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SOUTHEAST ASIA

Where is Indochina?

Indochina is the peninsula in Southeast Asia composed of Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and the mainland portion of Malaysia. During the colonial era, the eastern portion of Indochina was ruled by France and the west was ruled by Britain.

When did Burma become Myanmar?

In 1989, the name of Burma changed to Myanmar when the military took control of the country, following the president's resignation as a result of riots and national turmoil.

An early morning street scene in Hanoi, Vietnam (photo by Paul A. Tucci).

An early morning street scene in Hanoi, Vietnam (photo by Paul A. Tucci).

Why was the Vietnam War fought, and what were some of the consequences?

After World War II, Vietnamese nationalists and communists fought the French to gain their freedom from European colonization. Ultimately, the French left Vietnam in shambles, and the former colony divided into the primarily communist controlled North and the pro-West forces in the South. The United States initially was involved in the war to help its ally France regain control of the colony by sending in advisers and aiding in military supplies. Forces in the South saw the chance to gain American assistance, and they convinced various U.S. administrations to assist in ridding the country of their enemies. In an effort to stem the spread of communism, the United States continued to support South Vietnam until the fall of Saigon in 1975.

Ironically, during the height of the Vietnam War in 1970 while communist Vietnamese were being portrayed as a threat to the American way of life, President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were courting the largest, most radical communist country, the People's Republic of China, to extend relations with the West. China had been funding and supporting militarily Vietnamese resistance against both French and American forces for decades.

The American occupation of Vietnam lasted from 1962 to 1975. In 1975, Saigon was overrun by communist forces, and the country was eventually unified under one communist regime. The aftermath and legacy of the war in Vietnam was the destabilization of and genocide in neighboring Laos and Cambodia, which cost millions of lives during the upheaval of the 1970s, as well as the displacement of millions of Vietnamese, some of whom emigrated to the U.S. as "boat people."

Which Southeast Asian country is one of the world's richest?

The tiny nation of Brunei (composed of just 2,226 square miles [5,765 square kilometers]), located on the island of Borneo, is one of the world's richest countries. Brunei's wealth is based on its oil and gas exports. Sultan and Prime Minister His Majesty Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, who is the ruler of Brunei, is one of the richest men in the world.

What is Bandar Seri Begawan?

The capital of Brunei Darussalam is Bandar Seri Begawan, or Bandar for short. It is said that during the Vietnam War the airport in Bandar frequently picked up the traces of U.S. and Vietnamese fighter airplanes engaged in battle nearby.

Where is Brunei?

Brunei lies on the northern tip of the island of Borneo, just south of the Philippines. It shares Borneo Island with four provinces of Indonesia (West, Central, South, and East Kalimantan) and two states of Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak).

What are the principal industries in the Maldives?

Tourism and fisheries contribute the most to the Maldives's GDP, which is approximately $1.569 billion per year.

How many islands make up the Maldives?

There are approximately 1,192 islands and islets within the territory of the Maldives, of which only 250 are inhabited. Of the inhabited islands, some are actually hotel resorts only, as the islands have

A satellite view of the Republic of Maldives, which may have its very existence threatened should sea levels continue to rise (image courtesy of NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team).

A satellite view of the Republic of Maldives, which may have its very existence threatened should sea levels continue to rise (image courtesy of NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team).

only enough space for one or two hotels. The Maldives lie about 600 miles (965 kilometers) southwest of India.

Which country has the lowest maximum elevation in the world?

The Maldives has a natural maximum elevation of only 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) above sea level. The problem is that sea levels over the past 100 years are rising at a rate of approximately 9.75 inches (20 centimeters) per year, which may make the country, or parts of it, disappear entirely. The 2004 Asian tsunami caused the ocean to completely cover parts of the Maldives.

What is a dhoni?

A dhoni is a traditional wooden Maldivian fishing boat.

What language is spoken in the Maldives?

Dhivehi, an Indo-Aryan language, is spoken by the 300,000 inhabitants of the Maldives. What is an economic tiger?

