Sunday, March 27, 2011

Southeast Asia Comprises of ??
Southeast Asia (or Southeastern Asia) is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic and volcanic activity.
Southeast Asia consists of two geographic regions: Mainland Southeast Asia, also known as Indochina, comprises Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Thailand, Vietnam and Peninsular Malaysia, and Maritime Southeast Asia, which is analogous to the Malay Archipelago, comprises Brunei, East Malaysia, East Timor, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore. Geographically Hong Kong, Macau,and Taiwan are sometimes grouped in the Southeast Asia subregion, although politically they are rarely grouped as such. The same is true for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India, and occasionally regions of the Seven Sister States such as Manipur.

Mainland Southeast Asia includes:
  • Cambodia
  • Laos
  • Myanmar (Burma)
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Peninsular Malaysia

Maritime Southeast Asia includes:
  • East Malaysia
  • Brunei
  • Indonesia
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • East Timor

Looking into each region
North Australia

"Aussie" is a colloquialism that was used during World War I to refer to Australian-born people of British or Irish ancestry. Initially used to describe a happy-go-lucky character capable of battling through hard times, the term was employed after World War II to distinguish those born domestically from "new" immigrants from western and southern Europe.

The Arnhem Land plateau is an enormous sandstone tableland, roughly the size of Switzerland, that lies in Australia’s tropical north. The western areas of this plateau are part of the World Heritage Kakadu National Park, and the larger eastern part lies in the west of Arnhem Land. This is country that has been home to Indigenous people for tens of thousands of years and the rock paintings found throughout the plateau are thought to represent the longest continuous record of human culture anywhere in the world.

Brunei Darussalam

A tiny country with a small population, Brunei was the only Malay state in 1963 to choose to remain a British dependency rather than join the Malaysian Federation.
It became independent in 1984 and, thanks to its large reserves of oil and gas, now has one of the highest standards of living in the world.
Its ruling royals, led by the head of state Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, possess a huge private fortune.

(Andaman Nicobar Islands )
In the Andaman Islands, the various Andamanese people maintained their separated existence through the vast majority of this time, diversifying into distinct linguistic, cultural and territorial groups. By the 1850s when they first came into sustained contact by outside groups, the indigenous people of the Andamans were:
  • the Great Andamanese, who collectively represented at least 10 distinct sub-groups and languages;
  • the Jarawa;
  • the Jangil (or Rutland Jarawa);
  • the Onge; and
  • the Sentinelese (most isolated of all the groups).

The indigenous people of the Nicobars (unrelated to the Andamanese) have a similarly isolated and lengthy association with the islands. There are two main groups:
  • the Nicobarese, or Nicobari, living throughout many of the islands; and
  • the Shompen, restricted to the hinterland of Great Nicobar.

The fate of Cambodia shocked the world when the radical communist Khmer Rouge under their leader Pol Pot seized power in 1975 after years of guerrilla warfare.
An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died during the next three years, many from exhaustion or starvation. Others were tortured and executed.
Today, Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world and relies heavily on aid. Foreign donors have urged the government to clamp down on pervasive corruption.

China (Hainan)

China is the world's most populous country, with a continuous culture stretching back nearly 4,000 years.
Hainan has always been on the fringe of the Chinese cultural sphere. Traditionally, the island was a place of exile for criminals and disgraced officials. As a frontier region celebrated by such exiled poets as Su Dongpo, Hainan acquired an air of mystery and romance. The influx of large numbers of mainlanders after 1950 - particularly in the 1970s, when young Chinese from southern Guangdong were assigned to state farms to help develop Hainan, and in the 1980s, when thousands more came to take advantage of the economic opportunities offered - has perpetuated the frontier atmosphere on the island.
East Malaysia

Malaysia boasts one of south-east Asia's most vibrant economies, the fruit of decades of industrial growth and political stability.
Its multi-ethnic, multi-religious society encompasses a majority Muslim population in most of its states and an economically-powerful Chinese community.

East Timor

East Timor's road to independence - achieved on 20 May 2002 - was long and traumatic. The people of the first new nation of the century suffered some of the worst atrocities of modern times. An independent report commissioned by the UN transitional administration in East Timor said that at least 100,000 Timorese died as a result of Indonesia's 25-year occupation, which ended in 1999.


