All in Imperialism

Why is Malaysia Split in Two?

Which is the strangest looking country in the world? Contenders include the United States (think of Alaska and Hawaii), Papua New Guinea (shouldn’t it have the whole island?), Gambia (what’s it like to be entirely surrounded by another country?), and the United Kingdom (what’s with Northern Ireland?). The winner, however, might be Malaysia. It looks like a piece of fruit sliced in two, its two halves separated by 650 kilometers of water. Neither part covers all the relevant geography—the western half shares the peninsula with Thailand and Singapore, while the eastern half covers only a quarter of the island of Borneo. Nor does this unusual arrangement have the weight of history behind it—Malaysia in its current form dates back only to the 1960’s. How did Malaysia get the borders it has today?