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January 2008

Christopher Aung 

January 2008

The typical law student, I would imagine, uses winter break to reacquaint themselves with old friends, catch up on lost sleep, and generally avoid thinking about anything covered in the preceding three month's coursework. While waking up at noon or staying out late may be easy habits to return to, I suspect that trying to read the newspaper or watch a movie without thinking about the law is, even after only three short semesters, much more challenging.

My family and I went on an extended tour of Southeast Asia for just about three weeks. Before leaving, I took care of all of my obligations that could potentially need my attention during break. The lack of internet access in some of the countries we would be traveling to was also on my mind as I stayed up late working the day before Christmas Eve. Unlike the previous year, I hoped to spend my entire winter break free from considering the legal ramifications of anything. However, even after attempting to hermetically seal myself away from law school, my mind resisted.

Our itinerary called for an early December 24th flight, with the return leg getting me back into JFK hours before I had to wake up for class the following Monday morning. In between, my father, mother, brother, and I would celebrate Christmas in mid-air, New Year's Day in Upper Burma, with few days in Thailand and a dash of Tokyo on the way home. This allowed us to see, within a fairly short span of time, three large metropolises in succession: Rangoon , Bangkok , and Tokyo.

Each city is in various stage of development. Rangoon , the former capital of Burma , was at one point in time a modern and bustling cosmopolitan city whose port was once the embarkation point for the world's largest rice exporting nation.  Today, it lacks most of the infrastructure many take for granted, such as electricity, sewers, and garbage collection. It stands in stark contrast to Bangkok , a sprawling mega city with enormous air-conditioned malls and the largest outdoor market in the world. In terms of its development, it seems to be a way station on the path from a derelict city like Rangoon to an ultramodern city like Tokyo.

Among the myriad differences between the cities, the role of the law is just as important as any other. Rangoon effectively lacks any semblance of the rule of law. The ruling junta has essentially dismantled the judiciary, and without any means to protect one's rights, there is little incentive to invest in one's property. The junta, who rule unchallenged, does not need to provide infrastructure improvements that would surely win votes in a healthy democracy. Tokyo and Bangkok are different in nearly every respect. Riding in modern taxis, trains, and airplanes, one can see the tangible results of effective lawmaking, such as safer trains, cleaner cars, and healthier citizens.

The benefits provided by the rule of law are often overlooked by those of us who are lucky enough to reap its rewards. Our court system provides an orderly resolution of conflicts, so that an argument does not become a question of might. Public officials answer to their constituents, not the other way around. Our legislatures have provided the means to obtain a first-class education. Indeed, halfway through the eighteenth grade, halfway around the world, I failed miserably in trying to forget everything I had learned, as my family vacation vindicated my decision to attend law school.      


Christopher Aung

Class: Second-year

Hopewell Junction, NY

Undergraduate Degree: CornellUniversity ,
Applied Economics

Activities: Pace Law Review, Pace Federal Judicial Honor's 
Program, Environmental Law Society, Asian American Law 
Students Association, Pace/Mastercard Minority Mentorship Program.