A COMMANDO on a night training exercise in Thailand was accidentally shot by a local villager out hunting.
First-Sergeant Woo Teng Hai, a regular from the 1st Commando Battalion, suffered head injuries in the incident on March 13.
The 25-year-old serviceman was hit by pellets from a shotgun, the Defence Ministry told The Straits Times yesterday. He is now on medical leave.
Mindef spokesman Darius Lim said 1st Sgt Woo was taking part in a 'routine training exercise' in a 'designated training area' in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok.
The night reconnaissance mission was part of the battalion's annual proficiency test conducted by the Army Training Evaluation Centre, or Atec.
The Straits Times understands that 1st Sgt Woo and three other commandos were walking alongside a plantation some time after midnight when they saw flashlights in the distance.
All four commandos crouched as the villager opened fire.
It is believed that 1st Sgt Woo was not wearing an SAF Kevlar helmet, and the pellets became lodged in his head.
A medic attended to him at the scene before he was taken to hospital.
The serviceman was flown back to Singapore on the same day and hospitalised at Singapore General Hospital. He was discharged at the end of March.
Colonel Lim said the Royal Thai Army (RTA) had provided full assistance to the SAF in investigating the incident.
Preliminary findings showed that 1st Sgt Woo was 'accidentally injured' by the villager, who was hunting.
Col Lim added that the SAF and its Thai counterpart would continue to work closely 'to brief and make the villagers more aware of the designated training areas'.
A shotgun is generally used to hunt animals or birds using pellets half the size of a pea and could kill a human if fired at close range, within 30m.
When The Straits Times visited 1st Sgt Woo's Jalan Sultan flat last week, he declined to comment on the incident.
The serviceman, however, said that he had problems seeing with his right eye.
When asked if he would be reporting for duty, he said: 'I should be returning (to camp) soon.'
Because of space constraints in Singapore, the SAF has agreements with several other countries, including Australia, India and South Africa, to train on their turf. Singapore has been conducting training on Thai soil since 1973.
Under a bilateral defence cooperation pact, Thai armed forces are allowed to use Singapore's military bases.
The shooting is believed to be the first time that an SAF soldier has been hurt by a civilian.