Malaysia

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Overview

Malaysia, a nation of 25 million in Southeast Asia, has boasted rapid economic growth and diversification over the past several decades. Not a paragon of human rights, the country holds free elections, yet freedom of speech, press and religion are strictly curbed. Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country, and tensions among ethnic Malays, Chinese and Indians, which also sound religious overtones, are a key challenge to maintaining unity and order. 

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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: Malaysia is a federation in Southeast Asia with a total landmass of 127,355 square miles, slightly larger than the state of New Mexico. Malaysia borders Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines. Comprised of two regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo, which are 400 miles distant from another across the South China Sea, Malaysia is comprised of eleven states in Peninsular Malaysia and two in Malaysian Borneo. The largest city and capital is Kuala Lumpur (city limits pop.: 1.6 million; urban area: 7.2 million) while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. Located near the equator, Malaysia experiences a tropical climate, with nearly 80% of the land covered by tropical rain forests, swamps or mountains. In both regions, plains hug the coastline while mountains rise in the interior. Monsoon rainfall averages about 100 inches a year, and most areas are warm and sunny. Malaysia shares control, with Indonesia, of the Strait of Malacca, a 500 mile long sea corridor between Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra, which is the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, and through which more than 50,000 vessels pass each year, carrying about 25% of the world’s traded goods, including oil, Chinese manufactures, and Indonesian coffee.   

 
Population: 25.3 million
 
Religions: Islam (60.4%), Buddhism (19.2%), Christianity (9.1%), Hinduism (6.3%), other/none (5.0%).
Ethnic Groups: Malay 50.4%, Chinese 23.7%, indigenous 11%, Indian 7.1%, others 7.8%.
 
Languages: Malay (official) 30.6%, Min Nan 8.3%, Hakka Chinese 4.2%, Banjar 3.8%, Yue Chinese 3.2%, Mandarin Chinese 1.8%, Negeri Sembilan Malay 1.3%, Javanese 1.3%, Min Dong Chinese 0.9%, Iban 1.7%, Bukar Sadong 0.1%. There are 140 living languages in Malaysia.
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History

Prehistoric Malaysia may be traced back as far as 200,000 years ago from archaeological remains found at Bukit Jawa, an archaeological site in Lenggong Perak. Many millennia later, the early Buddhist Malay kingdom of Srivijaya dominated much of the Malay peninsula from the 9th to the 13th centuries CE. It was followed by the Hindu kingdom of Majapahit, which gained control of the Malay peninsula in the 14th century. In the early-15th century, Sultan Iskandar Shah, a Hindu prince who converted to Islam, established a kingdom in Malacca that controlled peninsular Malaysia, southern Thailand, and the eastern coast of Sumatra. Viable for more than a century, the sultanate spread Islam to most of the Malay Archipelago. Malacca was the foremost trading port at the time in Southeast Asia, where Chinese, Arab, Malay, and Indian merchants traded precious goods.

 
Drawn by this rich trade, the Portuguese conquered Malacca in 1511, marking the beginning of European expansion in Southeast Asia. The Dutch ousted the Portuguese from Malacca in 1641, followed by the British between 1786 and 1824 when the Anglo-Dutch treaty gave Britain control of Malaysia. In 1826, the British combined Malacca, Penang, and Singapore to form the Colony of the Straits Settlements. In the 19th and early 20th centuries the British established protectorates over the Malay sultanates on the peninsula. During their rule the British developed large-scale rubber and tin production and established a system of public administration. British control was interrupted by the Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1945. 
 
As in the rest of Southeast Asia, popular sentiment for independence swelled during and after World War II. The territories of peninsular Malaysia joined together to form the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and they eventually negotiated independence from the British in 1957. In 1963 the British colonies of Singapore, Sarawak, and Sabah joined the Federation which was renamed Malaysia. Singapore’s membership was short-lived, however, and it seceded in 1965 becoming an independent republic.
 
Internally, the government faced various challenges to its legitimacy. Foremost among these are the delicate ethnic tensions between Malays, Indians and Chinese. Even as the government favors the Muslim Malays, it also attempts to mollify the minority Indians and Chinese, who wield considerable economic power. These ethnic tensions continue to plague the country. Between the 1980s and the mid-1990s, Malaysia experienced significant economic growth resulting from a shift from an agriculture-based economy to one based on manufacturing, industry and international trade. Numerous large-scale construction projects altered the physical landscape of the country during this period. In the late-1990s, Malaysia was shaken by the Asian financial crisis as well as political unrest caused by a bogus criminal trial against the fired deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim. In November 2007, Malaysia was rocked by two large anti-government rallies, one for political reform and one against anti-Hindu discrimination. The government responded to both rallies with force, and in October 2008 banned a leading Hindu rights organization as “a threat to national security.” 

