Indonesia deploys military to fight forest fires

Jakarta, Sep 10 (IANS) The Indonesian military sent over 1,000 soldiers to South Sumatra province on Thursday to put out ongoing forest fires, the media reported.

This comes after the national disaster mitigation agency sought more reinforcements to deal with the forest fire situation in Sumatra, Channel News Asia reported.

Indonesian police have identified 14 hotspots in South Sumatra and authorities have said a number of them belong to plantation companies. Some of the areas are in the province’s national parks.

President Joko Widodo wants plantation companies to be made responsible for any fire occurring in their concessions. But there are difficulties in prosecuting the perpetrators despite knowing who they are, due to the country’s complex judicial process.

A multi-agency task force that includes the police and military is trying to fight the fires, which have shrouded Sumatra and Kalimantan in a dense haze. The haze has hit the provinces of South Sumatra, Jambi and Riau especially hard, forcing schools to close and airports to shut down.

The smoke has also affected neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia, causing the air quality there to deteriorate to unhealthy levels on some days.

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