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Last Updated: Friday, 31 August 2007, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Malaysia marks 50 years as nation
Malaysia's King Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin (L) shakes hands with Britain's Prince Andrew
Britain's Prince Andrew (R) was among the guests at the ceremony
Thousands of people have been attending huge celebrations in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, to mark 50 years of nationhood.

Dancers and drummers paraded through Merdeka Square, or Independence Square, to celebrate independence from Britain, which came on 31 August 1957.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi used an anniversary speech to urge people to unify as a nation.

"We must ensure that no region or community is left behind," he said.

"We will hold true to the concept of justice and fairness for all citizens."

The celebrations come at a time when debate is growing about what it means to be Malaysian in the ethnically diverse nation, correspondents say.

Military on parade

Some 60,000 people gathered on Thursday evening to watch scenes of the nation's last 50 years projected on to the capital's skyscrapers.

Royal Malaysian Air Force MiG-29 fighters fly in formation over the historic Merdeka Square
Malaysia's air force joined the celebrations

Fireworks lit up the sky and the national flag was raised to mark the end of British colonial rule on the Malay peninsula.

Friday's celebrations featured a fly-past by the Royal Malaysian Air Force, as well as displays from the police cavalry and tracker dog units.

Several foreign dignitaries attended the celebrations, including Britain's Prince Andrew. Prime ministers from Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia were all present.

Dramatic changes

The BBC's Asia correspondent, Andrew Harding, says Malaysia has changed dramatically since 1957.
Malaysia is at a crossroad. Multiracial equality has to be maintained for meaningful progress
Pancha Chandra, Belgium

Political stability and years of ambitious development have transformed the economy.

There are concerns that Malaysia's authoritarian brand of democracy is being challenged by an increasingly conservative form of Islam, with Sharia courts overriding the country's secular constitution, he says.

But the general mood in Malaysia seems to be one of optimism as this nation reflects on half-a-century of upheavals and progress, our correspondent adds.

An independence march in the Malaysian capital

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