Malaysian Timeline (Geographia.com)
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History of U.S. Relations with Malaysia

Although Malaysia initially pursued a pro-Western foreign policy, the government began to shift away from this in the mid 1970s. This policy shift was continued and strengthened by Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, who was in power from 1981 to 2003 and pursued a regionalist and pro-South policy with frequently strident anti-Western rhetoric.  Under Mahathir, Malaysia frequently championed what he called “Asian values” and criticized “Western values,” using this line of argument to justify one-party rule, discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion and gender, and the suppression of individual and civil liberties. 

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Current U.S. Relations with Malaysia

Malaysia views regional cooperation as the cornerstone of its foreign policy.  Despite Malaysia’s anti-Western rhetoric, the country in fact has recently worked closely with Western countries including the US, and led a crackdown against Islamic fundamentalists after the September 11, 2001, attacks.  Under Prime Minister Mahathir’s successor, Abdullah Badawi, relations with Western countries have improved, though tensions over human rights and trafficking remain. Indeed, Malaysia’s spotty record on human rights has provided the basis for some tension in US-Malaysian relations, including the September 2008 summoning of the Malaysian ambassador to the State department to explain legal charges brought against prominent opposition leaders. 

 
10,690 people identified themselves as being of Malaysian ancestry in the 2000 U.S. census.
174,336 Americans visited Malaysia in 2006. Tourism has grown significantly and consistently since 2002, when 127,920 Americans went to Malaysia.
50,597 Malaysians visited the U.S. in 2006. The number of tourists has fluctuated between a low of 34,274 (22003), and a high of 51,442 (2005) since 2002.
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Where Does the Money Flow

In 2007, industry and services dominated the GDP at 45.3% and 44.8% respectively, while agriculture accounted for only 9.9%. In the present century, the government has tried to move the economy farther up the value-added production chain by attracting investments in high tech industries, medical technology and pharmaceuticals. The government is continuing efforts to boost domestic demand to reduce the economy’s dependence on exports. Nevertheless, exports - especially of electronics - remain a significant driver of the economy. As an oil and gas exporter, Malaysia has profited from higher world energy prices, although the rising cost of domestic gasoline and diesel fuel has forced Kuala Lumpur to reduce government subsidies.

 
In 2008, US imports from Malaysia totaled $30.7 billion, dominated by computers ($6.7 billion), computer accessories, peripherals and parts ($4.8 billion), telecommunications equipment ($4.4 billion), semiconductors and related devices ($2.9 billion), and food oils and oil seeds ($1.2 billion).
 
In 2008, US exports to Malaysia totaled $12.9 billion. These transactions are led by semiconductors ($6.1 billion), computer accessories ($586 million), steelmaking materials ($525 million), industrial machines ($421 million), electronic apparatus ($420 million), telecommunications equipment ($416 million), and measuring, testing, and control instruments ($370 million).
 
The U.S. gave $2.6 million to Malaysia in 2009, divided between Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs ($1.3 million), Counter-Terrorism ($850,000), Stabilization Operations and Security Sector Reform ($750,000) and International Military Education and Training ($750,000). The projected budget for 2010 is increased to $2.9 million dollars that will go solely to Peace and Security rather than being divided between Peace and Security and Governing Justly and Democratically–which had been allocated $500,000 in 2009. Stabilization Operations and Security Sector Reform will receive $1.3 million (an increase from $750,000 in 2009) and funding to address Transnational Crime – which received no aid in 2009–will be $200,000.
 
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Controversies
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Human Rights

In April 2009, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the prime minister of Malaysia urging him to ratify core international human rights treaties like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The letter continues that Human Rights Watch would like the government to “give priority to the issues of arbitrary and preventive detention, freedom of expression, protection of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, and ending impunity for security forces.” There has been censoring of national newspapers and reporters for these publications have been denied access to press conferences regarding government activity. In addition to this, there is much impunity that pervades law enforcement and immigration officials. Between 2003 and 2007 there were 85 deaths in police custody–many of these cases have gone unresolved.

