Be careful not to militarise civilian patrols

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen's announcement that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will be deploying more troops to patrol public areas is a welcome one ("Soldiers to step up patrols, training to combat terror"; April 8).

The increased security presence will certainly act as a deterrence.

However, the authorities will need to ensure that this move does not signal a trend for increased militarisation, whether in terms of equipment or tactics, in civilian areas.

Military tactics tend to be highly aggressive, with commensurate weapons.

These tactics are relevant in the face of terrorist threats, but how would the SAF patrol team react to normal street crimes or civilian law-and-order issues?

A system must be in place to ensure that the military patrols do not overreact to situations on the streets.

Comprehensive training on the Penal Code and clear rules of engagement must be in place to ensure that the patrols do not overstep their boundaries.

Ang Kheng Wee