Spread across a chain of thousands of islands between Asia and Australia, Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population.
Ethnically it is highly diverse, with more than 300 local languages. The people range from rural hunter-gatherers to a modern urban elite.
Indonesia has seen great turmoil in recent years, having faced the Asian financial crisis, the fall of President Suharto after 32 years in office, the first free elections since the 1960s, the loss of East Timor, independence demands from restive provinces, bloody ethnic and religious conflict and a devastating tsunami.

Thailand is the only country in south-east Asia to have escaped colonial rule. Buddhist religion, the monarchy and the military have helped to shape its society and politics.
The 1980s brought a boom to its previously agricultural economy and had a significant impact on Thai society as thousands flocked to work in industry and the services sector.

Laos, one of the world's few remaining communist states, is one of east Asia's poorest countries. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 it has struggled to find its position within a changing political and economic landscape.
Communist forces overthrew the monarchy in 1975, heralding years of isolation. Laos began opening up to the world in the 1990s, but despite tentative reforms, it remains poor and dependent on international donations.

Christmas Islands
The Territory of Christmas Island is a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean. It is located 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) northwest of the Western Australian city of Perth, 360 km (220 mi) south of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and 975 km (606 mi) ENE of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

Cocos (Keeling) Islands

The Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands, also called Cocos Islands and Keeling Islands, is a territory of Australia, located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Christmas Island and approximately midway between Australia and Sri Lanka. The territory consists of two atolls and twenty-seven coral islands, of which two, West Island and Home Island, are inhabited with a total population of approximately 600.
Philippine culture is a combination of Eastern and Western cultures. The Philippines exhibits aspects found in other Asian countries with a Malay  heritage, yet its culture also displays a significant amount of Spanish and American influences. Traditional festivities known as barrio fiestas (district festivals) to commemorate the feast days of patron saints are common. The Moriones Festival and Sinulog Festival are a couple of the most well-known. These community celebrations are times for feasting, music, and dancing. Some traditions, however, are changing or gradually being forgotten due to modernization. The Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company has been lauded for preserving many of the various traditional folk dances found throughout the Philippines. They are famed for their iconic performances of Philippine dances such as the tinikling and singkil that both feature the use of clashing bamboo poles.


Racial and religious harmony is regarded by the government as a crucial part of Singapore's success and played a part in building a Singaporean identity.Due to the many races and cultures in the country, there is no single set of culturally acceptable behaviours. People in Singapore are generally well educated, and although the country is socially conservative, some liberalisation has occurred. Foreigners also make up 42% of the population in Singapore and have a strong influence on Singaporean culture. A.T. Kearney named Singapore the most globalised country in the world in 2006 in its Globalization Index.The Economist Intelligence Unit in its "Quality-of-Life Index" ranks Singapore as having the best quality of life in Asia and eleventh overall in the world.


The climate in Southeast Asia is mainly tropical–hot and humid all year round with plentiful rainfall. Southeast Asia has a wet and dry season caused by seasonal shift in winds or monsoon. The tropical rain belt causes additional rainfall during the monsoon season. The rain forest is the second largest on earth (with the Amazon being the largest). An exception to this type of climate and vegetation is the mountain areas in the northern region, where high altitudes lead to milder temperatures and drier landscape. Other parts fall out of this climate because they are desert like.

Austronesian peoples predominate in this region. The major religions are Buddhism and Islam, followed by Christianity. However, a wide variety of religions are found throughout the region, including many Hindu and animist-influenced practices.


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the Founding Fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
Brunei Darussalam then joined on 7 January 1984, Viet Nam on 28 July 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999, making up what is today the ten Member States of ASEAN.
ASEAN and India
India’s focus on a strengthened and multi-faceted relationship with ASEAN is an outcome of the significant changes in the world’s political and economic scenario since the early 1990s and India’s own march towards economic liberalisation. India’s search for economic space has resulted in our ‘Look East’ policy. ASEAN’s economic, political and strategic importance in the larger Asia-Pacific Region and its potential to become a major partner of India in trade and investment is a significant factor in our policy paradigms. ASEAN’s steady expansion westward to include Myanmar has also brought it to our land boundaries. It now provides a land bridge for India to connect with the ASEAN countries. ASEAN, on its part, seeks access to India’s professional and technical strengths. Our traditional friendship with the CLMV countries also makes India a valuable ally for promoting the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI).


