Malay Indonesians

Malay Indonesians (Malay/Indonesian: Orang Melayu Indonesia; Jawi: اورڠ ملايو ايندونيسيا) are ethnic Malays living throughout Indonesia. They are one of the indigenous peoples of the country.[5] Indonesian, the national language of Indonesia, is a standardized form of Riau Malay.[6][7] There were numerous kingdoms associated with the Indonesian Malays along with other ethnicities in what is now Indonesia, mainly on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. These included Srivijaya, the Melayu Kingdom, Dharmasraya, the Sultanate of Deli, the Sultanate of Siak Sri Indrapura, the Riau-Lingga Sultanate, the Sultanate of Bulungan, Pontianak Sultanate, and the Sultanate of Sambas. The 2010 census states that there are 8 million Malays in Indonesia, this number comes from the classification of Malays in East Sumatra and the coast of Kalimantan which is recognized by the Indonesian government. This classification is different from the Malaysia and Singapore census which includes all ethnic Muslims from the Indonesian archipelago (inc. Acehnese, Banjarese, Bugis, Mandailing, Minangkabau and Javanese) as Malays.

Malay Indonesians
Orang Melayu Indonesia
ملايو ايندونيسيا
A Riau Malay couple enjoying the traditional Gambus. The background panel incorporated the palettes of Malay tricolour.
Total population
8,753,791 (2010)[1][lower-alpha 1]
Regions with significant populations
 South Sumatra3,139,000
 West Kalimantan1,259,890[3]
 Bangka Belitung936,000
 Riau Islands600,108
 North Sumatra582,100
 Central Kalimantan87,222
Numerous vernacular Malay varieties
Sunni Islam (98.77%)

  Christians (Protestant and Roman Catholic) (0.98%)

  Vajrayana Buddhist  Confucianism  Hindu  Other (0.25%)[4]
Related ethnic groups



There are various kingdoms and sultanates related to the history of the Malay people and other ethnicities on the island of Sumatra, such as Melayu Kingdom, Srivijaya, Dharmasraya, Sultanate of Deli, Sultanate of Siak Sri Indrapura, Asahan Sultanate, Riau-Lingga Sultanate, Riau Sultanate, Palembang Sultanate and the Lingga Sultanate, etc.


There are various kingdoms and sultanates related to the history of the Malay people and other ethnicities on the island of Kalimantan (a.k.a. Borneo), such as Sanggau Kingdom, Pontianak Sultanate, Bulungan Sultanate, Berau Sultanate, Gunung Tabur Sultanate, Sambaliung Sultanate, Paser Sultanate, Kutai Sultanate, etc.

In the Pontianak incidents during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies, the Japanese massacred most of the Malay elite and beheaded all of the Malay Sultans in Kalimantan.

During the Fall of Suharto, there was a resurgence in Malay nationalism and identity in Kalimantan and ethnic Malays and Dayaks in Sambas massacred Madurese during the Sambas riots.


A Palembangese Malay girl clad in the Gending Sriwijaya costume

Sumatra is the homeland of the Malay languages, which today spans all corners of Southeast Asia. The Indonesian language, which is the country's official language and lingua franca, was based on Riau Malay. The Malay language has a long history, which has a literary record as far back as the 7th century AD. A famous early Malay inscription, the Kedukan Bukit Inscription, was discovered by the Dutchman M. Batenburg on 29 November 1920, at Kedukan Bukit, South Sumatra, on the banks of the Tatang river, a tributary of the Musi River. It is a small stone of 45 by 80 cm. It is written in Old Malay, a possible ancestor of today's Malay language and its variants. Most Malay languages and dialects spoken in Indonesia are mutually unintelligible with Standard Indonesian. The most widely spoken are Palembang Malay (3.2 million), Jambi Malay (1 million), Bengkulu Malay (1.6 million) and Banjarese (4 million) (although not considered to be a dialect of Malay by its speakers; its minor dialect is typically called Bukit Malay). Besides the proper Malay languages, there are several languages closely related to Malay such as Minangkabau, Kerinci, Kubu and others. These languages are closely related to Malay, but their speakers do not consider their languages to be Malay. There are many Malay-based creoles spoken in the country especially in eastern Indonesia due to contacts from the western part of Indonesia and during colonial rule where Malay replaced Dutch as a lingua franca. The most well-known Malay creoles in Indonesia are Ambonese Malay, Betawi, Manado Malay and Papuan Malay.

Sub-ethnic groups of Indonesian Malays

Malay ethnic groups in Indonesia

A Palembangese Malay woman in the traditional wedding costume from South Sumatera, Indonesia, known as Aesan Gede

The Malay people in Indonesia fall into various sub-ethnicities with each having its own distinct linguistic variety, history, clothing, traditions, and a sense of common identity. According to 2000 census, Malay Indonesians include:



Aboriginal Malays

A Kutainese Malay lady in Residency of South and East Kalimantan, Dutch East Indies. Lithography to an original watercolour c.1879–1880.

Notable Malay Indonesians



Malay princes of East Sumatra from the Royal Houses of Deli, Langkat and Serdang



  • Ariel Peterpan – the lead singer vocalist[8] of Indonesian band Noah
  • Carissa Putri – Indonesian model and actress
  • Revalina Sayuthi Temat – Indonesian actress, popularly known for her work in Bawang Merah Bawang Putih
  • Titi Kamal – prominent Indonesian actress and singer
  • Farah Quinn – celebrity chef

See also



  1. The figure is based on the ethnic classification presented in Ananta et al. 2015, which includes figures for every groups with "Malay" in their names as well as Jambi, Bengkulu, Serawai, Semendo peoples, but excludes figures for Palembang, Bangka, and Belitung peoples.[2]


  1. Ananta et al. 2015, p. 119.
  2. Ananta et al. 2015, pp. 35–36, 42–43.
  3. "Propinsi Kalimantan Barat - Dayakologi". Archived from the original on 2012-09-05. Retrieved 2012-09-07.
  4. Aris Ananta, Evi Nurvidya Arifin, M Sairi Hasbullah, Nur Budi Handayani, Agus Pramono. Demography of Indonesia's Ethnicity. Singapore: ISEAS: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2015. p. 273.
  5. "Badan Kesatuan Bangsa dan Politik". Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  6. Sneddon 2003, The Indonesian Language: Its History and Role in Modern Society, p. 69–70
  7. Kamus Saku Bahasa Indonesia, p. 272, PT Mizan Publika, ISBN 9789791227834
  8. Tedjasukmana, Jason (June 25, 2010). "Sex Video Scandal and Indonesia's Porn Obsession". TIME magazine. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2010.


  • Ananta, Aris; Arifin, Evi Nurvidya; Hasbullah, M Sairi; Handayani, Nur Budi; Pramono, Agus (2015). Demography of Indonesia's Ethnicity. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. ISBN 978-981-4519-87-8.
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