Malaysia has a diverse population. Malays make up about 60 percent of the people, but the country is home to many people of Chinese and Indian descent. In general the communities exist in harmony but with little interaction among them.

Ethnic Chinese have long dominated business and grown into a wealthy business class. They helped Malaysia develop profitable industries such as rubber, timber, and electronics. Since the 1970s, the government, however, has taken steps to make sure Malays have access to education and business opportunity. As a result, Malaysia has a more equal distribution of wealth than most countries in the region.

Suffering and Oppression in Myanmar

Burma won independence from Britain in 1948 and took the name Myanmar in 1989. From 1962 until 2011, a repressive military government held absolute power, suppressed dissent, and isolated the country from the rest of the world. It stood accused of widespread human rights abuses such using forced labor–even child labor–for its own purposes.

Under mounting pressure, the military held elections in 1990. When an opposition party won the election, the military rejected the results. It put the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, (awn sahn soo chee) under house arrest, and jailed, killed, or exiled many opponents. In 1991, Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize for her “nonviolent struggle for democracy and human rights.” The military continued to stifle demands for new elections and crushed peaceful demonstrations by Buddhist monks. It even prevented humanitarian aid from reaching areas of Myanmar that were devastated by a cyclone in 2008.

Photo of an older woman in silk dress and pashmina walking in front of a group in similar Asian dress.

Aung San Suu Kyi attends a Burmese cultural event in London. Since her release from house arrest, she has reentered politics and works to improve Myanmar.

Since 2011, a civilian government has passed some reforms. Though the new president, Thein Sein, continued the practice of appointing military figures to national office, he worked on substantial reforms, including releasing many political prisoners and enacting laws to protect human rights and freedom of information. Under this government, Aung San Suu Kyi has regained political office as a member of Parliament.

Such political reforms spurred leading countries like the United States to provide develop aid to the impoverished nation. Although it has resources such as lumber and offshore oil deposits, its population lives in poverty.

Ethnic tensions have plagued the country for decades. The Burmese majority has dominated many other ethnic groups. Minority groups faced with persecution under military rule started separatist rebellions. The new government has tried to end long-running conflicts with various ethnic groups, but recently violence has erupted between Buddhists and Muslims.

Populous Indonesia Faces Challenges

After the Japanese were defeated in World War II, the Netherlands attempted to regain their colony in the Dutch East Indies. Nationalists resisted. In 1949, after an armed struggle, the Dutch East Indies won independence as the nation of Indonesia.

Geography and diversity posed an obstacle to unity in Indonesia and has in some cases led to conflict. Indonesia includes more than 13,000 islands, many very small but some as large as European nations. Javanese make up almost half of the population, but there are hundreds of other ethnic groups. About 90 percent of Indonesians are Muslims, but the population includes substantial Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu minorities.

Search for Stability

Upon achieving independence, Indonesia formed a parliamentary government under its first president, Sukarno. But Sukarno shifted from democracy to authoritarian rule. In 1967, an army general, Suharto, seized power and ruled for the next 31 years.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments