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Taiwan punishes officers after celebrity's Apache chopper visit

Updated: 04 08 , 2015 08:31
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TAIPEI -- Taiwan's military has punished 17 officers for their parts in allowing a group of civilians including showbiz star Janet Lee to tour a facility housing Apache helicopters.

The officers, including special forces commander Chen Chien-tsai and brigade commander Chien Tsung-yuan, were given penalties ranging from demerits to post transfers, the military announced on Tuesday.

Lao Nai-cheng, the Apache helicopter pilot at the heart of the scandal, still faces a judicial probe and further legal action after he was released on Monday on bail of 500,000 new Taiwan dollars (about 16,000 U.S.dollars).

Originally penalized only with a reprimand, Lao was disciplined with a demerit and removed from his post.

At a press conference announcing the punishment, Taiwanese military chief Kao Kuang-chi apologized to the public and ordered a disciplinary review of the armed forces.

Lao reportedly took a group of 26 relatives and friends, including Lee and her family, to his base in Longtan District in Taoyuan on March 29 without the approval of his superiors.

He let the visitors access a hangar that houses the Apaches and even board one of the helicopters and take photos, which Lee posted on her Facebookpage, making the visit public.

Six foreigners, including a Japanese identified only as Hirayama and five migrant workers from Southeast Asia, who work as maids or caregivers in the entourage, also entered the base, according to investigators.

Listed as restricted areas, military facilities in Taiwan are usually off limits for civilians without proper approval.

This is not the only controversy in which Taiwan's armed forces are embroiled at the moment. Army commander Yang Chia-chih, who was stationed in outlying Dongyin Island, was removed from his post last week over alleged sexual harassment of female officers.

In addition, a company commander was accused of sexual harassment in a case that surfaced on Sunday. And a volunteer navy soldier's posting details of his drinking spree on a military base on his Facebook page has drawn public criticism of loose military discipline.