Malaysia Issues - 2023


Disputes - international

piracy remains a problem in the Malacca Strait

Malaysia-Brunei: per Letters of Exchange signed in 2009, Malaysia in 2010 ceded two hydrocarbon concession blocks to Brunei; in 2009, the media reported that Brunei had dropped its claims to the Limbang corridor, but Brunei responded that the subject had never been discussed during recent talks between the two countries

Malaysia-China-Philippines-Vietnam: while the 2002 "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" has eased tensions over the Spratly Islands, it is not the legally binding "code of conduct" sought by some parties, which is currently being negotiated between China and ASEAN; Malaysia was not party to the March 2005 joint accord among the national oil companies of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam on conducting marine seismic activities in the Spratly Islands

Malaysia-Indonesia: land and maritime negotiations with Indonesia are ongoing, and disputed areas include the controversial Tanjung Datu and Camar Wulan border area in Borneo and the maritime boundary in the Ambalat oil block in the Celebes Sea

Malaysia-Philippines: Philippines retains a dormant claim to the eastern part of Malaysia's Sabah State in northern Borneo

Malaysia-Singapore: disputes continue over deliveries of fresh water to Singapore, Singapore's land reclamation, bridge construction, and maritime boundaries in the Johor and Singapore Straits; in 2008, the International Court of Justice awarded sovereignty of Pedra Branca (Pulau Batu Puteh/Horsburgh Island) to Singapore, and Middle Rocks to Malaysia but did not rule on maritime regimes, boundaries, or disposition of South Ledge

Malaysia-Thailand: in 2008, separatist violence in Thailand's predominantly Muslim southern provinces prompts Malaysia to take measures to close and to monitor the border with Thailand to stem terrorist activities



Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 158,165 (Burma) (refugees and asylum seekers) (2022)

stateless persons: 113,930 (2022); note - Malaysia's stateless population consists of Rohingya refugees from Burma, ethnic Indians, and the children of Filipino and Indonesian illegal migrants; Burma stripped the Rohingya of their nationality in 1982; Filipino and Indonesian children who have not been registered for birth certificates by their parents or who received birth certificates stamped "foreigner" are not eligible to attend government schools; these children are vulnerable to statelessness should they not be able to apply to their parents' country of origin for passports

Trafficking in persons

tier rating: Tier 3 — Malaysia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, therefore Malaysia remained on Tier 3; officials took some steps to address trafficking, including expanding the legal definition of forced labor, increasing assistance for victims in government-funded shelters and judicial processes, and adopting a five-year national action plan against forced labor; however, the government continued to conflate trafficking and migrant smuggling crimes, impeding law enforcement and victim identification; anti-trafficking investigations declined, and no officials allegedly complicit in trafficking were prosecuted or convicted; officials continued to inadequately address allegations of labor trafficking in the rubber manufacturing and palm oil sectors, allowing abusive employers to sometimes operate with impunity; the government identified fewer victims, did not consistently implement procedures to identify victims, and penalized trafficking victims for immigration and prostitution violations (2022)

trafficking profile: human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Malaysia and, to a lesser extent, Malaysians abroad; most victims in Malaysia are documented and undocumented migrant workers from Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam; employers and agents exploit some migrants through debt-based coercion, and large organized crime syndicates are involved in some trafficking; Chinese nationals working for Chinese state-affiliated construction projects in Malaysia are vulnerable to forced labor; some young foreign women and girls—mainly from Southeast Asia, although also from Nigeria—are forced into commercial sex work in Malaysia after false recruitment for work in restaurants, hotels, beauty salons, or brokered marriages; refugees, Rohingya and other asylum-seekers, and stateless individuals are vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking; traffickers force Malaysian orphans and children to beg, and increasingly exploit Malaysian women and children in forced labor; corrupt immigration officials facilitate trafficking by accepting bribes from brokers and smugglers at the borders and airports, and other government officials profit from bribes or extortion from and exploitation of migrants (2022)

Illicit drugs

not a source country for illicit drugs bound for the United States but is a significant transit country for drugs destined for Australia;  drugs trafficked to Malaysia include crystal methamphetamine and lesser quantities of MDMA (ecstasy), cannabis, heroin, and ketamine; significant number of the population abuse drugs especially  methamphetamine

NOTE: The information regarding Malaysia on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Malaysia 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Malaysia 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 10 Nov 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.