PUTRAJAYA — Senior Malaysian officials plan talks with their Indonesian counterparts on how to battle the smoky haze that plagues the area every year from fires on Indonesia’s Sumatra island, Malaysia said Thursday.
Malaysia’s minister for plantation resources and commodities, Peter Chin, said senior ministry officials were set to leave on Friday for Medan in eastern Sumatra. Chin said he plans to arrive Monday.
The haze – an annual July-September occurrence in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and nearby areas since at least 1997 – is caused by farmers in Indonesia burning brush or old crops to clear land.
Malaysian palm oil and rubber companies, operating in Indonesia, are often the ones blamed for the choking pollution in their homeland.
Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recently said his country was ashamed to export haze to Malaysia and Singapore, its two closest neighbors.
The annual fires have become a sensitive issue between Indonesia and its neighbors, where the foul-smelling smoke has disrupted air traffic, caused health problems and damaged tourism.
Malaysia has in the past sent firefighters to help battle the blazes.