 
According the Amnesty International, the Malaysian government has “tightened control of dissent and curtailed the right to freedom of expression and religion.” Under the Sedition Act, bloggers were arrested and newspaper content was controlled under the Printing Press and Publications Act. In addition, ten people were arbitrarily arrested and detained under the Internal Security Act in 2008. Police and security personnel are known to use excessive force and police misconduct is rampant. There have been mass arrests of migrant workers in Malaysia and at least 22 people were sentenced to death.
 
Freedom of religion was infringed upon when a Muslim-born woman was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for renouncing Islam.
 
In addition, racial discrimination is institutionalized in government-backed “affirmative action policies” for Malays and indigenous peoples from Sabah and Sarawak (collectively called Bumiputeras). They have preferential treatment in land ownership, employment and education.
 
According to the U.S. State Department, the government claims it did not commit any politically motivated killings, but the local media reports that police killed 82 people while apprehending them. This number has increased from 16 killings in 2007. Law enforcement officials have also been accused of torturing people who are in custody, including a 10-year-old boy who was being questioned. In other cases, detainee Sanjeev Kumar’s left arm and leg were paralyzed as a result of torture and a policeman was charged with the rape of a student. Malaysia’s 29 prisons are currently 28% above capacity and have housed some detainees for more than a year without trial. These prisoners have inadequate food, water, and medical care and live with poor sanitation.
 
The U.S. State Department also reports that the government directly and indirectly censored the media by requiring domestic and foreign publications to apply each year for a permit. The Printing Presses and Publications Act makes the publication of malicious news a punishable offense, as well as enabling the government to ban publications believed to “threaten public order, morality, or national security.” Journalists may be arrested, harassed, and intimidated for their reporting. Radio and television stations face the same censorship. Internet media may also need to apply for permits under the Communications and Multimedia Act.
 
In universities the government requires that all civil servants, university faculty, and students sign a pledge of loyalty to the king and the government. The U.S. State Department writes that the Malaysian government believes students should be apolitical and those who voice opinions may be expelled or fined.
                                        
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

Thomas K. Wright

Presentation of Credentials: Sep 4, 1957
Termination of Mission: Superseded Dec 2, 1957
Note: Accredited to the Federation of Malaya; also served as ambassador to Mali from 1960 to 1961.
 
Name: Homer M. Byington, Jr.
Appointment: Oct 3, 1957
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 2, 1957
Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 1, 1961
Note: Accredited to the Federation of Malaya. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1946 for service as a deputy political adviser at the Allied Forces Headquarters for the Mediterranean in Caserta, Italy.
 
Charles F. Baldwin
Appointment: Feb 22, 1961
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 29, 1961
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jan 22, 1964
 
James D. Bell
Appointment: Mar 4, 1964
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 23, 1964
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 15, 1969
 
Jack W. Lydman
Appointment: Sep 15, 1969
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 8, 1969
Termination of Mission: Left post, Dec 20, 1973
 
Francis T. Underhill, Jr.
Appointment: Dec 19, 1973
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 11, 1974
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 10, 1977
 
Robert H. Miller
Appointment: May 26, 1977
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 8, 1977
Termination of Mission: Left post, Mar 8, 1980
Note: Miller also served as ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire from 1983 to 1986.
 
Barbara M. Watson
Non-career appointee
Appointment: Aug 20, 1980
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 25, 1980
Termination of Mission: Left post, Mar 1, 1981
 
Ronald DeWayne Palmer
Appointment: Jun 11, 1981
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 24, 1981
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct 30, 1983
Note: Palmer also served as ambassador to Togo from 1976 to 1978 and to Mauritius from 1986 to 1989.
 
Thomas P. Shoesmith
Appointment: Nov 18, 1983
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 12, 1983
Termination of Mission: Left post, Feb 14, 1987
 
John Cameron Monjo
Appointment: Apr 7, 1987
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 10, 1987
Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 22, 1989
Note: Monjo also served as ambassador to Indonesia from 1989 to 1992 and to Pakistan from 1992 to 1995.
 
Paul Matthews Cleveland
Appointment: Oct 10, 1989
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 8, 1989
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 23, 1992
Note: Cleveland also served as ambassador to New Zealand from 1985 to 1989 and to Western Samoa (now Samoa), from 1986 to 1989.
 
