Malaysia welcomes Indonesia's request for assistance to battle fires causing haze

Motorists on a highway shrouded by haze in Johor on Oct 6. PHOTO: REUTERS

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Minister Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has welcomed Indonesia's request for assistance to battle the forest fires causing haze in several countries in the region.

"This should be regarded as a positive development in regional cooperation," Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi said on Thursday (Oct 8).

He said he made the offer on behalf of Malaysia to help Indonesia about three weeks ago.

In 1997, during the worst transboundary haze incident, Malaysia sent 1,200 firemen to Indonesia for 28 days to help put out fires in various locations there.

This time, the Malaysian Maritime Enforce­ment Agency (MMEA) will be sending a Bombardier CL415MP amphibious aircraft.

Working with the Royal Malaysian Air Force, the MMEA will use the aircraft to douse fires at locations determined by the Indonesian authorities.

Malaysia's Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman and his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi will discuss cooperative efforts on transboundary haze at a two-day meeting in Kuala Lumpur that starts on Friday (Oct 9).

The 14th Meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation between Malaysia and Indonesia will see both ministers also discussing a number of bilateral issues.

Indonesia on Thursday said Malaysia, Singapore, Russia and Japan will help the country put out Kalimantan and Sumatra forest fires that are causing a blanket of haze in the region.

Indonesia's announcement came after it initially rejected all offers of assistance to beat out the flames.

Dr Wan Junaidi, in another statement on Thursday, said the haze situation in Malaysia was expected to improve until Monday, due to more rainfall following the end of tropical storm Mujigae over north Vietnam.

"However, transboundary haze from Sumatra and Kalimantan will still affect the air quality in the country," he said.

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