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(sä`bä), state (1991 pop. 1,736,902), 28,417 sq mi (73,600 sq km), Malaysia, N Borneo, on the South China and Sulu seas. It is bordered on the south by Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). The capital is Kota KinabaluKota Kinabalu
, formerly Jesselton,
town (1991 pop. 160,122), capital of Sabah, Malaysia, in N Borneo and on a small inlet of the South China Sea. It is the chief port and the financial and industrial center of the state .
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; other significant towns are SandakanSandakan
, city (1991 pop. 157,180), Sabah, Malaysia, on N Borneo, on Sandakan Harbor, an inlet of the Sulu Sea. It is the trade hub for an agricultural and lumbering region.
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 and Victoria. The terrain is densely forested and mountainous; Mt. Kinabalu, Malaysia's highest peak, is 13,455 ft (4,101 m) high. Forest products, petroleum, rubber, and copra are exported. A majority of the indigenous tribes are Roman Catholic.

Formerly called North Borneo or British North Borneo, the region was ruled by Brunei but was ceded to the Sultanate of Sulu (see Sulu ArchipelagoSulu Archipelago
, island group, 1,086 sq mi (2,813 sq km), the Philippines, SW of Mindanao. Lying between the Celebes and Sulu seas, it includes over 900 volcanic islands and coral islets extending almost to Borneo. Basilan is the largest island, Jolo the most important.
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) in the mid-17th cent. Leased by the British North Borneo Company in 1878, the area became a British protectorate in 1882. In 1963 it joined the Federation of Malaysia and assumed its present name. The Philippines have also claimed Sabah, based on Sulu's objection (as a breach of the lease) to the transfer of the territory to Malaysia. Filipino supporters of one of the sultan of Sulu claimants occupied locations in E Sabah beginning in Feb., 2013, leading to fighting with Malaysian security forces.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a state in Malaysia, in the northern part of the island of Kalimantan; borders on Indonesia. Area, 76,100 sq km. Population, 655,300 (1970). The capital is Kota Kinabalu (population, 42,000), and the chief port is Sandakan.

Most of Sabah is mountainous; Mount Kinabalu, with an elevation of 4,101 m, is the highest point on Kalimantan. Moist subequatorial forests are the dominant vegetation. The population is concentrated in the coastal regions and river valleys.

Agriculture is the primary economic activity. Large capitalist plantations, chiefly British, and small farms, chiefly Chinese, exist side by side with a patriarchal-communal form of agriculture; slash-and-burn farming still persists. Basic crops occupy 3.4 percent of Sabah’s total area. Rubber-bearing plants cover 106,000 hectares, including 33,000 ha on plantations, and coconut palms cover 53,000 ha. Oil palms, cacao, coffee, and abaca are also raised. The main food crop is rice (43,000 ha). Fishing produces an annual yield of 35,000 tons. Since the 1960’s, logging, carried on by Japanese and other foreign companies, has acquired considerable importance. Sabah also has sawmills and enterprises for the primary processing of agricultural products.

Sabah has 154 km of railroads (1969) and 2,737 km of vehicular roads, including 496 km of paved roads. Sandakan, Tawao, Kota Kinabalu, and Labuan are seaports. Sabah exports rubber, timber, coconut oil, palm oil, and fish. It also has tourism.


Until the mid-19th century, the territory of Sabah belonged to the sultans of Brunei and Sulu. In 1877 and 1878, it was “acquired” by Overbeck, the Austro-Hungarian consul in Hong Kong, and by the British trader Dent. All rights to the territory of Sabah—called North Borneo—subsequently passed to a British trade syndicate, which in 1881 was chartered as the British North Borneo (Chartered) Company and proceeded to govern the territory. In 1888, North Borneo became a British protectorate; in 1946, it became a colony.

In 1963, North Borneo was included in the Federation of Malaysia as the state of Sabah. In 1961 the Philippines advanced claims to part of Sabah.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a state of Malaysia, occupying N Borneo and offshore islands in the South China and Sulu Seas: became a British protectorate in 1888; gained independence and joined Malaysia in 1963. Capital: Kota Kinabalu. Pop.: 2 603 485 (2000). Area: 76 522 sq. km (29 545 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
In principle the handing over of governance on Pulau Sipadan and Ligitan particularly concerning the Sabah state government had been agreed upon.
The implementation of promising investment projects in various sectors of the economy, including the energy sector, the textile and food industries, as well as the mutual promotion of the tourist potential of the Uzbek regions and the Sabah state is also in the interests of the two countries.
The Manila-based leader of the gunmen, Kiram, 74, is the self-proclaimed heir to the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, once Southeast Asia's most powerful Islamic monarchy that controlled the Sulu archipelago in the southern Philippines and part of Borneo Island, which includes present-day Sabah State.
Sabah state is famous for its significant tourist attraction sites, of which Mount Kinabalu and Tip of Borneo are the most unique and mostly visited.
Sabah Development Bank Berhad, which is owned by the Sabah state government, has raised MYR340m, after increasing the size of its conventional bond offering, Dow Jones has reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
The corporation is wholly-owned by the Sabah State Government and operates under the purview of the Sabah State Ministry of Finance.
The boat, carrying 11 people, went down between Libaran island and Sandakan on the east coast of Sabah state on Borneo island at midday.
A second low-cost terminal is being built in Kota Kinabalu, capital of the Sabah state on Borneo island.
Sabah State chief minister Chong Kah Kiat said the government had set up an emergency rescue team consisting of national park personnel, police and residents of nearby villages.
The hostage drama at Tamparuli town in Sabah state began around 6 a.m.
The scenic eastern coast of Malaysia's Sabah state, where heavily armed gunmen took 20 people hostage last month, is a favourite hunting ground for pirates roaming South East Asia.
'We thank the Sabah state government for facilitating oil palm plantation operators' requirement in getting valid work passes for Indonesians,' he added.