SOUTHEAST ASIA

Southeast Asia is made up of a large mainland peninsula, and a maritime area with 20,000 islands scattered through the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Much of the land in this region is mountainous and covered in dense, tropical forest.

HOW DOES DEFORESTATION AFFECT THE REGION?

Deforestation in Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, and Laos has destroyed the habitats of many rare plants and animals, such as tigers and wild elephants. It has also caused flooding and soil erosion. Some trees, such as teak, are logged for their timber; others are felled to create farmland, and replanting is rare. Thailand took the step of banning commercial logging in 1989.

HOW IS RICE FARMING CHANGING IN THE REGION?

In the last 20 years, rice farmers have been planting new species of high-quality rice, which produce a greater yield. These, along with new, intensive rice-planting programs and sophisticated machinery, have helped some countries, such as Indonesia, to become self-sufficient. Rice is a staple food of the region and grows well in the warm, humid climate.

WHICH COUNTRY IS MADE UP OF 13,677 ISLANDS?

Indonesia is the largest archipelago, or group of islands, in the world, spread out over 3,000,000 sq miles (8,000,000 sq km) of ocean. The country’s huge population, which is predominantly Muslim, includes 362 different peoples, speaking over 250 languages. Most people still live in small villages, but nine million live in the capital, Jakarta, on the island of Java.

WHAT IS THE MAIN RELIGION ON THE MAINLAND?

Buddhism is the most important religion in mainland southeast Asia, and the area has thousands of monasteries and ornate Buddhist temples. In Thailand, 95 percent of the people are Buddhist, and nearly every village has its own temple or wat, which is the center of village life.

WHERE IS THE RING OF FIRE?

The “Ring of Fire” is an arc of active volcanoes running through maritime southeast Asia and around the Pacific Ocean. The volcanoes sit along the edges of two plates that make up the Earth’s crust. When the plates move against each other, they cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on the islands of this region.

WHY DOES SOUTHEAST ASIA HAVE A RICH TRADITION OF PERFORMING ARTS?

The music, dance, and drama of southeast Asia derive from the region’s religious traditions. Cambodia’s highly stylized classical dances are based on 12th-century Hindu dances, while much of Indonesian drama retells Hindu myths. Indonesia is also famous for its shadow puppet shows.

WHO ARE THE LITTLE TIGERS?

Many southeast Asian countries, such as Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, are known as “Little Tigers” because of their fast-growing “tiger” economies and industrial enterprise. These countries benefit from cheap, plentiful labor, and export manufactured goods such as clothes and electronics.

FACTFILE: SOUTHEAST ASIA

MYANMAR (BURMA)

Capital city: Rangoon (Yangon)

Area: 261,969 sq miles (678,500 sq km)

Population: 49 million

THAILAND

Capital city: Bangkok

Area: 198,455 sq miles (514,000 sq km)

Population: 64.3 million

LAOS

Capital city: Vientiane

Area: 91,428 sq miles (236,800 sq km)

Population: 5.5 million

VIETNAM

Capital city: Hanoi

Area: 127,243 sq miles (329,560 sq km)

Population: 80.2 million

CAMBODIA

Capital city: Phnom Penh

Area: 69,900 sq miles (181,040 sq km)

Population: 13.8 million

MALAYSIA

Capital city: Kuala Lumpur; Putrajaya (administrative)

Area: 127,316 sq miles (329,750 sq km)

Population: 23 million

SINGAPORE

Capital city: Singapore

Area: 250 sq miles (647.5 sq km)

Population: 4.2 million

BRUNEI

Capital city: Bandar Seri Begawan

Area: 2,228 sq miles (5,770 sq km)

Population: 341,000

INDONESIA

Capital city: Jakarta

Area: 741,096 sq miles (1,919,440 sq km)

Population: 218 million

PHILIPPINES

Capital city: Manila

Area: 115,830 sq miles (300,000 sq km)

Population: 78.6 million

EAST TIMOR

Capital city: Dili

Area: 5,743 sq miles (14,874 sq km)

Population: 779,000

Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley