Southeast Asia

By Charli Gisi and Cosette Zielinski


Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines
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Geography: Bodies of Water

Southeastern Asia takes up about 5 million square miles (13 million square kilometers), although only 1/3 is land. Malay Peninsula and the Indonesia Sunda Isles represent the boundary between two oceans, to the west and the south the Indian Ocean and to the east and the north the Pacific Ocean The region’s largest seas are the South China Sea and the Philippine Sea. West of the Malaysian Peninsula lies the Andaman Sea.

Geography: River Systems

The regions five most important rivers lie in the mainlands. From west to east these rivers are; Irrawaddy, Salween, Chao Phraya, Mekong, and Red. These rivers flow from the highlands into the lowlands. Mekong is the longest river being 2,700 miles long, this river runs through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Geography: Wildlife, Climate, and Vegetation

The region is very hot and humid because it is a tropical region. Most of the region is in the tropics, they receive on average 60 inches of rain per year. Most of the region is covered by sea. Indonesia's highest point is Pancak Jay, glaciers may be seen from there. They have wind speeds exceeding 150 miles per hour. There are many flora and fauna in this region due to the rainfall. The plant life, or flora, has many species of different plant life. In Indonesia itself, it has 40,000 species of plants, which include 5,000 species of orchids and 3,000 species of trees. The animal, or fauna, isn't much different. Mammals, birds, fish , and insects are endemic, or found nowhere else in the world. Fires, logging, mining, agriculture, and poaching have reduced the animal habitat.

Geography: Landforms and Resources

Southeast Asia can be divided into two main parts: a mainland area and an insular area. An insular area is an area comprised of islands. In the southeastern corner of Asia, lies the mainland, and it is bordering the world’s two most populous countries: China and India. In this area, the Indian Ocean meets the Pacific Ocean, and thousands of islands stretch across miles of these salty yet tropical waters.

Geography: Peninsulas and Islands

Most of the mainland is occupied by a large peninsula called the Indochinese Peninsula, or simply Indochina. The Indochinese Peninsula is a large China continent.

6 out of 11 of Southeast Asia’s countries are peninsula that juts southward from the Asian continent. It is located between the Indian and located at least partly on the mainland peninsulas. These countries are: Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia (the western region of this divided country), Myanmar (also known as Burma), Thailand, and Vietnam.

The region’s other four countries, along with the eastern part of Malaysia, are located in the vast area of the Malay Archipelago.

Indonesia shares the islands of Timor, New Guinea, and Borneo with other countries. East Timor, which is one of the world’s newest countries, occupies the eastern half of Timor. The eastern region of Malaysia spreads across northern Borneo and surrounds the small country of Brunei.

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Geography:Malay Archipelago

The Malay Archipelago is the world’s largest group of islands, containing around 24,000 islands within its area. It stretches from the mainland of Southeast Asia to Australia. Among the islands are 7 that rank among the 20 largest in the world: New Guinea, Borneo, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Java, Luzon, and Mindanao. Indonesia has more than 17,000 of their islands part of the Malay Archipelago. The northernmost islands in the Malay Archipelago are the Philippines, which form their own archipelago east of the mainland. The tiny island country of Singapore sits just off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. A bridge connects Singapore’s main island to the peninsula.

Geography: Natural Resources

Southeast Asia contains and possesses a variety of rich mineral resources: tin, copper, lead, zinc, gold, and gemstones such as rubies and sapphires. Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia are one of the world’s top tin producers, Indonesia accounting for roughly a fourth of the total world production of this commodity.

Teak, mahogany, and ebony are very common hardwood trees that grow in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia, and have long been in a high demand. Several of the country's exports mainly include wood and wood products, though many countries have restricted logging, due to the low supply of it.

Southeast Asia is also rich in fossil fuels. Indonesia and Malaysia rank among the top 30 countries in the world in oil reserves and production. They rank among the top 15 in natural gas reserves and production

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Geography: The Four Plates

In Southeast Asia, four major plates meet: the Eurasian Plate, the Indo-Australian Plate, the Pacific Plate, and the Indian Plate. All of the pressures and tensions that are produced by these four large plates have caused fracturing the Earth’s crust into many tinier plates across the region. This process has also produced the many islands and the fractured geography, as well as the volcanoes

Life In Southeast Asia

Culture: Population

Southeast Asia is home to around 625 million people. Indonesia has a population of approximately 250 million, which is 40 percent of the regional total. In the 1900s, many of the countries experienced rapid growth rate. Population tends to be greatly higher in areas with good soil and water for agriculture to thrive.

