Indonesia — Two Indonesian farmers have been arrested on suspicion of starting forests fires to clear their land, police said Monday, as much of South East Asia was choking on the hazardous haze produced by the blazes.
The farmers were arrested at the weekend in Riau province on Sumatra island, where scrub and peat fires have been raging for more than two weeks.
“They burned some land but the fires got out of control and spread,” national police spokesman Agus Rianto said.
Rianto said the men were not linked to any plantation companies which have been accused by the government of illegally using fires to clear land.
Malaysia has urged neighbouring Indonesian authorities to punish companies that caused the thick smog, which has sent pollution indexes to dangerous levels.
“Go ahead, take action even though it’s a Malaysian company,” said Malaysian Health Minister S. Subramaniam.
“Whether the company is Malaysian or Singaporean or Indonesian, they are operating within Indonesian sowe shil, so if Malaysian companies are fouling … please do whatever you have to do under your law,” he said in Kuala Lumpur.
Indonesian authorities have named eight palm oil plantation companies that are subsidiaries or owned by Malaysian corporations as among those suspected to be responsible for forest fires in Sumatra.
Classes in primary and secondary schools in several Malaysian states, including the capital Kuala Lumpur, were suspended Monday as smoke from the fires enveloped most of the peninsula.
Singapore was also badly hit by haze from the forest fires.