These are the nine of the most prominent cities in Southeast Asia:
  • Bangkok — Thailand's bustling, cosmopolitan capital with nightlife and fervour
  • Jakarta — The largest metropolitan city in southeast asia, and beautiful life in the evening
  • Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) — The Bustling Metropolis that has become Vietnam's largest city and the economic centre of the south
  • Kuala Lumpur — grown from a small sleepy Chinese tin-mining village to a bustling metropolis
  • Luang Prabang — a UNESCO World Heritage City known for its numerous temples, colonial era architecture, and vibrant night market
  • Manila — historic, bustling, awe-inspiring, Manila is a blend of cultures and flavors with many places to see
  • Phnom Penh — a rough city striving to retain the name of "Paris of the East", as it was known before 1970
  • Singapore — modern, affluent city with a medley of Chinese, Indian and Malay influences
  • Yangon (formerly Rangoon) — the commercial capital of Myanmar, known for its pagodas and colonial architecture

Other destinations

These are some of the largest and most famous destinations outside of major cities.
  • Angkor Archaeological Park — magnificent remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire
  • Bali — unique Hindu culture, beaches and mountains on the Island of the Gods
  • Boracay — long white sand beaches and bustling nightlife
  • Borobudur — one of the largest Buddhist temples in the world
  • Gunung Mulu National Park — fantastic limestones caves and karst formations
  • Ha Long Bay — literally translated as "Bay of Descending Dragons", famous for its scenic rock formations
  • Komodo National Park — the komodo is the biggest reptile in the world, and it can only be found in this national park
  • Krabi Province — beach and watersports mecca, includes Ao Nang, Rai Leh, Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta
  • Preah Vihear — cliff-top temple pre-dating Angkor Wat


Pre-historic Southeast Asia was largely underpopulated. A process of immigration from India across the Bay of Bengal is referred to as the process of Indianization. Exactly how and when it happened is contested; however, the population of the mainland region largely happened through immigration from India. The Sanskrit script still used as the basis for modern Thai, Lao, Burmese and Khmer has its roots from this process. On the other hand, population of the archipelegos of East Timor, Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as Malaysia on the mainland is thought to have come about though immigration from Taiwan.


  • Thailand's capital; Bangkok serves as one of Thailand's financial centers, it is the gateway to the whole of Thailand who boasts itself as the only country who wasn't colonized by any Western power as well as one of the most visited countries in Asia.
  • Ayutthaya became the capital of early Thailand; Siam, it had been a major trading capital in Asia due to its location in between China and India.
  • Sukhothai was one of the former capitals of early Thailand, today it stands in ruins and is a popular destination for tourists for its temples and Buddha statues. King Ramkhamhaeng the great has a connection with Sukhothai, he created the Thai alphabet, laid foundations for politics, religion and Monarchy which makes Sukhothai important in History.
  • Angkor Wat in Cambodia is considered an architectural wonder which made it as a UNESCO World heritage site, the temple is first build as a Hindu temple but as Jayavarman VII converted to Buddhism, the temple was converted into a Buddhist temple.

India and South East Asia
In the 1970s and 1980s, India's close ties with the Soviet Union and its pro-Soviet, pro-Vietnamese policies toward Cambodia precluded development of any constructive relations between India on the one hand and the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations  on the other. Furthermore, India's military buildup, particularly of its naval capabilities and naval installations in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, worried ASEAN policy makers, who saw India as a potential threat to regional security. Indian-ASEAN relations improved in the 1990s as the result of the end of the bipolar world system, the UN-brokered peace settlement in Cambodia, and the breakup of the Soviet Union. For its part, New Delhi sought to boost economic and trade ties with the region and to establish closer political and defense ties in order to counteract China's growing influence in Southeast Asia. ASEAN countries grew less concerned with India's regional ambitions after New Delhi's decision to curtail its naval buildup because of financial restraints. In January 1992, ASEAN accepted India's proposal to become a "sectoral dialogue partner" in the areas of trade, technical and labor development, technology, and tourism. India's new role was expected to facilitate economic cooperation. In January 1993, India and Malaysia signed a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation.
India has had close ties with Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam as a result of its 1954-73 chairmanship of the International Commissions of Control and Supervision established by the 1954 Geneva Accords on Indochina. These relations were enhanced by India's friendship with the Soviet Union, particularly after 1971 and, in the case of Vietnam, shared perceptions of the threat from China. With regard to Cambodia, India recognized the Vietnamese-installed regime in 1980 and worked to avert censure of the regime in the annual UN General Assembly and triennial Nonaligned Movement summit meetings. In the late 1980s, Indian diplomats attempted to facilitate the search for peace in Cambodia, and India participated in the 1989 Paris Peace Conference on Cambodia and in subsequent efforts to find a solution to the Cambodian situation. New Delhi played a minor but nevertheless constructive role before and after the Agreement on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict and three other documents were signed in Paris on October 23, 1991.
 India contributed more than 1,700 civilian, military, and police personnel to the United Nations Advanced Mission in Cambodia and the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia.

