Demonstrators yesterday rallied against what they said was the Ministry of National Defense’s abuse of soldiers and a lack of human rights in the military as the annual memorial ceremony to honor war dead and deceased national heroes was being held at National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine in Taipei.
Shouting: “Give us our kids back,” a group of families of soldiers who died during their mandatory military service were held back by police as they called for more humane training and transparency in military abuse cases in front of the shrine, where President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was presiding over the ceremony.
The mother of deceased air force staff sergeant Tsai Hsueh-liang (蔡學良) accused the ministry of “murdering” soldiers with abusive and unreasonable training regimens, and slammed Ma for failing to implement military reform.
“The Ministry of National Defense is actually the ministry of murder. It should be abolished. President Ma promised us military reform, but we don’t see his determination to follow through,” she said.
Tsai was found dead in 2008 while doing his military service. Military investigators concluded that he had committed a suicide by shooting himself with a T65 rifle, but his family insist that the fatal wounds were caused by a bullet from a pistol rather than a T65 rifle.
Controversial deaths in the military have received increased attention in recent months due to the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), who allegedly died from abuse while completing his mandatory service in July.
The case sparked waves of protests against opacity in the military and prompted the government to enact legislation to eventually transfer all military cases to civilian courts.
Unaffected by the protest, Ma led government officials to pay their respects to the martyrs and their family members yesterday in a brief ceremony inside the shrine yesterday, which was also Veteran’s Day.
Ma later defended the contributions made by the army on his Faebook page. Members of the army not only sacrifice their lives to protect the nation at wartime, they also serve the people during peacetime through disaster-relief efforts, he said.
“While the public enjoys peace and prosperity, I think of the soldiers who guard our nation day and night, of their determined faces as they save lives in the wake of natural disasters,” he said.