Lieutenant General Huang Yi-bing (黃奕炳), deputy commander of the army, yesterday bowed to apologize for a brawl between soldiers and civilians at a military facility on the outlying island of Kinmen the previous day, which ended with nine military personnel being injured after civilians broke into the compound.
Huang described the incident as a “simple case” of revenge involving friends of a soldier who had been upset by a punishment meted out by his superiors.
The army would tighten security and conduct a thorough review of security measures at all military bases and make the necessary improvements, Huang said at a press conference, adding that the army would also enhance the training of its personnel in dealing with emergencies.
An investigation by the military found that the civilians were incited by a volunteer serviceman surnamed Chang (張). The soldier, who was disciplined by his superior, surnamed Kao (高), on Tuesday, allegedly incited them for revenge. Chang has been detained by military prosecutors.
Of the nine civilians referred for prosecution, three have been placed in custody and six released on NT$100,000 bail, Kinmen district prosecutors said yesterday.
On Tuesday at 8:30pm, between eight and 12 men riding in three cars started a commotion in front of the base, calling for Kao to come out and explain the incident with Chang, Huang said.
A second lieutenant, surnamed Wang (王), who was in charge of the headquarters battery battalion-level maintenance building, went out to attempt to diffuset the situation, trying to calm the civilians after receiving reports of a commotion, but he was beaten by the civilians after a disagreement, receiving a slight graze to the ear, Huang said.
Just after midnight, a car drove to the entrance of the base, whereby its passengers assaulted the troops on guard duty, before proceeding as far as the front of the maintenance building, Huang said.
The car and its four passengers were taken to a police station after being suppressed by the troops who were alerted to the situation, Huang said, adding that the commander had told his troops not to attack the civilians because “they were irrational civilians and not enemies.”
While the base commander and the chief staff officer were still debating how to toughen base security, a third set of civilians arrived in two cars and eight people who were clearly intoxicated began to attack soldiers with wooden sticks immediately after exiting the vehicles, Huang said.
Huang said that while the second civilian attack occurred inside the base, the third happened outside the main gates.
Asked whether military personnel could use their weapons in the event of violent attacks, Huang said they could fire blanks as a deterrent and, if that did not work, they could use live bullets.
“It is the military’s responsibility to safeguard the country and ensure the security of military sites,” Huang said.
The Control Yuan launched an investigation into the incident yesterday.
Huang Wu-tzu (黃武次), one of the Control Yuan members leading the probe, asked: “How can troops protect the country when they cannot even protect themselves?”
Huang Wu-tzu said that the military failed to take proper precautions after the first provocation.
Lee Ful-dien (李復甸), the other initiator of the investigation, said he would look into other possible flaws on the part of the military when handling the incident.
He said it might be that the military did not take immediate action to stop the youths because the officers handling the case were sympathetic to them.
This might be related to the fact that those officers were also native to Kinmen, he added.
General Wang Shih-tu (王世塗), head of the Kinmen Defense Command, visited Kinmen County Commissioner Li Wo-shi (李沃士) yesterday to exchange views on the incident.
Wang, who is himself a native of Kinmen, said the relationship between the military and Kinmen residents is harmonious.
He said the military personnel responsible for the situation would be punished after the Ministry of National Defense has completed its own investigation.
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