John Stern Wolf
Appointment: Aug 11, 1992
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 7, 1992
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 10, 1995
 
John R. Malott
Appointment: Dec 19, 1995
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 25, 1996
Termination of Mission: Left post Dec 30, 1998
 
B. Lynn Pascoe
Appointment: Oct 22, 1998
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 1, 1999
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 11, 2001
 
Marie T. Huhtala
Appointment: Aug 3, 2001
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 17, 2001
Termination of Mission: Left post May 28, 2004
 
Christopher L. LaFleur
Appointment: Oct 18, 2004
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 4, 2005
Termination of Mission: Left post, Sep 14, 2007
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Malaysia's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Hashim, Othman

The Southeast Asian nation of Malaysia has sent a career diplomat to serve as its next ambassador to the United States, replacing a political appointee, Datuk Seri Dr. Jamaluddin Jarjis, who served in Washington for two-and-a-half years. (“Datuk” and “Datuk Seri” are honorific titles bestowed by the Malaysian government.) Datuk Othman Hashim, who presented his credentials to President Obama on May 2, 2012, has made attracting more American investment in Malaysia one of his main goals. In 2011, U.S. imports from Malaysia came to $25.7 billion, with semiconductors, computer parts and telecommunications equipment accounting for half the total. U.S. exports to Malaysia totaled $14.2 billion, yielding a trade deficit of $11.5 billion.

 

Born circa 1934, Othman is a career member of Malaysia’s Foreign Service. In 1994 he was U.N. resident coordinator and representative of the United Nations Development Program in Palestine. He then served as counselor and deputy head of mission at the Malaysian embassy in Beijing, China. He was ambassador to the Czech Republic circa 2003; deputy secretary-general at the Malaysian Foreign Ministry; and Malaysia’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, from January 2009 until March 2012. Othman was said to be the only diplomat considered to replace Dr. Jamaluddin, who will serve as special envoy to the U.S. while retaining his ministerial rank.

 

Othman is married to Datin Rohayazam Kamaruzaman. They had three children, one of whom, Firdhaus, died in a car accident in Kuala Lampur in 2008.

-Matt Bewig

 

Othman Picked as Envoy to US (by Paul Gabriel, The Star-Malaysia)

Envoy: Malaysia to Woo More Investments from US (Bernama)

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Malaysia's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia

Jones, Paul W.
ambassador-image

Paul W. Jones, a career member of the State Department’s Senior Foreign Service, was sworn in as U.S. ambassador to the Southeast Asian nation of Malaysia on September 8, 2010.

 
Born in Yorktown Heights, New York, in 1960, Jones graduated from Cornell University and earned master’s degrees from the University of Virginia and the Naval War College, where he wrote a long paper in 2000 on how the newly independent country of Macedonia managed to survive its turbulent early years.
 
Jones has served in a variety of assignments in Asia, Europe and Latin America. Early postings included Colombia (1987-1989), Russia (1992-1994) and Bosnia and Herzegovina, followed by such postings as Deputy Chief of the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Deputy Chief of Mission in Macedonia (1996-1999) during the refugee crisis resulting from the conflict in Kosovo. In Washington, he served twice on the staff of the Secretary of State, in the 24-hour Operations Center and as Director of the Secretariat Staff. He was also the Director of the European Bureau’s Balkans office.
 
More recently, Jones served as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires in the Philippines, from September 2005 to February 2009, and as Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and concurrently Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Afghanistan and Pakistan, from February 2009 to September 2010.
 
Jones speaks Spanish and Russian. An avid tennis player and fan since childhood, Jones participated in a celebrity tennis tournament in Malaysia, which benefitted local charities. He is married to Catherine Cheremeteff Jones, the daughter of retired American diplomat Brandon Grove, Jr., and a French-trained chef and author of food and health books. They have a daughter and a son.
 
A Case of State Survival: Macedonia in the 1990s (by Paul W. Jones, United States Naval War College) (pdf)

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia

Keith, James
ambassador-image

James R. Keith was born in Virginia and earned a B.A. degree in English from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. While growing up, he lived in Tokyo, Jakarta, Hong Kong, and Taipei. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1980. Keith served numerous tours of duty in Washington, DC, working on Asian Affairs, and has also served as U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong and at U.S. Embassies in Beijing, Jakarta and Seoul. In addition to his Foreign Service postings, Ambassador Keith was a member of the National Security Council under President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s and President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s. Immediately prior to becoming ambassador to Malaysia, Keith held several positions including Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for China, Mongolia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau at the State Department. Keith has studied Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Malaysian and Indonesian.

 
Keith was sworn in as the United States Ambassador to Malaysia on July 24, 2007.
 

