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Malaysia Country Report

Country Risk Level



Executive Summary

The appointment of Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister in March 2020 marks the return of a predominantly Malay coalition, replacing the multi-ethnic government that won the May 2018 general election. Muhyiddin leads a fragile coalition with a small majority and is susceptible to a vote of no-confidence by the opposition. The government’s slim majority also increases the risk of a snap general election in the next 12 months.Malaysia on 9 June entered its recovery phase from its partial lockdown to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, called the Movement Control Order (MCO), which is scheduled to last until 31 August. During the recovery period, restrictions on almost all leisure and business activities will be eased. Domestic tourism will be encouraged but most international travel will remain restricted. The government announced an MYR250-billion (USD57 billion) economic package, equivalent to 17% of GDP, on 27 March to mitigate the effect of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus crisis. Before the pandemic, the government already faced a challenging task in its objective to pursue fiscal consolidation and reduce debt. The slump in oil prices, a major source of foreign-exchange earner, will hit government revenue this year. There has been no official word on whether the Muhyiddin government would reintroduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which was another important source of government revenue, that was zero-rated in May 2018. There is a persistent risk of low-capability terrorist attacks in Malaysia. However, such risks are mitigated by a highly effective counter-terrorism police capacity. The Malaysian police periodically arrest people suspected of planning terrorist attacks.

Operational Outlook

Transport, power, and telecommunications infrastructure is of very high standard, particularly in Peninsular Malaysia. The quality of labour is also generally good, but there is a shortage of high-skilled workers. Malaysia also depends on foreign labour for low-skilled work. Although there are ongoing high-level corruption trials, most notably against former prime minister Najib Razak, corruption in Malaysia generally poses a lower risk to business compared with other Southeast Asian countries except Singapore. However, the presence of major government-linked corporations in sectors such as telecoms, utilities, and energy can crowd out private companies. The bureaucracy poses no major obstacle to business operations.


Regular arrests of Islamic State-linked militants indicate persisting intent to mount attacks in Malaysia by domestic and foreign Islamist militants. However, the fact that these cells have been disrupted before they could stage attacks underlines that robust counter-terrorism efforts are effective. Nevertheless, there remains an elevated risk of smaller-scale attacks by homegrown cells that evade detection using IEDs and small-arms targeting soft assets, such as hospitality and Western establishments, marketplaces or malls, and security forces, particularly in greater Kuala Lumpur.


The most common form of crime in Malaysia is petty crime including burglary, vehicle theft, bag-snatching, and pickpocketing, particularly in greater Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru. Serious, violent crime is much less prevalent. Organised crime gangs operate mainly in large cities such as greater Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru, but they rarely affect the wider community. Crime was a major political issue under the Najib Razak government, and its reduction was a major government policy objective. However, the decline in high-profile violent incidents has meant that crime is no longer a political issue.

War Risks

Malaysia will probably pursue a diplomatic resolution to the long-running territorial dispute in the South China Sea. However, although direct military confrontation is unlikely, China’s assertiveness in pursuing its territorial claim will increase the risk of limited maritime confrontations, involving the firing of water cannon, ramming, and even exchanges of gunfire as Chinese coastguard and fishing vessels increase their presence in locations where Malaysian ships are also present.

Social Stability

Protests in Malaysia are infrequent, while violent unrest is even rarer. Protests typically take place in designated squares or stadiums. Labour strikes and protests continue to be rare. Unrest that does take place is likely to occur in Kuala Lumpur. The government’s perceived lack of popular legitimacy is likely to drive opposition voters to protest.

Health Risk

Vaccinations required to enter the country

Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for travelers over one year of age arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever (YFV) transmission and for travelers who have been in transit for >12 hours in an airport located in a country with risk of YFV transmission.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

Japanese Encephalitis: For stays of longer than one month in a rural zone during the rainy season (for children over the age of one). The vaccine is administered in a local medical facility.

Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Natural Risks

Malaysia is located in an active seismic zone and was hit by the December 2004 tsunami that devastated the region.

Visitors should also be aware that the monsoon season - often responsible for devastating floods - lasts from April until October in the southwest and from October until February in the northeast.

The common practice in nearby Indonesia of burning farmland to make it more fertile has also led to an increase in air pollution in Malaysia, which could harm the health of visitors. Air pollution could also disrupt air travel in the country.


Finally, visitors should be aware that Malaysia is home to one of the highest rates of credit card fraud in the world.

Practical Information


Malaysia's climate is equatorial, hot and humid throughout the year. Rain storms strike regularly and are sometimes violent. Thunderstorms are the most intense between August and November along the western coast and are often accompanied by strong winds. From December until February the east coast is particularly wet, with frequent torrential rains and floods. The temperature of the ocean remains constant throughout the year at 28°C.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +60
Police, Ambulance: 999
Fire Dept.: 994


Voltage: 240 V ~ 50 Hz


Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal