18 held for playing 'war games' in plantation

SEGAMAT - A farmer feared it was an invasion similar to the Lahad Datu attack in Sabah last year when he spotted a group of men dressed in army fatigues with firearms in an oil palm plantation in Jementah here.

The farmer, in his 40s, who was heading towards Bukit Chee Long, Jementah, during the 2.15pm incident yesterday, rushed to the nearest police station.

Policemen came prepared with bulletproof vests.

They found 18 men taking part in airsoft gameplay, or a sport in which opponents eliminate each other with non-metallic pellets and replica firearms.

Segamat district police chief Superintendent Mohd Kamil Sukarmi said 14 out of the 18 men were detained, as four were not "armed" with the fake weapons. They were later released on police bail.

The 14 men arrested, aged between 18 to 40, included a 22-year-old Singaporean. They are being remanded until today.

Kamil said they were arrested for possessing weapons which looked almost 90 per cent like the real ones.

"We found 14 air pistols, including automatic Steyrs, AK47s, machine-guns, a marksman's rifle, batteries, spotting scopes and binoculars, tactical scopes, bullet proof vests, army fatigues and General Field Force uniforms."

Also seized were 20 rubber pellets used as bullets, elite army force camouflages and smoke bombs.

The group were members of the Johor Baru AirSoft Association, which was set up a few months ago. Investigations revealed the association's application at the Registrar of Societies had yet to be approved.

"Investigations revealed the men who were remanded were playing 'war games' in one of the member's plantation. However, the weapons used could shoot a pellet 3cm into a body, and this could be fatal, especially when shot at close-range."

Kamil said the men claimed they bought the weapons from an online website that imports the items from China.

The weapons and equipment seized were estimated to be worth more than RM100,000 (S$38,000).

The case was being investigated under Section 36 (1) of the Firearms Act 1960 for possessing fake weapons. On conviction, the men can be imprisoned not more than a year, or fined not more than RM5,000, or both.

They also face charges under Section 25A of the Minor Offence Act 1955 for unlawful possession of military uniforms, and can be fined RM500, or face a six-month imprisonment term or both.