World War II was disastrous for the British Malayan Command.
The Japanese swept down both coasts of the Malay Peninsula and despite fierce fighting, much of the British military was tied down fighting the Germans in Europe and those that remained in Malaya simply could not cope with the Japanese onslaught.
The British military equipment left to defend Malaya were outdated and no match for the modern ones used by the Japanese, while the only two battleships based in the region, the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, were sank by Japanese bombers off the East Coast of Malaya.
Malay (official), English (official for some purposes), Chinese languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew, Hakka, Hainanese, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Punjabi, and Thai; in addition, several indigenous languages are spoken in East Malaysia, especially Iban and Kadazan Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia, located partly on a peninsula of the Asian mainland and partly on the northern third of the island of Borneo.
West (peninsular) Malaysia shares a border with Thailand, is connected by a causeway and a bridge (the 'second link') to the island state of Singapore, and has coastlines on the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca.
East Malaysia (Borneo) shares borders with Brunei and Indonesia.
Malaysia is a mix of the modern world and a developing nation.
With its investment in the high technology industries and moderate oil wealth, it has become one of the richer nations in Southeast Asia.
Malaysia, for most visitors, presents a happy mix: there is high-tech infrastructure and things generally work well and more or less on schedule, but prices remain more reasonable than, say, Singapore.
Before the rise of the European colonial powers, the Malay peninsula and the Malay archipelago were home to empires such as the Srivijaya, the Majapahit (both ruled from Indonesia, but also controlling parts of Malaysia) and the Melaka Sultanate.
The Srivijaya and Majapahit empires saw the spread of Hinduism to the region, and to this day, many Hindu legends and traditions survive in traditional Malay culture.
This was to change in the 16th century when the Portuguese established the first European colony in Southeast Asia by defeating the Melaka Sultanate.
The Portuguese subsequently then lost Malacca to the Dutch.
The British also established their first colony on the Malay peninsula in Penang in 1786, when it was ceded by the Sultan of Kedah.