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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs   26 June 2013  

Indonesia formally apologizes for smoky haze

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono apologized Monday to Singapore and Malaysia for record-setting pollution caused by forest fires in his country.

"For what is happening, as the president, I apologize to our brothers in Singapore and Malaysia," Yudhoyono said. He asked for their understanding and said Indonesia is working hard to fight the fires, which are often set by farmers to clear fields.

Jakarta dispatched planes and helicopters last week to battle the blazes in peat swamp forests as well as plantations in Riau province on Sumatra island, where the smoke easily drifts across the sea to the two neighboring countries.

Speaking at a news conference after a Cabinet meeting to discuss the issue, Yudhoyono said he has ordered an investigation of the fires.

"There should be a thorough investigation. In my analysis, there are both natural and human factors," he said, adding that the wind direction has caused the smoke to concentrate in Singapore and Malaysia.

Malaysian declared a state of emergency on Sunday in a district where the haze triggered one of the country's worst pollution levels, while Singapore has urged people to remain indoors due to "hazardous" levels of pollution.

In Indonesia, media reports said two commercial flights to Pekanbaru, Riau's provincial capital, were diverted Monday to Kuala Lumpur and North Sumatra's capital, Medan, while another had to fly back to Singapore.

In Dumai in Riau, dozens of houses were burned down by forest fires, and a leopard with leg injuries fled from a forest into a village. Conservationists assisted by villagers took seven hours to capture the animal, which refused to return to the forest. It was being cared for at the state conservation office.

Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency said aircraft and firefighters were able to extinguish at least 69 of the 265 fires burning across Riau on Monday.

Last week, Indonesian Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Agung Laksono slammed critical comments by Singaporean officials about the haze, saying they should have been conveyed through diplomatic channels instead of publicly.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More






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