Opinion | Why travelers with passports issued by Malaysia and Singapore are at a disadvantage

A recent study led by Japanese economists at Tohoku University suggests that if Japan maintains its archaic law that prohibits married couples from having separate surnames, all Japanese could have the same surname “Sato” by 2531. .

Japanese couples are free to choose their surnames when they get married, but in most cases it is the woman who changes her surname. Unlike other major economies in the world, name changes are not just a convention; legal requirements.

When I traveled to Japan with friends last month, one of the reasons for the long wait at the airport was the issue of last names. Of her four different passports that the five of us carry, his two, one issued by Malaysia and one issued by Singapore, do not clearly distinguish between first and last names.

My name on my passport does not have my first and last name listed separately, but simply reads “Wee Kek Koon” on one line.

A Japanese couple wearing traditional costumes is showing their wedding rings. One partner (usually the bride) is legally required to take the other’s last name.Photo: Shutterstock Images

I will call my Malaysian friend’s passport name “Sim On Tek Gabriel”. Computers at the Hong Kong and Japanese airlines must have been confused, as multiple attempts to print boarding passes and luggage tags at self-service kiosks failed. He had to wait in a long line.

This often happens when he is flying.

Malaysian passports do not clearly distinguish between the holder’s first and last name.Photo: Shutterstock Images

The reason why our passports have such names is because many people in Malaysia and Singapore have different naming conventions than last name and first name or first name and last name compositions.

In both countries, Malay Muslims and some South Asians do not have inherited surnames; patronymic naming patterns.

A person is named “A’s son B.” Here, B is his first name and A is his father’s name. B’s son becomes “B’s son C,” and so on.

Your last name is often required on your application.What if I don’t have it? Photo: Shutterstock Images

Given the prevalence of alias structures in many parts of the world, not just Malaysia and Singapore, we need to pause and think about the need to identify surnames on airline tickets, applications, online shopping sites, etc. There will be.

For example, why is it necessary to identify “Smith” as John Peter Smith’s last name on a ticket? What practical purpose does it serve today?

For the hundreds of millions of people around the world who don’t have a last name, it’s pretty unfair to require them to have one in order to buy a plane ticket or register to use a mobile app.

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Often they have to invent surnames that did not exist before.

Asking for “last name” is also annoying for those of us who don’t have a last name at the end.

Why can’t I just type “Abdullah bin Ali”, “John Peter Smith”, or “Sim Ong Teck Gabriel” in one field instead of putting the name in two or more separate fields? Is it?

The current Han Chinese naming convention of naming after the surname, such as actress Gong Li (her surname is Gong) and this columnist Wee Kek Koon (my surname is Wee), dates back to the Qin Dynasty (B.C. 221-206).

Centuries before the Qin Dynasty, noble-born Chinese possessed both. Xing and city, in addition to the name. Commoners usually only had a name.

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At the risk of oversimplifying, Xing While showing pedigree; city It was a marker of belonging to a group such as a tribe. Shin While it was passed down to descendants, city It may be possible to change it.

Eventually, Xing and city were used interchangeably, and common people also started using them as part of their names.

During the Qin Dynasty, everything was converted and the names were standardized. Xing and city It becomes a surname that is passed down the male line.

This structure of a stable surname followed by a one- or two-letter name has remained essentially unchanged for 2,000 years.

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