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Asia Minute: International Focus on Indonesian Fires

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It’s another tough week for air quality in parts of Southeast Asia. Haze is continuing to blow across the region from illegal forest fires set in Indonesia. HPR’s Bill Dorman has an update in today’s Asia Minute.

Authorities in Indonesia seem to be trying just about everything they can to fight illegal fires.

After first resisting international help, now they’re using firefighting resources from as far away as Australia.

Government drones have been sent into the skies over the island of Sumatra to help guide crews on the ground.

Indonesia’s chief of police told reporters in Jakarta Monday that a dozen companies and more than 200 individuals are now under investigation for setting illegal fires.

He added that Malaysian and Chinese companies are among those responsible for fires in Indonesia...although he would not name the companies.

On Sunday, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia teamed up for what local media called “an international water-bombing expedition” over Sumatra.

The air quality varies across the region. Winds cleared parts of Indonesia early in the week, while areas including Singapore remained under skies the government characterized as “unhealthy.”

While the immediate focus is tactical, some longer-term strategies are also under review.

This past weekend, Malaysia’s prime minister and Indonesia’s president agreed to set new standards for environmentally sustainable palm oil---the crop at the heart of much of the illegal burning.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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