Important Physical Geographic Points about Southeast Asia
1. Southeast Asia is located on the equator, which means almost the entire region falls within the humid tropics.
2. Southeast Asia is conventionally divided into two cultural, linguistic, and geographic regions:
a. Mainland Southeast Asia - the countries of Thailand, Laos, Burma, Cambodia and Vietnam;
b. Insular Southeast Asia - the island or peninsular countries of Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, East Timor.

3. While many countries in Southeast Asia today have dense populations, in the past the region had considerably lower population density than major Asian countries like India, China and Japan.
The low population density placed a premium on the ability of leaders and rulers to attract people to various population centers. River valleys, deltas, and major maritime trading ports that were well-positioned along trading routes between India and China were the areas where early population centers, major kingdoms, and great temples first arose. Southeast Asian maritime skills were highly developed in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The combination of rice agriculture and maritime skills led to the development of two different kinds of classical Southeast Asian states: inland states, based on rice agriculture, and maritime states, based on trade and raiding.

Upland and Lowland Distinctions in Southeast Asia:
Just as the great civilizations of Southeast Asia were located along rivers, deltas, coastal areas or geographic locations suitable for intensive rice agriculture, there are similar geographic contrasts in the characteristics of peoples who live in the lowland areas versus the highland areas.
Generally, upland areas can be characterized as having lower population densities, greater heterogeneity in languages, cultures, and ethnicity, greater political fragmentation, and slash burn cultivation of root or grain crops.
Slash and burn cultivation, or swidden agriculture, is based on a system wherein standing tropical forest is cut and cleared before the rainy season begins. After the timber dries, farmers burn the cut area, which leaves a thick layer of ash on the soil. When the ash is mixed with the soil, it provides important nutrients and phosphate that increase soil fertility and hence the productivity and size of crops. The rainy season further pushes these nutrients into the soil. After one or two years of cultivation, the farmer needs to cut down a new area of the forest and abandon the original plots for 10-15 years so that the forest will grow back. Slash and burn cultivation usually necessitates some mobility of the population over time, hence requiring a fairly large area of land per person.
Wet rice agriculture, in contrast, is a form of permanent agriculture that involves radically transforming the landscape. Farmers must build terraces and irrigation canals to regular the flow of water from streams and rivers. Nutrients are provided through the algae that form in the water of the rice paddies. This type of rice agriculture is more intensive, and responds well to increased labor inputs. Hence, since in tropical lowland areas a farmer can get two seasons a year of rice without difficulty, wet rice was the support base for many Southeast Asian states.

Modern environmental pressures:
In 1997, 13 of the world's most polluted cities were in Asia. One-third of Asians did not have access to clean water; one-half did not have access to adequate sanitation facilities.
The financial crisis in Asia during the 1997-99 period halted or slowed the fairly recent efforts by Southeast Asian states to invest in greater environmental regulations and conservation efforts. Even as environmental budgets were cut by many governments whose currencies lost value during this period, the need for foreign exchange created powerful pressures to export ever-larger quantities of fish, minerals, agricultural and plantation products. Furthermore, while many states already have lost most of their primary forest cover, additional incentives now exist to increase commercial tropical timber production and export. Total forest plantations in Indonesia covered 3.8 million hectares in 1994, and the Indonesian government hopes to increase this amount to 8 million hectares by 2005. Similarly, the Philippines already has lost 99% of the forest cover it had 100 years ago.
In Indonesia, illegal fishing (dynamite fishing, cyanide fishing for aquarium fish exports) also appears to have increased during this period of financial crisis.
Some economists view the devastation to the forest and marine resource environments of Southeast Asian countries to be a more serious, longer-lasting problem than economic recovery and banking reforms in the region.

