Mon, Sep 25, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letters: Institutions facing assault

A few days ago, I was sitting in my property law class when the professor went off on a tangent about her experiences in law school.

This was the opportunity all first year law students sought to take a breather and check on the world outside our studies, at least for a few minutes. Others read e-mails or chatted; for me, it was my chance to log on to the Web site on my laptop, and upon doing so, lo and behold, learned of Thailand's military coup.

First I experienced dismay -- Thailand has made the most progress in advancing toward a liberal democracy of any of the ASEAN countries. Doesn't this sort of event take place primarily in Latin America?

The next stage of shock was cynicism -- Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra probably deserved it right? Otherwise a normal nation-state functioning under the rule of law should prevail under the strength of its Constitution and institutions.

Upon further reading, not just in but other credible news sources, I learned that the rationale for the coup was his low approval rating and widespread allegations of corruption.

Surprisingly, I next felt perturbed; do I know of any other heads of state also experiencing low approval ratings while also facing allegations of corruption? The answer evoked a parallel that took me aback -- the president of my homeland, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), was in the same boat.

More importantly, the realization that the Constitution and institutions of my homeland were also under assault raised the question: Would all that Taiwan had worked so hard to achieve, namely a stable constitutional representative democracy with the rule of law and an independent judiciary, be disregarded as in Thailand?

Later that evening over MSN, I chatted with a friend in Taiwan who asked me why the so-called pan-red and pan-blue camps had turned to using a show of force to achieve their ends in their campaign to depose Chen.

After careful consideration, I replied to my friend: "Because Taiwan has done a better job consolidating its democracy." We agreed on that point and now, I would like to be able to continue to believe my statement.

When Thaksin was ousted by a show of force, Thailand not only lost its head of state, it lost the established procedures that embody the values of a liberal democracy.

When Chen faces calls to resign despite the existence of established channels for upholding justice and a Constitution that clearly spells out the terms for a president to be fired (treason and betrayal of sovereignty), it is not just Chen's performance that is called into question, it is the system of democracy, and law and order that is challenged.

Forcing Chen to resign when he is charged with nothing more than guilt by association takes us back to the martial law era of justice. Thank goodness we have an independent judiciary to dispassionately investigate allegations of wrongdoing, and a system that allows us to choose a new leader if we are unhappy with the current one.

Let's try to hang on to that system.

Mark Du

Miami, Florida

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