A brief history
The name "Malaysia" was adopted in 1963 when the Federation of Malaya (Malay: Persekutuan Tanah Melayu), Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak formed a 14-state federation. Singapore was expelled from the federation in 1965 and subsequently became an independent country.
Although politically dominated by the Malays, modern Malaysian society is heterogeneous, with substantial Chinese and Indian minorities. Malaysian politics have been noted for their allegedly communal nature; the three major component parties of the Barisan Nasional each restrict membership to those of one ethnic group.
However, the only major intercommunal violence the country has seen since independence was the May 13 racial riots of 1969 that occurred in the wake of an election campaign that was dominated by racial issues.
Malaysia is a federal constitutional elective monarchy. The federal head of state of Malaysia is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commonly referred to as the King of Malaysia. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is elected to a five-year term among the nine hereditary Sultans of the Malay states; the other four states, which have titular Governors, do not participate in the selection.
Malaysia boasts one of south-east Asia's most vibrant economies, the fruit of decades of industrial growth and political stability.
Its multi-ethnic, multi-religious society encompasses a majority Muslim population in most of its states and an economically-powerful Chinese community. A federation of thirteen states in Southeast Asia, Malaysia consists of two geographical regions divided by the South China Sea.
Peninsular Malaysia (or West Malaysia) on the Malay Peninsula shares a land border on the north with Thailand and is connected by the Johor-Singapore Causeway and the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link to the south with Singapore. It consists of nine sultanates (Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu), two states headed by governors (Malacca and Penang), and two federal territories (Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur).
Malaysian Borneo (or East Malaysia) occupies the northern part of the island of Borneo, bordering Indonesia and surrounding the Sultanate of Brunei. It consists of the states of Sabah and Sarawak and the federal territory of Labuan.
Source: Wikipedia, BBC