Tue, May 27, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Chen asks military to ease restrictions on taking vacations

SOURCE OF ANXIETY The suspension of leave for certain members of the armed forces has caused a good deal of discontent since it began

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday asked the Ministry of National Defense to loosen restrictions on leave taken by members of the armed services, which have been in place since May 13 to help prevent the spread of SARS.

All service members and cadets of military academies had their regular leave suspended for at least two weeks and were ordered to stay at their barracks.

However, the move created discontent and anxiety within the military, which has been tasked with various missions to help counter the SARS epidemic

"If the MND can develop an overall measure to properly help servicemen avoid SARS, the current severe regulation of restricting their leave should be loosened," Chen said during a teleconference with Premier Yu Shyi-kun and leaders of the government's anti-SARS task force yesterday.

Since Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) ordered the restrictions on May 13, some opposition politicians and media have criticized the move because Chen's son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), who is serving his compulsory military service at the Navy General Headquarters in Taipei, was still allowed to take his leave.

The navy headquarters confirmed that Chen Chih-chung took his regular leave, but Tang said that he enjoyed no special privilege because the headquarters was not included in the restrictions.

Responding to the president's suggestion to relax the measures, Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), vice chairman of the Cabinet-level SARS Control and Relief Committee and top coordinator of the nationwide campaign against SARS, said yesterday that a decision on whether to lift the ban on leave would be made within the next few days.

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