South East Asia

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Location of Southeast Asia
Cartography Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is part of the Asian continent and includes the countries that are east of India and south of China . The region is divided here into the Southeast Asian mainland ( Burmese peninsula ) and the insular Southeast Asia ( Malay archipelago ), the Indonesia (excluding the already Melanesia projected western part of New Guinea ), the Andaman and Nicobar Islands , the Philippines , Brunei , East Timor and parts of Malaysia covers . Most of the countries of Southeast Asia are members of the international Southeast Asian organization ASEAN, with its headquarters in Jakarta and the Bruneian General Secretary Lim Jock Hoi .


The term Southeast Asia refers to the location between South Asia and East Asia . It was ascribed to the extremely heterogeneous region from outside during the Second World War , when large parts of the region were occupied by Japanese troops and the western allies used this designation when planning the reconquest.


The Southeast Asian region is defined by natural boundaries. The Southeast Asian mainland is delimited by mountain ranges from India and China to the north, while there are seas to the east, south and west.

Geographical location

Southeast Asia is divided into the rear Indian peninsula (rear India) - which consists of the Malay and the Indochinese peninsula - and the Malay archipelago (Insulinde), the island of Southeast Asia. The Malay Archipelago extends to the coast of Australia .

The Indochinese Peninsula is drained by the two major rivers Irrawaddy and Mekong .


Southeast Asia borders the Indian Ocean (with the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal ) to the west and south and the Pacific Ocean (with Polynesia and Melanesia ) to the east . At the southern end of the Malay Peninsula, the Strait of Malacca runs between Malaysia and Sumatra . As one of the world's most important sea trade routes, it connects the marginal seas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Portions west of the Wallace Line of the Australasian Mediterranean Sea are part of Southeast Asia.

Today's states

Country Area
per km²
GDP per capita
BruneiBrunei Brunei 5,765 400,000 70 10,405,000,000 $ 25,386 Bandar Seri Begawan
IndonesiaIndonesia Indonesia 1,904,569 240.271.522 126 539,377,000,000 $ 2,329 Jakarta
CambodiaCambodia Cambodia 181.035 14,805,000 82 10,871,000,000 $ 768 Phnom Penh
LaosLaos Laos 236,800 6,320,000 27 5,598,000,000 $ 886 Vientiane
MalaysiaMalaysia Malaysia 329,847 28,318,000 83 192,955,000,000 $ 7,525 Kuala Lumpur
MyanmarMyanmar Myanmar 676.578 50,020,000 74 34,262,000,000 $ 571 Naypyidaw
East TimorEast Timor East Timor 14,874 1,134,000 76 556,000,000 $ 499 Dili
PhilippinesPhilippines Philippines 299.764 91,983,000 307 161,196,000,000 $ 1,748 Manila
SingaporeSingapore Singapore 710.2 4,987,600 7,023 182,231,000,000 $ 36,379 Singapore
ThailandThailand Thailand 513.120 67,764,000 132 263,979,000,000 $ 3,941 Bangkok
VietnamVietnam Vietnam 331.210 88,069,000 265 93,164,000,000 $ 1,068 Hanoi

Unemployment in 2013 was relatively low at 13.6 million in the Southeast Asia and Pacific region. The total fertility rate in Southeast Asia is around 2.4 and life expectancy averages 71 years. Government spending on health accounted for just 3.6% of total gross domestic product in 2010, making it the lowest proportion of any world region where an average of 9.2% was spent. In addition, Southeast Asian oil reserves have been declining continuously for decades. While they were 6,788 million tons in 1990 and 5,931 in 2000, they continued to decline to 4,580 million tons by 2008. At the same time, the forest stocks in South and Southeast Asia were reduced annually by 677,000 hectares between 2000 and 2010, whereas in East Asia they were massively reforested by 2.78 million hectares.


Before the arrival of the Europeans

Vietnam was from 111 BC. BC to 939 Chinese protectorate.

In the first centuries after the new era, Indian traders spread their culture over large parts of Southeast Asia. The Kingdom of Funan (200-550) in the Mekong Delta developed into the first center of Hinduism and Buddhism in Southeast Asia. It was replaced by the Khmer Kingdom and the Srivijaya Empire on Sumatra . 750 Borobodur , a huge terraced temple complex, was built on Java . The Khmer kings created an equally impressive work of art with the construction of their Angkor Wat temple complex .

From the 9th century, the Tai migrated from the north to their current settlement areas and met the high-standing Mon , whose culture shaped them. In 1044 the first Burmese empire was founded with Bagan as the capital.

Vietnam broke away from the Chinese dependency, achieved its own rule in 968 and gradually annexed the neighboring country Champa from the middle of the 11th century .

