Sarawak (səräˈwäk) [key], state (1991 pop. 1,648,217), 48,342 sq mi (125,206 sq km), Malaysia, in NW Borneo and on the South China Sea. It is bordered on the NE by the states of Brunei and Sabah and on the S and W by Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). Kuching is the capital, and Sibu is an important port. Petroleum is the chief mineral, and sago, pepper, and rubber are important commercial crops. Sometimes called the Land of the White Rajahs, Sarawak was ceded (1841) by the sultan of Brunei to James Brooke, an Englishman, who became rajah of the independent state. It became a British protectorate in 1888, but remained under the control of the Brooke family. In World War II the area was occupied by the Japanese. The Brookes ceded Sarawak to the British in 1946, and it became a crown colony. A leftist revolt (Dec., 1962) in nearby Brunei spread to Sarawak, and the rebels, who opposed the formation of the proposed Federation of Malaysia, occupied several towns. The revolt was quelled by British troops. However, sporadic activity by the rebels, who apparently were supported by Indonesia, continued into 1963, when Malaysia was formed. The name of the state is sometimes spelled Serawak.
See S. Runciman, The White Rajahs (1960).