Stability and Instability in Southeast Asia
    1. Asian (Authoritarian) "Democracies"
      1. Thailand
      2. Malaysia
      3. Singapore
      4. Philippines
    1. Asian Authoritarian Governments
      1. Indonesia (in transition)
      2. Burma
      3. Brunei
      4. Laos
      5. Vietnam
      6. Cambodia (in transition)
    1. Period of Non-Crises
      1. End of external and internal Communist threats
      2. End of struggles for independence
      3. Regional cooperation
    1. Economics
      1. Flourishing free enterprise economies
      2. Liberalizing command economies (Vietnam, Laos)
    1. Primary Problems for Foreign Investors
      1. Infrastructure weaknesses (stemming from remarkable economic successes)
      2. Bureaucratic obstacles
      3. Environmental degradation (traffic, pollution, water contamination, crime, urban alienation)
      4. Corruption
      5. Cost of living
      6. Gap between urban rich and rural poor
      7. Cultural difference
    1. Primary Opportunities
      1. Vietnam - The New Economic Frontier
      2. Thailand - Stability, Discipline, Inexpensive Labor, Gracious Citizenry
      3. Singapore - Antiseptic, Technological, Safe, Orderly, Entrepreneurial
      4. Philippines - English language, Educated, Democracy, Coming out of malaise
      5. Malaysia - relatively non-corrupt, infrastructure
      6. Indonesia - vast population, inexpensive labor

Impact of Colonialism

Six countries: Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, and the United States, had colonies in Southeast Asia.
The Portuguese had the least impact on Southeast Asia.  They captured Malacca in 1511, holding it until the Dutch seized it in 1641.  Otherwise, they maintained only a small piece of territory on the island of Timor, southeast of Bali.
Spain ruled the Philippines from its conquest of Cebu in 1565 and Manila in 1571 until its defeat in the Spanish-American War in 1898.
The Netherlands
Dutch colonialism falls into two periods.  the first, that of the V.O.C., or Dutch East India Company, lasted from 1605 to 1799.  The V.O.C. had little interest in territorial administration; its primary concern was to maximize profits through trading monopolies.
When the V.O.C. collapsed in 1799, the Dutch government took control of its assets in 1825, after the Napoleonic Wars, and began to bring the Indonesian archipelago under its administrative authority.  This process was completed during the 1930s.
At the end of the Second World War, the Dutch had hoped to retain the Netherlands East Indies as a colony, but the Indonesians opposed the return of the Dutch, setting up a republic in 1945.  In 1949, after four years of fighting, the Indonesians gained their independence with the assistance of the United Nations which served as a mediator between the Indonesians and the Dutch.
Great Britain
The British conquered Burma, fighting three Anglo-Burmese Wars in 1824-26, 1852, and 1885-86.  Unlike other colonies which maintained their ethnic identity, Burma was a province of British India.  The Burmese, therefore, had two sets of rulers, the British at the top with the Indians in the middle.  In 1935 the British agreed to separate Burma from India, putting this agreement into effect in 1937.  Burma was able to negotiate its independence from Great Britain in 1948.
Penang (acquired in 1786), Singapore (founded by Raffles in 1819), and Malacca (Melaka, acquired in 1824), were governed by Britain as the Straits Settlements.  The Straits Settlements served as a base for British expansion into the Malay Peninsula between 1874 and 1914.  When the Malay States entered into negotiations for their independence--achieved in 1957--Penang and Malacca became part of Malaysia as did Singapore in 1963.  However, Singapore was asked to withdraw from the federation in1965.  Singapore has been an independent city state since that date.   Sarawak and Sabah which joined Malaysia in 1963 continue to remain members of the federation.
France moved into Vietnam in 1858, capturing Saigon in 1859.  Using the south, then called Cochin China, as a base the French moved west and north completing the conquest of Indochina by 1907.  (Indochina--the five territories under French authority: Cochin China, Annam, Tongking, Laos, and Cambodia.)  The French also wanted to retain their colony after the Second World War.  The Vietnamese rejected French rule, and after defeating the French at Dien Bien Phu, obtained their independence at the Geneva Conference in 1954.
The United States
The United States moved into the Philippines as a result of the peace settlement with Spain in 1898.  The Filipinos were granted a Commonwealth (internal autonomy) government in 1935, and their independence in 1946.
Thailand continued to be independent.  It was the only Southeast Asian state to remain independent during the colonial period.

