Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Another SAF soldier (NSman) shot by Thai farmer too

May 26, 2010

Another SAF soldier shot by Thai farmer too

By Jermyn Chow & Lester Kok


NOT one but two Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers were hurt while out on a night military exercise in Thailand in March.

A local farmer out hunting accidentally shot Private J. Pritheery Raj, a full-time national serviceman (NSF). Two shotgun pellets are still lodged in his cheekbones and his right shoulder.

The 19-year-old is now on medical leave.

News of this second shooting surfaced after a relative of Pte Raj called The Straits Times on reading its report that a villager had fired his shotgun at First Sergeant Woo Teng Hai. The regular commando is said to have been blinded in his right eye.

The Defence Ministry, which had confirmed the accidental shooting of 1st Sgt Woo on Monday, admitted yesterday that another soldier had also been hurt in the same incident.

It would not say how many other soldiers were with them at that time. All it would say was that these were the only two who were injured.

The Straits Times understands that another SAF officer was with Pte Raj and 1st Sgt Woo as they walked along a plantation in the Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, on March 13.

The SAF has been carrying out training on Thai soil since 1973.

The night mission was part of the 1st Commando Battalion’s annual proficiency test, which is conducted by the Army Training Evaluation Centre, or Atec, the unit that Pte Raj is serving in as a trooper.

The soldiers crouched on seeing flashlights about 20m away, and that was when the farmer fired.

Pellets hit Pte Raj’s face and shoulder, while it is understood that 1st Sgt Woo was shot in his right eye.

An army medic attended to them onsite before they were evacuated to a local hospital. Both servicemen were then flown back to Singapore and hospitalised.

Pte Raj’s mother, Madam Isaac Kanaeswary, said doctors here could not remove the pellets lodged in her son’s cheekbones and shoulder because they deemed the procedure too risky.

The NSF declined to comment on what happened but said he would be reporting for duty next week, after being on medical leave for two months.

Save for the occasional headaches, Pte Raj said he ‘feels fine’.

A shotgun is generally used to hunt animals or birds using pellets half the size of a pea. It could kill a person if fired at close range, within 30m.

Two months after the shooting incident, the SAF is still discussing with Madam Kanaeswary’s family Pte Raj’s role for the remaining year of his full-time national service.

The NSF’s superiors from Atec visited the family at their Thong Soon home near Upper Thomson last night. The mother of two said she wants everything to be over and for her son to complete his stint.

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