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Jakarta Post

Police round up more suspects for burning forests

  • Fedina S. Sundaryani and Rizal Harahap

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta/Pekanbaru   /   Wed, September 30, 2015   /  06:05 pm

As the country struggles to deal with land and forest fires raging in Sumatra and Kalimantan, the National Police have said they are investigating 219 cases that could lead to the prosecution of individuals and firms responsible for starting the fires.

National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Suharsono told reporters on Tuesday that four of the 219 cases were being investigated at the National Police headquarters while the rest were being investigated by regional police.

Data from the National Police showed that the South Sumatra Police were currently handling 34 cases, the Riau Police 68 cases, the Jambi Police 18 cases, the Central Kalimantan Police 57 cases, the West Kalimantan Police 26 cases, the South Kalimantan Police eight cases and the East Kalimantan Police four cases.

Suharsono said that of the 219 cases, police investigators had wrapped up their probes into 42 cases and had handed them over to the prosecutor'€™s office, with the dossiers, evidence and suspects of 18 cases having been transferred to court for trial.

'€œThere are a total of 205 suspects [from all the cases]; 196 individual suspects and nine corporate suspects,'€ he said.

At least 68 individuals have been detained by the police.

Suharsono added that the four cases being investigated at the National Police headquarters did not involve individuals who allegedly started the forest fires, but were cases against those in the higher echelons of firms accused of being involved in the crimes.

The individuals and firms were charged under Law No. 32/2009 on the protection of the environment, which carries a minimum prison sentence of three years and a maximum of 10 years along with a fine of Rp 3 billion (US$204,457).

Firms responsible for fires could also have their licenses revoked.

The number of cases being investigated by the police has jumped from Sept. 15 when there were only 130 cases with 150 individual and corporate suspects nationwide.

As police stepped up their prosecution of individuals responsible for forest fires, local regions continued to deal with health risks from haze that blanketed a number of cities.

The Pekanbaru health agency in Riau said that the number of people needing treatment due to exposure from the haze had reached 8,673 by Tuesday.

'€œThe data was based on the number of individuals who received outpatient treatment at eight emergency health posts and 20 community health centers by Sept. 29, 2015,'€ head of the Pekanbaru Health Agency, Helda S. Munir, said on Tuesday, as reported by Antara news agency.

Helda said that 7,628 of the patients were treated for respiratory tract infections, while the remainder suffered from asthma, pneumonia, eye irritations, skin irritations and diarrhea.

Authorities in Riau have also decided to extend the haze emergency status for the next two weeks.

'€œThe decision was based on the fact that the air quality index has not improved. The figure continues to hover above 400 PSI [pollutant standard index], which could be considered dangerous,'€ said Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency head Edwar Sanger.

Earlier, the Pekanbaru branch of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said that on Monday there were still 285 hotspots in Sumatra, encompassing South Sumatra, Lampung and Bangka-Belitung. Up to 239 of the total were found in South Sumatra.

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