Since 1253 the Tai established a number of small states, from 1292 the kingdom of Sukhothai gained importance. From 1351 the Kingdom of Ayutthaya gained power, conquered Angkor and replaced the Khmer Empire, which was financially ruined by the enormous expenditure for Angkor, as the supreme power.

Far-reaching trade had developed in Southeast Asia from the 6th to the 16th century; numerous shipwrecks testify to this development, such as that of the Lena Shoal junk . The ship types of the junk and the balangay were used for this trade . Two main routes of trade could be established: China on the one hand and Java, Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula on the other. One route leads along the mainland and the second route along Borneo , Palawan to the island of Luzon .

In the 15th century, Arab, Persian and Indian traders converted the Malays to Islam. The Muslim Malacca replaced the Hindu kingdom of Majapahit on Java.

Colonial times

Historical map from 1713
Colonies in East Asia and Oceania around 1914

With the exception of Siam , all Southeast Asian countries were colonized from the 16th century . The background for the colonization was the region's wealth of raw materials and spices, which were of particular value at that time. After the trade had been dominated by Arab traders for a long time, the European powers fought over the supremacy in the region from now on.

Portugal was the first colonial power to reach Southeast Asia and, after conquering the important trading port of Malacca in 1511, dominated sea trade. The Dutch then tried to gain a foothold in Southeast Asia from the 16th century and conquered Malacca from the Portuguese in 1641, which (apart from the small colony of East Timor ) heralded the end of Portuguese colonial rule in Southeast Asia. The Dutch, on the other hand, controlled the region's spice trade through the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and founded various trading bases in what is now Indonesia in order to be able to better access the raw materials. The headquarters was Batavia, today's Jakarta .

The Spaniards were active at the same time in the region and colonized to conquer and convert to Christianity with the goal of China Philippines , who after the Spanish King Philip II. Named.

The British came to Southeast Asia as the third major colonial power and also tried to establish themselves in the region. After initially only having an insignificant base in Indonesia, after negotiations with the resident sultans, they gained control of the island of Penang and Singapore, which at that time was still a small Malay fishing village. Together with the port city of Malacca , these areas formed the so-called Straits Settlements, the important commercial bases of the British in Southeast Asia. At the time of the Napoleonic Wars , the British temporarily took over the Dutch colonies in order to protect them from being taken over by the French. After the return of the Dutch and the return of their colonial territories in 1816, the rivalry for the Malay archipelago sprouted again. The British-Dutch Treaty of 1824 finally decided to split the area into a British-controlled part (today's Malaysia) and a Dutch-administered part (today's Indonesia). In 1866 the British were able to increase their colonial holdings in the region after long armed conflicts through the conquest of Burma .

The French did not gain a foothold in Southeast Asia until the 19th century and annexed Vietnam , Cambodia and Laos as French Indochina to the French colonial empire.

The United States also became a colonial power in Southeast Asia around 1900 when it took over the Philippines from Spain.

History from 1945

Immediately after their independence in the 1950s, the Southeast Asian states pursued a nationalistically inspired solo effort. In terms of economic policy, with the exception of Singapore, they committed themselves to the concept of import substitution (the replacement of imports) until the 1970s . External influences - the proximity to the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union , above all the Korean War 1950–1953 and the Indochina Wars - led to closer cooperation between the western-oriented states in the area of ​​security policy. First attempts at regional cooperation, especially SEATO , quickly failed. Washington's traditional bilateral approach in Southeast Asia made regional cooperation even more difficult, which at the beginning was entirely under the motto of containing bilateral regional conflicts in order to develop undisturbed.

Slash and burn is proving to be an aggravating factor in Southeast Asia .

Politics therefore lagged for a long time after regionalization, which began to increase in the 1970s - driven by market forces, namely Japanese corporations and foreign Chinese company networks. It was not until the early 1990s that the governments of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN ) began to actively steer the integration process with the creation of the AFTA free trade area . At this point in time, all members had embarked on a market-based, export-oriented path. - Since the 1990s, ASEAN has also been able to establish economic and security institutions and thus build bridges between Southeast and East Asia, including the USA. Above all, the coordination mechanism ASEAN + 3, which came into being after the Asia crisis in 1997 and connects ASEAN with China, Japan and South Korea , seems to have room for improvement. Overall, ASEAN, to which all ten Southeast Asian nations belong with the exception of East Timor , is the most successful regional alliance after the EU . By 2020 an Asian community with an economic, cultural and security-political pillar is to be created (see: Social threefolding ); however, no supranational cooperation is planned. The integration project of Singapore and Thailand is being most actively pursued.


Southeast Asia is characterized by religious diversity. There are followers of all major world religions in the region, which is due to the historical role of the region as a trading hub. While Buddhists and Muslims make up the majority of the approximately 600 million Southeast Asians, there are also followers of Hinduism , Christianity, Confucianism , and numerous traditional belief systems . As a rule, however, none of the faiths can be regarded as pure doctrine, as they are mostly strongly influenced by traditional beliefs and merged with them ( syncretism ).


