February 30 birthday | Bangkok Post: learning

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Deserves to die?

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Deputy editor Atiya Achakulwisut has harsh words for the interior minister for his unwarranted condemnation of a minor official stuck with a non-existent February 30 birthday. 

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English learners: This is a bit long, but the ideas and the vocabulary are not difficult. Listening as well as reading will make it easier for you  to understand.

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Born on Feb 30, but he doesn't 'deserve to die'

Atiya Achakulwisut

Atiya Achakulwisut

So Sangwien Khuncharoen quit his job, turned off his mobile phone and stopped talking to reporters. Everything has become fine and rosy again. The authorities need not set up a disciplinary probe against the former deputy village head in Sa Kaeo province who spoke to the public about the difficulty of having his wrongly registered birth date corrected. Since Mr Sangwien admitted that it was his own fault the public record did not get changed; there is no problem with the system either. Case closed.

But not to me.

I admit that the news about Mr Sangwien and his being stuck with a wrongly registered birthday of Feb 30, which does not exist, grabbed my attention from the first day it broke. This is because I share a similar problem with him. The birthday as shown on my ID card is not my real one. It's one month ahead of what it should be.

Admittedly, my wrong "official" birth date poses a small nuisance compared with the non-existent one of Mr Sangwien. At most, I have become confused when filling in personal information, especially with credit card companies and have missed a few birthday presents because some of my friends have stolen a look at my ID card and told themselves they didn't need to get me a present when my birthday has come around.

With the impossible Feb 30 as a birthdate, however, the former village chief had had trouble with school certificates and all kinds of documents that need to be officially recognised, according to news reports.

Mr Sangwien spoke about his plight at a seminar to highlight how difficult it is to correct personal information that has become a public record like this. He didn't express a desire to have it corrected. Nor did he blame anyone.

We know what followed. The news went from Sa Kaeo and hit the ears of his ultimate boss the interior minister in Bangkok, which must have gone red instantly considering his furious reaction.

Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan had nothing but condemnation for the former official. He accused Mr Sangwien of seeking publicity for himself at the cost of embarrassing his employer, the ministry. He said he would take disciplinary action against Mr Sangwien. Indeed, he said the former official "deserves to die" for blowing up an issue which should have been handled within the ministry.

I won't dwell on whether or not Mr Sangwien did the best he could to address the problem, or whether he was following proper guidelines when he raised the issue in public. From my personal experience, I know that it's possible to have your birth date changed but that does not mean it's not extremely difficult. I have tried to do so several times in the past but gave up every time because the process was too demanding. Since my birth registration was wrong (my grandmother did not want to pay a fee for registering my birth later than specified so she added a month to my birth date), I needed both written testimony from my parents and a letter of support from a district official to complete a request to have my official birthday changed.

Like Mr Sangwien, I do not live in the area where I was born. No district official at my birthplace could produce a letter to support my request because my household is not registered there. Officials at the district where my present household is registered said without proof, they could not do anything about it.

So in the end, I have been stuck with the wrong official birth date just like Mr Sangwien. But I am not blaming the system. That is not the point. I understand that it should not be too easy for a person to have his or her personal information changed. Also, in the grand scheme of things, this wrongly registered birthday represents but a tiny problem facing this country.

What has struck me about the "Born on Feb 30" story, though, is how Interior Minister Charupong could blatantly flout his power and use his enormous muscle as the country's top policy-maker to crush a minor official without due reason.

Much has been discussed in this country about what is appropriate and it could be that someone may agree with Mr Charupong that as a state official himself, it was inappropriate for Mr Sangwien to expose internal glitches, ones that could have been taken care of. But does he "deserve to die" as blasted by Mr Charupong? No, he doesn't. Does he deserve to be pressured to quit his job and not raise any issues again? No, he doesn't. The minister's reaction to the issue was out of proportion and inappropriate. The problem is Mr Charupong's act of intimidation has gone unquestioned as Mr Sangwien's case has now gone cold.

