History of Tawau

The history of Tawau can be traced up as early as the 15th century when it was still ruled under the Bruenian empire. From then to now, this beautiful town in Sabah has seen many changes yet, it's natural beauty is still isn't compromised.

History of Tawau

15th Century BC:

Tawau was controlled by the Burenian Empire

17th-18th century

Tawau was ceded to the Sultanate of Sulu as a gift for helping the Bruneian forces during a civil war in Brunei.


Netherlands signed a treaty with the Sultan of Bulungan


The name Tawao was used in nautical maps


Sultanate of Sulu sold the southern part of his land bounded by the Sibuco River to an Austro-Hungarian consul Baron von Overbeck.


Evidence of a settlement can be seen


Approximately 20 people lived in the Tawao settlement. Most of them were immigrants who fled from the Dutch and Spanish rule. Tawao was also renamed to Tawau during this time.

20 Jan 1891

A final agreement was reached on the central division of the Sebatik Island.


A British vessel S.S. Normanhurst sailed into Tawau with a cargo to trade.


The British built a settlement which later grew rapidly when the British North Borneo Chartered Company (BNBC) sponsored the migration of Chinese to Tawau.

16 December 1941

During World War II, the Japanese invasion of Borneo began.

1 May 1945

The last and largest of these attacks was when 19 Liberator bombers bombed Tawau until it was completely razed to the ground.

1 July 1947

Subsidies for the purchase of rice and flour were introduced.

October 1963

Indonesia moved their first battalion of the Korps Komando Operasi (KKO) from Surabaya to Sebatik and opened several training camps near the border in eastern Kalimantan (now North Kalimantan).

12 May 1964

A bombing attempt on the Kong Fah cinema.

December 1965

Complete ceasefire in Tawau.