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The mountain ranges in Myanmar, Thailand, and peninsular Malaysia are part of the Alpide belt, while the islands of the Philippines are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.

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However, by the late 1970s, a roughly standard usage of the term "Southeast Asia" and the territories it encompasses had emerged.

Although from a cultural or linguistic perspective, the definitions of "Southeast Asia" may vary, the most common definitions nowadays include the area represented by the countries (sovereign states and dependent territories) listed below.

New Guinea and its surrounding islands are geologically considered as a part of Australian continent, connected via the Sahul Shelf.

It has been proposed that the Austronesian people, who form the majority of the modern population in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, East Timor, and the Philippines, may have migrated to Southeast Asia from Taiwan.

Southeast Asia is bordered to the north by East Asia, to the west by South Asia and Bay of Bengal, to the east by Oceania and Pacific Ocean, and to the south by Australia and Indian Ocean.

The region is the only part of Asia that lies partly within the Southern Hemisphere, although the majority of it is in the Northern Hemisphere.

In contemporary definition, Southeast Asia consists of two geographic regions: The region lies near the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic and volcanic activities.

The Sunda Plate is the main plate of the region, features almost all Southeast Asian countries except Myanmar, northern Thailand, northern Vietnam, and northern Luzon of the Philippines.

The Orang Asli, in particular the Semang who show Negrito characteristics, are the direct descendent of this earliest settlers of Southeast Asia.

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