Nobel Prize Winners    

·         Aung San Suu Kyi Daughter of Aung San;
·          Leader of National League for Democracy Burma Bishop Belo Important church leader who fought for national freedom and democracy
·         East Timor Jose Ramos Horta Professor; International spokesperson for national liberation East Timor
Terrorist Groups    

Abu Sayyaf Engage in kidnap for ransom, killing, beheading     Philippines

Al Qaeda cells International terrorist ring under Osama bin Laden    Southeast Asia      

Physical Features
  • Mountains
    • dominate landscape
    • most peaks below 10,000 feet
    • create geographical and political barriers
    • western and northern higlands separate region from India and China
    • three cordilleras run north to south
      • Arakan Yoma Range in western Myanmar
      • Bilauktaung Rnage between Myanmar and Thailand
      • Annam Cordillera separating Vietnam from Laos and Cambodia
    • island mountains form part of Ring of Fire
    • Indonesian and Philippine islands marked by craters
    • mineral-rich volcanic material breaks down and leaves rich, fertile soil, making Southeast Asia highly productive agricultural area

  • Volcanoes of Indonesia and the Philippines
    • 327 volcanoes stretch across Indonesia
    • Java, home to 17 of Indonesia's 100 active volcanoes, is one of Ring of Fire's most active areas
    • 1883 eruption of Krakatau destroyed everything
      • now monitor volcanic activity to be prepared
    • 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo 20th century's most powerful
      • 55 miles north of Philippine capital Manila
      • damaged town of Angeles
      • foot deep layer of ash over U.S. Clark Air Force Base

  • Rivers
    • waterways for transportation, communication, and food
    • silt and deposits of sediment creat fertile agricultural regions
    • mainland rivers originate in northern highlands and flow south to Gulf of Thailand
      • Irrawaddy in Myanmar
      • Chao Phraya in Thailand
      • Red in Vietnam
      • Mekong between Thailand and Loas and through Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into South China Sea, where it adds 50 feet/year to shoreline from sediment
    • island rivers shorter and flow in various directions
      • Indonesian rivers flow south to north
      • Borneo's rivers flow from center outward

Introduction of Islam to Southeast Asia:
The actual timing and introduction of Islamic religion and religious practice to Southeast Asia is somewhat of a debate. European historians have argued that it came through trading contacts with India, whereas some Southeast Asian Muslim scholars claim it was brought to the region directly from Arabia in the Middle East. Other scholars claim that Muslim Chinese who were engaged in trade introduced it.
Whatever the source, scholars acknowledge that Muslim influence in Southeast Asia is at least six centuries old, or was present by 1400 A.D. Some argue for origins to at least 1100 A.D. in the earliest areas of Islamic influence, such as in Aceh, northern Sumatra in Indonesia.
Whatever exact dates and sources one chooses to support, there is no doubt that Islamization of many peoples in present-day Malaysia, southern Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, and the southern Philippines occurred within a few hundred years. The process of religious conversion absorbed many pre-existing Southeast Asian beliefs (often referred to as 'animism', or the belief in the power of invisible spirits of people's ancestors and the spirits of nature to influence the fortunes of humans on earth).
The scholar Anthony Reid, Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles, argues that this process of Islamization (and Christianization in the Philippines) occurred rapidly in Southeast Asia, especially during the period of 1550-1650.
For example, Islam became strong in eastern Indonesia, especially coastal kingdoms of Sulawesi, Lombok, Kalimantan, Sumbawa, Makassar, and in Sulu and Magindanao (Cotabato Province) in the southern Philippines from 1603-1612. This does not mean that rulers and their subjects in these areas were totally devoted to upholding all of the basic rules of Islam. It means that Islamic influence was present, as evidenced through ruling elites' obligation to renounce the consumption of pork and to pronounce the daily five prayers. Some also practiced circumcision during this period.


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