What Is Maritime Southeast Asia?

Indonesia is considered part of Maritime Southeast Asia due its position close to the ocean.

Where is Maritime Southeast Asia?

Maritime Southeast Asia consists of the various archipelagos and islands off the coast of Southeast Asia. The countries that make up Maritime Southeast Asia include: Brunei, Timor Leste, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. During the 16th century, this area was known as the East Indies and during the 19th century it became known as the Malay Archipelago. Today, it is known as the maritime region of Southeast Asia due to its location within the ocean, rather than the mainland.

Demographics of Maritime Southeast Asia

The combined population of this area is over 540 million, with an annual growth rate of around 1.38%. The population growth here is faster than the global average of 1.17%. The ethnic makeup of Maritime Southeast Asia differs from the mainland region. The majority of the population of these islands are descendants of Austronesian people. Over time, trading with other indigenous peoples throughout the region resulted in cultural exchange. Other ethnic groups found within Maritime Southeast Asia include Austroasiatic, Chinese, Tai-Kadai, Negritos, and Papuans. Most of the languages spoken here are of the western Malayo-Polynesian language family.

Additionally, this region is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the world. In fact, it is the majority religion in Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. In both the Philippines and Timor Leste, Catholicism is practiced by the majority of the population. Singapore is home to a wide variety of religions, the most widely practiced of which is Buddhism, observed by 33% of the population. In both the Philippines and Singapore, Islam is the fastest growing religion, exceeding the population growth rate.

Urbanization of Maritime Southeast Asia

Around the world, urban populations are growing at a much faster rate than that of rural areas. The same is true in Maritime Southeast Asia. For example, in 1980, a little more than 1 person for every 4 (just over 25%) reported living in urban areas. Just 20 years later, in 2000, that number had risen to nearly 50%. Today, Jakarta in Indonesia and Manila in the Philippines are considered 2 of the most populated metropolitan areas in the world.

The shift to urban lifestyles has affected a number of social issues in the area. Family structure has changed as a result. In more rural areas, families tend to be large and communal in nature. In urban areas, however, the family dynamic has become more individualistic. Researchers have also found that the move toward urban living has improved communication among groups of people and facilitated the exchange of ideas. This has resulted in an increased number of political revolutionary movements as well.

Economy of Maritime Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia has played an important role in international trade for centuries, particularly in the Maritime region. Today, 5 of the countries here belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN): Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. This membership has helped the economy grow in these countries as it provides them with a common marketplace, competitive economies, and access to the global market. Industrialization has become a common goal for the member countries, particularly since the 1960’s, although agriculture still plays a critical role in the economy. Timor Leste has been developing gas and oil exploitation and production to strengthen its economy.


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