No plan to lift de­ci­sion ground­ing pi­lot

The China Post - - LOCAL - BY JOSEPH YEH

The Tai­wan Armed Forces cur­rently have no plans to lift the de­ci­sion to ground a pi­lot who led a group of civil­ians on a tour where they took pho­to­graphs of an AH64E Apache he­li­copter this March with­out un­der­go­ing proper pro­ce­dures de­spite pros­e­cu­tors de­cid­ing not to press charges, the Tai­wan mil­i­tary said yesterday. Maj. Gen. Huang Kuo-ming (

), com­man­der of the Army Avi­a­tion Spe­cial Forces Com­mand yesterday said the pi­lot in ques­tion, Lt. Col. Lao Nai-cheng (

), has since been re­moved from his post as deputy head of a he­li­copter squadron in Taoyuan un­der the com­mand fol­low­ing the March in­ci­dent.

He was also been banned from fly­ing since, Huang said. The Con­trol Yuan has im­peached Lao over the in­ci­dent and he was given two se­ri­ous de­mer­its by the Army as well.

Lao is now wait­ing dis­ci­plinary ac­tion from the Func­tionary Dis­ci­plinary Sanc­tion Com­mis­sion (

), he said dur­ing a news brief­ing.

Ad­dress­ing whether Lao would be al­lowed to re­sume fly­ing again af­ter pros­e­cu­tors de­cide not to in­dict him last Fri­day, Huang said Lao must first file an ap­pli­ca­tion and then an eval­u­a­tion com­mit­tee would make a de­ci­sion.

But since the Func­tionary Dis­ci­plinary Sanc­tion Com­mis­sion has yet to de­cide what dis­ci­plinary ac­tion it will levy against Lao, Huang said the mil­i­tary has no plans to lift the ground­ing or­der for the pi­lot.

The con­tro­ver­sial visit took place on March 29 at the Army Avi­a­tion Spe­cial Forces 601st Brigade fa­cil­ity in Taoyuan, where Lao was found to have al­lowed TV per­son­al­ity Janet Lee ( ) and other civil­ians ac­cess to the AH-64E Apache, and even al­lowed them to sit in­side the cock­pit to take pho­to­graphs.

The case came to light af­ter Lee posted photos of the tour on her Face­book page, draw­ing media crit­i­cism of loose se­cu­rity in Tai­wan’s mil­i­tary.

The Taoyuan Dis­trict Pros­e­cu­tors Of­fice later launched its own probe.

Fol­low­ing months of in­ves­ti­ga­tions, pros­e­cu­tors on Fri­day, how­ever, de­cided not to press charges against any of to­tal 15 po­ten­tial de­fen­dants, cit­ing a lack of ev­i­dence prov­ing that any of them had vi­o­lated laws and leaked con­fi­den­tial na­tional se­cu­rity in­for­ma­tion.

The pros­e­cu­tors said they could not in­dict them be­cause the 601st Brigade fa­cil­ity is not listed as a vi­tal area by the Min­istry of Na­tional De­fense (MND).

There­fore, those in­volved did not vi­o­late laws such as the Vi­tal Area Reg­u­la­tions and the Clas­si­fied Na­tional Se­cu­rity In­for­ma­tion Pro­tec­tion Act, even though they did take photos of the AH-64E Apache he­li­copter dur­ing the trip.

The pros­e­cu­tors’ de­ci­sion has im­me­di­ately drawn fury from ne­ti­zens.

In protest, tens of thou­sands ne­ti­zens have posted on the MND spokesman’s Face­book page over the past few days to re­quest a tour of the fa­cil­ity to see Apache he­li­copter.

Asked to com­ment, MND spokesman Luo Shao-ho ( ) ex­plained dur­ing the same news brief­ing yesterday that the 601st Brigade fa­cil­ity has not been listed as a vi­tal area since as early as 1987.

Only 22 mil­i­tary units na­tion­wide are listed as vi­tal ar­eas in ac­cor­dance with reg­u­la­tions, he noted.

Com­ment­ing on the re­quests to al­low civil­ians to tour the fa­cil­ity, Luo said the min­istry re­spects their right to ex­press their opin­ion on the Face­book page.

He said that the mil­i­tary has been ar­rang­ing reg­u­lar open base events around the coun­try for years. The mil­i­tary wel­comes ne­ti­zens who wish to see Apache he­li­copters to visit such an event in the fu­ture, he said.

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