15 more army camps to allow camera phones

SINGAPORE - Camera phones will be allowed in 15 more army camps from next month, as the Singapore Armed Forces further eases its ban to make it easier for national servicemen to stay connected while training.

These additional camps, which include Amoy Quee and Sembawang, join 14 others where camera phones are already allowed on their premises as part of a trial which started a year ago.

A review of the trial found that the camp's sensitive areas were still protected while "allowing flexibility and minimising disruption" to servicemen, said National Service Affairs director Tung Yui Fai.

With the increasing popularity of smartphones with bigger screens, the SAF will also remove restrictions on screen sizes. Previously, screens on camera phones were limited to 4.3 inches (11cm).

However, the taking of photos in camp remains prohibited, and phones will subjected to routine checks. Other mobile devices such as tablets and laptops remain banned.

Camera phones, including in-vehicle cameras, will be allowed in zones marked green, such as cookhouses, bunks and medical centres.

Zones that are marked red - unit operations rooms and offices with sensitive information, for example - are no-camera-phone zones. Servicemen will have to deposit their phones in lockers before entering these areas.

The latest move to ease camera phone curbs is aimed at helping operationally-ready NSmen balance their training and work commitment.

It was one of the suggestions brought up by a high-level panel, which is studying ways to increase commitment to NS and the support for it.

Members of this Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS), led by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, met on Friday in Sembawang Camp to discuss findings which resulted from feedback received from 17 focus group discussions in the last four months.

In the process, four key areas have been identified for the next round of talks and townhall sessions, which will start next week.

They include better recognising the efforts of NSmen and improving the communication and streamlining NS administrative processes.

Also being discussed is expanding the SAF volunteer programme to allow more Singaporeans, especially women, to play a part in defending the country.

While details on the revisions have not been firmed up, lawyer Gerald Singham, who sits on the CSNS, said that any new scheme should have a "credible" take-up rate of around 300 female volunteers in the first year.

Also discussed at Friday's meeting was how to get employers to beef up their support for NS.

Entrepreneur Allan Lim, who also sits on the CSNS, said more flexibility has to be given to servicemen when they have to juggle work and in-camp training.

For instance, he suggested granting days off within the training period so that servicemen can go back to work to attend to urgent matters.

He said: "By helping the servicemen, employers will also benefit."

jermync@sph.com.sg


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