Thu, Mar 18, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Military places its special ops units on alert for poll

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The military has put its special operations units on alert and were ready for any contingency during Saturday's presidential elections, defense sources said yesterday.

The special operations units will, if required, act according to scenarios devised over the last few weeks. The scenarios include possible outbreaks of violence following the determination of the result of the election.

A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the military was not using terms like "street violence" or "riot" to describe what might happen on the night of the elections.

"We would rather call it `a situation of heightened emotions.' Our judgment is that no real riot is likely to happen Saturday night. What's more likely to happen is that supporters of the losing side might take to the street to express their disappointment," the official said.

Such a situation occurred in the previous election when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lost power to the Democratic Progressive Party.

"There are of course other scenarios. Despite what might happen, it shouldn't fall outside our expectations. Over the past few weeks, the special operations units have been training intensively for any scenario that might happen," the official said.

The special operations units include those from the army, military police and marine corps. They are the most combat-capable in the armed forces.

The three units have rarely been seen in public. The special operations unit of the marine corps is an exception with its annual public demonstration of combat readiness at its headquarters in Tsoying in Kaohsiung City's north.

The army's special operations unit was put under the spotlight early this year for the first time since it was reactivated last year. It had been deactivated for several years because of a personnel streamlining project that was completed in 1997.

The special operations unit of the military police is the only one of the three that has never been seen in public. An army officer, who spoke in private, said although these special operations units were the military's cream of the crop, they might not be capable of handling real rioting.

"Like similar units in other countries, special operations forces are good at surprise attacks and resolving emergency situations within the shortest time possible," the officer said.

"Special operations units are also small in numbers. If they can not operate according to prepared plans, then they are likely to lose their functionality," he said.

During the period of KMT rule, the government developed an effective strategy combating any unrest that might occur in the wake of an election.

The mechanism depended on cooperation between the military and the police.

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