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Proposal emerges for DUI tests for soldiers in wake of survey showing rise in cases

By Joseph Yeh--A ruling lawmaker yesterday proposed having every soldier undergo blood alcohol tests upon returning to military bases after leave. This comes on the heels of a report stating that more and more military personnel were being caught driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol, and is intended as a deterrent.

Ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang made the proposal during a legislative hearing yesterday after he cited a recent study showing that there is an increasing number of military personnel caught DUI even though the Ministry of National Defense (MND) has pledged to curb the illegal practice for years.

According to Lin, a total of 128 military personnel were found DUI in 2009, 123 in 2010 and 143 in 2011.

He said most of the military personnel involved are voluntary soldiers as opposed to compulsory military servicemen.

In the survey, which covered the beginning of 2009 to the end of 2011, a total of 362 voluntary soldiers were found to be DUI, three times the number of their compulsory-service counterparts, Lin said.

The lawmaker called on the MND to pay closer attention to the trend. He also asked the Defense Ministry to conduct mandatory blood alcohol tests on all military personnel upon their return to military units following vacations.

Asked to comment, Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu, who fielded questions during the same legislative session yesterday, said his ministry has been doing its best to curb DUI incidents among military servicemen by raising the penalty for military personnel that are DUI convicts.

The number of DUI cases involving military personnel has dropped slightly from January to September of 2012, he said. But he promised that he would take Lin's proposal into consideration.

Asked to comment on why there are more voluntary soldiers than compulsory servicemen found DUI, Kao said this phenomenon could expose a loophole in the military's DUI punishment regulations.

Currently the MND demands that soldiers caught DUI be discharged from the military immediately, regardless the degree of their offense, he said.

Voluntary servicemen could be using the regulation as a way of terminating their service before their discharge date.

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