East Timor's authorities have called on some 400 soldiers to return to barracks after they went on strike last month over pay and conditions.
Rights activists say the rules guiding promotion are not clear
Military leaders have told the strikers to go back to work or face dismissal.
The protest, which began on 8 February, involves around a quarter of East Timor's total number of troops.
The East Timorese army was formed after the end of Indonesian rule in 1999. Many of the troops are former independence fighters.
"We are striking because something is wrong... in the process of recruitment and in the process of promotion. We also want good conditions and a good atmosphere to do our duty as soldiers," Gastao Salsinha, a co-ordinator of the strike, told the Associated Press.
Colonel Lere Anan Timor, deputy chief of the East Timor Defence Force, called on them to return to their barracks by Wednesday or face penalties.
"We still consider them as soldiers, but if they do not return... they are at risk of mass sacking," he said.
The East Timorese president's security advisor, Paulo Aziz, told the BBC that the soldiers' grievances could not be properly investigated until they returned to base and spoke to the authorities.