Singapore actor’s death puts spotlight on conscription risks

SINGAPORE (AP) – A memorial service was held yesterday for a Singaporean actor and soldier who died from injuries at a military exercise, a case that has renewed scrutiny of the tiny Southeast Asian nation’s system of mandatory conscription.

Reservist Aloysius Pang, 28, was taking part in military training in New Zealand last weekend when he was crushed while repairing an artillery vehicle. He died last Thursday after several surgeries.

With a population of just 5.6 million people, Singapore sees conscription as a key element of its national security strategy. It requires most men from after the age 18 to serve full-time in its armed forces, police force or civil defence force for two years and after that take part in training obligations for another 10 years.

Those who dodge their service are arrested and jailed.

Pang is the fourth conscript to die from training since August 2017, leading to calls for more protections for soldiers and greater accountability on the part of the military.

A woman visits Singapore actor Aloysius Pang’s public memorial in Singapore. – AP

Christina Goh was waiting in line to pay her respects last Saturday at a memorial that was attended by Pang’s family members, politicians and dozens of celebrities before it was opened to thousands of members of the public.

She said Pang’s case makes her worry about her own 21-year-old son, who is done with his full-time service but will still be called up for the reserves.

“A few army boys already have this problem. They will say we will be careful, we will take action,” she said of the military. “It’s too late.”

A memorial service for Pang was broadcast online yesterday, with hundreds of thousands of viewers, and a military funeral and cremation were scheduled for later in the day.

Pang had completed his full-time service and was an armament technician whose rank was corporal first class. He was known to the public for his roles on Mandarin-language television dramas for which he won several local awards.

Pang’s death has brought painful memories flooding back for Jasmine Yeo, whose 19-year-old son, Dave Lee, died after collapsing from heat stroke during a march last April.

“One by one, this is something that I really did not wish to see. Rest in peace, son of Singapore!” she wrote on Facebook.

An independent committee convened by the military found that those who first attended to Lee didn’t do enough to cool him down. They were also slow in sending him to the camp’s medical centre.

It also found Lee’s platoon had slightly less than the standard seven hours of rest the night before. This was due to unauthorised punishment from higher ups, which included leopard crawls, push-ups and sprints.