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Indonesian Police Arrests Hundreds Linked to Forest Fires, Authorities Conduct Cloud Seeding Ops to Clear Haze

Those arrested could be prosecuted under an environmental protection law that provides for a maximum 10-year prison sentence for setting fires to clear land.

Associated Press

Updated:September 19, 2019, 5:47 PM IST
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Indonesian Police Arrests Hundreds Linked to Forest Fires, Authorities Conduct Cloud Seeding Ops to Clear Haze
Buildings in the downtown area of Jakarta are shrouded in a thick haze on August 7, 2018. (AFP PHOTO)

Jakarta: Indonesian police said Thursday they have arrested 230 people suspected of starting some of the fires that are spreading health-damaging haze across a large part of Southeast Asia.

Among those arrested are three men who were caught Monday while trying to clear land to plant crops in Tesso Nilo National Park, which is home to about 140 endangered wild elephants, said Dedi Prasetyo, the national police spokesman.

Those arrested could be prosecuted under an environmental protection law that provides for a maximum 10-year prison sentence for setting fires to clear land.

Indonesia's fires are an annual problem that strains relations with neighboring countries. The smoke from the fires has blanketed parts of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and southern Thailand in a noxious haze.

Poor visibility caused by smoke has caused delays of flights at several airports in Indonesia and Malaysia and prompted authorities to shut thousands of schools in some parts of the two countries, affecting more than 1.5 million students in Malaysia alone.

Malaysian authorities have been conducting cloud seeding operations in an attempt to clear the haze and are considering passage of a law that would penalize Malaysian plantation companies that start fires abroad.

Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said Thursday that a more lasting regional solution is needed. Singapore, directly across the Strait of Malacca from Indonesia's Riau province on the island of Sumatra, experienced air pollution levels ranging between moderate and unhealthy levels on Thursday.

Elevated levels of PM2.5, tiny airborne particulates, caused Singaporean authorities to issue health advisories to limit outdoor activities, especially among the elderly, pregnant women and children.

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