Regional Geography of Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore


  1. Physical Characteristics of Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore
  2. Human Characteristics of Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore
  3. Economic Characteristics of Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore
  4. References

Physical Characteristics

Relative location

Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore are located in the Northern Hemisphere in the Southeast Asia geographical region. Thailand occupies 318,838 square kilometers of land, Malaysia occupies a total of 205,552 square kilometers of land, and Singapore occupies 448 square kilometers of land. The countries of Burma, Laos, and Cambodia border Thailand to the west, north, and east, while peninsular Thailand conjoins with peninsular West Malaysia. The country of Singapore is attached to the Malay Peninsula at the southeastern tip. Approximately 400 miles off the coast of Singapore lies East Malaysia on the island of Borneo which borders Indonesia and Brunei. To the south of Malaysia and Singapore and across the Malacca Strait lies the northwestern most island of Indonesia. The other major bodies of water bordering these three nations are the Andaman Sea, the Gulf of Thailand, and the South China Sea.


Landscape and Physical Environment

Thailand has a diverse landscape including mountains, forests, plains, the Khorat Plateau, and beaches along the peninsula and coasts. Thailand has extensive infrastructure in regard to road ways, rail ways, and airports. This allows for ease of travel for tourism, commercial goods, and industrial goods. Bangkok also boasts a robust subway and bus system that traverses the built environment. Cities in Thailand have built environments that include housing, public services, restaurants, cultural centers, temples, and more. Malaysia is a country of coastal plains, hills, and mountains. Malaysia also boasts beaches and lush tea plantations. The majority of the Malaysian population live on the Malay Peninsula, leading to pockets of extreme infrastructure development. There are multiple road ways and airports, along with ports, to allow for multiple modes of transportation. Kuala Lumpur’s built environment includes a train system, major thoroughfares for cars, cultural centers, healthcare facilities, skyrise housing, and parks. Singapore is a low-lying, uneven plateau. Singapore is densely populated and has created a built environment to accommodate residents and tourists alike. Singapore has an international airport, train and bus system, road ways, and ports to provide multiple transportation routes. Singapore’s built environment include several parks, museums, skyscrapers, and shopping malls.


Weather and Climate

Thailand has three climate regions. The southwest portion of the country is tropical with substantial rain, clouds, and wind. The northeast is cool, dry, and more temperate. The isthmus that connects to Malaysia is hot and humid year-round. Thailand also experiences monsoons. Malaysia is tropical with monsoons occurring throughout the year in both east and west islands. Singapore is a tropical nation that experiences hot, humid, and rainy weather with frequent thunderstorms. Singapore also has two monsoon seasons.

Human Characteristics

Population, Density, and Age/Sex Characteristics

According to the 2018 World Population Data Sheet from the Population Reference Bureau, Thailand’s population as of 2018 was 66.2 million people, Malaysia’s was 32.5 million people, and Singapore’s was 5.8 million people. Thailand is 50% urban with 394 people per square kilometer of arable land. Malaysia is 75% urban with 3,404 people per square kilometer of arable land. Singapore is 100% urban with 1,032,235 people per square kilometer of arable land.


Language and Religion

Over time religions that began in South Asia such as Hinduism and Buddhism spread into Southeast Asia. Eventually, “Islam replaced the South Asian religions in many of these places, and even later Christian missionaries gained adherents in Southeast Asia when Christian governments encourages the migration of their people and their religion to their colonies in these areas,” (Fouberg, Murphy, & Blij, p. 217). Fouberg, Murphy, and Blij also state in Human Geography: People, Place, and Culture, “Today, we can stand in Singapore, study the cultural landscape, and see the influences of Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam,” (p. 217).


Languages spoken in Thailand are Thai only (90.7%), Thai and other languages (6.4%), other languages. Religious sects in Thailand are Buddhists, Muslims, Christians. Languages spoken in Malaysia are Bahasa Malaysia, English, Chinese, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, and Thai.


Religious sects in Malaysia are Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Confucianism, Taoism, and other traditional Chinese religions, and Other. Languages spoken are Bahasa Malaysia, English, Chinese dialects, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai.


Religious sects in Singapore are Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Taoist, Hindu, and Other. Languages spoken are English (36.9%), Mandarin (34.9%), other Chinese dialects (12.2%), Malay (10.7%), Tamil (3.3%), and Other (2%).


