Taiwan’s military drug scandal sparks call for tougher penalties

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 February, 2017, 12:16am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 February, 2017, 12:16am

Taiwanese lawmakers on Thursday called for tougher penalties for drug abuse within the military after revelations of major use of ­illicit substances in the ­defence forces.

In what appeared to be the first scandal of its kind involving the island’s military, Taiwanese Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan admitted that there was problem of a “substance abuse” in the ­forces.

His remarks came after 20 of 3,000 personnel at the island’s main air force base at Chingchuankang, in central Taiwan, tested positive for illegal drugs after urine tests conducted on Monday.

According to prosecutors in Taichung, base patrol officers found 51 packages of powdery and crystalline substances and drug paraphernalia along a 2km stretch of roadside bordering the base’s playing field, car parks, runways and dormitories.

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A preliminary test showed that the substances include amphetamines and ketamine, they said, adding the military then ordered all 3,000 enlisted personnel and officers on the base to be tested for drugs.

As of yesterday, 20 had tested positive, they said.

“I feel sad about the case because the military should be drug-free,” Feng said. He said the military would launch an extensive investigation into why so many packages of drugs were found around the airbase.

“We will do we can to contain illegal drugs within the military and no military personnel or officers are allowed to use them,” he said, adding that any found doing so would face severe disciplinary action, regardless of their rank.

Wang Ding-yu, a legislator from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said the incident was not just a case of military misconduct, but an indicator of the severity of drug abuse in Taiwan.

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There have been reports of rampant drug use throughout the island’s society – even within ­primary schools.

Opposition Kuomintang legislator Johnny Chiang said with the drug scandal dogging the military, he wondered if the government still needed to buy expensive arms to defend the island. “Can you tell me how can our soldiers fight if they are high on drugs?” he asked.

KMT legislator Wang Yu-min called for narcotics laws to carry harsher penalties for military personnel using drugs.