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Overview

Malaysia, a nation of 25 million in Southeast Asia, has boasted rapid economic growth and diversification over the past several decades. Not a paragon of human rights, the country holds free elections, yet freedom of speech, press and religion are strictly curbed. Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country, and tensions among ethnic Malays, Chinese and Indians, which also sound religious overtones, are a key challenge to maintaining unity and order. 

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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: Malaysia is a federation in Southeast Asia with a total landmass of 127,355 square miles, slightly larger than the state of New Mexico. Malaysia borders Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines. Comprised of two regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo, which are 400 miles distant from another across the South China Sea, Malaysia is comprised of eleven states in Peninsular Malaysia and two in Malaysian Borneo. The largest city and capital is Kuala Lumpur (city limits pop.: 1.6 million; urban area: 7.2 million) while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. Located near the equator, Malaysia experiences a tropical climate, with nearly 80% of the land covered by tropical rain forests, swamps or mountains. In both regions, plains hug the coastline while mountains rise in the interior. Monsoon rainfall averages about 100 inches a year, and most areas are warm and sunny. Malaysia shares control, with Indonesia, of the Strait of Malacca, a 500 mile long sea corridor between Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra, which is the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, and through which more than 50,000 vessels pass each year, carrying about 25% of the world’s traded goods, including oil, Chinese manufactures, and Indonesian coffee.   

 
Population: 25.3 million
 
Religions: Islam (60.4%), Buddhism (19.2%), Christianity (9.1%), Hinduism (6.3%), other/none (5.0%).
Ethnic Groups: Malay 50.4%, Chinese 23.7%, indigenous 11%, Indian 7.1%, others 7.8%.
 
Languages: Malay (official) 30.6%, Min Nan 8.3%, Hakka Chinese 4.2%, Banjar 3.8%, Yue Chinese 3.2%, Mandarin Chinese 1.8%, Negeri Sembilan Malay 1.3%, Javanese 1.3%, Min Dong Chinese 0.9%, Iban 1.7%, Bukar Sadong 0.1%. There are 140 living languages in Malaysia.
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History

Prehistoric Malaysia may be traced back as far as 200,000 years ago from archaeological remains found at Bukit Jawa, an archaeological site in Lenggong Perak. Many millennia later, the early Buddhist Malay kingdom of Srivijaya dominated much of the Malay peninsula from the 9th to the 13th centuries CE. It was followed by the Hindu kingdom of Majapahit, which gained control of the Malay peninsula in the 14th century. In the early-15th century, Sultan Iskandar Shah, a Hindu prince who converted to Islam, established a kingdom in Malacca that controlled peninsular Malaysia, southern Thailand, and the eastern coast of Sumatra. Viable for more than a century, the sultanate spread Islam to most of the Malay Archipelago. Malacca was the foremost trading port at the time in Southeast Asia, where Chinese, Arab, Malay, and Indian merchants traded precious goods.

 
Drawn by this rich trade, the Portuguese conquered Malacca in 1511, marking the beginning of European expansion in Southeast Asia. The Dutch ousted the Portuguese from Malacca in 1641, followed by the British between 1786 and 1824 when the Anglo-Dutch treaty gave Britain control of Malaysia. In 1826, the British combined Malacca, Penang, and Singapore to form the Colony of the Straits Settlements. In the 19th and early 20th centuries the British established protectorates over the Malay sultanates on the peninsula. During their rule the British developed large-scale rubber and tin production and established a system of public administration. British control was interrupted by the Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1945. 
 
As in the rest of Southeast Asia, popular sentiment for independence swelled during and after World War II. The territories of peninsular Malaysia joined together to form the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and they eventually negotiated independence from the British in 1957. In 1963 the British colonies of Singapore, Sarawak, and Sabah joined the Federation which was renamed Malaysia. Singapore’s membership was short-lived, however, and it seceded in 1965 becoming an independent republic.
 
Internally, the government faced various challenges to its legitimacy. Foremost among these are the delicate ethnic tensions between Malays, Indians and Chinese. Even as the government favors the Muslim Malays, it also attempts to mollify the minority Indians and Chinese, who wield considerable economic power. These ethnic tensions continue to plague the country. Between the 1980s and the mid-1990s, Malaysia experienced significant economic growth resulting from a shift from an agriculture-based economy to one based on manufacturing, industry and international trade. Numerous large-scale construction projects altered the physical landscape of the country during this period. In the late-1990s, Malaysia was shaken by the Asian financial crisis as well as political unrest caused by a bogus criminal trial against the fired deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim. In November 2007, Malaysia was rocked by two large anti-government rallies, one for political reform and one against anti-Hindu discrimination. The government responded to both rallies with force, and in October 2008 banned a leading Hindu rights organization as “a threat to national security.” 

