Malaysia is a federal monarchy comprising 13 states and three federal territories spread across Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. It is home to more than 29 million people.
Capital: Kuala Lumpur
Religion: Islam (state religion): 61 percent, Buddhism: 20 percent, Christianity: 9 percent, Hinduism 6 percent, traditional Chinese religions 1 percent
GDP per capita: $16,900
Median age: 27.1
Life expectancy: 74
Urban population: 72 percent
Literacy rate: 88.7 percent
Legal system: Mix of English common law, Islamic law and customary law
Currency: Ringgit. 100USD is worth around 300RM
Military spending: Two percent of GDP
Sources: World Bank, UN
Peninsula Malaysia has Thailand as a northern neighbour, while the island of Singapore is just off the southern coast. Malaysia shares the island of Borneo with Indonesia and the tiny nation of Brunei.
While there is evidence of people having lived in the area for some 40,000 years, the first trading ports were established in the 1st century AD, with merchants from China and India settling in coastal enclaves. Islam spread to the peninsula in the 14th century, and the Malacca Sultanate, founded in the 15th century, was the first "state" on the peninsula.
First colonised by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, the British Empire took control of the Malay Kingdoms in the 18th century, with the kingdoms eventually becoming British "protectorates".
In World War II, Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore were invaded and occupied by the Japanese military. After Malaya was re-conquered by Allied forces, calls for independence soon grew.
Malaya became the federation of Malaya in 1948, winning its independence in 1957. Just six years later, on September 16, 1963, Malaya was joined by Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore, forming the country of Malaysia.
Singapore withdrew from the federation in 1965 following racial strife between Malays and ethnic Chinese residents of the island.
Malay-centred positive discrimination followed, as well as a sustained period of rapid economic growth as urbanisation took effect through the 1970s and 1980s, shifting the economy from being dependent on agriculture to developing new manufacturing and industry.
The country's main exports are: semiconductors and electronic equipment, palm oil, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, wood and wood products, palm oil, rubber, textiles, chemicals, and solar panels.