Cultural/Ethnic Groups

Ethnic groups in Thailand are Thai, Burmese, Other, and Unspecified.

Ethnic groups in Malaysia are Bumiputera, Chinese, Indian, Other, and non-citizens.

Ethnic groups in Singapore are Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Other.

Economic Characteristics

Major Economic Activities

Thailand’s industries include tourism, textiles and garments, agricultural processing, beverages, tobacco, cement, light manufacturing such as jewelry and electric appliances, computers and parts, integrated circuits, furniture, plastics, automobiles and automotive parts, agricultural machinery, air conditioning and refrigeration, ceramics, aluminum, chemical, environmental management, glass, granite and marble, leather, machinery and metal work, petrochemical, petroleum refining, pharmaceuticals, printing, pulp and paper, rubber, sugar, rice, fishing, cassava, world’s second-largest tungsten producer and third-largest tin producers, according to the CIA World Factbook.


Malaysia’s industries according to the CIA’s The World Factbook are rubber and oil palm processing and manufacturing, petroleum and natural gas, light manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, medical technology, electronics and semiconductors, and timber processing.


The World Factbook states that Singapore’s industries are electronics, chemicals, financial services, oil drilling equipment, petroleum refining, biomedical products, scientific instruments, telecommunication equipment, processed food and beverages, ship repair, offshore platform construction, and entrepot trade.


Imports and Exports

According to the CIA The World Factbook, Thailand imports machinery and parts, crude oil, electrical machinery and parts, chemicals, iron and steel and product, electronic integrated circuit, automobile parts, jewelry including silver bars and gold, computers and parts, electrical household appliances, soybean, soybean meal, wheat, cotton, and dairy products. Total cost of imports was $203.2 billion in 2017. Thailand exports automobiles and parts, computers and parts, jewelry and precious stones, polymers of ethylene in primary forms, refine fuels, electronic integrated circuits, chemical products, rice, fish products, rubber products, sugar, cassava, poultry, machinery and parts, and iron and steel and their products. Total revenue of exports was $235.1 billion in 2017.


The World Factbook states Malaysia imports electronics, machinery, petroleum products, plastics, vehicles, iron and steel products, and chemicals. Total cost of imports was $160.7 billion in 2017. Malaysia exports semiconductors and electronic equipment, palm oil, petroleum and liquified natural gas, wood and wood products, rubber, textiles, chemicals, and solar panels. Total revenue from exports was $187.9 billion in 2017.


For Singapore, The World Factbook lists machinery and equipment, mineral fuels, chemicals, foodstuffs, and consumer goods as imports, with a total cost of $312.1 billion in 2017. Singapore’s exports include machinery and equipment (including electronics and telecommunications), pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, refined petroleum products, foodstuffs and beverages. The total revenue from exports was $396.8 billion in 2017.


GNP and GNP per Capita

Thailand’s GNP, according to data from CEIC Data, was $482,400.29 USD mn in 2018. Thailand’s GNP per capita, according to CEIC Data, was $7,287.01 USD for 2018.


Malaysia’s GNP, according to data from CEIC Data, was $86,748.71 USD mn. Malaysia’s GNP per capita was $2,464.45 USD for 2018.


Singapore’s GNP, according to data from Trading Economics, was $333,935.57 USD mn in 2018.  Singapore’s GNP per capita was $57,575.10 USD in 2018.


CEIC Data. Malaysia Gross National Product. Retrieved from

CEIC Data. Thailand Gross National Product. Retrieved from

Central Intelligence Agency. East Asia/Southeast Asia: Malaysia. The World Factbook. Retrieved from

Central Intelligence Agency. East Asia/Southeast Asia: Singapore. The World Factbook. Retrieved from

Central Intelligence Agency. East Asia/Southeast Asia: Thailand. The World Factbook. Retrieved from

Davis, K. (1992). Don’t Know Much About Geography: Everything You Need to Know About the World but Never Learned. New York, New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.

Fouberg, E.H., Murphy, A.B., and Blij, H.J. (2009). Human Geography: People, Place, and Culture (7th Ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 

Population Reference Bureau. (2018). 2018 World Population Data Sheet. Retrieved from

Trading Economics. (2019). Singapore Gross National Product. Retrieved from

Submitted by Kate Lade updated on 4/23/2019.