Malaysian Timeline (Geographia.com)
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History of U.S. Relations with Malaysia

Although Malaysia initially pursued a pro-Western foreign policy, the government began to shift away from this in the mid 1970s. This policy shift was continued and strengthened by Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, who was in power from 1981 to 2003 and pursued a regionalist and pro-South policy with frequently strident anti-Western rhetoric.  Under Mahathir, Malaysia frequently championed what he called “Asian values” and criticized “Western values,” using this line of argument to justify one-party rule, discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion and gender, and the suppression of individual and civil liberties. 

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Current U.S. Relations with Malaysia

Malaysia views regional cooperation as the cornerstone of its foreign policy.  Despite Malaysia’s anti-Western rhetoric, the country in fact has recently worked closely with Western countries including the US, and led a crackdown against Islamic fundamentalists after the September 11, 2001, attacks.  Under Prime Minister Mahathir’s successor, Abdullah Badawi, relations with Western countries have improved, though tensions over human rights and trafficking remain. Indeed, Malaysia’s spotty record on human rights has provided the basis for some tension in US-Malaysian relations, including the September 2008 summoning of the Malaysian ambassador to the State department to explain legal charges brought against prominent opposition leaders. 

 
10,690 people identified themselves as being of Malaysian ancestry in the 2000 U.S. census.
174,336 Americans visited Malaysia in 2006. Tourism has grown significantly and consistently since 2002, when 127,920 Americans went to Malaysia.
50,597 Malaysians visited the U.S. in 2006. The number of tourists has fluctuated between a low of 34,274 (22003), and a high of 51,442 (2005) since 2002.
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Where Does the Money Flow

In 2007, industry and services dominated the GDP at 45.3% and 44.8% respectively, while agriculture accounted for only 9.9%. In the present century, the government has tried to move the economy farther up the value-added production chain by attracting investments in high tech industries, medical technology and pharmaceuticals. The government is continuing efforts to boost domestic demand to reduce the economy’s dependence on exports. Nevertheless, exports - especially of electronics - remain a significant driver of the economy. As an oil and gas exporter, Malaysia has profited from higher world energy prices, although the rising cost of domestic gasoline and diesel fuel has forced Kuala Lumpur to reduce government subsidies.

 
In 2008, US imports from Malaysia totaled $30.7 billion, dominated by computers ($6.7 billion), computer accessories, peripherals and parts ($4.8 billion), telecommunications equipment ($4.4 billion), semiconductors and related devices ($2.9 billion), and food oils and oil seeds ($1.2 billion).
 
In 2008, US exports to Malaysia totaled $12.9 billion. These transactions are led by semiconductors ($6.1 billion), computer accessories ($586 million), steelmaking materials ($525 million), industrial machines ($421 million), electronic apparatus ($420 million), telecommunications equipment ($416 million), and measuring, testing, and control instruments ($370 million).
 
The U.S. gave $2.6 million to Malaysia in 2009, divided between Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs ($1.3 million), Counter-Terrorism ($850,000), Stabilization Operations and Security Sector Reform ($750,000) and International Military Education and Training ($750,000). The projected budget for 2010 is increased to $2.9 million dollars that will go solely to Peace and Security rather than being divided between Peace and Security and Governing Justly and Democratically–which had been allocated $500,000 in 2009. Stabilization Operations and Security Sector Reform will receive $1.3 million (an increase from $750,000 in 2009) and funding to address Transnational Crime – which received no aid in 2009–will be $200,000.
 
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Controversies
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Human Rights

In April 2009, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the prime minister of Malaysia urging him to ratify core international human rights treaties like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The letter continues that Human Rights Watch would like the government to “give priority to the issues of arbitrary and preventive detention, freedom of expression, protection of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, and ending impunity for security forces.” There has been censoring of national newspapers and reporters for these publications have been denied access to press conferences regarding government activity. In addition to this, there is much impunity that pervades law enforcement and immigration officials. Between 2003 and 2007 there were 85 deaths in police custody–many of these cases have gone unresolved.

