Humanities › History & Culture FAQ About Singapore Share Flipboard Email Print Map of Southeast Asia, highlighting the location of Singapore. via Wikipedia History & Culture Asian History East Asia Basics Figures & Events Southeast Asia South Asia Middle East Central Asia Asian Wars and Battles American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Kallie Szczepanski History Expert Ph.D., History, Boston University J.D., University of Washington School of Law B.A., History, Western Washington University Dr. Kallie Szczepanski is a history teacher specializing in Asian history and culture. She has taught at the high school and university levels in the U.S. and South Korea. our editorial process Kallie Szczepanski Updated March 06, 2017 Where is Singapore? Singapore is at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It encompasses one main island, called Singapore Island or Pulau Ujong, and sixty-two smaller islands. Singapore is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor, a narrow body of water. Two routes connect Singapore to Malaysia: the Johor-Singapore Causeway (completed in 1923), and the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link (opened in 1998). Singapore also shares maritime boundaries with Indonesia to the south and east. What is Singapore? Singapore, which is officially called the Republic of Singapore, is a city-state with over 3 million citizens. Although it covers only 710 square kilometers (274 square miles) in area, Singapore is a wealthy independent nation with a parliamentary form of government. Interestingly, when Singapore gained its independence from the British in 1963, it merged with neighboring Malaysia. Many observers both inside and outside of Singapore doubted that it would be a viable state on its own. However, the other states in the Malay Federation insisted on passing laws that favored ethnic Malay people over minority groups. Singapore, however, is majority Chinese with a Malay minority. As a result, race riots rocked Singapore in 1964, and the following year the Malaysian parliament expelled Singapore from the federation. Why Did the British Leave Singapore in 1963? Singapore was founded as a British colonial port in 1819; the British used it as a foothold in order to challenge Dutch domination of the Spice Islands (Indonesia). The British East India Company administered the island along with Penang and Malacca. Singapore became a Crown colony in 1867, when the British East India Company collapsed after the Indian Revolt. Singapore was separated bureaucratically from India and made into a directly-ruled British colony. This would continue until the Japanese seized Singapore in 1942, as part of their Southern Expansion drive during World War II. The Battle of Singapore was one of the most grueling in that phase of the Second World War. After the war, Japan withdrew and returned control of Singapore to the British. However, Great Britain was impoverished, and much of London lay in ruins from German bombardment and rocket attacks. The British had few resources and not much interest to bestow on a small, far-off colony such as Singapore. On the island, a growing nationalist movement called for self-rule. Gradually, Singapore moved away from British rule. In 1955, Singapore became a nominally self-governing member of the British Commonwealth. By 1959, the local government controlled all internal matters except for security and policing; Britain also continued to run Singapore's foreign policy. In 1963, Singapore merged with Malaysia and became completely independent from the British Empire. Why is Chewing Gum Banned in Singapore? In 1992, the government of Singapore banned chewing gum. This move was a reaction to littering - used gum left on sidewalks and under park benches, for example - as well as vandalism. Gum chewers occasionally stuck their gum on elevator buttons or on the sensors of commuter train doors, causing messes and malfunctions. Singapore has a uniquely strict government, as well as a reputation for being clean and green (eco-friendly). Therefore, the government simply banned all chewing gum. The ban was loosened slightly in 2004 when Singapore negotiated a free-trade agreement with the United States, allowing for tightly-controlled imports of nicotine gum to help smokers quit. However, the prohibition on ordinary chewing gum was reaffirmed in 2010. Those caught chewing gum receive a modest fine, equivalent to a littering fine. Anyone caught smuggling gum into Singapore can be sentenced to up to a year in jail and a $5,500 US fine. Contrary to rumor, nobody has been caned in Singapore for chewing or selling gum.