The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday said it has not issued orders forbidding service members to participate in today's march organized by the pan-blue team, but it warned against possible punishment for participation.
MND spokesman Major General Huang Suei-sheng (黃穗生), answering an inquiry from the Taipei Times, said according to the National Defense Act (國防法), service members should not participate in activities organized by any political party.
Huang declined, however, to categorically define the March 27 march organized by the pan-blue alliance as a "political activity."
"There is no need for the Ministry of National Defense [MND] to categorize the march as a political activity. The answer is very clear to the public," Huang said.
"The MND has not issued orders forbidding service members to take part in the march. But we do warn about the possibility of punishment for participating," he said.
Huang made the remarks in response to a report by the Apple Daily, which quoted anonymous sources as saying the MND is trying to prevent a possible flood of service members joining the march that is to take place today in Taipei.
The Apple Daily said quite a large number of service members were rumored to be planning to join the march.
A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it is hard to predict how many servicemembers would show up for the march in a private capacity.
"It is virtually impossible to stop service members from taking to the street with the pan-blue team, as long as they show up in civilian clothes during their holidays," the official said.
"Servicemembers who have shown interest in the march are mostly lower-ranking officers or non-commissioned officers [NCOs]. We have not heard that any senior officials above the rank of major general have the same plan," he said.
"The political orientation in the upper levels of the military tips toward the pan-green team, since most of the military leaders owe their current positions to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who promoted not only native Taiwanese generals, but also mainland Chinese," he said. "The lower levels of the military seem to be mostly supporters of the pan-blue team. They have become a source of destabilization in the military."
The possible participation of servicemembers in the march has made some people worry about a sudden coup de etat.
But chances of such a scenario happening are low, an army officer said.
"There is no way for these service members to be armed with weapons, which are impossible to carry out of camp without being discovered and stopped," the officer said.