 
According the Amnesty International, the Malaysian government has “tightened control of dissent and curtailed the right to freedom of expression and religion.” Under the Sedition Act, bloggers were arrested and newspaper content was controlled under the Printing Press and Publications Act. In addition, ten people were arbitrarily arrested and detained under the Internal Security Act in 2008. Police and security personnel are known to use excessive force and police misconduct is rampant. There have been mass arrests of migrant workers in Malaysia and at least 22 people were sentenced to death.
 
Freedom of religion was infringed upon when a Muslim-born woman was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for renouncing Islam.
 
In addition, racial discrimination is institutionalized in government-backed “affirmative action policies” for Malays and indigenous peoples from Sabah and Sarawak (collectively called Bumiputeras). They have preferential treatment in land ownership, employment and education.
 
According to the U.S. State Department, the government claims it did not commit any politically motivated killings, but the local media reports that police killed 82 people while apprehending them. This number has increased from 16 killings in 2007. Law enforcement officials have also been accused of torturing people who are in custody, including a 10-year-old boy who was being questioned. In other cases, detainee Sanjeev Kumar’s left arm and leg were paralyzed as a result of torture and a policeman was charged with the rape of a student. Malaysia’s 29 prisons are currently 28% above capacity and have housed some detainees for more than a year without trial. These prisoners have inadequate food, water, and medical care and live with poor sanitation.
 
The U.S. State Department also reports that the government directly and indirectly censored the media by requiring domestic and foreign publications to apply each year for a permit. The Printing Presses and Publications Act makes the publication of malicious news a punishable offense, as well as enabling the government to ban publications believed to “threaten public order, morality, or national security.” Journalists may be arrested, harassed, and intimidated for their reporting. Radio and television stations face the same censorship. Internet media may also need to apply for permits under the Communications and Multimedia Act.
 
In universities the government requires that all civil servants, university faculty, and students sign a pledge of loyalty to the king and the government. The U.S. State Department writes that the Malaysian government believes students should be apolitical and those who voice opinions may be expelled or fined.
                                        
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

Thomas K. Wright

Presentation of Credentials: Sep 4, 1957
Termination of Mission: Superseded Dec 2, 1957
Note: Accredited to the Federation of Malaya; also served as ambassador to Mali from 1960 to 1961.
 
Name: Homer M. Byington, Jr.
Appointment: Oct 3, 1957
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 2, 1957
Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 1, 1961
Note: Accredited to the Federation of Malaya. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1946 for service as a deputy political adviser at the Allied Forces Headquarters for the Mediterranean in Caserta, Italy.
 
Charles F. Baldwin
Appointment: Feb 22, 1961
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 29, 1961
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jan 22, 1964
 
James D. Bell
Appointment: Mar 4, 1964
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 23, 1964
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 15, 1969
 
Jack W. Lydman
Appointment: Sep 15, 1969
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 8, 1969
Termination of Mission: Left post, Dec 20, 1973
 
Francis T. Underhill, Jr.
Appointment: Dec 19, 1973
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 11, 1974
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 10, 1977
 
Robert H. Miller
Appointment: May 26, 1977
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 8, 1977
Termination of Mission: Left post, Mar 8, 1980
Note: Miller also served as ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire from 1983 to 1986.
 
Barbara M. Watson
Non-career appointee
Appointment: Aug 20, 1980
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 25, 1980
Termination of Mission: Left post, Mar 1, 1981
 
Ronald DeWayne Palmer
Appointment: Jun 11, 1981
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 24, 1981
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct 30, 1983
Note: Palmer also served as ambassador to Togo from 1976 to 1978 and to Mauritius from 1986 to 1989.
 
Thomas P. Shoesmith
Appointment: Nov 18, 1983
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 12, 1983
Termination of Mission: Left post, Feb 14, 1987
 
John Cameron Monjo
Appointment: Apr 7, 1987
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 10, 1987
Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 22, 1989
Note: Monjo also served as ambassador to Indonesia from 1989 to 1992 and to Pakistan from 1992 to 1995.
 
Paul Matthews Cleveland
Appointment: Oct 10, 1989
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 8, 1989
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 23, 1992
Note: Cleveland also served as ambassador to New Zealand from 1985 to 1989 and to Western Samoa (now Samoa), from 1986 to 1989.
 