With 240 million followers, Buddhism is one of the largest religions in the region. It is particularly widespread on the Southeast Asian mainland and is the main religion in Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Theravada Buddhism is mainly widespread in Southeast Asia .


The Christianity , especially Catholicism , is common in Southeast Asia especially in the Philippines and East Timor, but by the Christian missionary is also available in other countries like Indonesia and Vietnam Christian minorities.


The Hinduism is the dominant faith on the Indonesian island of Bali is, however, is represented by small minorities in other parts of Southeast Asia. Historically, for example, it played an important role in the Khmer Kingdom of Angkor and the Champa Empire.


The Islam are found primarily in Indonesia, a country from having the largest Muslim population in the world, Brunei and Malaysia, but also in the southern Philippines and Thailand and Myanmar to the west, there are Muslim minorities. Of the approximately 200 million Muslims in the region, 95 percent live in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Through Indian traders of the Muslim faith, Islam came to Southeast Asia as early as the 8th century. However, it did not become widespread, especially in the maritime trading cities, until the 14th century, after Southeast Asian rulers discovered religion as a means to break away from previous power relations. In contrast to Arab Islam, Islam in Southeast Asia is strongly syncretistic and is considered to be extremely moderate. Among other things, this can be traced back to the mystical Sufi orientation of the Indian rulers, who first brought Islam to the region, but also through the merging with local traditions.

Politically, Islam played a unifying nationalist role, especially in Indonesia during the independence movement. Since the 1970s, there have also been increasing numbers of religiously supported uprisings and conflicts in Indonesia, the Philippines and, more recently, in Thailand. However, due to the global renaissance of Islam and political and social repression, fundamentalists have recently gained popularity. Special mention should be made of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which is attempting to implement the goal of a Southeast Asian caliphate with terrorist means and which is said to have close contacts with Al-Qaeda .


The followers of Confucianism are mainly to be found within the population of Chinese descent, which makes up the majority of Singaporean citizens and is also strongly represented in Malaysia.


The Southeast Asian Games have been held every two years since 1958 .

See also


  1. Country Comparison :: Area . CIA World Factbook. Retrieved September 12, 2009.
  2. Table A.1. Total Population by Sex in 2009 and Sex Ratio by Country In 2009 (Medium Variant) (PDF; 780 kB) Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. Retrieved September 12, 2009.
  3. Country Comparison :: GDP . CIA World Factbook. Retrieved February 12, 2010.
  4. Statistics Singapore - Population (Mid Year Estimates) & Land Area ( Memento of December 4, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) on Statistics Singapore, 2009.
  5. ↑ Number of unemployed in selected world regions
  6. World Population Foundation: Country database, accessed on February 27, 2014
  7. Health expenditure measured as a proportion of the gross domestic product
  8. ^ Petroleum reserves in Southeast Asia, 1990-2008
  9. Global Forests, 2000-2010
  10. Lost at Sea by Franck Goddio (English; PDF; 1.8 MB)
  11. ^ Carl Ploetz (ed.): The great Ploetz: the data encyclopedia of world history; Data, facts, connections . Herder Verlag, Freiburg 1998, ISBN 978-3-451-40505-1 ; P. 1228f


  • Reginald le May: Southeast Asia. The heritage of India. Kindler, Munich 1967 DNB 574856773 .
  • Hans-Dieter Kubitscheck: Southeast Asia - Peoples and Cultures . Akademie Verlag , Berlin (East) 1984 (without ISBN , DNB 840498519 ).
  • Johannes Glembek: Insights into Southeast Asia . Institute for Interdisciplinary Study and Research, Trier 1995, ISBN 3-930644-00-2 .
  • Bernhard Dahm, Roderich Ptak: Southeast Asia Handbook - History, Society, Politics, Economy, Culture . Beck, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-406-45313-9 .
  • Mary Somers Heidhues: Southeast Asia - A concise history . Thames & Hudson, London, 2001, ISBN 0-500-28303-6 .
  • Karl Pilny : Tiger on the Jump: Politics, Power and Markets in Southeast Asia , Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-593-38678-2 .
  • Fritz Schulze, Holger Warnk (ed.): Muslims and non-Muslims in Southeast Asia . Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2010 ISBN 978-3-447-05729-5 (= Frankfurt Research on Southeast Asia , Volume 4).
  • Fritz Schulze, Holger Warnk (Ed.): Islam and State in the countries of Southeast Asia / Islam and State in Southeast Asia , Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2010 ISBN 978-3-447-06408-8 (= Frankfurt research on Southeast Asia , Volume 7, partly German / partly English ).

Web links

Wiktionary: Southeast Asia  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Southeast Asia  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 12 °  N , 105 °  E