deserve – of something, good or bad, that you earn or are given because of your behavior or qualities สมควรได้รับ
reporter – someone whose job is to write articles or make broadcasts about events in the news ผู้สื่อข่าว, นักข่าว
rosy – likely to be successful or happy ร่าเริง, ดีงาม
authorities – people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
disciplinary – related to the punishment of people who do not obey the rules  การลงโทษเนื่องจากการฝ่าฝืนวินัย หรือระเบียบ
probe – an attempt to find out the truth about an issue, problem or accident, made by an official group (or by the media); an investigation การตรวจสอบ  การสอบสวน
deputy – a person whose rank is immediately below that of the leader of an organisation รอง
register – to put your name and other information on an official list in order to be allowed to do something, e.g., vote, study, stay in a hotel etc ลงทะเบียน
admit – to agree that something is true, especially when you are unhappy, sorry or surprised about it  ยอมรับ
stuck with – having something stay with you, especially something bad that you cannot change ติด
exist – to be real; to be present in a place or situation  มีอยู่
attention – the interest or thought that you give to something you are doing, listening to or watching ความสนใจ
break – (of news) to become known for the first time
nuisance – something that is annoying and is a continuing problem การรบกวน, การทำให้รำคาญ
confused – unable to understand something or think clearly about it สับสน
certificate – an official document or record stating that particular facts are true  หนังสือรับรอง
document – a paper or set of papers with written or printed information, especially of an official type  เอกสาร
recognise – to accept that something is true or important ยอมรับ
plight – an unpleasant condition, especially a serious, sad or difficult one สภาพเลวร้าย
highlight – to stress; to make something more noticeable  เน้น,ทำให้เด่น
express – to tell someone about a feeling, opinion, or aim by speaking or writing about it แสดงออก (ทางความคิดหรือความรู้สึก) โดยใช้คำพูดหรือการเขียน, พูดออกมา
desire – to have a strong wish to have or do something อยาก, ประสงค์, ต้องการ
ultimate – most extreme; best, worst, greatest, most important, etc  ที่สุด
interior minister – the minister with responsibility over the Royal Thai Police, local administrations, internal security, citizenship, disaster management, land management, issuing national identity cards and public works รัฐมนตรีว่าการกระทรวงมหาดไทย
instantly – immediately ทันที
furious – extremely angry ซึ่งโกรธจัด
reaction – the way something responds as a result of something that happens ปฏิกิริยา การตอบสนอง
condemnation – a public statement in which someone criticises someone or something severely การประนามหยามเหยียด
publicity – attention in magazines, newspapers, or television ชื่อเสียง, การเผยแพร่
embarrass – to cause someone to feel nervous, worried or uncomfortable ทำให้รู้สึกอาย, ทำให้ขวยเขิน
employer – a person, company, or organisation that pays someone to work for them as a member of their staff นายจ้าง
issue – a problem that needs to be considered ประเด็น
dwell on – to think or talk a lot about something, especially something it would be better to forget พูดหรือเขียนยืดยาวเกี่ยวกับ, กังวลหรือคิดมากเกี่ยวกับ
address – to deal with a problem จัดการปัญหา
guidelines – official instructions or advice about how to do something สิ่งที่ช่วยแนะแนวทางให้ปฏิบัติ
demanding – needing a lot of skill, patience, effort, etc. ต้องการความสามารถและความอดทนความพยายาม
fee – an amount of money that you pay to be allowed to do something ค่าธรรมเนียม
specify – to explain something in an exact and detailed way ระบุ  ชี้แจงรายละเอียด
testimony – a formal statement about something that you say, know or experienced คำให้การ
proof – information, documents, etc. that show that something is true  การพิสูจน์
in the grand scheme of things – of something that it is not important when compared to much more serious things
strike – to come into somebody's mind suddenly สะดุดใจ, ฉุกใจ, กระทบใจ
blatantly – in an obvious or open way โจ่งแจ้ง โอ้อวด อึกทึก
flout – to show that you have no respect for something ดูหมิ่น, ดูถูก, เหยียดหยาม
enormous – extremely large มหาศาล
muscle – the power and influence to make others do what you want อำนาจ, อิทธิพล
policy – a set of plans or action agreed on by a government, political party, business, or other group นโยบาย
crush – to defeat or cause to fail; to make someone feel disappointed, embarrassed, or upset ทำลาย,ทำให้โศกเศร้า
minor – not important; small; having little influence or effect เล็กน้อย
due – that is suitable or right in the circumstances เหมาะสม, อย่างถูกต้อง
appropriate – (opposite: inappropriate) suitable or right for a particular situation or purpose  ที่เหมาะสม
expose – to make something publicly known because you believe it is wrong, illegal or dishonest ตีแผ่ เปิดเผย
glitch – a small problem or fault that prevents something from being successful or working as well as it should ความบกพร่องเล็กน้อย
blast – to criticise severely วิพากษ์วิจารณ์อย่างรุนแรง
pressure – to try to make someone do something by forcing, threatening, or persuading them in a determined way กดดัน
out of proportion – arger, more serious, etc. in relation to something than is necessary or appropriate เกินความจำเป็น
intimidation – deliberately making someone feel frightened, especially so that they will do what you want ขู่ขวัญ

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