A letter to the Straits Times today as well as a post by Mr Wang reflect the indignation which I feel too, regarding the Ministry of Defence’s culture of secrecy revealed in the reports about the shootings of two servicemen during a military exercise in Thailand.
On 25 May, the Straits Times reported that commando 1SG Woo Teng Hai suffered head injuries and lost sight in one eye after being shot with a shotgun by a Thai villager. The incident took place on 13 March–more than two months ago. A day later, the paper reported that in fact another serviceman had also been shot, this time a full-time national serviceman, PTE J. Pritheery Raj. The news of this second incident would not have surfaced if not for a relative of PTE Raj calling the paper after reading the first report. The paper noted that MINDEF “admitted yesterday that another soldier had also been hurt in the same incident”.
Reservist Matthias Chew wrote in the Straits Times Forum:
“Mindef’s failure to admit that not one, but two Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers were shot in Thailand, until a relative of the second injured soldier approached The Straits Times, has demonstrated the ministry’s basic reluctance to tell the public the truth about military casualties.
The second case also was a matter of genuine public interest, especially since a full-time national serviceman was involved.
As citizen soldiers and taxpayers, we have a right to expect that Mindef will account for all military casualties – whether in training or actual operations -where there are no national security implications.”
While obviously I do not expect MINDEF to be open and transparent about its military strategy, doctrine and operational plans, I don’t see why they cannot be upfront about training accidents or incidents where soldiers are seriously injured. It’s bad enough that they took two months to report the first incident, but why couldn’t they report the second incident without being asked?
This raises several questions:
- How many other soldiers were injured by the shotgun fired by the villager during that exercise?
- Was it truly an accident? Why did the villager fire upon the commandos?
- What is being done to prevent such incidents from occurring again?
I wish 1SG Woo and PTE Raj a speedy and complete recovery and I thank them for their sacrifice and service to our nation.