TAIPEI - President Ma Ying-jeou attended Army Corporal Hung Chung-chiu's funeral in Taichung yesterday morning.
The president was surrounded by protesters on his way out. Hung's family members, demonstrators and the president's security detail crowded the alley in front of the Hung family's residence where the ceremony took place.
After burning incense and praying, Ma spoke with Hung's parents for nearly 30 minutes. He later told the press that "Hung's case will not be closed without the truth coming to light," adding that the government will establish a "communication system with Hung's family, and work together to dig out the truth."
Ma said prosecutors have completed their investigation and indicted 18 military personnel, noting that every detail mentioned in the indictment will be examined carefully in court.
The president added that "just as people said during their gathering on Ketagalan Boulevard on Saturday, the truth of the incident is all that matters."
Ma said his mission is broader than just the Hung case, and the government will set up an investigation committee to look into any suspicious deaths or other cases in the military. If necessary, he said, the government will not rule out the possibility of reinvestigating cases that have already been looked into and closed.
Hung's father, Hung Chi-rui, handed a petition to Ma and said he hopes the president's vow turns out to be more than just grandstanding.
In response, Ma said that every word he spoke yesterday was recorded and that "I, as the president of this country, regret what has happened." He added that he will take responsibility for supervising the progress of reform within the military, and will not let anything like Hung's death happen again.
Hung Chi-rui claimed that military prosecutors are not willing to issue a death certificate that lists Hung's cause of death as homicide. Ma responded by telling newly appointed Defence Minister Andrew Yang in front of press that as the case's forensic specialist has determined the cause of death to be homicide, prosecutors should follow the law and issue a death certificate reflecting this.
Protesters are only demanding the truth, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin said, suggesting that Ma form a special task force in his capacity as commander-in-chief to investigate the incident, find the facts of the matter as soon as possible and gain the public's trust in judicial investigations.
322 Military Suicides in 13 Years
Also yesterday, Kuomintang Legislator Lin Yu-fang said that, based on statistics provided by the Ministry of National Defence, over the past 13 years there have been 2,088 fatalities of military personnel from causes such as dying in the line of duty and suicide.
Lin said 322 of the deaths, or 16 per cent, were suicide, translating into an average of 26 military personnel killing themselves annually.
As the Cabinet is setting up a special committee to investigate any suspicious cases in the military, Lin urged it to pay extra attention to these past cases of apparent suicide.