Indonesia coordinating with Malaysia to battle haze

Indonesian foreign affairs ministry official Denny Abdi says his country is doing its best to put out the forest fires. (Bernama pic)

JOHOR BAHRU: The Indonesian government has been coordinating and communicating with the Malaysian government in its effort to combat the forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Its foreign affairs ministry’s Southeast Asian affairs director, Denny Abdi, said Indonesia is trying its best to tackle the problem, adding that it is not an easy task as the forest fires involve peatland, where fires occur deep underground.

“We are coordinating between (the Malaysian and Indonesian) governments. We understand the impact of the haze. Our community, just like Malaysians, are also suffering from the haze,” he told reporters here today.

Denny said his government is trying to use whatever resources available.

“So far, we have deployed almost 30,000 people on the ground. On top of that, we also deployed about 50 helicopters for aerial water-bombing,” he said.

Asked whether action would be taken against Malaysian-owned plantation companies in Indonesia found carrying out open burning, he said any party breaking the law would be dealt with.

“We don’t differentiate which companies belong to which country. Wherever these companies belong to – whether Malaysia, Indonesia or other countries – the government will take action against them,” he said.

Denny said the fires could have started from slash and burn activities for farming.

“Sometimes, they do this for land clearing. This is the cheapest way if they want to clear the land. But this is breaking the law,” he said.

Denny had launched a “business meeting and networking 2019” event organised by the Consulate General of Indonesia in Johor Bahru.

Earlier, in Riau province, central Sumatra, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said his country was battling the forest fires with aircraft, artificial rain and even prayer.

During a visit to a hard-hit area, he said nearly 6,000 troops had been sent to hotspots to help put out fires.

As well as firefighters on the ground, dozens of aircraft were being used to seed clouds and bomb blazes with water, he said.

“We have also prayed,” AFP quoted him as saying after a visit to Amrulloh Mosque in Pekanbaru.