Culture: Ethnic and Language Groups

Southeast Asia’s population has a variety of ethnic groups. The five main groups that dominate the mainland are: the Burmese in Myanmar, the Siamese in Thailand, the Malay in Malaysia, the Mon-Khmer in Laos and Cambodia, and the Vietnamese in Vietnam. The largest group in Indonesia is the Javanese and the largest group in the Philippines is the Tagalog. Several languages are spoken throughout the area, such as: English, Spanish, and French, which arrived with colonialism. THough most of the languages are native to the region.

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The Arts

Culture: Daily Life

Three-fourths of the region’s people live in rural areas. Rural people usually move to cities, though leave the region to work in other countries, so they can send home money to help their families. Education and literacy rates vary across the region. The highest literacy rate is in Vietnam, where 94 percent of the people can read and write. East Timor, Laos, and Cambodia, all have literacy rates below 75 percent. The government of the new country is working to build new schools.

Culture: Sports

Some of their sports are traditional and some can be typically known outside their region, including soccer, badminton, martial arts, and volleyball—are international. All 11 countries in the region participate in the Southeast Asian Games that take place every two years. The countries take turns hosting the games, which include Olympic sports and traditional regional sports like sepaktakraw.


Sepaktakraw is a kind of volleyball played with the feet, knees, head, and chest. "Sepak" is the Malay word for kick and "takraw" is the Thai word for a woven ball, therefore sepak takraw quite literally means to kick ball.

Culture: Earning Money

Culture: Economic and Environmental Challenges

Protecting the environment is another challenge. Industries are the main cause for their pollution Tin mining has created huge wastelands in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. Since the destruction and deforestation of tropical forest has gotten worse, Indonesia and Malaysia recently introduced laws to slow deforestation while still promoting economic growth. Dams along the Mekong River create hydroelectric power, but that also has created problems for the fishing industry. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand established the Mekong River Commission to encourage safe management and usage of the river and its resources.

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Political Challenges

Ever since the end of the colonial era, economic and social progress have been slowed by political instability. The government has refused democratic elections and limits any protest by its people. People in Myanmar have tried to bring democracy to the country. The military government began to allow more freedom for its people, in 2011. In 2012 the United States reestablished diplomatic ties with Myanmar and assigned an ambassador to the country for the first time in more than 20 years.
2014 South East Asia Travel Montage - GoPro

History: Kingdoms and Empires

Southeast Asia is known as the Crossroads of the World because it located on the maritime trade routes. This has made the region very "popular" to foreign rulers who are seeking to increase their wealth and power by controlling the routes.

History: Prehistoric Cultures

Humans have lived in Southeast Asia for an estimated 40,000 years. The region look very different than today because Earth was on the grip of an ice age. There are quite a few islands that used to be connected to the mainland, some of these islands are Borneo, Sumatra, and Java. The region has come to it's present level about 8,000 years ago. The people at this time used stone tools and weapons to hunt and gather, about 6,000 years ago they started practicing agriculture.

History: Powerful Societies Emerge

They started using Bronze tools, weapons, ornaments, and ceramic bowls. Dong Son is one of the most famous cultures in northern Vietnam. 100 B.C China and India became powerful influences in Southeast Asia. The Red River Delta was conquered by China. Vietnam became a province of the Han Empire. For the next 1,000 years Vietnam remained under Chinese control and embedded its culture onto Vietnam. India came to Southeast Asia as traders and missionaries to spread Hinduism and Buddhism.

History: Trading Societies

Funan, the most important trade based state established in A.D. 100's. This covered parts of what now are Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. This trade route traded with China and India, and in 600 A.D. a kingdom called Srivijaya arose on the Sumatra and gained control of the Strait of Malacca and controlled it for the next 600 years. There agriculture developed where rice could be grown and traded.