John Stern Wolf
Appointment: Aug 11, 1992
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 7, 1992
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 10, 1995
 
John R. Malott
Appointment: Dec 19, 1995
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 25, 1996
Termination of Mission: Left post Dec 30, 1998
 
B. Lynn Pascoe
Appointment: Oct 22, 1998
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 1, 1999
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 11, 2001
 
Marie T. Huhtala
Appointment: Aug 3, 2001
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 17, 2001
Termination of Mission: Left post May 28, 2004
 
Christopher L. LaFleur
Appointment: Oct 18, 2004
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 4, 2005
Termination of Mission: Left post, Sep 14, 2007
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Malaysia's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Hashim, Othman

The Southeast Asian nation of Malaysia has sent a career diplomat to serve as its next ambassador to the United States, replacing a political appointee, Datuk Seri Dr. Jamaluddin Jarjis, who served in Washington for two-and-a-half years. (“Datuk” and “Datuk Seri” are honorific titles bestowed by the Malaysian government.) Datuk Othman Hashim, who presented his credentials to President Obama on May 2, 2012, has made attracting more American investment in Malaysia one of his main goals. In 2011, U.S. imports from Malaysia came to $25.7 billion, with semiconductors, computer parts and telecommunications equipment accounting for half the total. U.S. exports to Malaysia totaled $14.2 billion, yielding a trade deficit of $11.5 billion.

 

Born circa 1934, Othman is a career member of Malaysia’s Foreign Service. In 1994 he was U.N. resident coordinator and representative of the United Nations Development Program in Palestine. He then served as counselor and deputy head of mission at the Malaysian embassy in Beijing, China. He was ambassador to the Czech Republic circa 2003; deputy secretary-general at the Malaysian Foreign Ministry; and Malaysia’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, from January 2009 until March 2012. Othman was said to be the only diplomat considered to replace Dr. Jamaluddin, who will serve as special envoy to the U.S. while retaining his ministerial rank.

 

Othman is married to Datin Rohayazam Kamaruzaman. They had three children, one of whom, Firdhaus, died in a car accident in Kuala Lampur in 2008.

-Matt Bewig

 

Othman Picked as Envoy to US (by Paul Gabriel, The Star-Malaysia)

Envoy: Malaysia to Woo More Investments from US (Bernama)

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Malaysia's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia

Jones, Paul W.
ambassador-image

Paul W. Jones, a career member of the State Department’s Senior Foreign Service, was sworn in as U.S. ambassador to the Southeast Asian nation of Malaysia on September 8, 2010.

 
Born in Yorktown Heights, New York, in 1960, Jones graduated from Cornell University and earned master’s degrees from the University of Virginia and the Naval War College, where he wrote a long paper in 2000 on how the newly independent country of Macedonia managed to survive its turbulent early years.
 
Jones has served in a variety of assignments in Asia, Europe and Latin America. Early postings included Colombia (1987-1989), Russia (1992-1994) and Bosnia and Herzegovina, followed by such postings as Deputy Chief of the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Deputy Chief of Mission in Macedonia (1996-1999) during the refugee crisis resulting from the conflict in Kosovo. In Washington, he served twice on the staff of the Secretary of State, in the 24-hour Operations Center and as Director of the Secretariat Staff. He was also the Director of the European Bureau’s Balkans office.
 
More recently, Jones served as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires in the Philippines, from September 2005 to February 2009, and as Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and concurrently Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Afghanistan and Pakistan, from February 2009 to September 2010.
 
Jones speaks Spanish and Russian. An avid tennis player and fan since childhood, Jones participated in a celebrity tennis tournament in Malaysia, which benefitted local charities. He is married to Catherine Cheremeteff Jones, the daughter of retired American diplomat Brandon Grove, Jr., and a French-trained chef and author of food and health books. They have a daughter and a son.
 
A Case of State Survival: Macedonia in the 1990s (by Paul W. Jones, United States Naval War College) (pdf)

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia

Keith, James
ambassador-image

James R. Keith was born in Virginia and earned a B.A. degree in English from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. While growing up, he lived in Tokyo, Jakarta, Hong Kong, and Taipei. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1980. Keith served numerous tours of duty in Washington, DC, working on Asian Affairs, and has also served as U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong and at U.S. Embassies in Beijing, Jakarta and Seoul. In addition to his Foreign Service postings, Ambassador Keith was a member of the National Security Council under President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s and President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s. Immediately prior to becoming ambassador to Malaysia, Keith held several positions including Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for China, Mongolia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau at the State Department. Keith has studied Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Malaysian and Indonesian.

 
Keith was sworn in as the United States Ambassador to Malaysia on July 24, 2007.
 

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