Lahad Datu is a town and district located in Tawau Division, in the east of Sabah, Malaysia on the island of Borneo. It occupies the peninsula on the north side of Darvel Bay. Its population was estimated to be around 199,830 in 2010. Lahad Datu is surrounded by stretches of cocoa and oil palm plantations. It is also an important timber exporting port. The town has an airport for domestic flights.
A settlement is believed to have existed here in the 15th century, as excavations have unearthed Ming dynasty Chinese ceramics. Just east of Lahad Datu is the village of Tunku, a notorious base for pirates and slave traders in the 19th century.
Based on a jawi manuscript in the Idahan language dated 1408 A.D, it is believed that Islam was first introduced to Malaysia in Sabah. The jawi manuscript gives an account of an Ida'an man named Abdullah in Darvel Bay who embraced Islam.
On 23 September 1985, 15-20 armed foreign pirates landed on this town, killing at least 21 people and injuring 11 others.
On 11 February 2013, several armed Filipino supporters of the Sultanate of Sulu, calling themselves the Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, arrived in Lahad Datu district and occupied the village of Tanduo. They were sent by Jamalul Kiram III, a claimant to the throne of the sultanate. His stated goal is to assert the Philippine territorial claim to eastern Sabah as part of the North Borneo dispute. In response, Malaysian security forces surrounded the village.
After several negotiations with the group, and by the Philippine and Malaysian governments to reach a peaceful solution were unsuccessful, the standoff escalated into an armed conflict which ends with 56 followers of the self-proclaimed Sultanate dead and the others captured by the Malaysian authorities. The Malaysian side also suffers 10 life lost because of the conflict with most of them are the security forces including other six civilians.
Lahad Datu also has several palm oil refineries. The Palm Oil Industrial Cluster (POIC) is located near the Lahad Datu Port and received its first vessel on 1 March 2013. It consists of 1,150 acres (5 km2) of land developed (with a centralised bulking facility and a jetty, currently under construction, which will have a draft of 20 meters, making it one of the few deep sea ports in the world) specifically for palm oil downstream industries. To date, 18 companies have bought land in POIC with 8 companies involved in the production of palm biodiesel. POIC is a wholly state-owned company under the purview of the Ministry of Industrial Development. Its chairman is the current minister, Datuk Dr. Ewon Ebin and the chief executive officer is Mr.Wong Yu Chin (ASDK,BSK).
Lahad Datu is linked to other towns and districts via Federal Route 13, a part of larger Pan-Borneo Highway network in the east coast of Sabah. Works of constructing a new bypass road on Sandakan-Tawau route has been commenced on mid 2016, to relieve the traffic congestion on the town itself.
Lahad Datu is served by many different methods of transportation. Taxis, buses and minibuses are abundant and provide connectivity around the town and other districts such as Sandakan and Tawau. Lahad Datu Port is a container port administered by Sabah Port Sdn. Bhd.
MASwings, a regional airline and subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines (MAB) provides five direct flights daily to and from Kota Kinabalu, the state’s capital.
The district has several tourist attractions, including Danum Valley Conservation Area, Tabin Wildlife Reserve and the Madai Caves