Singapore vows military training review after actor's death

Military to assess if training 'too fast, too intense, too frequent' with focus on safety for reservists and recruits.

    Kenny Pang (right), brother to actor Aloysius Pang, and Dasmond Koh, Pang's agent, speak to the media after arriving at Changi Airport in Singapore [Yong Teck Lim/AP]
    Kenny Pang (right), brother to actor Aloysius Pang, and Dasmond Koh, Pang's agent, speak to the media after arriving at Changi Airport in Singapore [Yong Teck Lim/AP]

    Singapore's military has said it will reduce the length, intensity and frequency of its training programmes after an actor in the reserves died from injuries sustained during an exercise overseas, the fifth serviceman to die during training in the last 18 months.

    Aloysius Pang, 28, was on a military drill in New Zealand when a gun barrel on a large artillery device he was helping to repair was lowered, crushing his abdomen and chest.

    He died in a New Zealand hospital on Thursday where he had been on life support following emergency surgery.

    Speaking to reporters, Chief of Defence Force Melvyn Ong said the Singapore Armed Forces would modify its training programmes with a focus on the safety of all personnel whether reservists or full-time recruits.

    "This reduction of training tempo following the safety timeout will be enforced for as long as it takes for us to get it right. And we want to do it right, we want to do it safe for every activity, we want to do it right every time," Ong said on Thursday, according to The Straits Times, a local newspaper.

    How Singapore became a global military industry hub (2:00)

    Each of the services would be required to decide whether the programme was "too fast, too intense, too frequent", the paper cited Ong as saying.

    National service

    Singapore requires all young men - both citizens and permanent residents - to complete two years of national service either in the armed forces, police or civil defence once they reach the age of 18.

    They can be called up for as many as 40 days every year afterwards until they turn 50 if they are an officer, or 40 if they are not. Those who try to avoid the call-up risk jail.

    The government says national service helps build national cohesion and national pride as well as assisting "young men build strength of character, grow in maturity and develop leadership skills".

    Fifth fatal accident

    Pang, who appeared in local films and television shows, had completed his full-time service and was an armament technician.

    The military said it would establish an independent committee to investigate the circumstances leading to Pang's fatal injuries.

    The actor had been working on a Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer, a motorised piece of artillery that looks similar to a small tank, when the accident happened.

    Pang's family flew to New Zealand after hearing he was injured. His elder brother, Kenny, said he had not managed to speak to Pang.

    "He's the precious [one] of our family. He's the youngest. He's the most loved," he said on returning to Singapore. "To reciprocate that ... he has also given us all the support and all the love he can."

    The family said they hoped that Pang's body would be repatriated as soon as possible.

    Singapore at 50: What lies ahead?

    Counting the Cost

    Singapore at 50: What lies ahead?

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies