principal US Officials
Ambassador--Paul M. Cleveland Deputy Chief of Mission--W. Scott Butcher Political Counselor--Gene B. Christy Economic Counselor--Douglas A. Hartwick Commercial Attache--Paul T. Walters Public Affairs Officer (USIS)--James C. Pollock Agricultural Attache--Jeffrey A. Hesse Consul--Peter G. Kaestner Defense Attache--Col. Michael McDermott The US Embassy in Malaysia is located at 376 Jalan Tun Razak, 50400 Kuala Lumpur (tel. 248-9011).
Additional Information
The following are available from the Superintendent of Documents, US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402: Area Handbook for Malaysia. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. For information on foreign economic trends, commercial development, production, trade regulations, and tariff rates, contact the International Trade Administration, US Department of Commerce, Washington, DC 20230.


Customs: Visas are not required of US citizens arriving as tourists or for business for up to 3 months. Business travelers who will be residing in Malaysia and visitors for purposes other than business or tourism should arrange in advance for visas with the Malaysian Embassy. Vaccination certificates for cholera and yellow fever are required only of visitors arriving from infected areas. Climate and clothing: Lightweight clothing is suitable for the tropical climate except in the highland resort areas. Health: Kuala Lumpur and other major cities are generally free from most diseases commonly associated with the Far East. Tapwater from the municipal water systems is considered safe. The use of malaria suppressants is recommended in rural areas. Telecommunications: Telephone and telegraph service to the US is available 24 hours daily. Kuala Lumpur is 13 hours ahead of eastern standard time. Transportation: The modern Subang International Airport is 19 kilometers (12 mi.) from Kuala Lumpur. Many daily flights connect the capital with most major cities in the region, Europe, the Middle East, and North America. Daily train service connects Kuala Lumpur with Penang, Singapore, and Bangkok. Traffic moves on the left. (###)