An economic tiger is a term applied to any rapidly developing Asian nation with the power and ability to become an influential, international economic powerhouse. South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore are considered to be the three economic tigers. Hong Kong was once part of this Pacific Rim group, but, since its merger with China, it can no longer be considered an economic tiger.

What part of Southeast Asia is one of the most contested geographic regions in the world?

The Spratly Islands are a group of 100 small islands, islets, and reefs in the South China sea. They are located between Vietnam, the Philippines, and East Malaysia. Though only comprised of 2 square miles (5.2 square kilometers) and spread across 158,000 square miles (400,000 square kilometers) of the South China Sea, these islands are of strategic importance. Ownership is contested by Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Taiwan. Oil fields that yield nearly 15 percent of the petroleum used by the Philippines have been the center of the dispute. Each country feels that it should be able to negotiate and profit from the lucrative contracts and benefits that oil exploration and production might bring.

What is the only Catholic country in Asia?

The Philippines is the only Catholic country in Asia— approximately 83 percent of its population is Catholic. Catholicism was firmly implanted in the Philippines when the land was under Spanish rule, from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries.

THE PHILIPPINES AND INDONESIA

How many islands make up the Philippines?

The Philippines are composed of 7,100 islands. Only 1,000 of these are inhabited and 2,500 still remain unnamed. The islands are divided into three main groups: the Luzon region in the north, the Visayan region in the middle, and the Mindanao and Sulu region in the south.

When did the United States control the Philippines?

The Philippines were a Spanish colony until 1898, when the United States took control of the more than 7,100 islands at the close of the Spanish-American War. The islands remained under American control through 1946 (except for a two-year period of Japanese control during World War II). The Philippines became independent in 1946 and leased land to the United States for military bases until 1992, when the U.S. military presence in the Philippines ended.

How many islands make up Indonesia?

Indonesia is composed of over 13,500 islands. Of these, only 6,000 are inhabited. Indonesia is the world's largest archipelago and was formerly known as the Dutch East Indies. The area had been under the control of the Netherlands since around 1600, but declared its independence in 1945 (after being subjected to Japanese rule during much of World War II).

What is the world's most densely populated island?

The Indonesian island of Java is the world's most densely populated island. It has a total population of over 124 million, which, when placed within its 51,000 square miles (132,000 square kilometers) of land, gives it a density of over 2,431 people per square mile. Indonesia's capital city, Jakarta, is located on the island of Java.

A view of Singapore's prosperous financial district. The country is the smallest in southeast Asia, but has a high GDP per capita of $49,900.

A view of Singapore's prosperous financial district. The country is the smallest in southeast Asia, but has a high GDP per capita of $49,900.

What is Southeast Asia's largest oil-producing country?

Indonesia produces approximately 1,136,000 million barrels of oil per day, making it the twentieth biggest oil producer in the world.

What was East Timor?

East Timor—its former name—is now the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, a country adjacent to the most eastern province of Indonesia. After being under the control of Portugal for four centuries, the region came under Indonesian rule. Later, in 1975, East Timor declared independence. Indonesia consequently invaded, killing about 100,000 people. In 1991 the international community condemned Indonesia for this and the additional massacres and human rights violations that followed. Indonesia eventually relinquished control of East Timor, and Timor-Leste became an independent republic in 2002. With a per capita GDP of less than $800 per year, Timor-Leste is one of the poorest countries in the world.

What is the smallest country in Southeast Asia?

The Republic of Singapore is the smallest country in southeast Asia. It covers only 272 square miles (707 square kilometers) of land.

Is Singapore a city or a country?

Singapore, a city state, is both a city and a country, and one the wealthiest, most developed countries in the world. Born out of the extreme hardship and mass killings of World War II, the country was taken under United Kingdom control after the Japanese defeat. In 1963, Singapore merged with the states of Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak to form what is Malaysia today. In 1965, Singapore split from Malaysia and formed its own country.

 
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