Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia, on the Malay peninsula and Borneo, bordering Thailand, Brunei and Indonesia. It was inhabited of many states, sultanates and kingdoms known collectively as the 'Malay States' by the British, who established colonial footholds in the area such as Penang and Singapore as early as 1786 and 1819 respectively. From 1867 the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements had been established; the British supported ventures to consolidate British influence in the other states; by 1909 they were in a dominant position as well as in neighbouring North Borneo and Sarawak. During WWII the British possessions were occupied by the Japanese from 1942 until 1945; afterwards local instability led to the Malay Federation becoming independent in 1963, Singapore was expelled in 1965. Since then Malaysia has become a thriving local economic powerhouse, being on the strategic Straits of Malacca. As of 2018 Malaysia has a population of about 31.8 million, and it currently uses the Malaysian ringgit.